‘There is no witch hunt going on, just a family grieving, wanting answers’

Emmett McConomy speaking at the event at the memorial to his brother Stephen on Fahan Street.
Emmett McConomy speaking at the event at the memorial to his brother Stephen on Fahan Street.

The brother of a young Derry boy who was shot and killed by a British soldier as he played in the street, has urged local people to make their views known during current ‘Consultation on Addressing the Legacy of the Past.’

Emmett McConomoy has also called for an independent investigation into his brother’s killing as he addressed those gathered recently at the ‘‘Time For Truth’ event at the site on Fahan Street where his brother was shot.

Stephen McConomy

Stephen McConomy

On April 16, 1982, 11-years-old Stephen McConomy was playing with friends when a member of the British army’s Royal Anglian regiment shot him in the head with a plastic bullet.

His brother told those gathered at the site of his memorial: “Stephen grew up at 9B Dove Gardens, next to the Gasyard in the heart of the Bogside. Stephen had two younger brothers, Mark and myself, Emmett. We lived there with our mum Maria and our uncle Michael. Both sadly no longer with us.

“Growing up, I remember Stephen to be, above all, happy. He had many friends and I looked up to him as my big brother. In their school yearbook, his friend wrote, ‘Stephen was one of the best artists in our class and was my friend’.

“Stephen was, indeed, a good artist and he had a love of music. ‘Adam Ant’ and ‘Stiff Little Fingers’ were two of his favourites. We still have one of the singles that he bought and some of his toys that he loved to play with, a sad reminder of a life not lived to the fullest and cut so violently short.

Relatives of Stephen McConomy with speakers at the event in Derry.

Relatives of Stephen McConomy with speakers at the event in Derry.

“Stephen attended St John’s Primary School in Derry and it was there, just before his death, that he made his Confirmation dressed in his best outfit with his school friends in St. Mary’s Church, Creggan.

“Two weeks later on this very spot Stephen was laying injured, bleeding, dying, in those very same clothes.”

Mr. McConomy said the soldier inside a Saracen, “took aim at our brother, pulled the trigger and when nothing happened, he took aim again and fired, hitting Stephen on the back on his head with his plastic baton round”.

“They then left our brother injured, bleeding, dying, lying face down on the grass. Two young men ‘Nick’ Meenan and John White attempted to come to Stephen’s aid but those same soldiers warned them that they too would be shot if they came any closer,” he said. “Eventually the RUC arrived and Nick and John lifted Stephen into the RUC landrover and he was transported to the local hospital. On arrival Stephen was transferred to the Royal Victoria in Belfast. Three days later on April 19, 1982, our mum had to agree with hospital staff to switch off Stephen’s life support. She said goodbye to her first born son and held him as he took his last breath.

“Stephen had always been very protective of our mother and us. He was always on hand to run to the shop or other messages, always wanting to be helpful . He was a happy child despite, like so many other children of the time, not having much. But he had all he wanted: a family that loved him and whom he loved in return. Stephen had an infectious smile and beautiful big brown eyes that would win over anyone he met and light up any room. Stephen would walk us to school every day, he looked after us and kept us safe. He was our protector but in the end it was Stephen who needed protection.

“I often wonder what Stephen would have been like if he had got the chance to grow up, our big brother.

“On April 16, 1982 there was no riot taking place when Stephen was murdered, no threat to the safety of the Royal Anglian soldiers in their Saracen. The soldiers involved in the murder of our brother know what happened. His family know and the people of Derry know. The RUC failed in their duties to investigate Stephen’s murder.Why? Was his life so worthless to the British Government that his death was not worth investigating?

“There is no witch hunt going on here, just a family grieving, hurting, wanting answers, truth and justice.”

Mr. McConomy said the Historical Enquiry Team had begun investigating Stephen’s killing before it was shut down. “Our mother died without knowing the full truth about what happened that day to her child. Our family want an independent investigation that will establish the facts surrounding why a child could be murdered and no-one held accountable, we are seeking truth ... justice. It is through this healing process that our family can move forward.”

Mr. McConomoy said his family has written to the Attorney General requesting a fresh inquest in light of new evidence and witness statements that we have been made aware of. “We are still waiting for his response,” he noted.

Mr. McConomy urged local people to take part in the ongoing public consultation on legacy issues, ‘Dealing with the Past,’ which has been launched by the Northern Ireland Office.

“I would like to take this opportunity to ask you to please, register your views. I feel that this is the biggest opportunity since the Good Friday Agreement some 20 years ago for us to have our say.

“I make this call to you today because you can rest assured that other parties involved in the conflict here have been rallying their troops and submitting their responses in numbers. The PFC, RFJ and otherorganisation’s will support individuals/families to submit their views. This is a onetime only opportunity to make your views known. Spread the word, tell your friends, support family members to take part in the consultation, but time is fast running out ... September 10 is the closing date for submissions.

“Lastly, I call on the PSNI to stop firing plastic bullets, only last month we noted them being fired again on these streets. There is no justification for their use; there has never been any justification for their use, they should be removed from all our communities.”

Local people can make their views know via e-mail to: legacyconsultation@nio.gov.uk or via post to: Legacy Policy Team, Northern Ireland Office, Stormont House, Stormont Estate, Belfast, BT4 3SH.

Alternatively people can saubmit their contribution online or find out further information at:

www.gov.uk/government/consultations/addressing-the-legacy-of-northern-irelands-past