Families of Tyrone IRA men shot by SAS to take legal action against Lord Maginnis

Lord Maginnis

Lord Maginnis

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Lord Maginnis has rejected claims he was involved in a state shoot-to-kill policy, saying this was actually what the IRA practised.

He was speaking after news that families of three IRA men shot dead by the SAS in Co Tyrone in 1988 are taking legal action against him, the Government and the chief constable.

Brothers Gerard and Martin Harte died along with Brian Mullin when the SAS fired on them near Drumnakilly.

It follows a recent RTÉ documentary in which he stated that after the IRA’s Ballygawley bombing, which killed eight soldiers, he gave Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher the names of people he thought were responsible.

A week later the Harte brothers and Brian Mullin were shot dead by the SAS.

The families’ lawyer Peter Corrigan told the BBC: “Names were provided, no evidence was adduced, there was no trial process. There was no charging and men were executed by the state on the authority of the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.”

Ignatius Harte, a brother of two of the men shot dead, said: “It’s evident from what Ken Maginnis had to say that the orders came from Thatcher herself that Gerard, Martin and Brian had to be taken out at whatever cost.”

He accepts the men were armed and on an IRA mission to kill when they were shot.

But Lord Maginnis hit back that when Mrs Thatcher asked who could have been responsible for the Ballygawley bombing, it was “obvious” which IRA men in the area had the skills to carry out that operation.

“The real question is, did three people - guilty of multiple murders - in their next operation fall prey to good military intelligence?”

The Harte brothers had approached their target from a different direction than was expected, and consequently had been able to open fire on him before the SAS opened fire on them, he added.

“I myself helped bring seven IRA men into custody and saw them charged, brought before the courts and jailed. That was not a shoot-to-kill policy.

“By contrast, the IRA never indulged any of its targets with such prvileges; they even operated a shoot-to-kill policy against their own people – for example, the Disappeared.

“It was the IRA who were the real practitioners of the shoot-to-kill policy.”