Northern Ireland

McGuigan family ‘extremely distressed’ at delays in inquest into murder

Kevin McGuigan was shot dead in Belfast in 2015 (Family handout/PA)
Kevin McGuigan was shot dead in Belfast in 2015 (Family handout/PA)

The family of murdered former IRA man Kevin McGuigan have been left “extremely distressed” by ongoing delays in holding an inquest into the killing, a court has heard.

Coroner Patrick McGurgan has asked the PSNI to provide a written explanation to the family on the length of time it is taking to vet security files in the proceedings.

Mr McGuigan, a father of nine, was shot in the Short Strand in Belfast in August 2015.

His murder prompted a political crisis at Stormont amid claims that IRA members were involved in the killing.

His inquest had been scheduled to take place in March, and was then rescheduled for September, but has now been further delayed.

Kevin McGuigan shooting
The funeral of Kevin McGuigan in Belfast in 2015 (Niall Carson/PA)

Ahead of the inquest proceedings, material relating to the shooting must be security-vetted and distributed to the legal parties involved.

A separate hearing will be needed to consider any applications made by police or the security services to redact evidence on public interest immunity (PII) grounds.

At a preliminary hearing at Laganside Courthouse on Wednesday, counsel for the coroner, Philip Henry, said the PSNI have indicated to him that the soonest they will have material prepared for a PII hearing is June 2024.

He said he is conscious of the complexity of the case and proposed setting a date for the PII hearing in September, with a date to start the inquest to follow soon afterwards.

Laura McMahon, lawyer for Mr McGuigan’s next of kin, asked if the family could be given a written explanation as to why it will take the PSNI a further eight months to get the material ready.

She said: “It will be a hard sell for the family as to why it is going to take so long, given all of the previous adjournments and facilitations to get their house in order on this issue.”

Barrister for the PSNI, John Rafferty, said the court is familiar with the steps to be completed in the process and with pressures currently in the system.

Ms McMahon said: “This has been going on for a long time, this family are extremely distressed by further delays.”

Mr McGurgan asked that the PSNI provide an explanation in writing for the family within three weeks.

The coroner said he does not want to set a date for the inquest until the outcome of the PII process is known.

He said: “The message in this case so far has been we list, we adjourn, we list, we adjourn, and that is not great from anybody’s perspective.

“I don’t want false hope given to this family in terms of dates.”

He fixed dates for the PII hearing to take place from September 16-18.

Kevin McGuigan death
Former PSNI chief constable George Hamilton said some IRA members were involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan (Niall Carson/PA)

The shooting of Mr McGuigan followed the murder of ex-IRA commander Jock Davison in the Markets area of the city three months earlier.

Mr Davison and Mr McGuigan had been involved in a personal dispute.

Police believe Mr McGuigan’s killers suspected him of involvement in Mr Davison’s death.

Mr McGuigan’s death led then-PSNI chief constable Sir George Hamilton to state that the Provisional IRA still existed and some of its members were involved in the murder.

He said there was no evidence that the killing was sanctioned by the organisation.

The killing led to a period of instability at Stormont, with DUP ministers engaging in a series of rolling resignations in protest at the IRA’s alleged involvement in the shooting.

The next preliminary inquest hearing is listed for January 17.