‘How can you shoot an 11-year-old unarmed and defenceless boy?’

The brother of 11-year-old Stephen McConomy who died after being shot in the back of the head by a British soldier in 1982 has said he will always be our ‘big brother’.

By Kevin Mullan
Friday, 15th April 2022, 6:18 pm

Emmett McConomy was speaking as his family prepare to mark the 40th anniversary of his fatal shooting tomorrow.

“Stephen has always been my big brother. I’m 47-years-old now and we still refer to Stephen as our big brother. It is heart-breaking that all those milestones were missed.

“There should be nephews and nieces, a sister-on-law. All those major things. There are 40 Christmases and 40 birthdays we never got and we’ll never get back,” said Emmett.

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A billboard erected at Free Derry Corner on Thursday.

Stephen was playing in Fahan Street on April 16, 1982 when a Lance-Corporal of the Royal Anglian Regiment fired a plastic bullet at him from the back of a Saracen. He was struck on the back of the head and suffered horrific injuries. He died three days later in the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Emmett says his family have been denied justice for four decades. “The DPP said there were no grounds for prosecution which I find unbelievable. How can you shoot an 11-year-old unarmed, defenceless boy. He was a P7 pupil. Look at P7 kids running around today. They are wains. To take his life so brutally and for nothing to be done about - no investigation by the RUC, no accountability.

"Forty years later I still can’t get my head around it. Why no-one has ever appeared in court charged with what I believe was murder?”

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Stephen McConomy was 11 when he was shot by a British soldier.

The family have been angered by the inclusion by the British Government in its Command Paper for addressing the past of a line in relation to security force killings. It states that the ‘security forces were responsible for around 10% of Troubles-related deaths - the vast majority of which were lawful’.

This weekend the McConomys alongside the Pat Finucane Centre have erected a billboard at Free Derry Corner asking Secretary of State Brandon Lewis ‘was this lawful?’ They also continue to oppose an amnesty for British soldiers.

Emmet said: “I don’t know what my brother was guilty of. I don’t know what an 11-year-old could do to justify stating that he was not innocent. They talk about the amnesty for the soldiers.

They talk about reinvestigating the past, and digging up and retraumatising soldiers and people involved in the conflict. There was no meaningful, proper, thorough investigation into what happened to our Stephen.”

Emmett McConomy

This Saturday at 2pm the McConomy family will gather at the spot where their ‘big brother’ aged 11 was fatally shot by the British army.

“With a lot of victims we are sitting here 40 years later and a lot of our family have passed away. My mum [Maria] has passed away. Most of my aunties and uncles bar one have passed away. It’s now just Mark [Stephen’s other brother] and I left with the legacy of 40 years of grief and we’re trying to carry it forward and find out the answers that mum always wanted to find out.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The Government’s deepest sympathies lie with all those who lost loved ones during the Troubles. The Government is absolutely committed to addressing legacy issues comprehensively and fairly for all those most impacted by the Troubles.

"This will include measures that focus on information recovery, so that families can know what happened to their loved ones, and which promote reconciliation, so all communities in NI can move forward.

“The Government was clear when we published the Command Paper that we would be engaging with a wide range of stakeholders with an open mind before introducing any legislation. That is what we have done and we are considering our next steps carefully. This is a highly complex issue, and it is important that we take the time to get this right.”