‘Life was never the same again for any of us’
The brother of Stephen McConomy told his 40th anniversary commemoration on Saturday how the 11-year-old had been wearing his Confirmation jumper when he was shot by a British soldier.
Emmett McConomy delivered a moving statement on behalf of his family at the spot on Fahan Street where a British soldier shot the schoolboy in the back of the head with a plastic bullet.
“On April 16, 1982, at this very spot where we are all standing, Stephen was playing with his friends.
“He was wearing the same jumper that he had worn on his Confirmation that he made only weeks before in St. Mary’s Chapel, Creggan – surrounded by his friends.
“He died in that jumper, surrounded by friends. Murdered by a single shot to the back of his head. The back of his 11 year old head,” he said.
Mr. McConomy told friends and family who gathered in Stephen’s memory at the weekend how their lives had been changed forever that Friday evening.
Stephen was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast but his injuries were too severe. “Our mum [Maria] had to listen to medical staff explain that Stephen’s life could not be saved, and then she had to make the decision that no mother should have to make.
“So while holding Stephen’s hand she said her goodbyes and watched her first born son slip away.
“That was April 19, 1982. Mum was 29 when Stephen was murdered, her life ripped apart and changed forever.
“Life was never the same again for any of us after that. Mark [Stephen’s other brother] and I didn’t just lose our big brother we lost the essence of our mother – her laughter – the light in her eyes.”
‘The British soldier fired two shots – missing with the first.
‘With the second, Stephen fell and would never get up.
‘A wide-eyed, smiling boy no match for plastic bullets.
‘Three days later, hope was lost, and he died.
‘A mum’s despair and little brothers robbed of heroes.
‘A city bereft - and all for nothing. Only Britain’s shame.
‘Forty years on, people still know your sweet face and say your name often. We remember.
‘Bowing in reverence up Fahan Street hill, passing the flowered memorial where you fell. We remember.
‘Thinking of the little boy, the brother and son you were.
‘The man you could have become. We remember.’
Not far from the spot where Stephen was killed a billboard has been erected at Free Derry Corner asking Secretary of State Brandon Lewis ‘was this lawful?’
Speaking on Saturday, Emmett McConomy said he and his family have been failed by the criminal justice system.
“Forty years on we stand here as a family, as a community, united in grief and disbelief that to date no-one has ever been held accountable for Stephen’s death,” he said.
He pointed out that under both the St. Andrews Agreement and the Stormont House Agreement all parties and both governments had agreed on mechanisms to deal with outstanding legacy issues.
Mr. McConomy vowed to continue to resist attempts by the British Government to introduce a statute of limitations for Troubles killings and called on the British Secretary of State Brandon Lewis to ‘come out and engage with all victims from all backgrounds’.
He stated: “We do not need nor want your protection or favours. We want justice, accountability, truth and full access to the legal system if we so wish.
“Our brother and our family deserve nothing less.
“All victims, and their families deserve justice, accountability truth.”