Relatives For Justice

**I am sick of listening to unionists equate the IRA with nothing but criminality and terrorism. If stories like the following had never taken place, there would have been no need for the IRA. If the brits had not taken over someone else's country, killing, starving, and discriminating against those who lived there, there would have been no need for the IRA. If you glance quickly through the pages of Relatives for Justice, you can see all the little children who were just gunned down by brit soldiers and left to die (or killed through collusion with loyalist forces), much as the Israelis are doing now to the Palestinian children. If THAT is not terrorism, nothing is. It goes beyond criminality to an institutionalized form of terrorism, oppression, collusion, and state murder sanctioned at the highest levels.

VICTIMS - Sean O'Riardon

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Sean O'Riardon 13years old, Oramore Street, Clonard, Falls Road, West Belfast, shot dead in the Clonard area on 23 March 1972, by members of the British Army's Gloucester Regiment.

Sean was the second oldest in family with six children. He attended St Gaul's Primary School and St Paul's Secondary school. He played hurling and Gaelic football, and was very good at other sports, winning several medals for swimming. He played for Springfield in the juvenile GAA. League. He was also a very good pupil in the Irish language and when he was twelve years old won a scholarship to the Gealtacht in County Donegal.

The Clonard area where Sean O'Riardon lived had experienced a lot of violence in the preceding two and half years before his death. The small narrow streets of the Clonard area where he and hundreds of other children lived and played had, like most other nationalist/republican areas of Belfast during this period, become little more than a urban battlefield. Heavily armed British soldiers in fortified posts or on foot patrol saturated the streets, while armoured cars and helicopters were a frequent and constant presence. The equipment, methods and actions of the British forces, were indicative of an army operating in a war zone.

On the evening Sean was killed local people said he had been playing with other children in Cawnpore Street, off the Kashmir Road. It was nearly 9pm when a foot-patrol of British soldiers came along Cupar Street towards the top of Cawnpore Street. A female resident in Cawnpore Street said around that time she noticed a boy running down the street and then heard the sound of gunfire. The boy who was running she said fell to the ground, hitting his face violently against the windowsill of a terrace house as he fell, badly injuring it. Immediately after the child fell, the female resident said she and others ran to the boy, and examining him, found he had been hit in the back of the head by the gunfire. She tried to stop the blood coming from the young boy's head by putting a towel around it and a covering him with a blanket. The boy she said was unconscious but was still alive.

British soldiers who arrived at the scene refused to let the injured boy go to hospital in a civilian ambulance, insisting instead he be taken the short distance to the Royal Victoria Hospital in a British military ambulance (a large armoured car with a red cross painted on it). The military ambulance took over 20 minutes to arrive at the scene and the boy eventually removed to the RVH. He died there three hours later.

The British army Press Office in a statement issued that night claimed a patrol of the Gloucester Regiment was attacked by three youths who threw petrol bombs at them in Cupar Street. A British soldier fired one shot and said they saw one youth fall. At same time members of the Kings Own Scotch Borders came under fire in Cupar Street from two other youths. One of the youths fired four shots and the other threw a petrol bomb. The soldiers returned fire and but claimed no hits.

Residents of Cawnpore Street rejected the British Army version of events. They said the soldiers responsible had fired indiscriminately down Cawnpore Street at a time when children playing there. None of them heard any shouts of warnings from the soldiers before they opened fire.

Sean O'Riardon's mother speaking in recent years to the Relatives for Justice said residents told her that one of the soldiers from the patrol involved shouted to another soldier 'we got the bastard' as they ran towards her dying son.
It was over two years before an inquest into Sean O'Riardon's killing was held in June 1974. None of the British soldiers involved in the killing attended the hearing. A military representative, who referred to each soldier only by the letters of the alphabet, read out their statements. However, the hearing had to be delayed for a time while their statements were brought to the court from British army headquarters at Lisburn.

The hearing was told that on the night of 23 March 1972, an eight-man military foot patrol came under attack in Cupar Street from the direction of Cawnpore Street. The commander of the patrol said during the attack he took aim and fired two shots, while two other soldiers fired one shot each. He also claimed two low velocity shots were fired at the patrol from the direction of the Springfield Road. He said a youth was found lying in Cawnpore Street with a gunshot wound in the back of the head and died a short time later. The day after the shooting another soldier on patrol in Cawnpore Street reported he found a milk bottle containing petrol and sugar with a rag hanging from the neck, near to where the youth was shot.

Counsel for the next of kin rejected the implication of the soldiers' statements. He said there was absolutely no evidence to suggest the dead boy was one of the petrol bombers.

A forensic expert told the hearing he found no traces of petrol on the youth's clothing, and referring to the bottle filled with petrol reportedly found the day after the shooting in a derelict house, he said he found no fingerprints on it. Evidence was also given that the fatal bullet that ended Sean's life was a ricochet.

The Coroner at the conclusion of the inquest said he agreed with the representative of the O'Riardon family that the facts of the case were obscure. However, he said he accepted that petrol bombs had been thrown and that the British army opened fired, but there was no firm evidence that the boy was one of the people who took part in that attack.

The jury returned an Open Verdict.

Mrs O'Riardon told the RFJ her son was shot three times in the head, neck and chest. She said her family also believed it was members of the British army's Parachute Regiment who had carried out the shooting and not the regiment revealed in the British army statement and at the inquest. She was adamant no warning was given before her son was shot. She also said that none of the clothes Sean was wearing on the night of his death were ever returned to her.

No British soldier was ever charged in connection with the killing of Sean O'Riardon.

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