Man who as a child opened door to sectarian killers of his grandfather plagued by guilt

Michael Monaghan Snr at the High Court in Belfast, Michael's father in law was killed by the UVF in 1994, pictured with his legal team Kevin Winters and Setanta Marley. Picture by Mal McCann

A MAN who as a child opened the door to the sectarian killers of his grandfather has been plagued by unwarranted feelings of guilt and shame, the High Court has heard.

A consultant psychiatrist who assessed Michael Monaghan Jr said he wrongly felt responsible for failing to prevent the loyalist murder of Sean McParland in his north Belfast home nearly 30 years ago.

He is suing the chief constable for alleged failures in the handling of a police informant involved in the assassination.

Mr McParland, a 55-year-old Catholic, was shot as he carried out babysitting duties at the house on Skegoniel Avenue in February 1994.

UVF commander-turned-supergrass Gary Haggarty has already pleaded guilty and been convicted of the murder as part of a huge catalogue of paramilitary crime.

The legal action centres on the role played by another terrorist, a suspected Special Branch agent referred to only as ‘Informant 1’.

Mr McParland’s four grandchildren are all seeking compensation for the mental injuries and trauma they were exposed to.

Lawyers for the family claim Informant 1 used his protected status to participate in multiple murders.

With the PSNI said to have admitted negligence and misfeasance in public office, a dispute remains over the level of any damages.

The court heard Mr McParland was nine years old when the UVF killers tricked him into opening the front door. One of the masked men pointed a gun at him before targeting their victim, who had been recovering from throat cancer. Mr Monaghan recalled seeing his grandfather getting on his knees and begging the gunman not to shoot.

According to Dr Maria O’Kane, Mr Monaghan has developed a complex post traumatic stress disorder.

The psychiatrist, who interviewed him in 2020, told the court he regarded himself as behaving more like a small adult than a child at the scene of the shooting.

“It has partially dictated his huge sense of guilt and shame in relation to all this,” she said.

“He felt he should have managed better than he did, he wasn’t able to realise that he was nine years of age and shouldn’t have been taking as much responsibility for this as he did.”

Questioned by Brian Fee KC, for the plaintiff, Dr O’Kane disclosed how Mr Monaghan became tearful and agitated at the memory of his grandfather begging for his life.

“It was a very powerful image of seeing this,” she said.

“The other powerful image was of giving the baby grow to the paramedic whenever his grandfather was being resuscitated. It was very distressing for him to talk about it.”

The court heard he has experienced feelings likened to “survivor’s guilt”.

“He talked about feeling responsible for all of this, the fact that he opened the door,” the psychiatrist explained.

“But he should have known that he couldn’t do more to intervene to stop the gunman from killing his grandfather.”

Referring to his childhood psychiatry notes, she added: “At that point he hated himself (and felt) he was responsible for everything that happened.

“At the time of my assessment… that sense of responsibility for what happened hadn’t left him.”

The hearing continues.