Irish Republican News · November 3, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Family welcomes British statement on murder, beatings

The British government has expressed its “deep regret” over the British army killing of a Catholic man in the Markets area of Belfast.

The apology came after the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) reported in August that 21-year-old Billy McKavanagh was innocent, unarmed, had no IRA involvement, no criminal convictions and posed no threat when he was shot dead in August 1971.

He was shot in the back as he ran away from British soldiers, and his body thrown into the back of a British army vehicle where his brother Pat and cousin Teddy Rooney were being held.

His brother and cousin were then badly beaten with rifle butts in the back of an army vehicle while Mr McKavanagh’s body lay at their feet. They were taken to a British Army barracks where soldiers placed hoods over their heads and continued to beat them with clubs.

The soldier who fired the fatal shot saw them hours afterwards and told the HET that “their facial injuries were so bad he would not have been able to recognise them had they not been identified to him”.

The three young men had encountered soldiers in Catherine Street in the early hours of the morning.

The soldier who fired the fatal shot claimed that Mr McKavanagh had been armed with a gun and afterwards the army said he had been a member of the IRA, but the HET dismissed both claims.

His cousin told the HET that soldiers had picked up Mr McKavanagh’s body and “swung him into the back of” their vehicle but “the first attempt failed and Billy’s body fell to the ground”. He said they succeeded on the second attempt and that after reaching a police station the back doors of the vehicle were “thrown open and Billy’s body was thrown out onto the ground”.

The atrocity was one of scores which resulted from British Army violence during the introduction of internment.

The letter to the McKavanagh family states that: “The government accepts that Billy McKavanagh was not a terrorist and that his death was a tragedy.

It also accepts that his brother and cousin were ‘mistreated’.

“I would like, on the government’s behalf, to express my deep regret for what happened and particularly for the death of your brother at such a tragically young age.”

The McKavanagh family -- including his twin sister Margaret Duffy -- welcomed the apology and acknowledgement of the findings of the HET report.

“It has taken 40 years but we are glad that we persevered and didn’t give up,” they said in a statement.

“This struggle was worth it though it is sad that Billy’s parents and brother Pat did not live to see his name cleared and the truth told.

“We are particularly relieved that British government ministers have admitted for the first time the barbaric treatment to which Pat and Teddy Rooney were subjected to in the hours alter the shooting.”

The family also thanked the Pat Finucane Centre “for the support that they have provided on this difficult journey”.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News