A campaign to have a new inquest into the death of a young Donegal man who was shot dead by the RUC is gathering pace.
Michael Leonard was the son of the late Maurice & Maureen Leonard of Tievemore, Pettigo.
Michael was only 24 years of age when he was shot dead by RUC officers on the 17th May 1973 on a quiet country road after a car chase near the border between Pettigo and Belleek.
As part of a campaign for a fresh inquest, the case was raised last week in Seanad Éireann by Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill, as requested by Cllr. Michèal Naughton and the Leonard family with Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, Senator Ò Domhnaill called for fresh and transparent inquiry.
He requested the British government to fully co-operate with this fresh investigation, including making discovery of all relevant police and military records relating to the killing of Mr Leonard, an Irish citizen from Pettigo.
In May, it emerged that the north’s Attorney General, John Larkin, had said the shooting was not justified and referred it to the Director of Public Prosecutions to review whether police should be prosecuted before considering a new inquest.
Police claimed at the time that Mr Leonard, who was a disqualified driver, had failed to stop when he got into a car after leaving a shop and a single shot was later fired during a chase.
However, evidence uncovered during a trawl of British army logs at the National Archives at Kew in London appeared to contradict the single shot claim.
It was found by researcher Ciarán MacAirt from the charity Paper Trail and was published in a report written by Mr Leonard’s cousin, Fr Joe McVeigh.
The Leonard family have been trying to unearth the truth since the evening Michael Leonard was shot dead when RUC officers opened fire on him. An inquest was held a number of months shortly afterwards but none of the three officers who were travelling in the Land Rover that evening were present. There was no cross examination, an RUC inspector gave evidence to the coroner. However the inquest was riddled with holes and the RUC on at least three occasions changed details of the story concerning the unlawful murder of Michael Leonard.
A response on behalf of the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney, says “The Government understands that the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland is actively considering the case, further to a referral by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland.
“The Government is also aware that a complaint has been made to the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland about the investigation of the fatal shooting of
Mr. Leonard and that the ombudsman is assessing whether it is a matter that can be investigated by that office. The PSNI is also seized of this case and has stated that it not in a position to comment at this stage.”
Cllr. Naughton said this is a sensitive matter that dates back to 1973 and that he firstly wanted to acknowledge the search for justice by the Leonard family since then.
He said “This recent debate in the Oireachtas is an important milestone for the family in their campaign for truth and justice for Michael. There is no other way of putting it, Michael was killed deliberately, there is now hard evidence to confirm there was no single, accidental one shot or checkpoint.
“The British records prove there were three shots and I fully support the Leonard family in their endeavour to find truth and justice for the killing of this young man”.Tags: