Northern Ireland

Sean Brown killers still being protected, says his daughter

Intelligence links more than 25 people - including state agents - to GAA man’s murder

Murdered GAA official Sean Brown
Murdered GAA official Sean Brown

The daughter of murdered GAA official Sean Brown believes his loyalist killers are still being protected by the state.

Siobhan Brown was speaking as after it emerged that in excess of 25 people, including state agents, have been linked by intelligence to his murder.

The 61-year-old was attacked and beaten by a LVF gang as he locked the gates at Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAC, Co Derry, in May 1997.

After he was placed in the boot of his own car, he was taken to a country lane outside Randalstown, Co Antrim, where he was shot six times.

The scene of Sean Brown's murder
The scene of Sean Brown's murder

Collusion has always been strongly suspected in the murder, but this has now been officially confirmed for the first time.

At an inquest hearing in Belfast on Tuesday, coroner Patrick Kinney heard that in “excess of 25 individuals were linked to intelligence to the murder of Mr Brown and that they “are not necessarily linked to one another”.

It was also confirmed that a “number of the individuals linked through intelligence to the murder were agents of the state”.

It has previously emerged that a suspect in the murder was believed to be a serving member of the Royal Irish Regiment.

It has also been revealed that another suspect held a personal protection weapon and was regularly visited by a police officer at his home.

The Brown family has been present at around 40 inquest-related hearings with the majority attended by Mr Brown’s son Damian, who died in 2021 after a short illness.

The inquest has been held up due to delays by state agencies in providing disclosure.

In recent weeks a series of closed hearings have been held to consider public interest immunity (PII) applications.

PII certificates are used by state agencies to withhold information they do not want the public to see.

Mr Kinney will rule next week on what material can be considered in open court.

The Brown family believe the only way the death of their loved one can be fully explored is through a full public inquiry.

The widow of murdered GAA official Sean Brown, Bridie Brown holds a picture of her late husband with their daughters and son, (left to right) Clare Loughran, Siobhan Brown and Sean Brown (Liam McBurney/PA)
Sean Brown's elderly widow Bridie daughters and son, (from eft to right) Clare Loughran, Siobhan Brown and Sean Brown

Mr Brown’s daughter Siobhan believes her father’s killers were protected and continue to be given cover by the state.

“I believe they are still being protected,” she said.

Ms Brown said the prospect of the state protecting her father’s killers has left her feeling “really angry”.

“We are supposed to be in a society where everything is out in the open,” she said.

“We have moved on but nothing seems to have ever changed within those last 27 years.”

Ms Brown said her family always believed there was collusion in the murder of her father.

“We knew all along that there was something there but it came as a big shock and I think the fact there was over 25 potential suspects involved in intelligence in some format, that I think, was a bigger shock - the volume of them.”

M Brown said while her family was aware of the existence of suspects, they are surprised by the numbers involved.

“Never at any stage were we made aware that potentially there is at least 25 individuals, that was a shock,” she said.

“It was also a shock that they were from various locations within Northern Ireland as well, it wasn’t just concentrated.”

Ms Brown also referenced confirmation that those linked to the murder “are not necessarily linked to one another”.

“Reading between the lines that potentially, not just the LVF, there was other loyalist factions within that and one section might not necessarily be linked to another,” she said.

“The more you think about it, was this a concerted effort across loads of different loyalists groups that they were going to take daddy out and that wasn’t just necessarily going to be the LVF?”

Ms Brown said the idea of an overreaching conspiracy to kill her father is difficult to accept.

“It’s hard, because you have a case, what did he ever do to anyone?

“He was 61, chairman of the GAA club, he treated everyone the same but for individuals for that extent would be looking to take his life away from him - that’s really hard,” she said.

Ms Brown said it is important to establish how many of the more than 25 linked individuals were, or are, serving members of the PSNI, British army or civilian staff.

When asked the PSNI did not answer the question directly.

A spokesman said police has supported the coroner’s service during the inquest adding that “as this is the subject of ongoing inquest proceedings, it would be inappropriate for the police service to comment further at this time”.

The Ministry of Defence also failed to answer the question directly.

A spokesman said: “As the inquest is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”