Northern Ireland news

Murdered man's son believes loyalist killers are being 'protected' by the state

Peter Gallagher was shot dead by the UDA/UFF in March 1993
Connla Young

THE son of man murdered by the UDA said he believes those who killed his father continue to be "protected" by the state as he hit out at British government plans for a Troubles' amnesty.

Seamus Gallagher's father Peter (44), who was a member of Sinn Féin, was gunned down as he arrived for work in west Belfast on March 24 1993.

The father-of-seven was a well-known and popular figure in Toome, Co Antrim, where he lived with his family.

The murder took place a day before 17-year-old Damien Walsh was shot dead by Johnny Adair's notorious ‘C Company' at the Dairy Farm shopping centre near Twinbrook on the outskirts of west Belfast.

Earlier this week Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson said in a report into the murder of Mr Walsh there were "significant investigative failures" and evidence of "collusive behaviours" by police in relation to that murder.

Both men were killed by Adair's UDA unit and it has now emerged that two days before Mr Gallagher's killing, on March 22, an RUC surveillance operation targeting 'C Company' was withdrawn before resuming again on March 30.

During that time there were also two attempted murders.

In her report Mrs Anderson refers to a key 'C Company' figure referred to as Person A.

In yesterday's Irish News Damien Walsh's mother Marian said she believes Person A may be former UDA boss Adair.

In 1995 he was convicted of directing terrorism and in 2003 was forced to flee his Shankill Road base following an internal UDA feud.

He now lives in Scotland.

The ombudsman also confirmed that the UDA was receiving “targeting information directly from British intelligence".

She also revealed that in late June 1993 intelligence was received that "police were providing information to loyalists about individuals in west Belfast".

Mr Gallagher was shot and killed at the Westlink Enterprise Centre by a gunman who is believed to have escaped on a bicycle which was abandoned near Roden Street.

His son Seamus last night said his family only became aware of the 'C Company' surveillance operation through the publication of the Walsh report this week.

"If the surveillance had been kept daddy would be alive today," he said.

"Why was it kept in the dark, we didn't know anything about it until (this week)."

Mr Gallagher, whose mother Bernie died on March 25 this year, said he was also unaware of other details contained in the report.

He believes those who killed his father continue to be protected and was critical of British government plans for a Troubles amnesty.

"I believe the murderers of my father are still walking the streets and getting protected," he said.

"That's why they want this amnesty, to keep them out of the public eye and cover up their dirty past."

He was also critical of the police.

"At the end of the day those boys (loyalists) got a free run to murder," he said.

"They (police) might have changed their name but to me they are still the same with their hollow apologies."

Mr Gallagher said he will be "pushing" to have a Police Ombudsman report into the murder of his father completed "as soon as possible"

Mike Rtichie from Relatives for Justice said: "The information provided to the family in this Police Ombudsman report is hard to bear.

"The RUC knew that the killers were armed, were determined to kill Catholics in west Belfast but were frustrated by the surveillance which was interfering in their plans.

"For the RUC to lift that surveillance was asking for trouble and that is what the Gallagher family got."

A spokesman for the PSNI said: "The Police Service of Northern Ireland will not be making any further comment at this time."

A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman last night said the "investigation of the circumstances surrounding Peter's murder is currently at an early stage".

He added that the "Police Ombudsman would be happy to meet Mr Gallagher and will be making contact to arrange for that to happen".

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