Two ex-soldiers face charges over 'murder' of IRA man

Two former members of the Parachute Regiment face prosecution over historical allegations of murdering an Official IRA man in Belfast in 1972.

Joe McCann, 24, who was one of the most prominent Official IRA activists in the early years of the Troubles, was shot dead under disputed circumstances on 15 April that year.

Soldier A, now 67 and Soldier C, 64, are surviving members of the patrol which prosecutors said had fired on Mr McCann.

A spokesman for the PPS (Public Prosecution Service) said that following careful consideration of the available evidence, it had been decided that murder charges would be brought against the two men.

They are expected to appear in court next year.

Mr McCann's widow, Aine, welcomed the decision to prosecute.

Her solicitor Kevin Winters said: "This is some measure of justice after all these years."

He added the review of the decision had been a "logical" step.

The case has been under review since March 2014 when it was referred to the Northern Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) by attorney general John Larkin QC.

Mr McCann's family had petitioned Mr Larkin for a new inquest.

The decision to bring a prosecution was taken after an "objective and impartial application of the test for prosecution, conducted in accordance with the code for prosecutors and with the benefit of advice from senior counsel," the PPS said.

Mr McCann was shot by an Army patrol in Joy Street in the Markets area of Belfast City Centre.

A third member of that unit who fired at McCann has since died, the PPS said.

In the months after the shooting, an RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) investigation was held, but no prosecution was brought, based on the evidence available. But, in 2012, the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), established to examine unresolved killings in Northern Ireland revisited the case.

This case will mark the second prosecution involving soldiers in Northern Ireland since the 1990s.

Last year, a former soldier, retired corporal Major Dennis Hutchings, from Cornwall, was charged with a separate Troubles killing.

He was accused of an attempted murder in Co Tyrone in 1974.

In 1999 Paratrooper Lee Clegg was cleared of the murder of a Belfast teenager.

Files on the 1972 Bloody Sunday shootings by soldiers in Londonderry are with prosecutors.