A retired unionist politician who was reportedly shot by Joe McCann has ridiculed the decision to prosecute the IRA man’s soldier killers.
Lord Kilclooney, formerly John Taylor, was speaking after Friday’s announcement that two elderly soldiers will be brought over to Northern Ireland next year to face murder charges for killing McCann in April 1972.
Weeks earlier, in February of that year, Lord Kilclooney was a youthful 34-year-old minister in the then Stormont government when his car was raked with gunfire by the Official IRA. He was hit in the head by five bullets, but survived.
McCann is often named as having been one of the attackers.
Asked about the fact that the soldiers who shot McCann were facing trial, Lord Kilclooney, now 78, told the News Letter last night: “I have no thoughts on [the prosecutions] at all. I know very little about it, I know nothing about him.
“No-one was ever charged [for the shooting].”
Lord Kilclooney, who now sits as a cross bencher in the Lords, added: “It was 44 years ago. Things are getting crazy in Northern Ireland when we start prosecuting people for events almost 50 years ago – going after people of retirement age.”
The former UUP MEP and MP for Strangford continued: “It is getting ridiculous – next we will be prosecuting King William for fighting the Battle of the Boyne.”
• See links below to stories about condemnation of the soldier prosecutions
Joe McCann was an Official IRA commander who believed in creating a socialist Ireland. He took part in Northern Ireland’s first civil rights march for equal rights for Catholics in 1968 and supported an “Army of the People” involved in social struggle, his family have said.
At the start of the Troubles in 1969, the IRA had split into Official and Provisional organisations.
Both opposed partition of Ireland and refused to recognise the governments of either the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.
While the northern-dominated Provisionals advocated violence, the Officials, with a leadership based in the Republic, pursued a policy of creating a socialist Ireland through largely peaceful means.
It feuded with the Provisionals and targeted members of the security forces, but research has linked them to fewer than 50 killings between 1969 and 1979.
The Provisionals killed around 1,700.
Mr McCann was involved in the Belfast Housing Action Committee, seeking better housing and establishing cooperatives, his family has said.
He reportedly took part in fighting during a curfew on the nationalist Falls Road in West Belfast in July 1970 and in August 1971 in the Markets area of the city centre clashed with British troops as commander of the Official IRA.