The brother of a schoolgirl shot and killed in 1976 is calling for an independent investigation ahead of the anniversary of her death.
Majella O’Hare was just 12 when she was shot in the back by a soldier while walking to church in Whitecross, County Armagh in 1976 – now her family want the record set straight on how she died.
“It was that great heatwave of ’76,” her brother Michael recalled, in an interview with UTV today. “It was 14 August and we will never forget that day.
“Majella was going to confession with a group of other children and she came to a road check on her way to the church. Whenever they came out, there was a shot rang out and Majella was hit in the back. “She was mortally wounded. Devastatingly wounded, with the two machine gun bullets in her back.”
The trauma of what had happened proved devastating for the O’Hare family.
Her mother bore her trauma in privacy a lot of the time, but she had her moments, Michael said.
“There’s no doubt in later years, she’d tell you, her first thought in the morning and her last thought at night was Majella. My father never really recovered, he was a broken man after that day - because he was there.”
Speaking about his father’s horrifying experience, Michael recounted how he had to pick his little girl up off the road as she was dying.
“It was very, very hard on him. He had to go with her in the helicopter to the hospital,” he said.
“And then to learn that she had died, and just the shock and trauma of it all, was just excruciating.”
At the time, soldiers claimed the shooting had been in response to an IRA sniper attack. One was later charged by the then RUC with manslaughter, but was acquitted in court.
In 2011, the British government issued an apology to the O’Hare family in a letter that acknowledged the soldier’s courtroom explanation was “unlikely”.
Michael O’Hare totally refutes any suggestion that his sister was caught up in crossfire and is calling for an independent inquiry into her death.
“I want the history of Majella’s death to be recorded accurately,” he said.
“I don’t want it to be that Majella O’Hare died as a result of crossfire – it was never that case. That’s in the annals of history now and I want that to be written properly.”
Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady backed calls for an independent investigation. “For nearly 44 years, Majella O’Hare’s family have suffered the awful injustice of Majella’s killing," he said. “They have done so with great dignity and with a perseverance to get the truth.
“Their demand for an independent investigation into her death is made with no malice or intent but that only of finding out the truth of their sister’s death."