Northern Ireland

Decision expected by PPS next month in case of first child killed in Troubles

Patrick Rooney (9) was shot dead by the RUC in August 15 1969. Picture by Mal McCann
Patrick Rooney (9) was shot dead by the RUC in August 15 1969. Picture by Mal McCann

A brother of the first child killed in the Troubles has revealed how his dying father asked him to keep fighting for the truth.

Nine-year-old Patrick Rooney was shot by the RUC 50 years ago in the bedroom of his home at St Brendan’s Pass in the Divis area of west Belfast.

No-one has ever been convicted in relation to his death.

He was shot after police opened up with a machine gun fitted to a Shorland armoured car.

Earlier that day Protestant Herbert Roy (26) was shot dead after republicans opened fire on police and a loyalist mob which was attempting to attack the nationalist area.

Read More: Dublin government scrambled to respond as north went up in flames in August 1969

Serving British soldier Hugh McCabe (20), who was on home leave, was also shot and killed by police in Divis flats.

Patrick Rooney's brother Con. Picture by Mal McCann.
Patrick Rooney's brother Con. Picture by Mal McCann.

Eight people died across the north between August 14-16 and hundreds of Catholics were forced to flee their homes throughout Belfast after they were attacked by loyalist mobs.

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The Belfast violence erupted in the wake of the 'Battle of the Bogside' in Derry during which nationalist residents held off an attempt by loyalists and the RUC to enter the district.

It is understood that a former RUC officer questioned last June by Police Ombudsman investigators in relation to the death of Patrick Rooney gave a ‘no comment’ interview.

He is believed to have been a gunner in one of three Shorland armoured vehicles which were in the Divis area at the time of the shooting.

The other two gunners have since died, it is understood.

He was identified as ‘Officer Y’ at the Scarman Tribunal, set up to examine the events of August 1969, and denied being responsible for shooting Patrick Rooney.

A file relating to his death was forwarded to the Public Prosecution Service last August.

Patrick’s brother Con Rooney last night told how his father Neily asked him to continue campaigning before his death in 2013.

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He said his father “blamed himself” for what happened.

Con was just eight when he saw his brother being killed and he recalled the harrowing scenes.

“We were all in the same room, my daddy had been grazed and my mammy was grazed on the cheek,” he said.

“He (his father) said ‘I have been shot’ and Patrick was in the corner and he slid down the wall.

“My mammy had a cream coat and when she lifted him (Patrick), it was full of blood and they put him on the bed.

“My mammy ran down the stairs screaming and we ran after her screaming and we pulled her back (into the flat).

“Our neighbours came in and we were on our knees praying.”

His brother’s body was carried from their home to an ambulance.

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His father later went to the morgue to identify his son before returning home to break the devastating news.

“He said he was dead and mammy started again,” he said.

Mr Rooney said the death of his brother had a huge impact on his family, including his mother Alice.

He said he was also traumatised at losing his brother who was just a year older than him.

“One night my daddy came up to check me and I was totally unconscious and they said it was delayed shock,” he said.

“We were not allowed to go to the funeral, my mammy and daddy had said we had seen enough and that it would do more harm than good.”

The Scarman Tribunal later reported that shots were fired into the flat from an RUC Shortland armoured car.

The report said: “We believed that appalled by the consequences of their shooting and frightened by the spectre of revenge, the Shorland crew members have not made to the tribunal a full disclosure of what they know occurred.”

Scarman also said the Shorland crew members “have not indicated in their evidence any justification for shooting into the flats (which of course they deny having done)”.

An inquest held in November 1969 returned an open verdict.

Earlier this month the Rooney family solicitor Fearghál Shiels wrote to the PPS voicing concern about delays.

Members of the Rooney family met with a senior prosecutor yesterday.

Mr Shiels said the meeting had taken place “as the family had expressed serious concern that the PPS had been considering this file for more than a year with no apparent progress".

“It has now been confirmed that the PPS are awaiting final advices from counsel and a substantive decision is expected to be provided to Patrick’s family before the end of September,” he said.

A spokesman for the PPS said: “This is a complex case which remains under consideration by a senior prosecutor. We are committed to keeping Patrick’s family informed of progress and have meet with them today (Wednesday) to provide an update on the case.”