Relatives of three IRA men shot dead by the SAS have hit out after being told it will be another year before a full inquest is heard.
The trio were targeted in the village of Coagh, Co Tyrone, in June 1991 when troops opened fire on a stolen car.
Unresolved legal issues mean it will be 11 months before the deaths are investigated by a coroner’s court.
After a preliminary hearing in Belfast a cousin of one of the men, Tarlagh Connolly, said: “This happened 22 years ago and we have been fighting this case for the past 12. We will be following this through but it is another year, which is ridiculous.”
Lawrence McNally, 38, Peter Ryan, 37, and Tony Doris, 21, from Tyrone, were shot by the special forces as they travelled through Coagh in a stolen car.
The car burst into flames having been hit by around 200 bullets.
Legal issues including the screening of security forces witnesses and where the inquest will sit still have to be considered, a coroner’s court heard. A date for the four-week full hearing was set for September 1 next year.
The Ministry of Defence and Police Service of Northern Ireland’s lawyers are to consider which material can be disclosed to the families and court. The army’s lawyers have already read documents to assess their relevance.
Fiona Doherty, barrister for some of the IRA men’s relatives, noted the reading was carried out in August this year. She said the security forces’ lawyers were seeking a considerable amount of time before taking a final decision on which material was redacted (withheld) from the court for national security reasons or the protection of witnesses.
Ms Doherty said: “The material that should be disclosed should be comprehensive in terms of the planning and content of this operation, to include all operational orders and briefing notes and everything that the inquest will require to determine what action was taken to minimise the need for recourse to force.”
She added a Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report on the case was quite well advanced but this would not be required before the inquest.
The running of an inquest next year into the immensely complicated Stalker/Sampson shoot to kill cases, which looks unlikely, could create further delay because the coroner’s service would be tied up for a significant period of time. Ms Doherty, who is involved in both matters, said the families wanted as early a date as possible for this case.
Outside court Mr Connolly, cousin of Mr Ryan, said questions surrounded the forensic analysis of the scene and questioned the army’s version of events.