A new inquest into an IRA bombing which killed three neighbours could give fresh hope of identifying and punishing those responsible, the High Court heard today.
Lawyers for a daughter of one of the victims claimed the Attorney General has wrongly refused to order another tribunal into the so-called Good Samaritan attack in Derry nearly 29 years ago.
Dorothy Johnstone is seeking to judicially review John Larkin QC’s denial in a bid to secure another probe into the circumstances surrounding the August 1988 terrorist strike.
The case is the first of its kind to challenge the decision-making powers of Northern Ireland’s chief legal officer.
Ms Johnstone’s 54-year-old father Eugene Dalton and Sheila Lewis, 68, were both killed in the explosion at a house in the city’s Creggan area.
A third victim, 57-year-old Gerard Curran, died months after being pulled from the rubble.
The attack became known as the ‘Good Samaritan Bombing’ because the three friends had gone to check on the whereabouts of a neighbour kidnapped earlier by the IRA.
The paramilitary grouping later apologised, admitting it planted the device in a bid to kill soldiers.
In 2013 Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire published findings that RUC officers had information about an IRA booby trap bomb in a house in the housing estate but did nothing to warn residents of the possible danger.
He identified a failure in the police obligation to protect the lives of the public.
Following his report the Attorney General decided a new inquest was not advisable at that time.
But Ms Johntsone’s legal team claim it could help to establish responsibility for police failures.
They contend that investigative obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights were rekindled by the Ombudsman’s findings.
In court today barrister Fiona Doherty QC suggested witnesses who may have further information could be called to a new tribunal.
Noting that 13 people were arrested during the original police investigation, she told Mr Justice Deeny no-one knows what could come out of another inquest.
“What Article 2 requires is the mechanism, not necessarily the result,” she said.
“There hasn’t been an investigation that’s capable of identifying and potentially punishing those who are responsible, not just criminally responsible.
“That may not be the ultimate result, but this case is about process, not about merits.”
The Attorney General had decided there was no evidence that identifying or punishing those responsible would be achieved by ordering a fresh inquest, the court heard.
Ms Dohery paid tribute to the work of Mr Larkin and his staff in this area since coming into office.
He has directed new inquests in at least 30 cases involving more than 70 deaths - many of them Troubles-related.
“There are very many bereaved families who have been given the opportunity to gain closure where they wouldn’t otherwise have had the opportunity to do that,” the barrister acknowledged.
But she insisted that the Ombudsman’s report has revived the obligation to investigate the bombing.
Ms Doherty added: “Steps should be taken which could allow for all facts to be determined and for there to be a determination of responsibility and thereafter accountability.”
The hearing continues. ends