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Haughey Challenges British Army’s View of Civilian’s Shooting Death

March 1, 1988

DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) _ Prime Minister Charles Haughey on Tuesday challenged the British army’s contention that one of its soldiers accidentally shot and killed an unarmed civilian from an observation post just inside Northern Ireland.

″A suggestion that death was due to a freak accident of an extraordinary kind must give rise to disbelief,″ Haughey told the Irish Parliament.

Haughey’s administration launched its own investigation into the Feb. 21 shooting of 23-year-old Aidan McAnespie, which strained already tense relations between Britain and Ireland. An Irish police officer said he witnessed the shooting from across the border.

Police in the British-ruled province charged an 18-year-old soldier with unlawful killing. He is being held in military custody.

The army said the bullet that hit McAnespie ricocheted after being fired accidentally from an observation post at a checkpoint near Auchnacloy, less than half a mile from the Irish Republic’s border.

Relatives said McAnespie, a campaign worker for Sinn Fein, the legal political arm of the Irish Republican Army, had been harassed by the British army. His sister, Eilish McCabe, claimed her brother had received a number of death threats from the army.

Haughey’s inquiry angered the British government and Protestant political leaders in Northern Ireland, who see it as interference in their affairs.

Haughey said the Irish investigation was obligatory because of the ″considerable concern″ over the incident among the province’s Roman Catholic minority.

He said McAnespie’s death, along with the British government’s refusal to prosecute Northern Ireland police officers who killed six unarmed Roman Catholics in 1982 and the release from prison of a British soldier who served just three years of a life sentence for killing a Catholic ″have combined to create the impression that the security forces are above the law.″

″Any such impression among the public in Northern Ireland must have disastrous consequences on the community and impinge on every aspect of British policy for the administration of justice in Northern Ireland,″ Haughey said.

McAnespie’s body was exhumed Sunday after his family requested an autopsy by an Irishman in addition to that held by the British in the north. The family said they wanted to determine the course of the fatal bullet. He was later reburied in the Irish Republic.

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