Amnesty International is helping organise a campaign for justice for Majella O’Hare, a girl who was shot in the back on her way to church by a British soldier and then ‘treated like a piece of meat’, according to an eyewitness.
Majella, from the village of Whitecross in County Armagh, had been walking to confession in August 1976 when she was struck down by two bullets.
Amnesty has taken on the family’s campaign for justice as part of its wider effort to ensure former members of the Crown Forces are not “above the law”. It has taken testimony from witnesses to the killing, including from Alice Devlin, a nurse who went to Majella’s aid. She described the schoolgirl’s treatment after a helicopter arrived to bring her to hospital.
She said: “Majella was lifted just like a piece of meat and thrown in head first. They just wanted to get her off the road, get rid of her, get her out of the way.”
She travelled in the helicopter with Majella but she was pronounced dead upon arrival at Newry’s Daisy Hill Hospital.
At the time the British Army told the blatant lie that the shooting had been in response to an IRA sniper attack.
A soldier was later charged with manslaughter but was acquitted in court. In 2011, the British government issued an apology to the O’Hare family in a letter which acknowledged the soldier’s courtroom explanation was “unlikely”.
The family now want the record set straight on what happened.
Ms Devlin recalled how she saw Majella lying on the road with her late father Jim kneeling over her. You can imagine what it was like for that father to see his child lying dying on the road, she said.
The soldiers told him to get away. He said: “But that is my baby.”
The PSNI said the death was subject to future review but they would not “give any undertaking as to when this review will commence”.
Majella’s brother Michael O’Hare said: “The truth cannot be concealed any longer. We need an investigation, there must be justice for Majella. The truth must out. My family deserve accountability for what happened.”
Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s campaign manager in the North, said it had been 44 torturous years for Majella’s family.
“Justice must be done. Witnesses to the horrific events of that day are ready to help with an independent investigation, the passage of time has not diminished their memory.
“Their appeal to the PSNI to establish this long overdue investigation must be heard. The family have had an apology from the UK Government, but this rings hollow without action and accountability.”