‘We hope new inquest will give us answers to why Stephen was killed’

April 1982... Stephen McConomy's mother and younger brothers pictured at his funeral.
April 1982... Stephen McConomy's mother and younger brothers pictured at his funeral.

The younger brother of Derry plastic bullet victim, Stephen McConomy, says a new inquest into his death could provide his family with the “answers we deserve.”

Schoolboy Stephen was playing with friends in the Bogside when he was struck on the head by a plastic bullet on April 16, 1982. He died three days later from his head injuries.

A British soldier, from the Royal Anglian Regiment, claimed he fired the shot by accident and was never prosecuted.

The McConomy family is now asking Attorney General ,John Larkin, QC, to order a new inquest into the 11-year-old’s death.

Emmett McConomy describes his big brother as a “beautiful, caring child.”

“For the last 35 years, we’ve never understood why no-one has ever been held accountable for Stephen’s death or why police - at the time - didn’t investigate his death to the standards that we would have expected when a child has been shot and killed.

“In light of new evidence, the poor investigation at the time and the fact that statements from the soldiers involved were never robustly cross-examined, we hope that a new inquest will give the family answers as to why our brother was so brutally killed.

“We look forward to a positive response from the Attorney General so we can finally have the answers we deserve.”

The McConomy family’s lawyer says the original 1983 inquest was not “sufficiently thorough or effective, even by the standards of the time.”

Pádraig Ó Muirigh added: “Flawed and misleading evidence as to how Stephen died was adduced at the hearing and there was an inadequate critical examination of the soldiers’ version of events. In addition, the original coroner was not afforded sight of evidence of such significance that it might have materially affected the outcome of the original inquest.”

Mr. Ó Muirigh says a new inquest could examine witness testimony not cited at the original inquest as well as evidence relating to the British Government’s awareness that plastic bullets were more dangerous than previously admitted.

Sara Duddy, advocacy worker with the Pat Finucane Centre, says many issues surrounding the “brutal shooting” of Stephen McConomy remain unresolved.

“Among those issues are files that the British Ministry of Defence was determined to keep closed, but which could be accessed by a coroner. There are files in the National Archives directly relevant to the use of plastic bullets which are set to remain ’classified’ until January 1, 2071, almost 100 years after Stephen was killed. This is perverse in the extreme.

“We have also spoken to numerous witnesses who were kids at the time and never came forward but could now assist an inquest.”