Northern Ireland

Quarter of Troubles legacy legal challenges 'could be dealt with by summer'

John McEvoy(front right) and his legal representative Gavin Booth make their way into the Hight Court. Picture by Hugh Russell
John McEvoy(front right) and his legal representative Gavin Booth make their way into the Hight Court. Picture by Hugh Russell

Nearly a quarter of all legal challenges into Northern Ireland's troubled past could be dealt with by next summer under newly announced High Court plans.

A judge predicted hearings taking place in 10 out of more than 40 so-called legacy judicial review cases currently in the system - if lawyers provide full cooperation.

Mr Justice McCloskey set out the target as he granted leave for further scrutiny of alleged police failures to properly investigate the activities of a loyalist paramilitary murder gang.

Co Down man John McEvoy was injured during a UVF gun attack on the Thierafurth Inn in Kilcoo in November 1992. Another man, Peter McCormack, died in the shooting.

Members of the same loyalist unit have been linked to the massacre of six Catholic men at Heights Bar in Loughinisland, Co Down less than two years later.

Backed by the families of other victims, Mr McEvoy is challenging the PSNI's alleged failure to ensure an independent investigation of his attempted murder.

His lawyers claim such a probe should have been announced after the Police Ombudsman's report was published.

In court today Mr Justice McCloskey confirmed the case had cleared the first stage, stating: "I grant permission to apply for judicial review."

Mr McEvoy’s legal representative Gavin Booth welcomed the judgement.

“I think it is quiet clear from the facts of the case that there is a case to be answered, the state should now announce an independent effective investigation into what happened in the Thierafurth Inn in 1992,” he said.

As families involved in some of the judicial reviews gathered in the public gallery, Mr Justice McCloskey pledged to deploy the "limited judicial resources... in the best possible way at all times".

He added: "It's expected broadly, between March and June 2018, provided the courts receive full cooperation and assistance from legal representatives, that approximately 10 of these cases could be heard.

"That would be the best forecast I can give you."

The new plans were backed by a law firm representing a number of families who lost loved-ones in the Troubles.

Niall Murphy from KRW Law said: "Today's announcement demonstrates strong judicial leadership in a political vacuum and our clients will welcome every opportunity to fully engage in any review." ends

Before the hearing, representatives form the McGurk’s Bar and Ballymurphy massacre campaign groups were joined in a protest by several senior politicians including west Belfast MP Paul Maskey and former South Down MP Margaret Ritchie.