Northern Ireland

PPS move dismays family of first child Troubles victim

Patrick Rooney
Patrick Rooney

A BROTHER of the first child killed during the Troubles has told of his family's disappointment after a decision was taken not to prosecute anyone in relation to the case.

Nine-year-old Patrick Rooney was shot by the RUC in August 1969 in the bedroom of his home in the Divis Flats in west Belfast.

Con Rooney was speaking after the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) confirmed yesterday that no-one will be held accountable for killing his brother or Catholic man Hugh McCabe (20), who was also shot dead by the RUC.

Both were shot dead overnight on August 14, 1969 during disturbances.

In 2018 the Police Ombudsman forwarded investigation files to the PPS relating to two retired RUC officers.

A separate file was also sent requesting “prosecutorial advice” relating to the death of Samuel McLarnon, who was shot dead in Ardoyne in north Belfast on the same night.

All three died during several days of unrest from August 14-16 1969.

The RUC suspect implicated in the Rooney investigation was a gunner in one of three Shorland armoured vehicles operating in the Divis area on the night of the killing.

The other two RUC officers have since died.

During a remote meeting held between the PPS and relatives yesterday officials said there was no evidence “that would allow the prosecution to establish which of the three gunners fired the fatal shot”.

Con Rooney spoke of his disappointment last night that noone would be held to account.

“I am very disappointed for my family, in particular my mother and late father who campaigned tirelessly for justice for Patrick.”

His solicitor Fearghál Shiels of Madden and Finucane Solicitors, said the family will now press ahead with separate civil proceedings against the PSNI chief constable.

The solicitor said that the 1972 Scarman Report, which considered the killings, rejected initial RUC denials that shots were directed at the Divis flats.

“The foundations for today’s decision not to prosecute an RUC officer for Patrick’s killing were of course solidly laid by the RUC itself,” he said.

“Why there was no dedicated or rigorous investigation in 1969, or even more especially so after the unequivocal conclusions of Lord Scarman, has never been explained.”

The family of Hugh McCabe were also told yesterday that a former RUC officer identified as a suspect in his killing will not face charges.

A serving British soldier, the father-of-two was shot dead by an RUC officer near his home in Divis Flats.

Police later claimed he was armed but witnesses said he was trying to pull a wounded man from the area when he was killed.

It has now emerged that Mr McCabe was shot by one of two policemen men posted on the roof of nearby Hastings Street RUC station.

It is understood one of the officers was armed with a .303 rifle while the other was using an SLR (Self Loading Rifle).

According to the PPS it cannot be conclusively established which officer fired the fatal shot.

However, they claim the available forensic evidence "supports the proposition that it is more likely" the killer shot was fired by the officer who is now dead.

Speaking about all three cases Relatives for Justice spokesman Paul Butler, who has supported the McCabe family, last night said: “Today’s news that due to passage of time there will be no prosecutions in the killings of three civilians by the RUC in 1969 is that the price of justice delayed is truly justice denied.

“Today’s shame should motivate all actors, especially the British government to move immediately and implement mechanisms to deal with the past so no more families face this appalling vista.”

Solicitor Padraig Ó Muirigh said the family of Samuel McLarnon (27) is considering legal action.

The father-of-three was shot as he pulled the blinds of his home at Herbert Street in Ardoyne during the August 1969 civil unrest.

Another man, Michael Lynch, was also shot by nearby by police.

The PPS has confirmed that a suspect in the McLarnon case is now dead.

A forensic review has revealed that the shot that killed Mr McLarnon was consistent with the type of bullet fired from a Sterling sub machine gun, a model of weapon used by the RUC.

Mr Ó Muirigh said the expert has concluded shots were fired directly at the window of Mr McLarnon's home.

Mr Ó Muirigh said: “Whilst the McLarnon family welcome the findings of the forensic review they are disappointed that there has been no prosecution in this case.

“They have always contested the RUC version of events that they were fired upon first.”

PPS Assistant Director Lynne Carlin said: “I fully acknowledge the deep disappointment felt today by three families who have lived for many decades with the loss of their loved one in very painful circumstances.”