Retired army general faces Troubles death lawsuit

Proceedings have been issued against a retired army general who is being sued over the death of a Catholic man at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Sir Frank Kitson and the Ministry of Defence have been accused of complicity in a February 1973 attack when loyalist paramilitaries threw a grenade at a minibus carrying 15 people to a building site in east Belfast.

Minibus driver Eugene “Paddy” Heenan, 47, was killed in the attack and his widow, Mary Heenan, has brought the action against Mr Kitson – the first attempt to hold a senior army officer personally responsible for a death during the conflict in Ireland.

Kevin Winters, of Belfast-based KRW Law, is acting for Mrs Heenan.

He said: “This week we have issued proceedings against the MoD and Frank Kitson on behalf of our clients, the relatives of Patrick Heenan.

“These are civil proceedings for damages but their core value is to obtain truth and accountability for our clients as to the role of the British army and Frank Kitson in the counterinsurgency operation in the north of Ireland during the early part of the conflict, and the use of loyalist paramilitary gangs to contain the republican-nationalist threat through terror, manipulation of the rule of law, infiltration and subversion all core to the Kitson military of doctrine endorsed by the British army and the British government at the time.”

Mr Kitson, who is in his late 80s, is named as a co-defendant because he is “liable personally for negligence and misfeasance in public office”, according to court papers.

Ex-soldier Albert “Ginger” Baker was convicted of carrying out the 1973 attack and released in 1992, but Mrs Heenan’s legal team said Mr Kitson is liable for his actions and hints at collusion between British forces and loyalist paramilitaries.

No inquest was held into Mr Heenan’s death, but it has been claimed that the autopsy report given to his family shows he could have survived the attack if first aid had been administered quickly.

Mr Kitson has told The Telegraph that he was not, as Mrs Heenan’s lawyers suggest, in charge of military operations in Northern Ireland during the early 1970s, and stated: “I have absolutely no knowledge of Mr Heenan, and I had been gone from Ireland for nine months at the time of his death.”

KRW Law is instructed by a number of families who were victims of loyalist violence in Northern Ireland during the same period and a series of similar civil claims are expected.

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