Always had a smile for you, Willie; my work as secretary of Derry Credit Union saw me regularly in ‘the Journal Office’ which handled our printing. Willie McKinney was a compositor whom I frequently met there along with John McManus and Larry Doherty to examine proofs, discuss layout and other issues. Willie was quietly efficient, a gentle soul , who made his contribution without fuss . A keen Super 8 movie camera enthusiast, he was engaged to be married to a girl from the Waterside area.
On a cold but bright afternoon , Willie took his camera to join with around 10 000 others on a civil rights march in protest against internment, imprisonment without trial. It set off, a peaceful demonstration with a positively carnival atmosphere, in the winter sunshine. As the march neared the centre of the City at the bottom of William St, near the junction of Rossville St, heavily armed British troops formed a barrier to impede further progress by the marchers. Some youngsters began throwing stones and Willie , with many others, made his way across Rossville St away from the confrontation into the area known as Bogside. Plastic baton rounds were fired at the stone throwers and then, suddenly, a frighteningly different but instantly recognisable sound was heard – that of automatic rifles, firing live rounds. Terrified demonstrators ran for cover; my brother and sister cowered behind a low wall where a ricocheting bullet sprayed mortar on them.
Willie McKinney was shot in the back as he sought cover and he died on the courtyard of Glenfada Park. He was twenty-six years old and, to all who knew him, a peaceful, model citizen. His story encapsulates the sickening horror of Bloody Sunday; this hard-working and kindly, young person was murdered in broad daylight on the streets of his own City by British State forces. Had it happened in Brighton, Cardiff or Perth , there would have been an immediate , judicial inquiry and those responsible brought swiftly to justice.
The Public Prosecution Service announced last week that court action against ‘Soldier F’ , charged with the murder of William McKinney , would not proceed as there was ‘no longer a prospect of key evidence against him being ruled admissible’ .
Immediately following the murders, the Ministry of Defence (MOD), using a fictional account , drafted by the second in command of the perpetrators, Captain Mike Jackson , provided the media World-wide with an entirely false narrative of the events. Basically, it said that the paras only returned fire after they had been shot at from the Rossville Flats; it launched and won the propaganda war. The orthodoxy that this gained meant that there was never any detailed investigation of the crimes at the time and this is the crux of the difficulties for the Prosecution Service nearly fifty years later.
I agree with those who argue that Saville deliberately avoided placing blame on those ultimately responsible for the massacre, the top brass of the MOD, the Prime Minister and certainly the Minister For Defence. Given the gruesome reputation of Para 1 and the events in Ballymurphy six months earlier, it is unquestionable that the policing of the Derry march must have been discussed at the highest levels of Government in the run-up to the event. The actions of the forces in Northern Ireland were a chief responsibility of Government. Saville chose to ignore that and so Jackson, Ford and McLellan , all Sandhurst, establishment figures, were cleared of any wrong -doing in Derry.
Willie McKinney’s little camera was found in the pocket of his jacket.