New inquests 'could be held on Loughgall'

Published Friday, 05 September 2014
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New inquests could be held into the fatal shooting of eight IRA men and one civilian in Loughgall, Co Armagh almost 30 years ago.

In what became one of the most controversial cases of the Troubles, undercover SAS soldiers killed eight members of the IRA's East Tyrone unit on 8 May, 1987 as they approached Loughgall RUC station with a bomb in a hijacked digger.

The IRA men shot were Jim Lynagh, Padraig McKearney, Gerard O'Callaghan, Tony Gormley, Eugene Kelly, Patrick Kelly, Seamus Donnelly and Declan Arthurs.

A civilian, Anthony Hughes, was also killed and his brother badly wounded when they were caught up in the gunfire.

On Friday, NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers confirmed that she has written to the region's Attorney General (AGNI), John Larkin QC, to inform him that she has issued a certificate under Section 14(2) of the Coroners Act (Northern Ireland) 1959, in relation to the request for fresh inquests into the May 1987 deaths.

A statement issued by the Northern Ireland Office said the decision lay with the Advocate General Jeremy Wright.

"The Secretary of State is satisfied that there is material held by the government which is both relevant to the decision whether to open fresh inquests in these cases, and which is national security sensitive," the statement read.

"The effect of this certificate is that the Advocate General for Northern Ireland (the Attorney General for England and Wales, Jeremy Wright QC) will now consider these requests and take the decision on whether to direct that fresh inquests are conducted."

The statement also said that it had been previously incorrectly reported by some media outlets as the Secretary of State "blocking" inquests into these deaths.

"This is untrue, and does not accurately represent the Secretary of State's role in this process. The effect of the legislation, and the role of the Secretary of State, is simply to make sure that the appropriate law officer is able to take the decision, with all of the information available, independent of government."

The statement explained: "The Advocate General is an independent law officer in the same way as the AGNI: he will make a decision independent of government. All of the options available to the AGNI will be available to the Advocate General, including a decision to direct that an inquest should be held.

"The Secretary of State's decision in no way reflects a lack of trust in the role of the Attorney General for Northern Ireland.

"The Secretary of State, having fulfilled the requirements placed on her by the legislation, has no further role in to play in relation to the decision whether to direct these inquests," it concluded.

Relatives For Justice Director Mark Thompson said the decision was an attempt to undermine devolution.

"Clearly the British government," he said, "do not want information relating to the SAS ambush at Loughgall to be viewed by the North's Attorney General, which begs the questions of why and what do the relevant documents contain?

"Further the decision is an attempt to undermine the office of the Attorney General and devolution itself and must been seen in the wider political context of influencing any decision given that the Advocate General is a member of the British Cabinet."

Ulster Unionist Justice spokesperson Tom Elliott, meanwhile, said that an inquest would be a waste of public money and an example of a one-sided approach to dealing with the past.

"I cannot believe that more public money is going to be wasted on the consideration of inquests into the deaths of eight IRA terrorists at Loughgall," he said.

"These terrorists died as they tried to inflict murder and mayhem on a small law abiding community in Loughgall. It's an open and shut case. If these cowards hadn't loaded a bomb into the front of a digger and set out armed to the teeth on their murderous expedition, an innocent man, Anthony Hughes, would be alive today.

"Again we see a one-sided approach to dealing with the past in Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State appears content to concentrate on delivering, at whatever cost, to the families of terrorists, but not for the innocent victims.

"It is not lost on us that in the same week that the Conservative-Liberal government are talking about bringing in tough measures to deal with ISIS terrorists, here is another arm of the same government facilitating the waste of public money to pacify republican agitators who are trying to rewrite history to cover the tracks of dead terrorists."

Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew said that any inquest must have full disclosure from the British Government.

"There is no doubt that the British Army and RUC had prior warning of an attack on Loughgall RUC barracks in May 1987," she said.

"However rather than mount a stop and arrest operation the British army and RUC carried out an ambush which resulted in the deaths of eight IRA volunteers and one civilian and serious injury to another civilian.

"The statement from British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers that there is material held by the British government which is both relevant to the decision whether to open fresh inquests in these cases only reinforces the need for an inquest to be held as soon as possible.

"The families of the dead men deserve to know the true circumstances surrounding the deaths of their loved ones so any new inquest must have full disclosure from the British Government including files that they claim are sensitive.

"I will be supporting the families in demanding that Advocate General Jeremy Wright sets a date for the opening of an inquest that is needed and in order to get to the truth."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Bangor in Bangor wrote (144 days ago):
Just another obscene waste of money that could go to much more worthwhile causes. Time we started looking to the future and let the past rest in peace
realistic in planet earth wrote (145 days ago):
ok, so the SOS has given the go ahead on this to reach the next step.... isn't this same SOS a member of the conservative party, whom the DUP and UUP align themselves with politically....... hmmmmmmm.... what a tangled web they weave.....a cynic could say that the british government is trying to tell the DUP and UUP something...... is their relationship 'one-sided'??... a cynic could also ask - why do people vote for the DUP et al, if this is the case??.... all in all it's just another part of the mess that is Northern Ireland....:(
Linda in NI wrote (145 days ago):
More taxpayers money wasted while our health service is crippled. My sympathy lies only with the innocent man who died and the other one who was injured.
P from dgn in Dgn wrote (145 days ago):
To all yous ones that have wrote these 50 odd comments, hopefully this inquiry will bring out the truth, yes these men where wrong "if" there intentions where to kill ruc men that day! But!!!! ,, tat wasnt there intensions, they went to blow up an unmaned police station. The british goverment put a single man in the watch tower tat day which made these men putting the queens soldiers at rest! This changes everything! They were set up!!!! They sas new they where coming, they should off been arrested not butchered and killed! Realisticly
William in Belfast wrote (145 days ago):
So a bunch of murderous scum were killed while attempting to carry out an act of mass murder and got themselves killed. They got what they deserved, I see no reason why there should be inquiry into their deaths. Sinn Fein and Relatives For Justice should get over it. I wonder will they support inquiries into La Mon, Kingsmill and all the atrocities the provos commited.
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