Ahead of the 30th anniversary of the killing, the Dublin government has refused to release a report into the British army killing of Aidan McAnespie as he made his way to a Gaelic sports pitch.
The Sinn Fein election worker was shot shortly after walking through a British army checkpoint on his way to Aghaloo GAC’s grounds near Aughnacloy in County Tyrone in 1988.
Before his death Mr McAnespie complained that he had been constantly harassed and threatened by British soldiers. Manslaughter charges brought against the soldier who fired the shots, British soldier David Holden, were later dropped.
At the time the 26 County government asked then Deputy Garda Commissioner Eugene Crowley to carry out an inquiry. His report has never been made public.
In a statement this week, the 26 County Department of Justice claimed it is unable to assist a prosecution because those who co-operated with the Crowley report did so “only and explicitly on the basis of an assurance of absolute confidentiality and anonymity”.
Former Tyrone star Peter Canavan has urged the Gaelic Athletics Association to put pressure on the government to release the report. Former GAA president Peter Quinn also said it appeared that Mr McAnespie’s killing “was the first instance where a GAA man appears to have been targeted for assassination coming from or going to a GAA match” and urged the association to support any new investigation.
The British Army has claimed that three shots were unintentionally fired from inside a sanger after a machine gun Holden was moving ‘slipped’. Mr McAnespie was hit in back by one of the rounds which ricocheted off the road a short distance behind him.
In 2008, The Historical Enquiries Team concluded that that Holden’s explanation was the “least likely version” of events. The British government then said it “deeply regretted” Mr McAnespie’s death. In 2016 the case was referred for prosecution, but has since stalled.
Speaking during a special report on RTE television, former Tyrone great Peter Canavan said the GAA should put pressure on the Irish government to release the Crowley report.
“It’s hard to believe that it’s Dublin we are waiting on and as I say bad and all as Aidan’s death was I think what has confounded the situation is the cover up and some of the things that happened after it,” he said.
“And I know that the GAA are very good at keeping out of politics but on this occasion 30 years after Aidan’s death, one of their own members going to support his own football club that they should apply a bit of pressure to the Irish government so that likewise these findings can be released and I think that’s the very least they could do in this case.”
Former GAA president Peter Quinn believes that the GAA has a role to play in the case.
“This is an incident that implications both on the playing field because he was a playing member and off the playing field and I think it would be very remiss of the GAA to say that they have no role whatsoever,” he said.
“Their role may be limited relative to the role of politicians and people like that but certainly the GAA have a role.”
Mr McAnespie’s brother Sean said it is very important that the Dublin government hand over the Crowley Report. “It’s one more step to get to the truth, there might be stuff in there that could bring a conviction,” he said.