Northern Ireland news

Coroner directs NIO to sign certificate in two weeks for shooting inquest of Desmond Healey (14)

Desmond Healey (14) was killed in disputed circumstances during rioting in the Lenadoon area of west Belfast on August 9 1971
Jonathan McCambridge, PA

A coroner has directed that the Northern Ireland Office sign a public interest immunity (PII) certificate in two weeks ahead of an inquest for a teenage boy shot dead by soldiers.

Desmond Healey, 14, was killed in disputed circumstances during rioting in the Lenadoon area of west Belfast on August 9 1971, the day internment was introduced.

Soldiers from D Company of the Parachute Regiment were involved in the fatal incident.

A preliminary hearing at Laganside Courthouse today was told that the PSNI had so far been unable to progress their application to withhold some sensitive material from the inquest.

The application to redact the material is being made through the PII process, which needs to be supported by a certificate signed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland or another Northern Ireland Office minister.

A planned hearing for the coroner to make a decision on the PII application is scheduled for November ahead of the full inquest later in the year.

Counsel for the PSNI John Rafferty said the position remained unchanged from the previous preliminary hearing in August.

He said: “The position is very much the same at this stage. A certificate has not been obtained from the minister to date.

“Obviously in the intervening period there have been a number of changes and demands on the Northern Ireland Office.

“What I am instructed is that the PSNI is in regular contact with the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) seeking an update on progress, certainly they are aware of it and they are aware of the listing of the PII hearing.”

Coroner Maria Dougan said she appreciated there had been changes within the NIO.

But she added: “This matter has been under review. We have moved the PII hearing, which was listed in October, to November, to suit your client.

“Perhaps it would assist you if I gave a direction that I want that PII certificate in two weeks – that is Tuesday October 11.

“You can keep my office informed, but it is Tuesday October 11 I would like that PII certificate.

“You can advise the minister’s office.”

Rioting flared in nationalist and republican areas across Northern Ireland in August 1971 in response to the introduction of the controversial policy of internment without trial.

Desmond died during a day of bloodshed in the wider west Belfast area as soldiers moved in to arrest and intern suspected IRA members.

The Ballymurphy series of shootings, which saw 10 people shot and fatally injured over the course of three days, started on the same day.

Members of the Parachute Regiment were also involved in those shootings.

The next preliminary hearing has been scheduled for October 24.

Northern Ireland news