Heatley family say compensation pay-out is ‘an insult’

November 21, 2016

A Newry family whose 12 year old brother was killed by the British Army in 1973 are backing a campaign to denounce the British government’s “miserly” compensation pay-outs made to families of those killed by the Army during the Troubles.

The week long publicity campaign was launched in response to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s stance on protecting the armed forces from “vexatious allegations” from “activist, left-wing human rights lawyers.”  An advertising van carrying billboard images of two of the victims of the British Army will circulate around London during the publicity drive.

Organisers of the billboards campaign are focusing on the murder of Kevin Heatley in Derrybeg and father-of-five Christopher Quinn in West Belfast in 1971, in a bid to highlight what they claim was a “culture of impunity” at the Ministry of Defence which existed on the streets of the north during the 30-year sectarian conflict,

Kevin Heatley was just 12 years old when he was shot dead by members of the British Army’s Royal Hampshire Regiment on 28th February 1973, as he sat on a wall in Main Avenue, Derrybeg, chatting with friends.  HIs family received a compensation pay-out of just £750 from the British government.

According to Kevin’s brother Martin, the MoD maintained the amount 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 underway at Parliament Square on Tuesday last, is sponsored by human rights campaign group The Pat Finucane Centre (PFC).

Paul O’Connor from the PFC said the two cases selected are “just the tip of the iceberg” and added that the culture of impunity still exists “in respect of the actions of the British military in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Newry & Armagh Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady has said the campaign by families to highlight what he described as ‘the appalling way they were treated following the killings of their loved ones by the British Army’ deserves the support of all.”

Commending the families and the Pat Finucane Centre for their ‘very direct challenge to those who continue to absolve the British Army and the Ministry of Defence of their illegal and often murderous actions’, the Newry & Armagh MP recalled the “groundswell of anger and despair” on the night that young Kevin was murdered.

“The Heatley family were well known and respected in Newry and the fact that Kevin was just 12 years of age brought it home to families that even their children were not safe from the brutality of the British Army.”

Mr Brady said it was important for the family to uncover the truth regarding the exact facts of what actually happened on the night of Kevin’s murder and added that “a spurious claim” made by the British Army  that they had been shot at had been strenuously denied by local people who said that they had only heard one shot.

“Recently the British Secretary of State said that the British Government wouldn’t be ‘rushing to artificial deadlines and timescales’ to deal with the past. My colleague Declan Kearney stated that the British Government is mocking victims’ families and the silence of the Irish government on this issue is deafening,” he insisted.

The Sinn Féin MP added, “The Lord Chief Justice’s proposals on funding legacy inquests are a roadmap to find a solution for many families.

“All the political parties in the north, civil and human rights advocates and campaigners, and the Irish government should be working together to bring pressure to bear upon the British government to release these funds and to meet its obligations. The families deserve no less.”