Northern Ireland

Families of those killed by British army in Troubles denounce compensation

Christopher Quinn was 39 when he was killed in 1971 
Christopher Quinn was 39 when he was killed in 1971 

Families whose loved ones were killed by the British army during the Troubles have launched a campaign at Westminster to denounce the British government's "miserly" compensation pay-outs.

The relatives are backing a week-long publicity drive that will see an advertising van transport billboard images of the victims around London.

The campaign has been organised in response to recent comments made by British Prime Minister Theresa May when she vowed to protect the armed forces from an "industry of vexatious allegations" and harassment by "activist, left-wing human rights lawyers".

Mrs May was expressing concern at the number of cases taken against the military for alleged mistreatment in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those involved with the billboards claim a "culture of impunity" at the Ministry of Defence pre-dates the recent conflicts abroad and clearly existed on the streets of the north during the 30-year sectarian conflict.

The campaign focuses on two people shot dead by soldiers, father-of-five Christopher Quinn (39) who was killed in 1971 in west Belfast, and 12-year-old Kevin Heatley, who was killed in Newry, Co Down in 1973.

Mr Quinn's family was paid £500 by the MoD while Kevin's parents were given £750.

Roberta Quinn, one of Mr Quinn's daughters, said: "My mother was left to raise five children and scrape to make ends meet after my father's shooting.

"How dare Theresa May talk about 'vexatious allegations' when we see the MoD was prepared to drag my mother through the courts and ended up paying her a miserly £500 knowing that my father was an innocent man?"

Kevin Heatley's brother Martin said the MoD explained the £750 was an "acceptable rate for a minor".

"This was the final blow for my parents," he said. "The MoD offered us about £60 for each year Kevin lived. What an insult."

The publicity event, which got under way at Parliament Square on Tuesday, is sponsored by human rights campaign group The Pat Finucane Centre (PFC).

Paul O'Connor from the PFC said: "These two selected cases are just the tip of the iceberg."

He added: "A culture of impunity still exists in respect of the actions of the British military in Iraq and Afghanistan."