The family of Joe McCann have said their campaign for justice will not end with a court ruling which today ended the murder trial of two British soldiers and has all but confirmed effective immunity for his killers.
The trial of the former members of the Parachute Regiment, known only as soldiers A and C, collapsed after prosecutors confirmed they would not appeal against a decision last week to exclude statements made by the former Paras about the 1972 shooting.
On Friday, the judge, Justice O’Hara, controversially threw out the soldiers’ previous admissions, both to military police in 1972 and again to the HET police in 2010, that they shot Vol. McCann in the back, causing the case to collapse.
The trial had heard clear evidence that the Official IRA man was murdered by the British Army. He was shot in the back whilst unarmed, from a distance of 40 metres, posing no threat, when it would have been easier to arrest him. The killing was one of the first shoot-to-kill incidents perpetrated by the British Army.
It was the first trial in several years involving war crimes by former British soldiers in the north of Ireland.
“He was murdered because the British Army operated with impunity for their crimes,” the McCann family (pictured) said in a statement, issued through their law firm, KRW Law.
“An arrangement between the then Attorney General and the GOC ensured that no British soldier would ever be interviewed by the RUC for shooting incidents. Ever.
“This arrangement, since found to be unlawful, has been relied upon by Soldiers A and C in their applications to exclude their confessions.
“Because they have confessed to shooting Joe McCann in the back. Let there be no doubt that the two cowards who hid behind anonymity did shoot Joe McCann in the back.
“That they were not arrested by the HET, as has happened to many here, but were permitted to attend by arrangement at their solicitors office instead, has ironically since been relied on by them to exclude their interviews.
“The Paras have truly benefitted from an exceptional arrangement, for their entire experience in Ireland.
“The impunity which ensured the British Army could shoot to kill in the 1970’s was then further enshrined by the structural incapacity of the HET whose approach in 2010 to Soldiers A and C has now seen them evade justice.
“The State at all times, over the last 49 years has protected its own interests to ensure British soldiers could kill with impunity.
“The State has not discharged their obligations in accordance with international law, article 2 of ECHR.”
The McCanns confirmed their journey for justice would continue with an application to the Attorney General to open the inquest at which Soldiers A and C will be compelled to appear and give evidence and be cross examined.
Mr McCann’s daughter Áine said: “The judge was right when he used the word appalling to describe the failure of the State at all levels in relation to the murder of Joe McCann.
“The RUC failed, the criminal justice failed, not only in this case but in the case of many other families.”