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Call for public inquiry into loyalist murder gang

Step Inn murders inquest begins - Family members of Elizabeth McDonald arrive at the inquest in Belfast lead by Malachi McDonald (Center) Widower of Elizabeth McDonald



Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye

Step Inn murders inquest begins - Family members of Elizabeth McDonald arrive at the inquest in Belfast lead by Malachi McDonald (Center) Widower of Elizabeth McDonald Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye

A public inquiry must be considered into a notorious loyalist paramilitary murder gang whose members allegedly included policemen and soldiers, a coroner’s court has heard.

Lawyers for one of the estimated 120 victims of the so-called Glenanne gang have insisted only a major state probe, or a thematic inquest covering all the deaths, can get to the truth of the controversial collusion claims.

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire is examining allegations made against RUC officers while the police’s own Historical Enquiries Team (HET) has found “indisputable evidence” of security force collusion in the murderous group.

The call for another investigation into the actions of the UVF gang, which operated out of farms in counties Armagh and Tyrone in the mid 1970s, was heard as fresh inquest proceedings into one attack it allegedly carried out began in Belfast.

Mother-of-three Elizabeth ‘Betty’ McDonald, 38, and keen gaelic footballer Gerard McGleenan, 22, were killed when a no-warning loyalist bomb detonated outside the Step Inn pub and nearby houses in the village of Keady, Co Armagh, 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 a bombing was being planned by the gang but failed to prevent it.

Northern Ireland’s Attorney General John Larkin has ordered a new inquest into the deaths.

Mrs McDonald’s widower Malachi and Mr McGleenan’s brother Robert, along with relatives of other people allegedly killed by the Glenanne gang, were at Belfast Coroner’s Court as the preliminary hearing took place before senior coroner John Leckey.

Mr Leckey has been asked by a lawyer for Mr McDonald to consider an all-encompassing thematic inquest or recommending a public inquiry.

Peter Corrigan insisted the collusion claims in the Glenanne case were systematic.

“This wasn’t just a few bad apples, this was collusion and this was policy,” he said.

 

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