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Report into Aidan McAnespie's death cannot be released

Aidan McAnespie
Image caption Aidan McAnespie was shot as he walked through a border checkpoint in County Tyrone

A report into the killing of a man who was shot at a border checkpoint 30 years ago cannot be released, the Irish justice minister has said.

Aidan McAnespie, 23, was shot as he walked through the checkpoint at Aughnacloy in County Tyrone to a GAA match on 21 February 1988.

There have been recent calls to release the 1988 Crowley Report on the killing.

Speaking in the Seanad (Irish senate) on Wednesday, Senator Robbie Gallagher called for the report to be released.

However Charlie Flanagan said releasing it would be a breach of trust to the people who contributed to it on "an assurance of absolute confidentiality".

Image caption Charlie Flanagan said what happened was 'a devastating tragedy for Aidan McAnespie's family'

Mr Gallagher said the killing caused "widespread anger".

He added: "The Irish government has the power to hand over the Crowley Report. It would be another step in getting the truth of what happened on that morning."

The Fianna Fáil senator said that the family deserves to know the truth and said that Mr McAnespie's father John is now 82 years of age and " in failing health."

"He, along with his family, are looking for is the truth about what happened on that February morning 30 years ago today," he added.

Aidan McAnespie death: Background

Before his death, Mr McAnespie had claimed he had been constantly harassed by security force members.

Manslaughter charges brought against an 18-year-old soldier were dropped in 1990.

He was fined for negligent discharge of his weapon and later medically discharged from the Army.

In 2009, the British government expressed "deep regret" at Mr McAnespie's death.

In 2016 it was reported that the decision not to prosecute the soldier was to be reviewed.

'Breach of trust'

The then Deputy Garda Commissioner, Eugene Crowley, was appointed to conduct the inquiry.

Mr Flanagan said: "Because of fears that many people in the local community expressed to him as to their safety and security, they co-operated only and explicitly on the basis of an assurance of absolute confidentiality and that what they related to Deputy Commissioner Crowley was for the government only.

Image caption A memorial to Mr McAnespie was erected at the scene of where the shooting happened

"To release the full content of the Crowley Report even at this stage 30 years later would be a breach of trust of the Irish government to those parties."

He added that the Irish government had approved an outline summary of the Crowley report's conclusions and provided it to the McAnespie family in 2002.

"At that time, detailed consideration was given to producing an edited or redacted version of the report that would be meaningful, would not compromise confidentiality and could be provided to the family. However, given the nature of the report it did not prove possible to do so."

He added: "I have recently arranged for further copies of the limited summary and the post mortem report prepared by Professor John Harbison to be provided to the McAnespie family through their legal representatives.

"The Senators will appreciate that the Government has a persisting obligation to the commitment that was given to those people in the locality and elsewhere who co-operated with the inquiry.

Image caption Manslaughter charges brought against the soldier were dropped in 1990

"Regrettably, under these circumstances it is not considered possible to publish or further disseminate the report.

"It is a source of regret to me that this will inevitably be a disappointment to Aidan McAnespie's family who suffer from his tragic loss to this very day.

"However, the fact is that I must have full regard to the expectations of the many people who contributed in good faith to the Crowley inquiry on the basis of a guarantee of absolute confidentiality and to the persisting obligation in that regard."

Mr Flanagan also agreed to meet Mr McAnespie's family.

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