PSNI given 10 weeks to hand over files on Lough­gall am­bush

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY ALAN ER­WIN

PO­LICE have been set a fi­nal dead­line for dis­clo­sure of sen­si­tive doc­u­ments in a ma­jor le­gal ac­tion over the SAS killings of eight IRA men.

The force’s de­fence to the law­suit fo­cused on events sur­round­ing the Lough­gall am­bush will be struck out un­less the High Court or­der is com­plied with by late Novem­ber, a lawyer said.

The de­vel­op­ment was de­scribed as a “huge step for­ward” in pro­ceed­ings brought by the fa­ther of one of those shot dead in the Co Ar­magh vil­lage in May 1987.

Un­der­cover sol­diers tar­geted mem­bers of the Pro­vi­sion­als’ East Ty­rone Brigade as they ap­proached an RUC sta­tion with a bomb in a hi­jacked dig­ger.

The IRA men killed were: Jim Ly­nagh; Padraig McKear­ney; Ger­ard O’Cal­laghan; Tony Gorm­ley; Eu­gene Kelly; Patrick Kelly; Sea­mus Donnelly and De­clan Arthurs.

An in­no­cent civil­ian, An­thony Hughes, was also shot dead and his brother wounded when they were caught up in the gun­fire. The mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion in­flicted the IRA’s largest loss of life dur­ing the Trou­bles.

Rel­a­tives of those killed claim sol­diers op­er­ated a de­lib­er­ate shoot-to-kill pol­icy rather than at­tempt to make ar­rests.

De­clan Arthurs’ fa­ther Patrick ini­tially sued just the Min­istry of De­fence over the am­bush. But with the RUC’s Mo­bile Sup­port Unit also be­lieved to have played a role in the op­er­a­tion, the PSNI was joined to the ac­tion as the force’s suc­ces­sor.

Non-sen­si­tive doc­u­ments have al­ready been handed over in the le­gal ac­tion.

The scale of the process was re­vealed pre­vi­ously when the High Court heard po­lice faced trawl­ing through elec­tronic, mi­cro­fiche and hard copy ma­te­rial in stores hold­ing more than 9.5 mil­lion in­tel­li­gence records.

Amid is­sues around na­tional se­cu­rity, Mr Arthurs’ le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tives have con­tin­ued to press for out­stand­ing, sen­si­tive ma­te­rial.

The court was told dis­cov­ery is a highly com­plex task, with po­ten­tially thou­sands of redac­tions to be made un­der Public In­ter­est Im­mu­nity con­sid­er­a­tions.

But solic­i­tor Claire McKee­gan, of KRW Law, con­firmed Mr Jus­tice Maguire has now made an ‘un­less or­der’, giv­ing the PSNI 10 weeks to com­plete the PII process and hand over the re­main­ing doc­u­ments.

Fol­low­ing the hear­ing she said: “If the po­lice do not com­ply then the al­le­ga­tions that we plead in our state­ment of com­plaint will be held at their height and they will be un­able to de­fend this ac­tion. We see this as a huge step for­ward in the pro­ceed­ings.”

The bul­let rid­dled van af­ter the am­bush which killed eight IRA men

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