Michael Leonard Murder 1973

Michael Leonard Murder: Family of RUC Victim Launch New Report in Leinster House

Press Release: Michael Leonard Murder: Family of RUC Victim Launch New Report in Leinster House.

The family of Donegal civilian, Michael Leonard, who was murdered by a Royal Ulster Constabulary patrol in 1973, launched a new report in Leinster House today (2nd March 2023) along with secret British files relating to the killing.

Speakers at the Leinster House event included Michael Leonard’s sister, Carmel; Donegal TD Pearse Doherty; author Fr. Joe McVeigh; and Ciarán MacAirt from the victims’ charity, Paper Trail. They were joined by political representatives from across the Dáil.


The event marked a return to An Dáil for the family following last week’s meeting with An Tánaiste Micheál Martin who expressed his support.

New evidence which the family presented in 2019 proved that Michael was not shot accidentally with a single shot as the RUC alleged, but deliberately targeted and shot at multiple times by his police killers before he could reach the sanctuary of the border and his home in Pettigo, County Donegal, on 17th May 1973.

Further evidence discovered by the charity, Paper Trail, features in a new report by Fr. Joe McVeigh, Michael’s cousin. The new report publishes further admissions by the British Armed Forces that Michael was deliberately targeted and shot dead by the RUC.

This includes a British Army Intelligence Summary from RUC Divisions L & M, recorded on 22nd May 1973 which also included lies about Michael:

“The RUC… recognised Michael LEONARD a suspected member of the PIRA [Provisional Irish Republican Army] from Pettigo. When they went to question him he ran off despite the fact that he was warned to stop. He then drove off in his car and the police fired two shots at the vehicle which did not stop. The police followed up in a landrover and fired one more shot which struck LEONARD, who later died.”

British Army Situation Report (SITREP): 0300 hrs 18th May 1973
British Army Situation Report (SITREP): 0300 hrs 18th May 1973

A Headquarters 3rd Brigade Border Report from RUC L Division recorded on 22nd June 1973 simply records:

“The RUC shot dead Michael John LEONARD when he refused a call to halt.”

Read the new report and the secret archives here: The Murder of Michael Leonard (PDF)


Michael’s sister, Carmel, said:

“The family were very grateful to our political representatives for their time today as we need their support now more than ever as we approach the 50th anniversary of Michael’s murder by the RUC. Time is of the essence. The British state’s Legacy Bill will deny our family our basic human rights and bar our equal access to due process of the law.”

Michael’s cousin, Fr. Joseph McVeigh said:

“50 years is far too long for any family to wait for truth and justice. Michael’s poor parents went to their grave without any. Our new report proves that the RUC murdered Michael and then lied to the family, the Irish Government and the Coroner. We are grateful for the great support of our political representatives today and in the coming weeks as we push for a new inquest and a measure of justice.”

Ciarán MacAirt of Paper Trail said:

“The files prove that the RUC killer gang murdered Michael and the British Armed Forces tried to criminalize him and blacken his name and the name of his family.   But they failed.

The family’s dignified campaign and Fr. Joe’s new booklet that we are releasing here today are testimony to that.” 

The Murder of Michael Leonard.

The Murder of Michael Leonard - New Report

Read the new report by FR. Joe McVeigh and Paper Trail featuring:

* New archival evidence * Commentary from the family and the legal team. 

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The author Ciarán MacAirt is donating all of the profits of his book, Trope: Essays and Articles, to Paper Trail and its work with victims and survivors of the conflict. Trope features some of his ground-breaking discoveries and represents a personal journey as he trudges across the killing fields of World War 1 to the back-streets of Belfast where death-squads roamed. Foreword by Father Sean McManus, international human rights activist, author, and President of the Irish National Caucus.


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