Family of Aidan McAnespie hail SF sister for campaign to prosecute soldier

The family of Aidan McAnespie gathered together for a press conference at the offices of KRW Law in Belfast city centre’s Queen Street, after the announcement that a soldier is to face a manslaughter prosecution over his 1988 checkpoint shooting.

Mr McAnespie died after passing through an Army checkpoint in Co Tyrone in February that year, on his way to a Gaelic football match.

Left to right: KRW Law lawyer Darragh Mackin for the family of Aidan McAnespie, shot by Army 1988.''Then, also L-R, Brian Gormley, cousin of deceased, Vincent McAnespie, brother, John McAnespie, father, Margo McAnespie, sister

Left to right: KRW Law lawyer Darragh Mackin for the family of Aidan McAnespie, shot by Army 1988.''Then, also L-R, Brian Gormley, cousin of deceased, Vincent McAnespie, brother, John McAnespie, father, Margo McAnespie, sister

Charges in relation to the death had previously been brought, but later dropped.

Joined by lawyer Darragh Mackin, the family paid tribute to Aidan as “a very quiet lad” with an interest in the GAA, and also hailed his sister, Sinn Fein councillor Eilish McCabe, who died in 2008.

Aidan helped to campaign for his sister before his death.

They also gave thanks to the Catholic church for support given during the case.

Brother Vincent McAnespie said as well as the GAA – which he helped referee at a junior level – Aidan was involved with motorbikes and scrambling.

“Those would’vbe been his two hobbies,” he said. “He was a very quiet lad in the town. He’d never have caused any hassle, any problems.

“The time when the soldier was charged, then the next minute the charges were dropped again, you just thought you were up against a brick wall.

“[We] never thought maybe these days would come. But you just have to keep chipping and chipping away at it.

“My sister Eilish fought the campaign for 20 years.”

The case “actually wore Eilish down, a continual campaigning and fighting... but Eilish in fairness would’ve kept continuing on”.

Aidan’s cousin Brian Gormley said: “Of course it’s very tiresome. It’s actually a poor reflection on our society were people have to campaign for 30 years to actually get what they are supposed to be obliged to get in the first place. I think it’s unacceptable that happened.

“Thankfully we’ve moved on. We’re making progress. We’re actually starting to get to a place where society is [able to] operate where your justice system and your political system are totally separate, and all these decisions should be based on criminal evidence. And where that criminal evidence exists, then prosecutions should happen.

“Unfortunately most of this evidence has been widely available for 30 years. People have chosen not to act on it.”