Northern Ireland news

Tributes paid to mother of Majella O'Hare (12) following her death

Mary O'Hare, pictured in 2010 at the spot where her daughter Majella was shot dead. Picture by Pacemaker

THE mother of a 12-year-old girl killed by the British Army in 1976 has been described as a woman who "never strayed from the path of dignity, faith and compassion" following her death.

Mary O'Hare, whose daughter Majella was shot twice in the back on her way to church in August 1976, died on Tuesday surrounded by her family.

Aged in her late 90s and from the south Armagh village of Whitecross, she was today remembered as a "woman of kindness".

Her death comes more than 40 years after she lost her daughter Majella, who was shot by a Parachute Regiment soldier after she passed an army checkpoint on her way to Confessions.

Private Michael Williams of the 3rd Battalion of the regiment claimed he had opened fire on an IRA sniper. He was tried for manslaughter in 1977 but acquitted by Lord Justice Maurice Gibson who accepted there had been a gunman in the area.

But in August 2010, the Historical Enquiries Team said it supported the findings of the original RUC investigation which had found that Private Williams was not returning fire at a gunman and recommended to prosecutors that he be charged with manslaughter.

In March 2011, Mrs O'Hare received an official apology from the Ministry of Defence - only the second time an apology had been offered for the army's behaviour during the Troubles.

The letter corrected the army's account and acknowledged the soldier's courtroom explanation was "unlikely".

Mrs O'Hare's son Michael said at the time that it was "not closure, but we have moved along the way".

Tributes have been paid to Mrs O'Hare following her death, including Labour MP Conor McGinn, who is originally from Camlough.

"Mrs O’Hare was a woman of kindness, integrity and most of all a great family friend," he said.

"She suffered the awful injustice of her Majella’s killing, but never strayed from the path of dignity, faith and compassion.

"She was a quiet leader, and what happened to her and the O’Hare family goes to the heart of dealing with the legacy of the past.

"When I hear the phrase ‘statute of limitations’ or ‘witch-hunt’ my first thought is about justice for Mrs O’Hare and Majella.

Miami Showband Massacre survivor Stephen Travers wrote on Twitter that "Mary went to her beloved daughter, Majella".

The Pat Finucane Centre said: "Sorry to learn of the passing of Mrs O'Hare, mother of Majella O'Hare who was killed by a British paratrooper in 1976.

"Our thoughts are with her family."

Funeral mass for Mrs O'Hare is to take place on Friday at St Malachy’s Church, Ballymoyer at 11am followed by burial in St Malachy’s cemetery.

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