Republic of Ireland news

Killing of Catholic man 46 years ago by RUC raised in Seanad

Michael Leonard was shot dead by the RUC in 1973
Seanin Graham

A relative of a Catholic man shot dead by the RUC in Co Fermanagh almost 50 years ago has welcomed a debate in the Irish Senate as a "milestone".

Cattle dealer Michael Leonard (24), from Co Donegal, was killed after a car chase near the border between Pettigo and Belleek in May 1973.

As part of a campaign for a fresh inquest, the case was oraised yesterday in Seanad Éireann, with foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney called on to order a "fresh and transparent inquiry".

Independent Donegal South Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill also asked for a new investigation to be overseen by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.

He requested the British government "fully co-operate with this fresh investigation", including "making discovery of all relevant police and military records relating to the killing of Mr Leonard, an Irish citizen from Pettigo, Co Donegal".

In May, it emerged that the north's Attorney General, John Larkin, had said the shooting was not justified and referred it to the Director of Public Prosecutions to review whether police should be prosecuted before considering a new inquest.

He also described later attempts by security forces to blacken Mr Leonard's character as "despicable".

Police claimed at the time that Mr Leonard, who was a disqualified driver, had failed to stop when he got into a car after leaving a shop and a single shot was later fired during a chase.

However, evidence uncovered during a trawl of British army logs at the National Archives at Kew in London appeared to contradict the single shot claim.

It was found by researcher Ciarán MacAirt from the charity Paper Trail and was published in a report written by Mr Leonard's cousin, Catholic priest Fr Joe McVeigh.

Fr McVeigh appealed to Mr Coveney to help the family secure justice, 46 years after Mr Leonard's death.

"This debate in the Oireachtas is an important milestone for our family's campaign for truth and justice for Michael," he said.

"It is now incumbent upon an Tánaiste, Simon Coveney TD, to help us secure justice for Michael, a citizen of the Irish State."

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