Attorney General orders fresh inquest into shooting of escaped internee Hugh Coney

Attorney General John Larkin has ordered a new inquest into the British army shooting of republican internee Hugh Coney in November 1974
Attorney General John Larkin has ordered a new inquest into the British army shooting of republican internee Hugh Coney in November 1974

ATTORNEY General John Larkin has ordered a fresh inquest into the death of a Co Tyrone man shot dead while trying to escape from Long Kesh internment camp more than 40 years ago.

Hugh Gerard Coney was shot in the back by a British soldier as he and other internees tried to escape in November 1974.

From Annaghmore, near Coalisland, Mr Coney was detained without charge in June 1973.

An inquest held in 1975 delivered an open verdict and his family has been campaigning to have the case re-examined.

His name was added to the republican "roll of honour" after his death.

The escape attempt came just weeks after internees set fire to the jail, causing extensive damage.

During internment, which lasted from 1971 to 1975, hundreds of nationalists were detained without charge at the former RAF base near Lisburn.

A Historical Enquiries Team report has said British soldiers involved in the shooting gave differing accounts of what happened on the night the 24-year-old died.

A pathologist also found that Mr Coney was shot once "from behind, whilst doubled forward".

In a letter to the family’s solicitor Padraig Ó Muirigh, Mr Larkin confirmed he is ordering a new inquest.

He said that if it was clear to him that Mr Coney had been deliberately shot in circumstances where whoever shot him was acting unlawfully he "should instead of directing an inquest, have sent papers to the Director of Public Prosecutions”.

Mr Coney’s brother Jim, who has campaigned for a fresh inquest, welcomed the decision and revealed he was refused access to the first inquest.

“The first one (inquest) was a sham and I need to know what did happen,” he said.

“We just want to find out the truth. It’s 42 years and it’s a long haul.

“If he had not been killed he would have grandchildren running around him, I think of those things at times.”

The family’s solicitor has described the original inquest was “flawed”.

“It is apparent that the coroner was not sighted on all the available evidence due to the inadequate RUC investigation,” Padraig Ó Muirigh said.

“Key civilian witnesses were not called and therefore the legality of the soldier’s actions on the day in question were not properly investigated.

“This new inquest will provide the Coroner with the opportunity to probe many of the contentious issues surrounding Mr Coney’s death.”

Sinn Féin assembly member Linda Dillon, who has supported the Coney family, said the family deserves to know the truth.

Fra McCann, a West Belfast Sinn Fein assembly member, was an eyewitness to the shooting and is likely to appear as a witness at the inquest.