Northern Ireland

Death of Aidan McAnespie has hung heavily over community for 30 years

Aidan McAnespie was shot dead in February 1988
Aidan McAnespie was shot dead in February 1988 Aidan McAnespie was shot dead in February 1988

THE shooting of Aidan McAnespie as he made his way to a football match on a Sunday afternoon in February 1988 has hung heavily over the GAA and wider nationalist community.

Before his death the 23-year-old was the focus of a campaign of harassment by security forces and the manner of his death opened a sore that has festered for more than 30 years.

His family now hope that the prosecution of the British soldier who fired the fatal shot will provide answers to questions they have been asking for decades.

They have always rejected army claims that the Aughnacloy man was struck in the back by a ricochet bullet.

At his funeral, Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich was scathing in his criticism.

The anger felt by nationalists was compounded when a manslaughter charge against Grenadier Guardsman David Jonathan Holden was dropped in September 1988 and he was allowed to return to the British army.

Earlier this year former GAA director general Páraic Duffy wrote to the Irish government asking it to release the Crowley Report, which was compiled by then Garda deputy commissioner Eugene Crowley after the shooting.

The results of the investigation were received by then justice minister Gerry Collins in April 1988, but have never been published.

It also emerged this year that the north’s state pathologist has confirmed that a section of the Tyrone man's rib cage was removed and later "disposed of".

Archbishop Eamon Martin appealed to Secretary of State Karen Bradley to help locate the missing body part.

The continuing campaign for truth has taken its toll on the McAnespie family.

Speaking yesterday, Aidan’s brother Vincent paid tribute to his sister Eilish McCabe who died in 2008.

“My sister fought the campaign for nearly 20 years, she fought tirelessly for it," he said.

“It actually wore Eilish down and it ended up she passed away after a 20-year campaign.

“But it was Eilish that got the HET (Historical Enquiries Team) on board at that early stage.

“And in fairness the HET helped to lead to this result.”