Londonderry: James Brokenshire meets Paul Whitters family

Paul Whitters with baby brother Aidan Image copyright Whitters Family
Image caption Paul's uncle said the family have been denied justice

Secretary of State James Brokenshire is in Londonderry for his first official visit to the city since taking office.

He met the family of Paul Whitters, a 15-year-old schoolboy killed by a plastic bullet in 1981.

In 2007, a police ombudsman's report criticised a police investigation of the case.

Paul's uncle, Tony Brown, said it was a productive meeting and that he was "cautiously optimistic".

Mr Brown was part of a delegation from the Pat Finucane Centre who want the secretary of state to make progress on dealing with the past.

Paul Whitters was wearing a mask and throwing stones at windows when he was shot by a police officer on Great James Street 35 years ago.

It followed a day of rioting in and around the Bogside area of Derry during the IRA hunger strikes.

Image caption Mr Brokenshire was making his first official visit to the city

The police had said the baton round was fired to prevent a lorry being hijacked.

"Paul's death was never properly investigated and that made a mockery of the inquest," Mr Brown said.

"There was no warning given. Paul was shot at a range which was unacceptable, within the regulations at the time.

"We subsequently learned that the plastic bullet gun was defective.

"The most appalling thing was that Paul was dragged from the scene where he was shot, there was no attempt made to preserve the scene for forensic reasons."

Mr Brown said they were delighted that Mr Brokenshire had met them so soon after getting the job.

"Nineteen secretaries of state later, I'm cautiously optimistic that we've had a proactive engagement," he said.

James Brokenshire acknowledged victims families had been waiting a long time for progress on dealing with the past.

"I had a very positive, very constructive initial conversation with the Pat Finucane Centre in these early days of my time as secretary of state.

" I am very keen to create the climate where we are able to progress these issues, get those legacy bodies up and running and I hope provide some answers for people who have been waiting a great deal of time," he said.

The secretary of state will also meet local business leaders to hear their concerns after the Brexit vote.

Derry's nearest geographical neighbour is County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland.

It leaves the area particularly vulnerable to any changes to border check points.

Mr Brokenshire, who campaigned to remain in the EU, said he was opposed to any resurrection of a hard border between the two countries.

The secretary of state will also visit the Seagate factory, one of the area's biggest employers, and is due to meet members of the Apprentice Boys of Derry.

Related Topics

More on this story