NI law chief urges new killings probe

Attorney General John Larkin QC: Photo Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker Press
Attorney General John Larkin QC: Photo Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker Press

Northern Ireland’s attorney general has urged a fresh investigation into the deaths of six men killed in shootings involving British soldiers 45 years ago.

The Public Prosecution Service is considering the referral from John Larkin in relation to shootings of the so-called New Lodge Six in north Belfast.

The six Catholic men, including three unarmed IRA members, were shot during a night of violence in February 1973.

The Army originally acknowledged it was involved in the incidents, insisting soldiers were engaged in a gun battle with the IRA. There were also suspicions loyalist paramilitaries had a role in the killings.

Families of the men had asked Mr Larkin to order a new inquest into the deaths, claiming the original coroner’s probe did not investigate properly.

The attorney general has gone further and asked Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron to consider whether the case merits a probe by the PSNI.

Relatives believe a controversial Army unit known as the Military Reaction Force (MRF) was involved in some of the shootings.

PSNI detectives are already investigating allegations that the MRF carried out random and unjustified shootings elsewhere in Belfast during the early 1970s following a previous direction by the PPS.

The six men shot in the New Lodge were 19-year-old IRA members James Sloan, James McCann and Tony Campbell, as well as Catholic civilians John Loughran, 35, Brendan Maguire, 32, and Ambrose Hardy, 26.

Referrals to the PPS can come from sources including the attorney general, Appeal Court judges and coroners.

In the last six years, there have been 25 referrals, 11 in Troubles-related cases.

Rosaleen Beatty, whose brother Mr Hardy was killed, told the BBC: “I would just like to see justice done.

“They have got away with it so far and we are glad to say that we are getting a wee bit closer maybe to the truth.”