Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Funding must be made available to ensure legacy cases progress to trial – McNulty

As a major review of inquests into some of the most controversial killings during the Troubles got under way last week, the brother of three men shot dead by loyalists 40 years ago has reiterated that “There will be no “Fresh Start” until the victims’ families’ legacy issues are brought to a satisfactory conclusion.”

Eugene Reavey, whose brothers John Martin (24), Brian (22) and Anthony (17) were gunned down by a UVF gang in a sectarian attack on their rural home on 4th January 1976 was speaking as the first week of the review concluded last Friday.

Lord Justice Weir, the presiding judge of the Coroners’ Service, is overseeing the proceedings which will assess the reasons for delays and the unwillingness of the PSNI to open files and disclose to families the details of their loved ones’ deaths.

Judge Weir will conclude his investigation this Friday and will then report to the Lord Chief Justice on his findings. Judge Weir has said, “Dates have come and gone and families have been disappointed on successive occasions and we have to put a stop to that.”

He has agreed to meet the victims’ families and will discuss the implications of the cases in a question and answer format on Friday the 12th February. Most of the families are being represented by KRW Law.

The majority of the deaths under consideration were carried out by the notorious Glenanne Gang based in south Armagh. The gang was directed by the RUC Special Branch and Military Intelligence and operated a campaign of bombings and shootings at will without fear of detection. The Glenanne Gang were responsible for some of the most heinous crimes of the trouble including the bombing of  Donnelly’s Bar in Silverbridge,  the bombing of Kay’s Tavern Dundalk, the murders of  Reavey Brothers and the shooting of the O’Dowds at Guilford, a non fatal car bomb attack of Tully’s Bar in Belleek, the bombing of the Step Inn Bar in Keady, the bombing and shooting at the Rock Bar in Granemore and the bombing and shooting of Miami Show Band.

Commenting on last week’s proceedings, the SDLP’s Justin McNulty said, “All of the families feel very let down by the Executive’s failure to deliver any progress in the “Fresh Start” Agreement in relation to legacy issues. The victims all feel it’s imperative that those around the Executive table make funding available to fully resource the Coronial System and the Police Ombudsman’s Office to allow these cases to come to trial.

“Theresa Villiers is hiding behind National Security issues and is seeking to further hinder the progress of these cases.

“After speaking with many of the families concerned, it is clear that the closure of the Historical  Enquiries Team dealt a very serious blow to the hopes of the victims. The families now believe they have nowhere to turn.

“This is why it is crucial that funding be released by the Executive to let these cases progress to trial and hopefully bring some comfort to the families of the victims. The families all want to move on, however they feel this is impossible while the Government is preventing the disclosure of information relating to the deaths of their loved ones.”