Soldier who killed Ritchie McKinnie was present on Bloody Sunday
THE soldier responsible for the death of Ritchie McKinnie is said to have claimed it was an “enjoyable experience” and "greatly enhanced” his standing in his British army unit.
Details of the claim emerged during the Bloody Sunday Inquiry in 2010.
The soldier, whose identity is known to The Irish News, was present in Derry in January 1972 when the Parachute Regiment killed 13 innocent Catholic men.
Another man died later from his injuries.
A draft Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report recently given to Mr McKinnie’s daughter confirmed that the 49-year-old factory manager was a “totally innocent man”.
The father-of-five was shot dead by a trooper identified as Soldier J by the HET during rioting between the British army and UDA in the Shankill Road area in September 1972.
Along with Robert Johnston, Mr McKinnie was one of two men killed while several others were shot and injured during the clashes.
During the Bloody Sunday Inquiry it was claimed the soldier, who was known by the cipher 027, previously gave an account of his role in shooting Mr McKinnie to a journalist in which he described the killing as “an enjoyable experience and one which greatly enhanced my standing within the battalion”.
Paul O’Connor from the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC), who has worked closely with Mr McKinnie’s family, claimed the Shankill killings could have been avoided.
“The actions of the Paras on the Shankill Road, the deaths of Mr McKinnie and Mr Johnson, were the inevitable consequence of the appalling failure to investigate Bloody Sunday earlier that year and raise disturbing questions about the decision to let the Paras loose on the civilian population.
“What happened that night with the civilians shot, two of them dead, are another dark chapter in the history of the regiment.
And he added: “This is what a statute of limitations is aimed at covering up.”
Documents uncovered by the PFC also reveal that the Shankill Road killings were discussed by the British cabinet weeks later.
The minutes, which were marked “secret”, reveals that former DUP leader Ian Paisley refused to attend “constitutional discussions” because the British government had “rejected an inquiry into the circumstances in which certain Protestants had been shot during a recent incident in Belfast”.
The document said the “decision to refuse the inquiry for which Mr Paisley had pressed had clearly been right and it had been necessary to adopt an equally firm attitude towards the threat by the extremist Protestant group, the Loyalist Association of Workers, to interrupt power supplies unless the British government withdrew the para-troops”.
Other documents also uncovered by the PFC reveal that the British army privately acknowledged that Mr McKinnie was innocent.
His family only became aware of the document after it was discovered by the PFC.
In a letter stamped March 1976, British army officials discussed possible legal action by Mr McKinney’s wife Ina and revealed that an “investigation established that Mr McKinnie was not involved in the rioting and was not connected to any paramilitary organisation”.
“There is every indicator in fact, that he was an innocent and unwitting victim,” an official said.
The document goes on to say that “this and the consistency of the civilian evidence have led our legal advisers in Northern Ireland to the view that the MoD would have considerable difficulty in defending the civil action for damages brought by his widow.
“They advise us that the best course of action would be to accept full liability and settle on the best possible terms."
Mrs McKinnie was later paid £32,000 by authorities for the loss of her husband.