The family of a Derry schoolgirl shot dead more than forty years ago has vowed to continue its fight for truth and justice.
Annette McGavigan was just 14 years old when she was killed not far from her Bogside home in September 1971.
The McGavigan family maintain it was a British Army bullet that struck and killed her.
This week, it emerged the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been refusing to release documents in relation to Annette’s death despite the fact “almost identical” information has been available to the public for more than forty years.
At a recent legal hearing in Belfast, a judicial panel chaired by a QC said it was “extraordinary” that it had not been alerted earlier to the fact that “90 per cent of the disputed material had been in the public domain in almost identical form for over 40 years and that, to that extent, there was no justification for refusing the [disclosure] request.”
Martin McGavigan, Annette’s brother, described the revelation as “the ultimate insult”.
“I can’t understand why they won’t release all these documents,” he said. “It’s almost 46 years since Annette was killed. Sometimes I feel as if they’re waiting for us to die, to just go away. But we’re going nowhere. There will always be someone to fight for truth and justice for Annette”.
It also emerged at the legal hearing that the MoD introduced a series of fresh ‘exemptions’ - including national security concerns - in a bid to prevent the disclosure of intelligence documentation relating to Annette’s death.
It was also revealed that a representative of the Information Commissioner’s Office, the government body which regulates freedom of information requests, was excluded from viewing this intelligence material - something the judicial panel said had “potentially deplorable consequences” and “defies common sense”.
“It’s very, very frustrating,” says Martin McGavigan, “but we’re not giving up. We need answers and we won’t rest until we get them.
“The fact that we’re still trying to uncover the truth nearly 46 years on is ridiculous. In my opinion, it shows a complete lack of respect for both Annette and our family and sends out the message that we’re not worth anything.”
Sara Duddy, of the Pat Finucane Centre, which has been lobbying on behalf of the McGavigans, described the latest developments as “extraordinary”.
“To find out that the material the MoD has been fighting against the release of is actually material that’s been in the public domain for more than 40 years is, to say the least, astonishing. I can totally understand why, 46 years on from Annette’s death, the McGavigan family is feeling so frustrated,” she added. “The impact of this on a purely human level must be dreadful.
“How the MoD can argue that it’s opposed to releasing documents on national security grounds is beyond me. Let’s remember that this incident happened nearly half a century ago. Who or what is still at risk? Continuing to withhold information only deepens the cloud of secrecy that surrounds this and other cases.”