THE decision by a judge to award damages of £75,000 to a Coalisland man who admitted being the driver of a getaway car during a military ambush almost 20 years ago, has been described as “unfathomable”.
Aidan McKeever, who was unarmed, was wounded when soldiers from a specialist undercover unit opened fire on Provisional IRA members in the carpark of Clonoe Chapel in February 1992.
At the conclusion of a compensation case taken by Mr McKeever, Mr Justice Treacy described an account given by one of the soldiers who fired at him as “utterly implausible”, and held that insufficient evidence was called to successfully defend the action.
Earlier that night, the IRA men had attacked Coalisland RUC station with an anti-aircraft gun mounted on the back of a stolen lorry without inflicting any injuries.
Four men were shot dead by the soldiers: Daniel Vincent, Kevin O’Donnell, Sean O’Farrell and Peter Clancy.
Mr McKeever had been the driver of a getaway car seen entering the carpark before the armed lorry arrived, the court heard.
According to a forensic scientist, his vehicle was hit by at least 15 bullets with four soldiers having shot at him.
Mr McKeever later pleaded guilty to assisting offenders, receiving a three year suspended jail sentence.
He sued the MoD for assault and battery, alleging the soldiers opened fire on him when he was unarmed and not close to anyone with a weapon.
It was further claimed that he was given no warning nor an opportunity to surrender.
Commenting on the outcome of the case, Mid-Ulster MLA, Sandra Overend, said she found it “simply unbelievable” that the action had ever been taken by Mr McKeever.
“Like many of my constituents I am shocked and disgusted that anyone should be awarded compensation for injuries sustained whilst preparing to act as a getaway driver for a terrorist gang”, continued the Ulster Unionist assembly member.
“This gang set out to murder Police officers and anyone else who was unfortunate enough to cross their path. Anyone acting in support of them did so in the full knowledge of this, and to seek compensation from the State is simply unbelievable.
“That Aidan McKeever should be awarded damages of £75,000 is unfathomable. This may be legally correct, but it isn’t any type of justice that I recognise.”