McCann killing not justified - report

By Anthony Neeson

The killing of an Official IRA man - who is immortalized in one of the most iconic images of the Northern Ireland conflict - was "not justified" a new report has found.

Joe McCann was a legendary figure in the early years of the Troubles. The Belfast man was shot by the Parachute Regiment in Joy Street close to his home in the Markets area on April 15, 1972.

On the evening of internment, August 9, 1971, McCann was pictured silhouetted against the burning flames of the Inglis bakery in the Markets holding an M1 carbine and with the Starry Plough fluttering at his shoulder. It was taken during a gun battle with the British Army.

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Now a new Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report on his death says: "Joe's actions did not amount to the level of specific threat which could have justified the soldiers opening fire in accordance with the Army rules of engagement."

The Parachute Regiment shot McCann several times as he tried to escape capture from police in the city center, a team of detectives said. He was unarmed at the time.

McCann's daughter, Nuala, said: "The shooting of our father was not justified. It was unjustified."

The report also stated that the review team was unable to question the officers present on that day.

"The lack of access to their identities has been a major inhibitor in being able to provide a full and comprehensive review of all the circumstances of Joe's death."

When a plaque was erected in 1997 at the spot where Joe McCann was shot dead, republicans of every hue attended, such was the respect that the lower Falls man commanded.