BELFAST, Northern Ireland—The family of a 12-year-old Catholic girl fatally shot in the back by a British Army soldier in 1976 has received a face-to-face apology from the senior British government official in Northern Ireland.

Monday’s apology to the family of Majella O’Hare came 35 years after the British Army claimed to have hit the girl by mistake during an exchange of fire with a hidden Irish Republican Army gunman. The soldier was acquitted of manslaughter.

Last year a police review of evidence found nothing to support the army’s claims.

Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson apologized to the victim’s 88-year-old mother and other relatives at his Hillsborough Castle residence outside Belfast. He also gave them a letter of apology signed by Defence Secretary Liam Fox.

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