The Ministry of Defence is set to resist moves to identify an undercover Army unit responsible for shooting dead two IRA men almost 30 years ago.
Daniel Doherty, 23, and William Fleming, 19, were killed in the grounds of the Gransha Hospital in Londonderry in December 1984.
It was alleged that the pair, who were both from the city, were planning to carry out an attack on an off-duty member of the Ulster Defence Regiment when soldiers ambushed them, firing almost 60 shots.
It is understood the SAS and the Army’s 14th Intelligence Company were involved.
But at a preliminary hearing in Belfast ahead of a new inquest that has been ordered into the deaths, a lawyer for the MoD said it would likely oppose the name of the specific unit involved being made public.
Coroner Jim Kitson has been informed of the identity of the unit, but it has not been disclosed to the dead men’s families.
Karen Quinlivan QC, representing the relatives, said it was important that the name was made public during the inquest, particularly given the context of an alleged security forces shoot-to-kill policy that operated at that time.
“The identity of the unit is clearly relevant,” she said.
Mr Kitson said he also believed the name was relevant.
Peter Coll, barrister for the MoD, said if Mr Kitson pressed for disclosure of the name, the MoD would likely apply for a Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificate to be signed by a Government minister on the grounds of national security.
“That might well be put forward for PII protection,” he said of the unit’s identity.
If a PII certificate is signed the coroner would then have to rule on whether the name should be withheld.
Mr Kitson advised Mr Coll that the MoD should start the PII process.
“The name of the unit I see as being relevant and the PII process should be commenced in relation to that if the MoD believes it is not appropriate that it should be disclosed,” he said.
An inquest was held two years after the shootings but in 2010 Northern Ireland’s Attorney General John Larkin QC ordered another hearing after finding that police documents had been withheld from the coroner at the time.