Relatives of a Derry schoolboy killed by a plastic bullet nearly 40 years ago say they’ve been left “deeply disappointed” following talks with the NI Secretary of State.
Paul Whitters (15) died after he was hit on the head with a plastic bullet fired by a RUC man in April 1981.
The incident, which took place at Great James’ Street, followed a day of rioting in Derry at the height of the 1981 Long Kesh hunger strikes.
Today, the family of Paul Whitters, accompanied by relatives of Julie Livingstone (15) - also killed by a plastic bullet in Belfast in 1981 - met with Secretary of State Karen Bradley to discuss the closure of files relating to their deaths.
Earlier this year, the families wrote to Karen Bradley asking that the files - scheduled to remain closed for
decades - be released to them.
This morning, accompanied by the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) and Relatives for Justice, Helen Whitters, the
mother of Paul Whitters, her brother, Tony Brown, and Robin Livingstone, brother of Julie, met with Karen Bradley and her advisors.
The meeting, the families say, was “deeply dissatisfactory”.
It’s understood Mrs Bradley and her advisors outlined the decision-making process that, according to the PFC, results in files relating to children killed by the State being withheld from public view until the direct living relatives of those children are likely to have passed away.
The families say they were told there was nothing the Secretary of State could do to intervene to secure the release of the files without the families engaging in a process of seeking them under a Freedom of Information request. It’s understood the files are now the property of the National Archives in London and no longer anything to do with the Secretary of State or her office.
Meanwhile, according to the families, there is no information as to why the files are closed other than it may be because of “health and safety” concerns as they may contain personal information.
The families have branded the situation a “scandal”.
Speaking after the meeting, Helen Whitters said: “So, the Secretary of State can’t tell us why the files are closed because the NIO has marked the files secret and because they are secret they claim not to know why they have marked them secret! The circular stupidity of this argument has left us speechless. This is about my son who was shot at almost point blank range at 15 years of age and about the cruel death at 14 of Julie Livingstone. They were just children.“
The families have asked to see in writing the full legal framework surrounding the closure of the files.