Loughgall killings among legacy cases in coroner's office backlog

The RUC police station targeted by the IRA in Loughgall in 1982 where eight IRA men were killed by the SAS. (Photo: Pacemaker)
The RUC police station targeted by the IRA in Loughgall in 1982 where eight IRA men were killed by the SAS. (Photo: Pacemaker)

The sister of one of eight IRA men killed by the SAS at Loughgall in 1987 has said she hopes a fresh inquest into his death will prove there were alternatives to what happened.

The case is one of a number of historic cases from Northern Ireland's troubled past that are awaiting or undergoing new inquest proceedings.

In response to a Freedom of Information request from the Press Association, Northern Ireland's Courts Service provided a database of the cases currently running and those which have been delayed.

It revealed 44 legacy inquest cases, some of which are incidents involving multiple deaths. More cases are believed to be under consideration.

A lack of funding has caused some of the delay.

A £150 million package to deal with legacy issues was agreed at Stormont House talks in 2015. However, that money is not set to be released until politicians agree a way to deal with the past.

As part of the FoI response, the Lord Chief Justice said he is committed to hearing legacy cases in line with his five-year plan when funding is made available.

The inquests currently running include one into the murder by republicans of 10 Protestant workmen at Kingsmill in 1976, and one into the shooting of 11 men and women in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast in 1971. Soldiers are believed to be behind those killings.

The Kingsmill inquest has been running since 2016 and remains ongoing.

The Ballymurphy inquest officially opened in November 2018 after several years of preliminary hearings and will continue in 2019 with military witnesses set to be called.

But scores more inquests have been delayed despite numerous preliminary hearings having taken place.

These include the the Stalker-Sampson cases into an alleged RUC shoot-to-kill policy in the 1980s which involved nine deaths, the shooting of four IRA men at Clonoe, Co Tyrone, in 1992 and the murder of Raymond McCord Junior by the UVF in 1997.

Mairead Kelly, whose brother Patrick was one of eight IRA men killed at Loughgall on May 8 1987, said she is hopeful that inquest will start in 2019.

An inquest previously took place into the killings of the eight along with civilian Anthony Hughes in 1995.

She told the Press Association they first applied for a fresh inquest in 2011 and she hopes the outcome will be that there was an alternative to what happened.

The families took a judicial review earlier in 2018 to secure the release of funds to enable the inquest to start.

Ms Kelly was 25 when her brother, a 30-year-old father of three, was killed.

She described Patrick, the only son in her family, as someone who could do no wrong in their mother's eyes.

The family had lived for many years in Carrickfergus before having to leave the Co Antrim town following threats from the UVF.

Ms Kelly acknowledged that many will have different opinions to her brother's killing because he had been a member of the IRA.

But she said she wanted to see Anthony Hughes' name cleared as he was a civilian.

"People judge the Hughes because of the situation they ended up in," she said.

"My brother was an active IRA man who was on an active IRA operation, people will have opinions on that, it may not be my opinion, but they are entitled to that.

"But it is very wrong to judge the Hughes family."