Irish Republican News · August 16, 2010
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Tell truth about Majella, Britain urged

The British government should acknowledge at “the highest level” the truth about the shooting dead of a 12-year-old girl by a British soldier in south Armagh 34 years ago today, politicians have said.

There have been calls for Majella O’Hare’s family to be given “official recognition of the truth” after a report by the police Historical Enquiries Team (HET) disputed the army’s version of events.

The schoolgirl was shot in the back by a soldier on patrol near her home in Ballymoyer, south Armagh, in August 1976 as she walked to confession.

She died in her father’s arms on the way to hospital.

British soldier, Michael Williams, stood trial for her manslaughter but was acquitted.

The British Army claimed that the girl was accidentally killed in the crossfire and that the soldier had been “aiming at a gunman” in nearby hedges.

However, a new HET report this week found there was no gunman.

The HET briefed the family about the new findings on Thursday and the full report is expected to be published in three to four weeks.

SDLP assembly member Dominic Bradley said the version of events which emerged from the British Army was a cover-up.

“Now 34 years later, after dignified, patient pursuance of the truth, the family have had the first real acknowledgement of the fad s about how Majella died from someone in authority.

“Mrs O’Hare, Majella’s mother, has said that she would appreciate an act of compassion from the British government at the highest level in the form of an official recognition of the truth of her daughter’s death.”

Sinn Fein Newry and Armagh MP Conor Murphy said he hoped the findings would bring “some element of relief to the family of Majella O’Hare”.

“These findings from the Historical Enquiries Team support the fact that there was one person firing shots on the day Majella was killed,” he said.

“In my view this clearly vindicates what the family and people in south Armagh and beyond have been saying for many years - that the British army murdered Majella O’Hare and that they subsequently covered up the facts of the case.”

Majella’s brother, Michael said his family were “very satisfied” that they had been vindicated by the report’s findings - just a day before the 34th anniversary of her death.

Mr O’Hare, who was with his mother Mary when they received the news, called on the army to apologise.

“No official body has ever said sorry,” he said. “The army has said nothing.

“They concocted a story that was untrue and confusing to say the least. My mum is 88, that’s a long time to be carrying it about.

“The loss of a can only guess what the trauma of that might be.”

On the morning of her death, Majella’s father Jim was cutting grass in a schoolyard near St Malachy’s Church, Ballymoyer, when he saw a shot ring out, hitting his daughter.

“I ran about 150 yards and when I got to the point it was my own wee girl,” he said in a report taken at the time.

“I held her in my arms and the blood was pouring from her left side.”

As he rushed to cradle her in his arms he said a paratrooper swore at him.

The little girl later died in his arms as she was flown to Daisy Hill Hospital in an army helicopter.

“Majella had her hand in her long hair,” he said.

“l could see her moving her hand, trying to ease herself, she was hurting.

“Eventually she took her hand up along my chest and said ‘Daddy, Daddy’: in a very faint voice. A second later she fell... and just died.”

Mr O’Hare said that although his father had not lived to see his family vindicated, their long campaign had been fought in his memory.

“The loss of Majella is unbelievable really. You think what she could have become given the chance,” he said.

HET director Dave Cox said an apology from the British Army was “well overdue”.

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