24 June 2005

Guardian

32 years on, IRA admits killing teenage girl

Staff and agencies
Friday June 24, 2005

The IRA today admitted killing a teenage girl in error in the 1970s, in a statement which the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams said he hoped would bring "closure" for her family.

Kathleen Feeney was a 14-year-old schoolgirl when she was hit by a sniper's bullet aimed at British troops on patrol in Derry in Novermber 1973.

At the time the IRA blamed the army for the killing, and later murdered a soldier "in retaliation".

The Ulster Unionists (UUP) have now demanded that the IRA also apologise to the family of the dead soldier.

"This type of despicable and deplorable behaviour is what we have come to expect from the IRA. There is no justification whatsoever for murdering a child." said David McClarty, the UUP member of the legislative assembly for East Derry said

"The IRA claimed it was the army who shot the young girl and in retaliation for the army's alleged actions murdered a soldier on the streets of Derry.

"Whist we fully appreciate the significance of this statement for the Feeney family and are mindful of their situation, when is the IRA going to apologise to the family of the soldier they shot dead?"

But, speaking in Dublin, Mr Adams said: "The most important element in all of that is the Feeney family. I would hope that the statement helps to bring closure to that family and I therefore welcome that statement.

"At least the IRA is prepared to stand up and take responsibility for something that they did. There is an absence of that both in terms of armed organisations and in terms of politicians."

A youth, who was 16 at the time of the tragedy, was charged with her murder two years later. He was acquitted and cleared on two separate charges of IRA membership and of attempting to murder soldiers.

But he was jailed for seven years after admitting possession an Armalite rifle and ammunition. The judge said the Crown had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he fired the fatal shot.

Four shots were fired but the defendant told police he only fired one. The judge concluded a second and possibly more experienced gunman was involved.

Mr Adams also said today that the bodies of the so-called "disappeared" will eventually be found and returned to their families.

He welcomed a decision by the British and Irish governments to seek a forensic expert to help find the remains of those murdered and secretly buried by the IRA since the 1970s.

"I'm fairly certain, without raising expectations, that we will eventually get those remains and give them back to the families," he said. "We have never stopped trying to help. I understand that this is a horrendously difficult issue, particularly for families who are being denied a funeral."

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