MoD accused of ‘thumbing nose' at coroners during IRA inquest

Kevin Barry O'Donnell's sisters Caoimhe Hanna and Roisin Ui Mhuir outside Laganside court complex in Belfast with solicitor Peter Corrigan and Mark Thompson from Relatives for Justice. Picture by Hugh Russell
Connla Young

A SENIOR judge has accused the Ministry of Defence of ‘thumbing their nose’ at coroners during an inquest hearing into the SAS killing of four IRA men.

Lord justice Reg Weir made the remarks during a hearing into the case in Belfast on Thursday.

The IRA members - Kevin Barry O'Donnell (21), Sean O'Farrell (23), Peter Clancy (21) and Patrick Vincent (20) - were shot dead in the grounds of St Patrick's Church in Clonoe, Co Tyrone, in February 1992.

They were ambushed minutes after taking part in a gun attack on Coalisland RUC station.

The men's families claim they were the victims of a security force shoot-to-kill policy. Their case is part of a review into 56 Troubles related inquests being heard by Lord Justice Weir.

It emerged during yesterday’s hearing that the O’Farrell family no longer wish to take part in the inquest.

The judge heard that 12 undercover British soldiers involved in the ambush which resulted in three arrests and several injuries to people involved in the IRA operation.

A lawyer for the Coroners Service said one of those injured later successfully sued the British army and was awarded damages after the court found the shooting was not justified.

Lord Justice Weir voiced his frustration at continued delays by the MoD and PSNI.

"They are inclined to think they can thumb their noses to directions from the coroner and were quiet free to abandon promises they have made.

"That is not going to go on."

The senior judge also said it was up to the British government to finance investigations.

"It’s up to the government to get the necessary money together," he said.

"The MoD is not short of money, it is busy all over the world fighting wars and it’s about to buy more submarines with nuclear warheads, so it’s not short on money.

"This is obviously very low on their list of priorities."

The judge, who was appointed to carry out the review by Lord Chief Justice Declan Morgan.

Earlier Lord Justice weir had voiced concern after the court heard that a video footage of the aftermath of the ambush scene had been sold at a "loyalist market."

In 2014 the Irish News reported how the footage later made its way onto You Tube.

Speaking after the hearing Kevin Barry O'Donnell’s sister Roisin Ui Mhuirí said her family were encouraged by Lord Justice Weir’s remarks.

"The inquest opened in 2012 and we have have been to so many preliminary hearings and I feel heartened to some extent by what judge Weir had to say, that he is giving this case such priority and sees the importance of closure," she said

Solicitor Peter Corrigan said the "killings at Clonoe were both sophisticated and premeditated."

"We now look forward to the pending inquest in which we seek to establish that our client was unlawfully killed," he said.

Relatives for Justice director Mark Thompson said the review process has "exposed" the reason for delayed inquests as "a reluctance to provide material to families and legal teams."

During yesterday’s session Mr Weir also heard about the case of three IRA men killed in Coagh, Co Tyrone, in 1991 and Patrick McVeigh who was shot by the Military Reaction Force (MRF) in 1972.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access