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Police Reservist Charged with Manslaughter in Death at Rally

May 16, 1985

LONDON (AP) _ A police reservist has been charged with manslaughter for allegedly killing a man as police charged a Belfast rally last year in an effort to arrest American IRA sympathizer Martin Galvin, Northern Ireland Secretary Douglas Hurd said.

Hurd told the House of Commons in a written statement Wednesday that Northern Ireland police reservist Nigel Hegarty, 27, has been charged with manslaughter in connection with the death of 22-year-old Roman Catholic Sean Downes last Aug. 12.

Downes was attending a rally of Sinn Fein, the political arm of the outlawed Irish Republican Army.

Police charged into the crowd firing plastic bullets when Galvin, publicity director of the New York-based Irish Northern Aid Committee, or NORAID, appeared on the platform.

One of the plastic bullets killed Downes, and 20 other people were hurt. Galvin, who attended the rally in a defiance of a government order banning him from Northern Ireland, slipped away in the confusion.

Hurd said another police officer faces an unspecified lesser charge, and disciplinary action is being considered against others.

He said a report on the incident had been sent to him by Chief Constable Sir John Hermon, head of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, following an investigation.

″The Chief Constable’s report identified shortcomings in preparatory planning for control of the parade and errors of judgment and insufficiently firm control on the ground,″ Hurd said.

Downes’ death sparked a wave of rioting by Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland.

British authorities suspect NORAID of raising money for the mainly Roman Catholic IRA, which is fighting to drive the British from Northern Ireland and unite the predominantly Protestant province with the overwhelmingly Catholic Irish Republic.

NORAID denies that it raises money for the IRA, but says it sympathises with the IRA’s goals.

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