Loughgall claim ‘undermines what Ballymurphy families fought for’

A group representing the families of eight IRA terrorists shot dead as they attacked a Co Armagh police station has faced criticism for highlighting their campaign on the day of the Ballymurphy inquest outcome.

Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 8:01 pm
The scene at Loughgall RUC station where 8 IRA men were shot dead in 1987. Photo: Pacemaker Belfast

The Loughgall Truth & Justice Campaign issued a statement on Tuesday evening, saying that “perpetrators” are being protected and that “all of us” deserve the truth about the death of loved ones.

Ulster Unionist justice spokesperson Doug Beattie has questioned the timing of the statement, and stressed that those killed at Loughgall were not in the same category as the innocent victims killed by the army in Ballymurphy in August 1971.

The eight IRA members were shot dead by the SAS as they launched a gun and bomb attack on Loughgall RUC station in May 1987.

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An innocent motorist, Anthony Hughes, was also killed when the soldiers opened fire on the heavily armed terrorists.

Mr Beattie said: “There is no equivalence between those who were unlawfully killed in Ballymurphy and those heavily armed terrorists, intent on murder, who were killed in Loughgall.

“Anyone suggesting otherwise undermine what the Ballymurphy families have fought for over the last 50 years.”

On Tuesday afternoon, coroner Mrs Justice Keegan said all of the Ballymurphy deceased “were entirely innocent of wrongdoing on the day in question” and that while “the army had a duty to protect lives... the use of force was clearly disproportionate”.

As well as welcoming the “truth and recognition” afforded to the Ballymurphy families, the Loughgall Truth & Justice Campaign said: “If reports are accurate, the proposed legislation announced today will continue to hide the truth from victims and families.

“Those who hold the key to the rightful conclusion in these legacy cases is the British Government and its agents. In the Loughgall case, like so many others, the holders of the information do everything they can to dodge their obligation to tell the truth.

“Families are put through multiple court applications and appearances over years just to get a commitment to hand over material about the death of their loved ones.”

It adds: “The reality is that until everyone is prepared to be honest, give full disclosure, and stop protecting perpetrators, then no amount of packages or legislation will deal with the past.

“The simple answer to all of this is: Tell the Truth”.

In December 2016, some victims of terrorism expressed their disgust that funding had been made available to have the Loughgall deaths investigated as part of the Troubles legacy inquests programme.

At that time, Kenny Donaldson of the Innocent Victims United umbrella group said there is “most certainly is a hierarchy of victims” regardless of the current legislation.

He added: “There are victims and then there are perpetrators whose premeditated actions created victims – the ‘Loughgall Eight’ fall into the latter category.”

• In his book Secret Victory: The Intelligence War That Beat The IRA, Dr William Matchett describes the Provisional IRA’s cross-border units as “the extreme that suppressed less radical views within the organisation”.

The author said the setback for the IRA at Loughgall not only signalled “the decline of the IRA’s cross-border offensive,” it also “signalled the decline of the IRA terrorist campaign”.

He said two of those killed at Loughgall, James Lynagh and Patrick McKearney, were “the driving force behind most IRA murders in Tyrone and many others in the neighbouring counties for at least a decade prior to the Loughgall incident, and added: “To Special Branch they were streetwise homicidal maniacs and the main impediment to ending the conflict”.

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