Northern Ireland

Seamus Dillon: Coroner says inquest ‘highly unlikely’ to be completed

Tyrone man killed by LVF in case believed to involve collusion

Seamus Dillon, shot dead by the LVF
Seamus Dillon, shot dead by the LVF

A coroner has said that an inquest into the loyalist murder of a Catholic man is “highly unlikely” to be completed before next month’s legacy cut-off date.

Seamus Dillon (45), a former republican prisoner, was shot dead by the LVF as he worked on the door at the Glengannon Hotel, near Dungannon, in December 1997.

Collusion is suspected in the murder.

It was previously thought that the father-of-three, from Stewartstown in Co Tyrone, was gunned down in revenge for the INLA killing of LVF founder Billy Wright inside the H-Blocks hours earlier.

Ulster Dillon funeral 3
Some of those who attended Seamus Dillon's funeral

However, at an inquest hearing last month it emerged that police intelligence documents indicate the attack at the hotel was pre-planned.

Fresh details about the circumstances emerged during an open Public Interest Immunity (PII) hearing linked to the inquest last month.

PII certificates are used by state agencies to conceal information they don’t want the public to see.

The Dillon family has previously raised concerns over the disclosure of information from state agencies.

Wider concerns have also been highlighted in relation to the reliance of state agencies on the use of the British government’s Neither Confirm Nor Deny (NCND) policy in relation to sensitive material.

Despite this some fresh information has come to light during the Dillon inquest, including details disclosed by MI5 about Mid Ulster loyalist Stuart Kirk, whose name appeared in a section headed “LVF Army Council pen pics”.

Under the contentious legacy act all inquests must be at their findings stage by May 1 or they will be halted.

In an interim open ruling delivered on Friday coroner Richard Greene said that in the course of the PII process he became aware of information that requires “additional work” and has asked for “additional materials be examined for relevance and potential relevance”.

“These material may require to be examined by the state authorities with a view to a further PII application and until this is done I am not in a position to determine PII applications before me,” he said.

Mr Greene also raised the issue of whether the PII process “can be completed in time to allow be to recommence and complete this inquest” before May 1.

“At this time, I regard it as highly unlikely that the inquest can be reconvened and completed within that timescale,” he said.

The coroner added that he is “directing that the work of the inquest continues” and will hold a review later this month.

Families attended  the judgment hearing on the lawfulness of the legacy act At Belfast High Court on Wednesday. 
Mr Justice Colton declared that parts of the legislation aimed at dealing with the consequences of the conflict in Northern Ireland breach the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Belfast case was brought by Martina Dillon, John McEvoy, Lynda McManus and Brigid Hughes.
Martina Dillon

Mr Dillon’s widow, Martina, believes the state holds more information relating to the murder.

“We always knew that the state had more material regarding the role of agents and informers in our inquest,” he said.

“I am calling on the PSNI to urgently make this material available to the coroner so that he can provide this to us before the May 1.”

Ms Dillon said her family will not give up.

“The news today is further upset in a long running saga of deny, disrupt, and delay that the state has used so effectively on me and other legacy families,” she said.

“We are not giving up and neither should the coroner.

“This material should be disclosed.”

Gavin Booth, of Phoenix Law, said that although the inquest has been ongoing “quite a large volume of materials remain unknown to the family of Seamus Dillon”.

“We understand that much of this material relates to the role of agents and informers,” he said.

“It’s clear from the suspects we already know about that many of those involved worked for and provided information to the state whilst carrying out a campaign of murder and mayhem on innocent people.

“It’s time now for the state to stop hiding behind NCND and started providing families with the truth.”

The PSNI has been contacted.