Michael Leonard: Attorney General Orders New Inquest

Attorney General Orders New Inquest into the RUC Murder of Donegal Civilian, Michael Leonard

In a landmark decision, the Attorney General for Northern Ireland has ordered a new inquest into the police murder of Donegal civilian, Michael Leonard in 1973. The Attorney General’s decision was given to Michael’s family on the day before Britain’s Legacy Act would stop all conflict-related inquests.

The Attorney General, Brenda King, ordered the new inquest having taken into account:

“(1) The original inquest did not receive oral evidence from any of the police officers involved in the incident;

(2) The inquest verdict of misadventure;

(3) New evidence in the form of army logs which are capable of casting doubt on the version of events provided to the inquest by the police;

(4) The decision by the director of Public Prosecutions not to exercise his powers under section 35(5) of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002;

(5) The fact that there are ongoing investigations by the Legacy Investigation Branch of the PSNI and the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland which have not been concluded.”

The Royal Ulster Constabulary testified at the original inquest that one of its officers – not in attendance at the inquest – had accidentally fired a shot that had hit Michael.

Discoveries by the charity, Paper Trail, in London archives proved that the RUC lied and its officers 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.

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. The family has liaised directly with the Irish government’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tánaiste Micheál Martin, to seek justice for Michael as he was an Irish citizen.


Michael’s brother, John Leonard said:

“Our family welcomes the Attorney General’s decision. Like so many other bereaved families who have fought for truth and justice for so long, we now face the terrible reality that Britain will not let this inquest go ahead as it wants to protect its killers. Our fight for truth and justice will continue regardless.”

Michael’s cousin, Fr. Joseph McVeigh said:

"This is bitter-sweet for Michael’s family as we have been granted a pathway to justice one day but the British state will steal that from us the next. 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 British state covered it up 51 years ago and its Legacy Act covers it up today.”

Adrian O’Kane, the family’s solicitor at Patrick Fahy and Co. Solicitors said:

“For 51 years, the Leonard family has conducted a dignified campaign seeking justice for their loved one. Justice delayed is justice denied. The Legacy Act must be repealed.”

Ciarán MacAirt of Paper Trail said:

“It is a tribute to the love of Michael’s family and the tireless support of their legal team that the Attorney General ordered a new inquest into the RUC murder of their loved one. Britain is a serial human rights abuser so it is only right that the Irish government fights Britain’s shameful Legacy Act in European court. Michael was an Irish citizen murdered by a foreign police force close to the sanctuary of the Irish border and his home in Pettigo, County Donegal.”   

Michael Leonard - murdered by the RUC. Attorney General news.


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