Victim's family demand new inquest as files held until 2071

Stephen McConomy made his Confirmation just two weeks before his death.
Seamus McKinney

LAWYERS for the family of a Derry schoolboy killed by a plastic bullet 36 years ago have called on Attorney General to order a new inquest into his death.

The move comes after it was revealed that some files concerning the death of Stephen McConomy (11) will not be released until 2071, almost 100 years after his death.

The Derry youngster died three days after a soldier from the Royal Anglian Regiment shot him in the head with a plastic bullet on April 16 1982. Witnesses claimed he was shot from a distance of just 7ft and was not posing any threat at the time.

According to the McConomy family's solicitor, Pádraig Ó Muirigh, a 1983 inquest was not sufficiently thorough or effective, “even by the standards of the time".

Mr Ó Muirigh said: “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.”

The solicitor said significant evidence was also kept from the original coroner. He said a new inquest could examine all the evidence, including details of inadequate test firing of plastic bullets, the lack of training of soldiers and the unjustified use of plastic bullets.

Emmett McConomy, who was seven when his brother was killed, said the family could not understand how no-one was ever held accountable for Stephen's death or how his death was not investigated to the standards expected in the killing of a child.

“Stephen was a beautiful caring child, the eldest of three brothers,” he said.

The case is being handled by Derry based human rights' group, the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC).

Spokeswoman Sara Duddy was critical of the original investigation and said a number of issues surrounding the youngster's death remained unresolved.

“Among those issues are the files that the MoD is 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,” Ms Duddy said.

She said children who were present at the time, but never gave evidence, could now provide important evidence.

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