The sister of one of eight IRA men killed in an SAS ambush at Loughgall nearly 30 years ago, says claims by lawyers for the Crown that they do not have the resources to proceed with inquests into the deaths, are “a whitewash”.
Speaking ahead of a review hearing at Laganside Courthouse in Belfast today, Tuesday, Mairead Kelly told the TIMES papers have been made available to the NIO in respect of the Loughgall case for some time.
“It is a bit of a joke for them (Crown) to claim they don’t have the resources to proceed”, Mairead Kelly continued.
“We believe they have a determination to keep their papers hidden. It is only a whitewash to make their claim about not having the resources. I can understand that being said in cases where the Crown haven’t found the papers or haven’t looked for them. But the papers are ready for Loughgall. All our material was gathered up for the NIO when we were told there would be new inquests.
“Our side is prepared to go on Tuesday and there is no call for any more delay from the Crown’s side.”
Mairead said she and the other families were “always hopeful” that the Loughgall cases will see some development when they are reviewed by High Court Judge, Lord Justice Weir.
She also welcomed the unprecedented move by Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan, to meet each of the 56 families involved in the so-called ‘legacy cases’ next month.
It is understood the purpose of the meeting is to seek the families’ views on how best to ensure that outstanding cases are progressed through the inquest system as quickly as possible.
Mairead Kelly said she viewed the meeting as “significant”.
“We would be hoping that there would have to be something major that would come out of that meeting, there must be some reason why he (Sir Declan Morgan) would call a meeting with all the relatives.”
Two Sinn Féin councillors, Jim Lynagh and Padraig McKearney, along with six fellow IRA activists – Gerard O’Callaghan, 29, Tony Gormley, 25, Eugene Kelly, 25, Patrick Kelly, 30, Seamus Donnelly, 19, and Declan Arthurs, 21 – were shot dead by the SAS on May 8, 1987.
Anthony Hughes, 36, who was wearing a boiler suit similar to those donned by the IRA unit, was killed when he accidentally drove into the ambush.
Thirty-six SAS soldiers using a variety of weapons, including heavy machine guns and Heckler and Koch light machine guns, were involved in the operation. When they and their RUC counterparts returned to their base at the Mahon Road army barracks in nearby Portadown, they celebrated with champagne.