Daniel's name cleared

The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) has offered its "sincere apologies" to the family of an innocent Derry teenager shot dead by British soldiers after it wrongly labelled the youth a 'terrorist.'

Daniel Hegarty (15) was fatally injured during 'Operation Motorman' in the Creggan in the early hours of July 31, 1972.

The unarmed teenager was described by the MoD as a 'terrorist' in its analysis of 'Operation Banner' - the British Army codename for operations in Northern Ireland between August 1969 and July 31, 2007.

News that the inaccurate reference has been removed from the report, which was contained in a document published on the MoD's website, was yesterday welcomed by Daniel Hegarty's sister, Margaret Brady.

"I welcome the fact that this document is to be amended," she said. "It's wrong that we should have to fight to clear Daniel's name when we were wronged in the first place. I only wish they (MoD) would accept that the British Army shot many many people without justification and where they posed no threat.

"Young Seamus Bradley was shot that same night and his inquest found that he was unarmed."

A spokesperson for the MoD confirmed that an error had been made and apologised to the Hegarty family.

"The paragraph in question is inaccurate and this should have been picked up on during proof reading, but unfortunately was not. I recognise the considerable distress this must have caused...and I have instructed the report be removed from our website and an amended version produced. I would also like to offer my sincere apologies to Daniel's family."

The issue was brought to the attention of the MoD on behalf of the Hegarty family by the Pat Finucane Centre in Derry, which highlighted the discrepancy in July this year.

A letter was sent to Defence Minister, Des Brown, requesting that the document be withdrawn and the reference to Daniel Hegarty be corrected.

The Pat Finucane Centre pointed out in the letter that Mr. Brown - then NIO Minister - had previously written to the Hegarty family in 2003, stating that "neither I nor the Government have ever said that Daniel was a terrorist."

Stephanie English, Pat Finucane Centre, said the development represented a "small victory" for the Hegarty family.

"To be honest, we thought we were in for the long haul and that much more pressure would be needed, but it seems that very few people in Whitehall are willing to stand over this document, which is littered with inaccuracies, exaggerations and deeply racist assumptions.

Victory

"We do feel it important to set the record straight. It's a pity that the other rubbish cannot be corrected, but at least this represents a small victory for the Hegarty family."

The MoD spokesperson added "...the Secretary of State has previously written letters to the effect that Daniel is considered innocent and we continue to stand by those comments."