10 Aug 2022

Troubles amnesty: ‘Murder is murder’ says sister of Daniel Hegarty-teen who was shot dead in 1972 during Operation Motorman

Daniel Hegarty
The sister of a teenager gunned down by a British soldier during the British Army’s single biggest operation of the Troubles has said that under no circumstances will she accept an amnesty for state forces. 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty was shot dead in Creggan during Operation Motorman on July 31, 1972. Over 25,000 British Soldiers saturated areas of Derry and Belfast in order to break the ‘no go’ areas of the era. In March this year the Hegarty family won the right to seek the prosecution of the soldier responsible after the High Court quashed a Public Prosecution Service (PPS) decision that he should not be brought before the courts. The High Court adjudged that a decision not to prosecute the man responsible for the  teenagers death was based on “irredeemably flawed” reasoning and said that the evidential test imposed by former PPS director Barra McGrory was too strict. In 2011 a fresh inquest into Daniel Hegarty’s death concluded that he had posed no risk and was shot without warning. The Hegarty family are currently awaiting a decision by the PPS  on whether the British ex-serviceman  responsible for Daniel’s killing will face the courts. In the last 48 hours British Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson has reiterated that he will seek to introduce legislation at Westminster early next that would put in place an amnesty with regards to the Northern Ireland conflict. However, Margaret Brady, Daniel Hegarty’s sister says that introducing a Troubles amnesty in Northern Ireland would be a slap in the face for “innocent people who have been shattered and sacrificed for political ends.” Speaking to the Derry News Margaret said: “I don’t care who you are or what you are, or what uniform you wore or didn’t wear, murder is murder. “The message being sent here by the British Government is that they have no respect for their own law. “But, the soldier responsible for Daniel’s death had immunity from prosecution since the day he was shot. There is a document from the time of the original inquest in 1973 that is clearly stamped ‘no prosecution to be taken.’” During a BBC Radio 4 documentary aired on Tuesday night, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson told veteran journalist Peter Taylor: “We do not want to see service personnel in court when they’ve already been through investigations and that’s why we are committed to finding a resolution, and we want to do it swiftly. “We are hoping we can do it early in the New Year.” And, former British Chief of Defence Staff, Lord Richards told the same programme: “Although it will stick in the gullets of many soldiers who went out to defend their country and the Northern Ireland population from a very aggressive organisation, probably the fairest result is some sort of amnesty. “And, my instinct is that it would probably have to be applied to both sides. There are people now on both sides getting to middle, if not old age now. How much longer do they have to put up with this? “I would like to think that part and parcel of the process would be a drawing of the line and agreement to get on with our lives-put it in the history books.” Margaret Brady however believes that the age of those responsible for killings should not be an impediment to prosecution. She continued: “We know that the man responsible for Daniel’s murder is in his 60s. That’s not old. “They are coming up with the most ridiculous excuses to avoid prosecution. Why are they going to great lengths to protect the British Army, the RUC and UDR and some republicans? “If I committed murder in my 70s or 80s, no matter about my health, I would expect to face prosecution. What’s the difference between them and anyone else? “I forgive those responsible, but I do not accept there will be no prosecution for murder. “The British go out in November to remember their dead and republicans go out at Easter to remember their dead, but they are telling us that we should move on. “Prosecutions are the only way to find closure. What would I do with an apology? It means nothing. “What happened when Daniel died was firstly, they took our only brother. So, there’s not one grandchild in our family to carry on our name because he never got the chance to become a father. “Our family and lot of others are the ones that are standing at gravesides on Christmas morning, at anniversaries, at birthday’s. We are the ones that remember, the ones that don’t forget. How can we move on when we can’t forget the way that they died?”

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