Northern Ireland

Progress continues towards inquest into death of ex-IRA commander, coroner told

The inquest into the death of Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison is not affected by the new Legacy Act (PSNI/PA)
The inquest into the death of Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison is not affected by the new Legacy Act (PSNI/PA)

Progress towards starting an inquest to examine the death of a former Provisional IRA commander is continuing but it is still too early to set a hearing date, a coroner has been told.

During a brief preliminary hearing in the case of Gerard “Jock” Davison at Laganside Courthouse in Belfast, coroner Paddy McGurgan said he was alive to pressures currently within the coronial system.

Mr Davison, 47, was shot dead in the Markets area of Belfast as he walked to work in May 2015.

He had been involved in a personal dispute with other republicans.

Three months after Mr Davison was killed, former IRA man Kevin McGuigan was murdered in a shooting in nearby Short Strand.

Laganside court
The hearing took place at Laganside Courthouse in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr McGurgan is presiding over both inquests.

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.

Receiving an update from his counsel Philip Henry, the coroner was told that the process of disclosure of sensitive and non-sensitive files was continuing.

Representing the PSNI, barrister John Rafferty said he was currently unable to offer any timeframe for completing the work on the sensitive materials.

He said: “This is obviously a complicated process within the context of this particular case. There are a number of other complications external to this process.

“You are aware of the macro-pressures which exist within the system at the moment.”

Mr McGurgan said: “I am certainly alive to the fact that there are these pressures that are being brought to bear.

“In fairness, in this particular inquest at least we are not caught by the legislative guillotine.”

A number of inquests are proceeding in Northern Ireland against the backdrop of the Government’s new Legacy Act, which states that those which have not reached the point of verdict by May 1 2024 will be discontinued.

The inquest into the death of Mr Davison is not affected by the legislation as his murder occurred after April 10 1998.

However, presiding coroner for Northern Ireland Mr Justice Michael Humphreys said last week that pressure to get legacy inquests completed before May meant resources within the coronial system are “stretched to the limit”.

Mr Henry said it was too early to set a date for the Davison inquest hearing, but added “we are moving in the right direction”.

Mr McGurgan asked the PSNI to provide an update on a timeframe over the disclosure of sensitive material within 14 days.

Another preliminary hearing is scheduled for January 26.