Hughes family had turned down first Loughgall apology

THE family of Anthony Hughes rejected an initial apology from the Minister of Defence in 2012 because they believed it attempted to apportion some of the blame for the incident on the brothers, The Irish News has learned. However, two months ago a new letter was sent to Mr hughes's family apologising for his death and the injuries caused to his brother Oliver by the SAS 27 years ago today.

Mr Hughes (top right) was one of nine men shot dead when the SAS ambushed an IRA unit which was in the process of attacking Loughgall RUC station in Co Armagh on May 8 1987.

The father-of-three was travelling through the village with his brother Oliver when they innocently drove into the British army ambush.

Mr hughes (36), from Caledon in Co Tyrone, died after being hit by 15 bullets fired by the British army as he attempted to reverse his car away from the scene. His brother Oliver survived despite being struck 14 times by SAS gunfire as he tried to escape from the car.

Oliver (bottom right) passed away in 2010 aged 62 having never received an apology from the British government for the serious injuries he suffered.

The British Ministry of Defence had previously admitted that both men were innocent but it has taken 27 years for them to issue a proper apology.

Speaking to The Irish News last night Anthony's wife Brigid welcomed the belated apology.

"I am glad that this apology has come but slow justice is no justice," she said.

Signed on behalf of the Minister for Defence by Under Secretary Anna Soubry, the letter confirms that Mr hughes was "wholly innocent of any wrongdoing."

"I apologise on behalf of the government for Anthony's death and also the serious injuries suffered by his brother," she wrote.

"I hope this letter may go some way in easing your grief and being clear that your husband and his brother had done nothing wrong."

Ms Soubry also apologised for the tone of the first apology issued to the family in 2012 which suggested the brothers were "in the wrong place at the wrong time when the Provisional IRA attacked Loughgall Police Station" and was signed by then Minister of State for the Armed Forces Nick harvey.

Ms Soubry wrote: "I have seen the letter sent to you by former defence minister, Sir Nick Harvey MP, I can understand why you have not found the letter to be the unequivocal and heartfelt apology I know Nick had intended.

"On his behalf I apologise for any of-fence caused and can assure you none was intended."

It has emerged the second apology was sent to the family after representatives of the Loughgall Truth and Justice Campaign met with Victims' Commissioner Kathryn Stone and Stormont justice minister David Ford.

Campaign spokeswoman Mairead Kelly from the Loughgall Truth and Justice Campaign welcomed the apology issued to the Hughes family.

Describing the original letter as "deeply upsetting" to the Hughes family, Ms Kelly said the latest MoD correspondence "proves without a shadow of a doubt that the two brothers were innocent of any wrongdoing that night."

Relatives of the nine IRA men who died at Loughgall have campaigned to find out the full circumstances of the British army attack and have questioned why no attempt was made to arrest them.