Coroner to see British documents on killings
The British Ministry of Defence has agreed to hand over
documents and video footage relating to ten controversial
killings in the North to a coroner investigating the cases.
However, a 'public immunity' order could still be used to
suppress embarrassing details emerging into the public domain.
The cases involve some of the most infamous killings in the
conflict, including two 'shoot-to-kill' ambushes on IRA
Volunteers by the SAS, and the loyalist murder of a Catholic
pensioner at a home which, it later emerged, was under 24-hour
surveillance by British intelligence.
East Tyrone coroner Roger McLernon told a preliminary inquest
into the 10 killings that following a High Court ruling it had
been agreed the Ministry of Defence would provide him with
access to unedited documents and video footage which related
to some of the killings. He said that it would take him up to
two months to study the thousands of pages of unedited
documents and he adjourned the case until March 16th.
The case has been adjourned on more than a dozen occasions
over the years as the British government repeatedly refused to
disclose the documents.
Those who died in the East Tyrone killings in 1992 and 1993
were: Roseanne Mallon, who was killed by loyalists at her
sister-in-law's home in Dungannon; Jack and Kevin McKearney,
killed by loyalists at their family shop in Moy; Kevin Barry
O'Donnell, Patrick Vincent, Sean O'Farrell and Peter Clancy,
all shot dead by the SAS in Clonoe; and Peter Ryan, Tony Doras
and Lawrence McNally, ambushed by the SAS at Coagh.
The coroner told yesterday's hearing in Dungannon that he
would decide what material was relevant to the cases and
should be made public to the families and their legal
representatives, but that British forces could still
But he added: "Any decision I take could be open to
challenge...if they decide (that) security grounds override
public interest issues."
Speaking after the case the Sinn Fein MP for Fermanagh and
South Tyrone, Michelle Gildernew, said the announcement
amounted to "limited progress".
But she said: "My concern is that the British have been
involved in a culture of concealment and the Ministry of
Defence can still argue for public immunity, that the families
will still not be getting the full details about the deaths of
their loved ones."
She said there had been cases where families had never got the
full truth because of public immunity.
"The families are going to have to struggle and fight for
every bit of disclosure they get."
Christie Mallon, nephew of Mrs Mallon said he still doubted
whether they would still get to the truth. "I believe our
legal team should be there with the coroner to see the
documents - how can he decide on his own what is relevant?"
Roisin Ui Mhuiri, sister of Kevin Barry O' Donnell, said that
in theory the announcement was good news but she also
expressed concerns about the coroner deciding what was
relevant or not. "We might still need a public inquiry to get
to the truth," she said.