Legacy inquest reviews into 70 deaths to start
A REVIEW of legacy inquests is due to begin in Belfast today.
High Court judge and presiding coroner Mrs Justice Keegan will hold preliminary hearings into each case over the next three weeks.
The Department of Justice plans to release £55 million over six years to deal with 52 legacy inquests involving 93 deaths.
Some of those are currently at hearing or findings are being awaited.
The hearings are expected to focus on 44 inquests which include 70 deaths.
Some of the cases to be considered date back decades and involve allegations of state collusion and 'shoot to kill' operations.
The Coroners Service has previously said that the presiding coroner “is keen to ensure that legacy inquest cases are prepared for hearing expeditiously and that disclosure issues are identified early and, through collaboration and dialogue, that reasonable and proportionate solutions are found”.
Co Tyrone woman Bernie McKearney, whose parents and husband were killed by the UVF in separate sectarian attacks, welcomed the forthcoming hearings.
Her parents Charlie Fox (63) and his wife Tess (53) were shot dead in their home near Moy in Co Tyrone in September 1992.
Her husband Kevin (32) was also shot dead in the Moy eight months earlier.
His uncle Jack McKearney (70), who was shot during the same attack, died in April 1992.
“My expectation is I would like the truth,” she said.
“Things are heading in the right direction after almost 30 years since both my parents and Kevin and Jack were killed.”
Relatives of people killed by the state have also welcomed the start of the reviews.
Francis Bradley was shot dead during an SAS ambush near Toome in Co Antrim in February 1986.
His name was later added to the IRA's roll of honour.
The 20-year-old’s family believe he was the victim of a ‘shoot to kill’ policy.
His brother Brian last night said it is “very important that this preliminary hearing process takes place now”.
“It is vital that we proceed to full inquest hearings as soon as possible.
“People deserve to know what happened to their loved ones.
“We like many other families simply want to know the truth – we want to know the circumstances surrounding the death of Francis sooner rather than later.”