British Authorities Denied and Delayed in Murder of Civilian

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British Authorities Denied and Delayed Irish Government in Murder of Donegal Civilian, Michael Leonard

Irish government files from the National Archives of Ireland prove how the British authorities lied, denied, and delayed Irish officials seeking basic information into the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) murder of Donegal civilian, Michael Leonard.

Belfast victims’ charity, Paper Trail, retrieved a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) file in Dublin relating to the RUC’s fatal shooting of Michael Leonard which occurred on 17th May 1973, two hundred yards inside the Northern Irish border.

The DFA file (DFA/2004/7/2676) proves how the British authorities lied to the Irish state and shut down each diplomatic avenue for information.

Information supplied by the British authorities included the lies that the RUC only fired a single shot and that was an accidental shot that fatally wounded Michael. In “Notes for Minister” (Garrett Fitzgerald), DFA officials record:

“One of the constables in the RUC vehicle was in possession of a .303 Lee-Enfield rifle and was pointing it through the open windscreen of the landrover In the direction of the fleeing car. RUC sources state that the constable intended to fire a shot over the fleeing car as a final resort. In any event the bullet entered the rear of the car through the rear of the driver’s seat and entered the deceased’s body in the region of the left kidney.”

British RUC lies to the Irish government in their murder of Donegal civilian Michael Leonard

We now know that these are RUC lies.

Previous Paper Trail discoveries in London archives proved that the RUC fired multiple shots at the unarmed civilian, chased him in their vehicle, and then deliberately shot him as he neared the sanctuary of the Irish Republic and his home in Pettigo, Donegal.

Here is just one example of the British armed forces admitting that the RUC targeted Michael and fired multiple, deliberate shots at the victim even though he was an unarmed civilian and posed no threat to the RUC.

British Army reports to HQNI RUC fired multiple targeted shots at civilian Michael Leonard

The British files also proved that RUC Headquarters and the General Officer Commanding the British Army in Northern Ireland knew the true circumstances of the unlawful killing of the Irish citizen.

Nevertheless, the British armed forces lied to the family, the public, the Coroner at the original inquest, and the Irish government.

Irish Government Files

The Irish DFA’s Margaret Hennessy provided a handwritten record of enquiries by the DFA from the British state following its initial request for information from the Irish Department of Justice and British Embassy on 8th June 1973.

Hennessy recorded that some information was supplied on 6th July but on further enquiries on 25th September, 14th, 21st and 30th November, DFA was:

“Informed each time that London was awaiting further details from RUC.”

The RUC had already lied to the Coroner at the original inquest on 31st October but by the time of Hennessy’s note on 13th December 1973, the DFA still had no depositions or official accounts of the inquest from the British authorities.

She also records that previous reports made no mention of the fact that the RUC left Michael dying on the side of the road for over an hour.

DFA enquiries to the British authorities

The DFA inquiries followed questions from elected representatives and family enquires from Michael’s father, Maurice, who passed in 1991, and his cousin, Father Joe McVeigh.

Fr. McVeigh said:

"The murder of my cousin Michael Leonard by the RUC in May 1973 was a dastardly crime and not an accident as the RUC and British officials claimed. The RUC and the British authorities told lies to cover up this dreadful crime. The Irish government at the time took a far too lenient approach to the lies. The Minister, Garett Fitzgerald, should have insisted on a fuller investigation into the circumstances surrounding Michael’s murder.”

“Michael was an Irish citizen and his family were entitled to receive the full support of the Dublin government at the time. The Dublin government did not robustly challenge the British denials and delays. More than half a century later, the family are now demanding a new Inquest into his killing. It is never too late to get the truth."

Ciarán MacAirt of Paper Trail said:

“The basic strategy of the British state throughout the conflict has been denial, delay and death. It lies and denies, then delays families for as long as it can. All the while, it hopes that family members go to their grave and their fight for justice ends with them. This file from half a century ago lays this bare and we have ensured the DFA has reviewed this file recently. Britain’s Legacy Act is yet another attempt by a serial human rights abuser to deny Michael’s family truth and justice. It is only right that the Irish government fights this heinous legislation in European court as it’s an affront to justice and Britain has lied to it for over half a century.”  


For further Information on Michael’s murder, read: New Evidence in RUC Murder of Donegal victim

Police Admit To Murder of Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard's Family Ciarán MacAirt and Councillor Naughton with An Tánaiste Micheál Martin


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