Push to reveal secret files on Gibraltar killings

Push to reveal secret files on Gibraltar killings

The family of an IRA man killed by the SAS in Gibraltar almost 30 years ago is taking legal action in an attempt to force the UK government to publish secret documents on the killings, UTV can exclusively reveal.

The release of top secret files continues to be an issue which has blocked progress at Stormont on how best to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.

A fresh row has now erupted at Westminster over the annual release of classified documents on key events and it’s about to reach the courts in Northern Ireland. 

Amid some of the darkest days of The Troubles, the UK’s fight against the IRA took an elite army unit to the Rock of Gibraltar on the Spanish border on 6 March 1988.

There, the SAS shot dead three unarmed republicans - Sean Savage, Daniel McCann and Mairéad Farrell - in what became one of the most controversial episodes of the 30-year conflict.

From left to right - Mairéad Farrell, Daniel McCann and Sean Savage. ©Pacemaker

Those killings sparked a cycle of violence 1,200 miles away, back in Northern Ireland.

Fast forward 27 years and it had been hoped secret files relating to the killings would have been published under the 1958 Public Records Act but, for the first time, there's doubt over whether they will in fact be released.

UTV has obtained a letter written on behalf of the father of Daniel McCann.

It's addressed to Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and two other senior cabinet ministers who were government advisors back in 1988.

In it, Mr McCann demands to know why these classified documents are being kept secret.

The issue now looks to be heading to Belfast’s courts.

Solicitor Paddy Murray believes legal action is the only way to get disclosure.

He claims the government is trying to block the release of anything potentially controversial.

“I think this is an attempt by this government, which is particularly obsessed with the issue of national security, to restrict access of information to families and it’s quite consistent with their approach to dealing with the past to date,” he said.

The information is not limited to the Gibraltar files.

Documents on other key controversial events over a three-year period have not yet been made public.

They include the Milltown Cemetery murders in which three people were killed and 70 injured in an attack mounted by loyalist Michael Stone at the funerals of the Gibraltar three.

Also being withheld are files relating to the public murders of two army corporals, who, three days later, drove into the funeral cortege of one of those killed in Milltown.

The efforts to disclose documents goes beyond the events of the Troubles, too.

The Lockerbie bombing which killed hundreds of people later that year is also included.

Mr Murray added: “My client and families in these situations have a right to pursue this matter - a right to challenge government - as do families of soldiers or the families of other victims of the conflict.”

The decision to release the files ultimately rests with the Cabinet office.

UTV asked why the documents will remain classified and a spokesperson responded by saying the government is committed to being the most transparent ever and is working to update the entire process of how and when files are published.

It was then asked whether the records in those cases will be made public and the response provided was: “We cannot comment on files that have not been released.”

Politicians in Northern Ireland want full disclosure on Gibraltar but for very different reasons.

Ian Paisley MP said: “I think there is a top rat, or a top mole at the top of the provisional IRA/Sinn Féin movement and maybe the release of these papers will point to that.

“We’ve already exposed Scappaticci, part of their organisation. We also have a Mr Donaldson – he was exposed as a senior mole within the provisional IRA and I believe there was someone else.”

 Sinn Féin doesn't see it that way dismisses any claim of a ‘top mole’.

North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said: “There’s something to hide here and, I agree with Ian Paisley, these files should be released and the public needs to know what sort of decisions were being made on their behalf but also the families deserve to know that as well.

“It doesn’t matter what’s in those files, those files should be released.”


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Comments (3)

Newest Dorothy in Kansas wrote (4 months ago):

When asked whether the records in those cases will be made public, the response was: “We cannot comment on files that have not been released.” The respondent must surely have read Joseph Heller.

culchy in the stix wrote (4 months ago):

"the government is committed to being the most transparent ever." Yeah we can see right through them, and their tissues of lies.

Commenting is now closed


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