THE family of a Catholic minibus driver killed during the Troubles were in London today to commence legal proceedings over his unlawful death.
Mary, the widow of Patrick “Paddy” Heenan, and her son Eugene, served legal papers in a symbolic gesture against the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and a retired army general on Thursday, April 30.
It follows the formal action that was initiated earlier this week by Belfast firm KRW Law.
The MoD and Sir Frank Kitson have been accused of collusion in the February 1973 attack by loyalist paramilitaries, in which Mr Heenan was killed.
Mrs Heenan, who is in her late 80s, described the emotional visit as a “day of hope” for the family.
“We’re getting recognition after all these years, and hopefully something will come of it,” she told The Irish Post. “We want accountability and truth.”
She also said that an apology from the accused parties is “the least we deserve.”
Mr Heenan, 47, was killed when a grenade was thrown into the vehicle carrying him and 14 others to a building site in east Belfast.
The case against the former British Army Commander in Chief is the first of its kind, regarding the alleged actions of a senior army officer during the Troubles.
The MoD said there was no evidence to support the allegations.
Eugene explained that the family are seeking justice and closure to a personal tragedy which occurred over 40 years ago.
“Families need to bring this out in the open, the guy [Kitson] can’t just walk away and wash his hands of it and leave the families behind,” he said.
“This wasn’t just Catholic/Protestant fighting. This was government. A government cannot murder its own citizens.
“Hopefully this will enable families to come out and get the justice that they deserve.”
Kitson is being sued for negligence, misfeasance, battery and breach of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to life.
The author of several books on counterinsurgency operations, and also in his late 80s, Kitson was in charge of military operations in the North of Ireland during the early 1970s.
Clara Reilly, Chairperson of Relatives for Justice, who escorted the Heenan family to London, said: “Our work was and remains about protecting human rights and addressing abuses when they occur.
“Increasingly the lid is being lifted on the ‘dirty war’ of the State. This is no small measure to the determination of families like the Heenan’s and especially Mary who is still continuing to seek truth and accountability.”
Former soldier Albert “Ginger” Baker – who was a member of Ulster Defence Association (UDA) - received a life sentence for Heenan’s murder and three others, later claiming to have links to British intelligence.