Derrybeg: 6

Some estates in the town, including Derrybeg were sealed off in the immediate aftermath of internment, and remained so for several days with no vehicles allowed to enter or leave.

Thus began a long anti-internment campaign with protest marches and pickets, many involving women and especially the relatives of the internees. 


One of the most controversial incidents was the shooting dead of local lad 12-year-old Kevin Heatley at the Derrybeg estate in February 1973. The schoolboy had been sitting on a wall about 50 metres from his own home when a British soldier fired the single shot which killed him. 


By coincidence a TV engineer, Frankie Finnegan who lived opposite was recording a television programme at the moment when the shot was fired. The recording proved beyond doubt that the Army story – that Kevin had been caught in the crossfire between soldiers and the IRA – was false.


Mrs Margot Haughey and her sister Mrs Mary Mathers happened to be in the vicinity when the army patrol came along. They described how one soldier had ‘strutted across’ from the shops, aimed his rifle towards Main Avenue and fired one shot.


The women ‘thought it was a plastic bullet’ and accused the soldier of ‘having drink taken’. 


When the MP for South Armagh Paddy O’Hanlon visited Mrs Mathers’ home to take a statement, he was dragged from the house by troops, put in a Land Rover and taken to the UDR Centre but later released. 


In the longer term a soldier was charged with the murder but acquitted. 


The funeral was the largest ever seen in the Frontier Town. Black flags were flown everywhere and photographs of the victim appeared in many windows. 


There is a small stone embedded in a garden boundary wall on Main Avenue to commemorate the innocent lad.


……. more later …


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