Demand for justice on Michael Leonard killing

A HUMAN rights activist has demanded that justice be given to the family of Michael Leonard 50 years after his killing by the RUC.

Pettigo man Mr Leonard was shot by the RUC around 200 metres from the Donegal border at Letter on May 17, 1973. He had been a disqualified driver at the time.

Afterwards the officers claimed he had failed to stop at a checkpoint and that they had fired a single shot at his car, which resulted in his death. In evidence heard at a 1973 inquest, an officer said the shot was fired accidentally after their car “took a violent turn.”


New evidence revealed last year showed that the 24-year-old’s death was not properly investigated.

In a speech given in Pettigo on the anniversary of Michael’s killing, human rights activist, Ciarán MacAirt, reiterated the call for justice.

He said: “Michael Leonard was a much-loved member of his family and his community. He was getting groceries for his mother when RUC officers murdered him before he reached the sanctuary of the border.

“He was an unarmed civilian and he was an Irish citizen. The British Armed Forces lied to Michael’s mummy and daddy, to the public, to the Irish Government and to the Coroner at the original failed inquest.

“This injustice remains. Michael’s love story overshadows it. His story stands out, not for what his family lost and what they suffer. But what remains, what flourishes and grows.

“It has been my great honour to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Michael’s family as they have travelled the length and breadth of Ireland to tell his story.

“They have marched with thousands of other families in Belfast, and they have knocked on doors in Dublin so loudly that Government ministers have taken heed and now know Michael’s story.


“What drives Michael’s family is love. And what nourished them and kept them safe from those dark days in 1973 is the love of friends, family and the local community.”

MacAirt stated that five decades was too long for the British Government to disclose the truth and urged them to stop protecting those responsible for Michael’s death.

He added: “For while Michael’s family has been campaigning with dignity, the perfidious British government has been rushing through a Legacy Bill that is designed to bury its war crimes in Ireland and protect its killers in uniform – killers like the RUC gang that murdered Michael.

“Half a century is too long for any family to fight for truth, justice and acknowledgement.”

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