Northern Ireland news

INLA man's shooting may be linked to Tory MP's murder

Advocate General Jeremy Wright will decide if a new inquest is held into the death of INLA member Noel Little
Connla Young

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A SOLICITOR acting for the family of an INLA man shot dead in unexplained circumstances has said his death may be connected to the killing of a Conservative MP in the previous year.

Noel Little (45) was killed along with fellow INLA member Ronnie Bunting (32) at Downfine Gardens in the Andersonstown area of west Belfast in October 1980.

Some republicans have suggested the SAS was involved although at the time the UDA claimed responsibility.

It has emerged that London-based Advocate General for Northern Ireland and Conservative MP Jeremy Wright has taken over the case from the Attorney General John Larkin, who had originally been asked to consider a new inquest.

Secretary of State Karen Bradley recently issued a certificate transferring the case to the Advocate General who will “now consider this request and take the decision on whether to direct a fresh inquest”.

An NIO spokeswoman last night said: “The Secretary of State is satisfied there is material held by the UK government relevant to the decision whether to open a fresh inquest, which is national security sensitive.”

The murders took place over a year after Tory MP Airey Neave was killed when an INLA booby trap bomb exploded under his car at the House of Commons in London.

In the months after Mr Neave’s death, several high profile figures linked to the IRSP and the National H-Block Committee were shot dead or seriously injured, including Miriam Daly who had resigned from the party shortly before she was killed in June 1980.

John Turnly, a Protestant who was a member of the National H-Block Committee, was killed in Co Antrim in June 1980 while former IRSP member and H-Block campaigner Bernadette McAliskey was also injured in her Co Tyrone home in January 1981.

Solicitor Michael Brentnall, who represents the Little family, said the deaths of Mr Neave and the two INLA men may be linked.

“There are compelling circumstances which indicate that the killings were either committed by the British security services or facilitated by them and these killings are connected in proximity and organisational terms to the killing of Airey Neave,” he said.

Mr Brentnall questioned if it was appropriate for the case to be transferred to a Conservative MP.

“The secretary of state should therefore withdraw the certificate,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the NIO said: "The Advocate General is an independent law officer in the same way as the Attorney General for Northern Ireland: he will make a decision independent of government.

 

"The Secretary of State, having fulfilled the requirements placed on her by the legislation, has no further role to play in relation to the decision whether to direct this inquest.”

An original inquest held in February 1981 returned an open verdict.

Noel Little’s nephew Paul Little said his family is surprised by the latest development.

“From a family point of view there was stuff withheld from the first inquest and there needs to be a second one,” he said.

“Justice not only has to be done it has to be seen to be done and there needs to be transparency.”

The request for a new inquest into Mr Little’s killing came amid claims that an RUC intelligence unit had the murder house under surveillance shortly before the killings.

At that time the unit was involved in gathering information for Special Branch.

The legal team representing Mr Little's family claim to have information which suggests an undercover team was withdrawn even though there was intelligence to indicate an attack may have been imminent.

The murder weapons and getaway car were never recovered.

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