UUP MLA Doug Beattie has said that an appeal by the Ministry of Defence against money awarded to the family of a man killed on Bloody Sunday was the “wrong decision”.
The MoD had appealed against the decision to award an extra £15,000 to the family of Bernard ‘Barney’ McGuigan, who died along with 12 others in Londonderry on January 30, 1972.
In Belfast on Thursday senior judges rejected the MoD’s argument that the family should not be awarded extra compensation for injuries to Mr McGuigan’s feelings as he was killed instantly.
Mr Beattie, a former British Army captain, said there were much more important decisions going unchallenged by the MoD.
“Why challenge this for £15,000, it doesn’t make sense,” he said.
He believed the decision to challenge may have been made because the MoD need to appear to be “fiscally responsible”.
“It’s £15,000 of public money and the MoD have to be fiscally responsible with it,” he said.
“They may have decided to take this case because it could have a knock-on effect for 20, 30, 40 cases of a similar nature down the line.
“I don’t know if that’s the reason but in any case I believe they shouldn’t have done it.”
The Military Cross-recipient said that politics would have played no part in the decision to challenge the awarding of the money.
“There would be no political motivation in this decision, nobody within the Army would have been involved directly, it would have been made by civil servants in the MoD.”
Mr McGuigan (41) was killed when he went to the aid of Patrick Doherty, who lay dying. Mr McGuigan was shot in the head while waving a handkerchief or towel.
Mr Doherty’s son, Tony, is the current chair of the Bloody Sunday Trust.
He said that the McGuigan family had been forced to listen to the MoD’s legal team “argue the toss” over the manner of their loved one’s death in court.
Mr Doherty called the decision to appeal “reprehensible” and urged the MoD to apologise to the McGuigan family. He said the trust would be raising the issue with local politicians and the Irish government to ensure it never happens again.
The trust chair said that the appeal proceedings would have cost far more than the £15,000 at the centre of the case and that the decision to appeal either came directly from the MoD or their barrister.
“It’s reprehensible that the feelings of the family would be exposed to such a heartless probe by the MoD,” he said.
“These last few days issues around victims and the feelings and sensitives of families have been widely discussed and here we have a family subjected to a debate on whether Mr McGuigan suffered in the minutes before he was killed. It’s absolutely scandalous.
“In all the things we have been through over the years I have never heard anything like it.”
Mr Doherty said the date for a hearing surrounding his own father’s death had yet to be set and he did not want any other families to suffer a similar experience.
“We want an apology from the MoD for the McGuigan family,” he said.
“Can you imagine if any other group involved in the conflict attempted to raise the manner of somebody’s death when discussing their murder?
“It was a paltry award in the first place given what people went through on that day and what their families dealt with in the aftermath.”
Judges backed a finding that father-of-six Mr McGuigan would have experienced fear when members of the Parachute Regiment opened fire on civilians.
It is one of a number of cases taken against the MoD by victims of Bloody Sunday and their families.
Mr McGuigan’s family were originally awarded £258,000, with the High Court adding the extra £15,000 for aggravated damages.
The MoD has been contacted in relation to this story.