Northern Ireland

Widow of murdered INLA chief Ronnie Bunting wins permission to challenge alleged attempt to prevent NI's Attorney General ordering new inquest

Ronnie Bunting was shot dead in west Belfast in 1980
Ronnie Bunting was shot dead in west Belfast in 1980

THE widow of a murdered INLA chief has won High Court permission to challenge an alleged attempt to prevent Northern Ireland's Attorney General from ordering a new inquest.

Ronnie Bunting was targeted by loyalist paramilitaries at his west Belfast home 40 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 Brenda King's counterpart in England and Wales because the case involves sensitive issues of national security.

She was granted leave to seek a judicial review at a hearing yesterday before Mr Justice McAlinden, her solicitor Liam Diver of KRW Law confirmed.

The son of a major in the British army, Ronnie Bunting was a founding member of the INLA after becoming involved in 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 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The surveillance operation was allegedly withdrawn for unexplained reasons before the assassination.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 Mrs King's predecessor, John Larkin QC, had been considering whether to order a new inquest into the killing.

But last year the Secretary of State decided responsibility should be transferred to the British 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.

Similar proceedings have been lodged on behalf of Mr Little's relatives.

The case is now expected to advance to a full hearing early next year.