Daniel Hegarty shooting: DUP anger at request for PPS to probe veterans’ reunion 50 years after Londonderry death in 1972 Operation Motorman

Attempts to have the PSNI investigate a reunion dinner in Edinburgh for Troubles veterans has been branded as “a fishing exercise” by the DUP.

By Philip Bradfield
Thursday, 4th August 2022, 9:19 pm

Relatives of 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty, who was shot dead by soldiers in Londonderry during Operation Motorman, on 31 July 1972, hope that a police probe could advance their campaign for justice.

Operation Motorman saw thousands of soldiers using heavy vehicles to retake “no-go” areas across Northern Ireland that had been heavily barricaded and were thought to be controlled by the IRA.

The Historical Enquiries Team said Daniel, who was close to his Creggan home when he was shot, had “posed no threat whatsoever” when soldiers opened fire. Last year prosecutors dropped a case against a soldier charged with his murder..

Soldiers conduct searches of people entering Londonderry after clearing barricades from the Bogside and Creggan in Operation Motorman in 1972.

The Hegarty family now believe that a reunion dinner in Edinburgh last month could provide new evidence in their search for justice. A recent Scots Guards Association newsletter advertised a reunion for veterans involved in Operation Motorman and the wider Troubles in Edinburgh on July 30.

Des Doherty, a solicitor for the Hegarty family, told the Derry Now website that he had forwarded details of the reunion to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) to see if “there may be an opportunity to get access to who said what at the event and see if it is of any evidential weight”. He added that the event is “bound to have been recorded and photographed extensively”.

But East Londonderry DUP MP Gregory Campbell said the request was “absurd” because the army kept full records of who was involved in operations, and that these were already available to authorities.

“The idea that targeting an event where former soldiers are meeting in a social setting would somehow identify an individual alleged to have been engaged in wrongdoing 50 years ago is not just ridiculous but disturbing,” he said.

Daniel Hegarty, 15, was shot dead during Operation Motorman in Londonderry in 1972.

He said it was “incumbent upon the PPS to explain why they have referred such a dubious case to the police” and asked why there were no prosecutions after a major republican parade during the pandemic, in which participants were broadcast on television.

DUP MP Ian Paisley added that the solicitor’s expressed hope for fresh evidence from the reunion was “a clear admission that the whole enterprise is a fishing expedition”. He also asked if the PPS would take the same approach to a social gathering of Irish republicans; and why there has been “no meaningful action” taken on gunmen firing shots at terrorist funerals.

The PPS said it received the Hegartys’ letter on Monday. “The correspondence enquired whether there may be an opportunity to progress enquiries to identify a witness known as Soldier A who was present at the scene when Daniel Hegarty was shot and killed but was not subsequently traced,” a PPS spokeswoman said. “The correspondence was shared with the PSNI who will determine whether it presents a reasonable line of enquiry.”

The PSNI has not yet decided what to do with the request. “The PSNI is in receipt of correspondence from the PPS in this matter, the contents of which are under consideration and will be responded to in due course,” it said.