Two retired British soldiers face murder charges for the 1972 killing of an IRA man
Two former British soldiers are to be charged with the murder of an IRA member in Northern Ireland over 40 years ago.
Official IRA commander, Joe McCann, aged 25, was shot dead in disputed circumstances in Joy Street, in Belfast’s Markets area, on April 15, 1972.
Notoriously linked to several killings and gun attacks, he was unarmed at the time of the killing by the British Paratroopers, who later said they had expected him to be carrying a gun.
The controversial decision followed years of investigations and protests from nationalists about the circumstances of the killing. It will cause consternation among some Unionists and elements of the British military and security services.
Two retired Paratroopers known only as Soldier A, now aged 67, and Soldier C, aged 64, are said by prosecutors to have been part of a patrol whose members fired on McCann that day. A third patrol member, Soldier B, has died in the years since the incident.
"Following a careful consideration of all the available evidence it has been decided to prosecute two men for the offence of murder," the Public Prosecutions Service said today.
The case was referred to the North’s Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland, Barra McGrory, by the Northern Ireland Attorney General, John Larkin QC, in 2014.
The dead man's family had been pressing for several years for a new inquest to be held.
"The decision was reached following an objective and impartial application of the test for prosecution that was conducted in accordance with the code for prosecutors and with the benefit of advice from senior counsel," a Public Prosecution Service official added.
The two former British soldiers are expected to appear in court next year. Joe McCann was among the IRA's best-known activists in the early days of the Troubles.
The old Royal Ulster Constabulary investigated the killing in 1972 and the authorities decided not to prosecute anyone.
The Historical Enquiries Team set up to investigate unresolved killings in the North examined McCann's death in 2012. This is the second military prosecution involving Northern Ireland since the 1990s.
Files on the infamous Bloody Sunday killings in Derry in January 1972 are still with prosecutors for decision.