British apology after 40 years

The head of the British Army has written a letter of apology to the family of a Derryman who was shot dead in 1971.

Shop manager Billy McGreanery was shot forty years ago this week, while walking near the Bogside. The British claimed he was carrying a gun although this was disputed by eyewitnesses.

Last year the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) revealed that even the Crown police at the time believed the soldier responsible should have been charged with murder.

However, this was rejected by the British authorities.

This past week, the chief of the general staff of the British Army apologised to Mr McGreanery’s family, after their case was taken up by the Pat Finucane Centre.

General Peter Wall claimed the soldier responsible was “mistaken” in his belief that Mr McGreanery had a weapon. He said he had read a report by the HET.

“Inthe light of what it says it is clearto me that such an apology is right and proper,” he wrote.

The soldier’s error resulted in the tragic death of an “innocent man” and the general said that he had no doubt that, despite the passage of time, Mr McGreanery’s family were still grieving.

“I would like to express my sorrow and regret for his death which, in the years since it occurred, has deprived you of an uncle’s support and affection,” he added.

In a joint statement, Mr McGreanery’s nephew and niece, Billy McGreanery and Marjorie Roddy acknowledged the apology.

“Though we take issue with the [British Ministry of Defence] claim that the soldier ‘was mistaken in his belief that [MrMcGreanery] had a weapon,’ weacknowledge that the general tenor of the letter is one of apology,” they said.

“We feel we have finally set the truth free and somewhat righted a terrible wrong.”

They paid tribute to the Pat Finucane Centre and the HET and urged other families in similar circumstances to take hope from their case.

Pat Finucane Centre spokeswoman Maggie O’Connor said it was right and proper that the chief of the general staff should acknowledge the wrong done.

She added, however, that the statement of Mr Kelly’s opinion had no basis in law and was a political decision.

The anniversary of Mr McGreanery’s death was marked on Thursday with a ceremony at the spot where he was killed.

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