Northern Ireland news

Sean Graham bookmakers 'collusion' hearing will coincide with 30th anniversary of atrocity

Five people were killed in the loyalist attack on Sean Graham Bookmakers in south Belfast in 1992. Picture by Pacemaker

A HIGH Court hearing into alleged state collusion in a mass shooting at a Belfast bookmakers will coincide with the 30th anniversary of the atrocity.

Actions brought on behalf of those killed and injured in the Sean Graham massacre were listed for trial next February after a judge was told attempts to reach a resolution have failed.

Counsel representing some of the victims insisted they entered the mediation process last December "in good faith".

Des Fahy QC said: "The concern of my clients is that they have wasted seven months."

Five Catholics were shot dead when the Ulster Freedom Fighters opened fire inside the bookies on the lower Ormeau Road in February 1992.

Several other customers were wounded in the gun attack.

Eight lawsuits have been brought against the Chief Constable, Ministry of Defence and British Government over the circumstances surrounding the shootings.

Victims and their relatives are seeking damages for alleged negligence and misfeasance in public office.

The actions involve claims that a rifle used in the atrocity was smuggled in from South Africa by a state agent.

According to the plaintiffs' case the authorities should have known the weapon was part of a shipment overseen by Brian Nelson, a loyalist paramilitary who worked for British intelligence.

In court yesterday it emerged that the litigation is being defended on a "partial admissions" basis.

With highly sensitive intelligence set to be examined at a so-called secret hearing in advance of the main trial, no further details were disclosed.

However, Mr Justice McFarland was asked to list the main action because efforts at securing a settlement have stalled.

"Between December 2020, when the mediation was due to take place, and today's date we have made little or no progress," Mr Fahy submitted.

"One plaintiff has died, one is approaching 80 (years of age), and another is in their mid seventies."

Tony McGleenan QC, for the defendants, maintained there is still the prospect of further discussions.

Following submissions the judge agreed to deal with any sensitive intelligence at a Closed Material Procedure (HMP) in November.

He agreed to fix the main trial for a ten-day hearing next year, commencing on January 31.

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