Colum Eastwood urges release of files related to death of Derry plastic bullet victim Paul Whitters

Foyle MP Colum Eastwood has asked the British Government why the family of Paul Whitters have been told they will have to wait until 2059 before secret files relating to his death in Derry are finally released.

Wednesday, 24th June 2020, 3:51 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th June 2020, 3:52 pm

Paul, from Belview Avenue in the city, was just 15 when he was shot with a plastic bullet by an RUC officer during rioting in April 1981.

Earlier this month Paul's sister Emma told the 'Journal' that her family will not be able to access official papers relating to her brother’s death - which are held in the National Archives - until their scheduled release date of 2059. - 78 years after he was killed.

Mr. Eastwood raised the matter with the Secretary of State for the North, Brandon Lewis, at Westminster on Wednesday.

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Paul Whitters pictured with his baby brother Aidan.

"Of course, keeping people safe in Northern Ireland should always be the priority. However, that has not always been the case. In 1981, Paul Whitters, aged 15, was killed in Derry, and Julie Livingstone, aged 14, was killed in Belfast. Both were killed with plastic bullets.

"The files relating to their deaths have been reclassified and withheld until 2059 and 2064 respectively. Does the Secretary of State agree that there is no good reason to keep those files closed, and will he now act to allow the parents of those children to see the files?" he asked.

Mr. Lewis replied: "I have enormous sympathy for those families who lost loved ones - especially children, which is a tragedy - during the troubles. The files mentioned by the hon. Member are currently held by the National Archives and were closed to protect the privacy, health and safety of individuals named in those files.

"A freedom of information request to the National Archives is the most appropriate next step to enable a full independent review of the files. Such a request can be made by anyone, including the hon. Member, and my Department would provide any necessary assistance to the National Archives if such a request were received."