By Paul Ainsworth

THE family of a young Markets man shot in the back by a British soldier have said they can walk past the spot where he was killed after an apology from the Ministry of Defence.

The family of Billy McKavanagh, who was just 21 when he was shot near the corner of Cromac Street and Catherine Street while walking with his brother and cousin in August 1971, were speaking after receiving the apology in a letter last Friday.

Billy’s family, including his twin sister Margaret Duffy, have long since campaigned for the truth about Billy’s slaying. In August the release of a report by the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team underlined the fact Billy was unarmed and running away when he was shot in the back.

Now the family have been given “closure” with an official apology from the MOD for the killing, in which they accept he was “not a terrorist”, and that his death was a “tragedy”.

Speaking to the South Belfast news, Teddy Duffy, the husband of Billy’s twin sister said the apology, issued on behalf of the Secretary of State Owen Paterson, was the end of a long road for the McKavanagh family circle.

“As a family, we can now have closure over what happened to Billy,” he said.

“For 40 years we have gone through Hell with this, having to listen to the claims Billy was ‘a terrorist’. We always knew the truth, and that was proved beyond doubt with the HET report. Now this letter from the MOD can finally bring this to a close.”

Billy’s brother and cousin were with him when they were confronted by soldiers in the Markets, in an area that had seen looting from shops. He was shot when running from the scene, while his companions were beaten so badly they were left “unrecognisable”.

“We don’t have any animosity towards the soldier who shot Billy. We understand he has expressed sorrow also. With the help of the Pat Finucane Centre and the Markets community we have got through this trauma and this apology brings it to a close. Margaret can now walk past the spot at Cromac and Catherine Street where Billy was killed without the pain caused by the lies in the aftermath of his death. Our only regret is that other relatives, including his brother Pat, who never really got over what happened to him, did not live to see this apology.”

Local MLA Alex Maskey also welcomed the apology, and praised the dignity of Billy’s relatives in their campaign for justice.

“This has been a long time coming, and Billy’s family will take some comfort from this acknowledgement,” he told the South Belfast News.

“Their dignity and search for the truth has no doubt inspired other families in similar circumstances. This won’t take away the pain of his loss, but it will help them in bringing closure to their ordeal.”

 

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