Northern Ireland

Father of Gordon Gallagher pleased republicans admit son's killing

Gordon Gallagher
Image caption Gordon Gallagher was killed when he accidentally triggered an IRA bomb left in his garden

The father of a schoolboy killed when he triggered a bomb in Londonderry in 1973 has said he is glad republicans have admitted full responsibility.

Gordon Gallagher, 9, died when the device exploded in his Creggan garden.

His parents called on deputy first minister Martin McGuinness to get to the truth about what happened.

In a statement, republicans accepted full responsibility. Gordon's father said he was glad they accepted that they, not the Army, were to blame.

The statement, released through the campaign group, the Pat Finucane Centre in Derry said: "Republicans fully accept their responsibility for the death of Gordon and apologise to the parents and family of Gordon Gallagher for the pain and grief caused.

"Republicans remain truly remorseful and profoundly sorry for the circumstances that led to Gordon's death."

Billy Gallagher said: "I accept the IRA's responsibility for the murder of Gordon - even though it came through a third party and they didn't speak to me directly.

"This has opened the door for further investigation - I want to know who did it and why. I am glad they take full responsibility and accept that they were to blame and no one else was (the Army).

"This will help to make sure that everyone else knows the IRA were to blame for Gordon's death, even though I always knew that."

The DUP's Gregory Campbell said the bereaved family's views were paramount and should be respected.

However, he added: "I think the belated, circuitous route of going through the Pat Finucane Centre and giving an apology but no explanation or no description of who did it, I think is something the wider community will look on and say this is a bit late now."

Mr Campbell said the Gallaghers were the third family bereaved by the IRA in the north west who had recently asked senior republicans to tell them who was involved in their relatives' deaths.

He said in each case senior republicans claimed not to know who was involved.

"I think that draws a veil over any thought or prospect of a truth commission or a process whereby people will tell what they know, because republicans seem determined not to tell what they know," he said.

Lies

Gordon Gallagher had been playing 'Cowboys and Indians' in the garden with his younger brother when he tripped on the bomb which had been left there.

He died in hospital from his injuries.

At the time, the IRA admitted to the family that a device had been left in the garden. However, it claimed the detonator was added by soldiers.

Mr Gallagher said IRA members came to his home to admit leaving the bomb in his garden.

"Two boys came and lied about it at the start. They told me their unit put the bomb there, but no detonator, that the Army must have come back and put a detonator - it's ridiculous.

"Shock or no shock, I never believed that for a second. One of the men who came to tell me the lies, about two or three weeks after it, his wife arrived at my door and she apologised.

"She said: 'We're sorry about your son but these things happen in war.'

"I said: 'Sure my son wasn't at war, he was only nine years of age.'

"I chased them from my door."

Following the family's appeal to Martin McGuinness earlier this week, republicans released a statement via the Pat Finucane centre.

"Because of the potential danger to the community the IRA made the decision to notify the RUC/British Army through an anonymous phone call - this clearly indicated the location at the rear gardens behind Melmore/Leenan gardens," the statement said.

"Following the phone call the immediate district was then saturated by British troops. The IRA, believing that the British Army had discovered the device during the course of their search, withdrew from the area believing the British Army would have cleared the area and rendered the device safe.

"The IRA felt that if they had moved back to retrieve the device given that the British Army now heavily saturated the area they would be captured or shot. The following morning young Gordon went out to play in his garden and accidentally triggered the explosive device."

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