Police probe into double murder in Keady ‘catastrophic’ inquest hears

June 16, 2014

Calls for an independent inquiry were made at the preliminary inquest hearing of two people who were murdered by loyalists in a no-warning bomb attack in Keady almost 38 years ago.

Mother-of-three Elizabeth ‘Betty’ McDonald (38) and young Gaelic footballer, Gerard McGleenan (22) were killed when the bomb detonated outside the Step Inn pub in August 1976. Twenty-five other people were injured in the blast.

Aside from claims of security force involvement in the bomb team, it has been alleged that RUC Special Branch and Army surveillance personnel knew an attack was being planned by the gang, but failed to prevent it.

Betty’s husband, Malachi, and Mr McGleenan’s brother Robert were at Belfast Coroner’s Court on Thursday as the preliminary hearing took place before Senior Coroner John Leckey.

Malachi McDonald remains determined to find out the truth behind the bombing and outside the court, described the hearing as “one more step” toward justice.

“It is a hard path but one we are forced to take because those who were paid to protect life were the organisers and perpetrators of the car bomb which went off without warning on our family home of husband, wife and three children, aged seven, four and one-and-a-half,” he said.

In a statement, Robert McGleenan said: “The family want to say they were never informed police could have prevented the bombing, nor were they informed until recently that RUC Special Branch knew the identity of all those involved. The HET report has called this investigation and the whole process ‘catastrophic,’ and it has indeed been catastrophic for these two families.”

The Pat Finucane Centre issued a statement on behalf of both families thanking everyone for their support and placing their trust in the Coroner to assist them in their quest for the truth.

In the statement, it was explained how RUC Special Branch officers knew about the bomb plans ten days before the explosion and how a subsequent HET report clearly states that the attack could have been prevented.

Special Branch knew a car had been stolen by the UDA on the Shankill Road in Belfast (taken from a police officer) while the local RUC divisional commander ordered surveillance on another police officer’s farm in south Armagh where the bomb was moved into the stolen car.

Another police officer scouted the original bomb route across the border into the Republic and it’s believed the gang were aware they were being watched, yet they did not flee the scene, but merely changed their target from south of the border to the Step Inn in Keady – a cross-community bar with no paramilitary or political links.

After the bombing, Special Branch failed to give any of this information to investigating officers and, as a result, no-one involved was arrested or brought before the courts although their identities were known.  The families were never informed that the police could have prevented the bombings.  Nor were they informed until recently that RUC Special Branch officers knew the identity of all those involved.

The HET has called the RUC’s handling of this case “catastrophic”.

“The McGleenan and McDonald families trust that the Coroner will do his best to assist them in their quest for truth.  Both families hope the two governments and the political parties will reach agreement on a truth recovery process which all families deserve and which society needs,” the statement ended.