Northern Ireland news

Inquest into death of LVF victim Seamus Dillon set to begin next year

Jonathan McCambridge, PA

An inquest into the death of a former republican prisoner who was gunned down outside a nightclub by the LVF in 1997 is set to begin next year.

The shooting of doorman Seamus Dillon (45) a father of three, outside the Glengannon Hotel in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, was seen as a revenge attack by loyalists following the murder of LVF leader Billy Wright in the Maze prison hours earlier.

During a preliminary hearing into his death today, a coroner was told that Mr Dillon’s widow Martina had waited a quarter of a century for an inquest.

An inquest had been scheduled to proceed in 2014 but did not go ahead due to financial difficulties in appointing investigators.

Previous hearings heard claims that the gun used in the murder had been linked to other terrorist incidents.

Frank O’Donoghue QC, counsel for the coroner, told the preliminary hearing that the inquest had been “historically listed”.

He added: “That creates its own advantages and disadvantages.

“The advantage is that there has been quite a lot of material actually gathered and disseminated.

“In 2014 the inquest was viewed as, to all intents and purposes, ready to proceed.

“There are two issues which impact upon the preparation for the inquest.

“The first is that the PII (public interest immunity) certificate itself, signed by the minister, is historic, and it would need to be updated.

“The second matter is that there is an issue in relation to the importation of the weapon that was used in this murder.

“That raises issues about requests from the MoD for materials and their provision.”

Mr O’Donoghue said it was planned to run the inquest as a “modular type hearing”, with civilian witnesses giving evidence first, and then police and military witnesses to give evidence later.

A lawyer for Martina Dillon said he supported the modular approach as long as the time taken between the two tranches of evidence is kept to a minimum.

He added: “My client is heartened by the suggestion that we will have a fixed date for the commencement of hearing of evidence in this inquest.

“She has waited a quarter of a century to get to this point.”

Mr O’Donoghue said that a target date of April 17 next year had been set for the commencement of the first module of the inquest.

Coroner Judge Richard Greene said: “That date is going to be given to you now as the commencement of the first module in this.

“That is the date we are aiming towards.”

A further review of the case will take place on September 26.

Northern Ireland news