Mixed emotions as inquest brings closure

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An inquest has found that a British soldier was “unjustified” in firing a plastic bullet that killed a schoolboy.

Stephen Geddis, who was 10-years-old, died after being hit in the head in the Divis area of Belfast in August 1975.

The schoolboy became the first, and the youngest, person to die after being hit by a plastic bullet.

British soldiers falsely claimed they had fired on children who were throwing stones in the area.

The coroner found that the British Ministry of Defence also bears “significant responsibility” because it did not inform soldiers on the lethality of plastic bullets ricocheting off the ground.

The government eventually paid compensation to the family.

Speaking outside Laganside Courts, Stephen’s three brothers described him as a “quiet, timid child” and said it was a “great relief” to hear the findings.

Jim Geddis said: “Finally it’s acknowledged that he was an innocent child, in his own neighbourhood, in his own play area, that was shot by a lethal weapon and killed.

“It’s mind boggling how they got away with those sorts of inquests 46 years ago. I would be ashamed to have been part of the legal system back then.

“It won’t bring him back but his memory has taken on a new meaning.”

Kieran Geddis, Stephen’s brother, said there were “mixed emotions” as their father, who had always maintained Stephen’s innocence, was not alive to witness today’s events.

“Our mother is very old now, but she will be glad to hear that as well. She’s a very private woman and we’re a very private family,

“She always grieves and always misses Stephen, she talks about him to us and she’s very sad but I’m sure she’ll be delighted to hear that this is now the truth,” he said.

Mr Geddis criticised controversial legislation aimed at ending legacy prosecutions from the conflit.

“It’s been a long road, we actually thought we’d never get here today. Other families like ourselves never get the opportunity to do this.

“Other families won’t have that opportunity, that’s a sad reflection on today’s government.”

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