Northern Ireland news

Ronnie Bunting's widow challenges inquest finding

Ronnie Bunting

The widow of an assassinated INLA chief is taking legal action over an alleged attempt to prevent the Northern Ireland Attorney General from ordering a new inquest.

Ronnie Bunting was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries at his west Belfast home 39 years ago in an attack involving suspected state collusion.

His wife Suzanne was badly injured in the shooting, which also claimed the life of an INLA associate.

Mrs Bunting claims the Secretary of State unlawfully decided calls for a fresh inquest should be dealt with by Attorney General John Larkin's counterpart in England and Wales, Geoffrey Cox, because the case involves sensitive issues of national security.

Her application for leave to seek a judicial review has been listed for hearing at the High Court in Belfast in January.

Solicitor Kevin Winters, representing Mrs Bunting, said: "This case is taken because of an attempt to sideline the Attorney General for Northern Ireland from doing his job.

"It doesn't make sense that highly sensitive revelations about alleged state involvement in the killing of Ronnie Bunting should be used as a reason to remove the Attorney General."

The son of a major in the British Army, Bunting was a founding member of the INLA after becoming involved in Irish republicanism during the early seventies.

In October 1980 loyalist gunmen opened fire at his Downfine Gardens home, killing him and another INLA man, Noel Little.

Mrs Bunting sustained bullet wounds to her neck, arm and hand in the shooting.

In 2016 the Irish News reported claims that an undercover RUC unit had been watching the property due to intelligence that Bunting's life was in danger.

The surveillance operation was allegedly withdrawn for unexplained reasons before the assassination.

According to papers in the case Mr Larkin had been considering whether to order a new inquest into the killing.

But earlier this year the Secretary of State decided responsibility should be transferred to Mr Cox, the Goverment's chief legal adviser and Advocate General for Northern Ireland.

Mrs Bunting's lawyers claim that was an illegal move incompatible with her human rights.

With her case now advancing to a court hearing, Mr Winters added: "We are challenging the need for the English Advocate General to deal with our new inquest application.

"Having said that, the very fact there is a move like this in my view confirms high level collusion was involved."

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