Justice minister Naomi Long 'unable to meet' Greenvale crush victim's family while investigations ongoing
JUSTICE minister Naomi Long has said she is unable to meet the family of a teenager who died in the Greenvale Hotel crush while investigations are ongoing.
Lawyers for the parents of Morgan Barnard requested a meeting with Ms Long over concerns about delays in progressing the case.
The 17-year-old from Dungannon was one of three teenagers who died as they queued outside the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown on St Patrick’s Day last year.
The other two schoolchildren who lost their lives were Lauren Bullock (17) and 16-year-old Connor Currie.
In a letter last month, solicitor Darragh Mackin, of Phoenix Law, asked the justice minister for a meeting and said "there have been a number of revelations which have given our client grave concern as to the effectiveness of the justice system".
The Irish News last week revealed that PSNI reports linked to the case have not been sent to the Public Prosecution Service almost a year after the tragedy.
Morgan’s father James Bradley has voiced his frustration.
The Department of Justice initially refused to say if the minister would meet the grieving parents.
However, Ms Long last night ruled out a meeting at the present time.
“I wish to offer my sincere condolences to Maria and James on the loss of their son Morgan,” she said.
“I can only imagine the pain and sorrow that the family are going through.
“As the investigation is currently live and I am committed to respecting the operational independence of the OPONI (Police Ombudsman) and PSNI, I am unable to meet with them at this time.”
The minister indicated she would meet with the family in the future.
“I appreciate this is disappointing but I would of course be happy to meet once all investigations have concluded,” she said.
Greenvale owner Michael McElhatton and a 40-year-old man, believed to be a member of the hotel’s door staff, were arrested on suspicion of manslaughter days after the tragedy.
Both were later released on bail.
In June last year Mr McElhatton was again questioned over three days before being freed pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service.
Files are also being prepared for the PPS on seven other men interviewed by police.
The Police Ombudsman is also investigating seven PSNI officers in relation to the case.