An inquest into the death of a hotel doorman and former IRA prisoner murdered by loyalists may not be heard until the end of next year, a preliminary hearing was told.
Seamus Dillon, 45, was shot dead outside the Glengannon Hotel in Dungannon by two LVF gunmen in December 1997.
The murder of the father-of-three from Stewartstown, co Tyrone, happened hours after LVF leader Billy Wright was gunned down inside the Maze prison and was seen as a revenge strike by the loyalist’s associates.
Lawyers for Mr Dillon’s family are awaiting a decision on public legal funding from the Legal Services Commission. Senior coroner John Leckey told the Belfast court time was running out to achieve clarity ahead of next March’s full inquest.
“Unless we are able to run with Dillon on that date that slot will be taken by another inquest as there is severe pressure on court accommodation,” he said.
“Could we be advised by the end of this week if contact has been made and if we are any further forward?
“I won’t be able to leave this slot open beyond the end of this week and if the slot is taken up this inquest is likely to be heard, the truthful answer is, at the end of next year - that is the harsh reality.”
All non-sensitive material has been provided to the coroner’s office but police experts are checking which information may be redacted for national security reasons before it can be given to Dillon’s legal representatives.
That exercise could be postponed if there is a delay, lawyer for the PSNI Ken Boyd warned.
Mr Leckey added: “Friday is really D day in relation to this.”
The March 24 three-week slot could be filled by an inquest into the death of Catholic postal worker Daniel McColgan, 20, the coroner’s court heard.
He was shot dead in Rathcoole, Newtownabbey, by the UDA as he arrived for work in January 2002.
Barrister Fiona Doherty said a member of his family was ill.
“Time may be of the essence and we would like to get this matter concluded as quickly as possible,” she added.
Mr McColgan was the 14th postal officer murdered by paramilitaries during the conflict.