‘I felt like I had murdered my own dad’

RUC officer Samuel Clarke with his wife Helen and children, from left Samuel, Shirley and Winston
RUC officer Samuel Clarke with his wife Helen and children, from left Samuel, Shirley and Winston

A 16-year-old girl whose father was killed by the IRA says she felt like she had pulled the trigger when she was cross-examined on what compensation she was due in 1976.

Shirley White was speaking after the Catholic widow of a Bloody Sunday victim was awarded £625,000 compensation.

Shirley White, whose RUC father Samuel Clarke was killed by the IRA in 1975

Shirley White, whose RUC father Samuel Clarke was killed by the IRA in 1975

Gerard McKinney, a 35-year-old father of eight, was shot by soldiers in 1972 in Londonderry after prolonged skirmishes between youths and the Army. The MoD made the payout after the victims were found to be innocent.

But Shirley White, whose father Samuel Clarke was an RUC officer killed by the IRA in 1975, said she was angered by the payout.

The IRA opened fire on his police car as they sped away from an ambush near Pomeroy. Another police officer – Patrick Maxwell – died, while two others survived.

“The year after I attended the inquest and court hearing,” she said.

Her mother was awarded £5,000 and her two brothers, aged nine and 13, were awarded £900 and £600 respectively.

“But I was awarded nothing. When I stepped into the dock the government lawyer questioned if I was engaged because I was wearing a ring given by my aunt on my engagement finger. I said I was only 15 when my father was murdered and I felt as if I was on trial for pulling the trigger.”

Because she was a member of the police cadets, which paid a wage, she was initially refused any compensation. However, she argued her case and was awarded £500.

“It scarred me for life,” she said.

Mr McKinney chose to be out in a street protest, she said. “But my father was out doing his job as a police officer protecting his mixed community, where he was well liked and respected.”

William Woods’ father, Constable Alfie Woods from Omagh, and colleague John Smyth were killed in an IRA landmine attack at Loughmacrory, near Omagh in 1981.

“My mother got £500 compensation,” he said. “A year later she had a heart attack and died. It killed her – they may as well have shot her too, she was only 51.

“Some years later the police widows got £50,000 each but we never got it because mum had died.”

He was 21 and his sister was 18 or 19 and became full-time carer for their four other siblings aged only eight to 12.

“There was no money after dad was killed, we just had to watch it.”

The £625,000 award “really annoyed me” he said.

“It all seems one-sided. What can you do with the £500 compensation my mother got?”

TUV leader Jim Allister wrote to the prime minister asking for proposals to remedy the situation.

“Recent events must refocus attention on how the state compensated police and UDR widows in comparison with how the same state is now compensating Bloody Sunday relatives,” he said.