“It makes you wonder why they initially said the opposite.”

In the Sunday Times Liam Clarke reports on an apparent success by the Historical Enquiries Team in bringing to light some of that elusive truth about the past. From the Sunday Times report.

A friend of the family said that the HET found some members of the police intelligence forces knew Henry [McIlhone] was not a gunman. “It makes you wonder why they initially said the opposite. Were they doing Donaldson a favour?” he said. “Henry was claimed as a Provo for five years against the family’s wishes. Sue refused an IRA funeral and fought tooth and nail to get his name taken off the republican roll of honour. IRA men told his sons they had fought beside Henry. The family are very pleased that the HET have finally cleared his name.” The HET told the family that the man who killed McIlhone was dead. An HET spokesman confirmed that the report had been completed.

As the Sunday Times report points out a very different version of events had been propagated by various interested parties.

[Billy] McKee, who was shot five times, gave a vivid but apparently inaccurate account of McIlhone’s death to Peter Taylor, the BBC journalist, for his documentary series Provos. McKee, an IRA member since 1939, said: “I told Henry to get behind a tree as a couple of men came forward. I told him to fire and he did but I don’t think he hit anybody. All I heard later was a clump like a wet log hitting the ground . . . He was hit in the throat . . .I was shot in the back . . . I survived, Henry didn’t.”

Tirghra, the IRA’s official list of its fallen, lists McIlhone as an oglach (soldier or volunteer) but adds, “although not a member of the IRA, Henry McIlhone was included in the republican role of honour as a mark of respect for this great Irishman by republican comrades he fought alongside”. For a time the RUC went along with the story that McIlhone, a building worker and father of five, was a republican gunman shot by loyalists.

In 1972 his widow was refused compensation for his death when an RUC inspector testified that McIlhone had fired five shots at a Protestant crowd, wounding two men and a woman. This finding was overturned in 1975 when a second judge threw out the police evidence and said that the trajectory of the bullets did not support the crown case.

And the dead man apparently responsible for killing Henry McIlhone.. Denis Donaldson..