Families call for justice 25 years after Coagh IRA killings

The scene of the Coagh shootings
The scene of the Coagh shootings

The family of one of three men gunned down by the IRA 25 years ago today in Co Tyrone says his family are still desperate to get answers and justice.

Leslie Dallas, Austin Nelson and Ernie Rankin were mown down by the IRA as they stood outside Dallas’ garage on March 7, 1989 in the village of Coagh, near Cookstown.

A relative of Mr Dallas told the News Letter yesterday: “After 25 years we are still asking ‘where is the justice for us?’ There has been talking and talking for years, but now we need action. Our families have been crippled with the pain from that day.

“Leslie was standing at his garage with two friends, with his wife sitting in the car, when three IRA men pulled up .

“Two of the them got out and emptied the three of them. They all took off in the car, shouting and cheering.”

He is not aware of there ever having been any arrests.

“They knew all the suspects. This gang was operating in the heart of mid-Ulster for years.

“The SAS shot three of them when they came back to Coagh to murder another Protestant in 1991.

“One of the questions we want to ask is how much did the security forces know about the gang’s plans before they shot our loved ones?

“There is probably another half-dozen of the gang still out there. So far as we know they were all from about four miles away from us, from Moortown and Ardboe, with one from Coalisland.

“The on the runs row has brought us to our knees. We want to know if the British Government gave the rest of the gang letters to say they would not be arrested?”

Kenny Donaldson, spokesman for Innocent Victims United, said there has been much media focus on the cases of the three IRA men shot at Coagh.

“This has caused much hurt and trauma to the families of those affected by PIRA terrorism in the Coagh and wider mid-Ulster area,” he said.

UUP Mid Ulster MLA Sandra Overend said relatives of the IRA victims “have had their pain compounded by the recent revelations of letters of comfort to so-called on the runs and the media coverage of frustration expressed by families of three IRA men at the delay into holding a full inquest into their deaths”.