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DUP accused of blocking release of inquest papers to murder victim's family

Danny Lavery with a photograph of his brother Martin, murdered in front of his young family in December 1992. Picture by Ann McManus.

The family of a man murdered by loyalists have said former DUP minister Paul Givan blocked their application for the release of vital inquest papers within weeks of taking up his post.

Martin Lavery was shot dead in front of three of his children at his home on the Crumlin Road in December 1992.

The Browning 9mm used in the attack was recovered following the murders of six men in the Heights Bar in Loughinisland in June 1994 and featured in a damning Police Ombudsman report released in June last year.

The original inquest into Mr Lavery's death lasted just one day and didn't cover the ballistics history of the weapon used, which was part of a shipment brought into Northern Ireland by military agent Brian Nelson.

Inquest papers, stored at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), are the responsibility of the Department for Communities (DfC) formerly the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure.

Mr Lavery's family petitioned the Attorney General John Larkin for a fresh inquest in 2013 and requested the original inquest file from PRONI for the application.

In April 2016 they were informed by PRONI all necessary checks had been carried out and the papers would be made available within six weeks.

However, following the May 2016 assembly election the DUP selected the DfC ministry and appointed Paul Givan as minister.

The post had been previously held by Sinn Féin's Carál Ní Chuilín. During her time in post 300 files relating to Troubles inquests were released to families, in the 11-months Mr Givan held the office just seven files were released.

The victim's brother Danny Lavery, a former Sinn Féin councillor, said the continuing delay in releasing the papers was putting undue stress on the family.

"These are not top secret or confidential files, they are inquest papers and given we were told they were ready for release a year ago, you have to question why we still haven't received them.

"Mr brother's family have suffered each and every day since his murder, all they are asking for is a proper inquest, it's not a lot to ask", he added.

Setanta Marley of KRW Law, said the delay in releasing the papers appeared to tally with the DUP policy of objecting to any Troubles related investigations that could implicate the state.

"There was a marked change in policy in relation to the release of files from PRONI once the ministry changed hands", Mr Marley said.

"We are now lodging a judicial review on behalf of the Lavery family against the Department of Communities and the NIO for what is an unacceptable and unexplainable delay", he added.

A spokesperson for DfC said: “The department cannot make public comment on the issue of the files referred to since the matters remain subject to legal proceedings. More generally the department will continue to comply with its obligations in considering all requests received for access to inquest files and other papers held by the PRONI.”

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