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Showband solicitors seek access to documents

The Miami Showband
Connla Young

The widow of Miami Showband singer Fran O'Toole is taking legal action against the British Ministry of Defence to force it to hand over documents relating to the massacre.

The case is being taken after solicitors for Valerie Anderson were denied access to files held by the British National Archive in London.

It is understood the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin has also raised the matter with the British government.

Mr O'Toole (29) was killed by a UVF's notorious Glenanne Gang in July 1975 when their minibus was stopped at a bogus UDR checkpoint near Newry as they made their way to Dublin from a gig in Banbridge.

Two other band members, Anthony Geraghty (23) and Brian McCoy (33), were also murdered while two UVF members, Harris Boyle (24) and Wesley Somerville (34), died when the bomb they were planting exploded.

Ms Anderson along with several other relatives and survivors is currently suing the British army and PSNI chief constable in relation to the case.

They claim the MoD is responsible for the actions of serving soldiers and permitted the “infiltration” of the UDR by loyalist paramilitaries.

They also claim that police failed to properly vet those wishing to join the UDR or adequately investigate the theft of British army weapons.

It is understood an “ agreed process” had been reached between their solicitor, Michael Flanigan, and the MoD concerning access to documents.

However, before he travelled to England to examine them he was told that National Archive officials had launched an “access review” and some files would not be available.

It is understood some of the documents requested relate to vetting procedures.

Later this week a court will be asked to issue an order for discovery forcing authorities to hand over the information.

The Glenanne Gang, which was made up of members of the RUC, UDR and UVF, carried out dozens of sectarian attacks across Mid Ulster and further afield in the 1970s.

It is believed the loyalist gang was attempting to place a bomb on the band's minibus when it exploded prematurely, killing Boyle and Sommerville.

The remaining gang members then opened fire on the terrified band members.

At the time Fran O'Toole was one of the best-known names on the Irish music scene and the attack sent shockwaves around the country.

It also placed stress on the relationship between the Irish and British governments, with the British ambassador being summoned by Irish officials to hear their concerns.

A spokesman for the British National Archive said the files were “closed because there are personal details that could not be released under the Freedom of Information Act and the Data Protection Act”.

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