Terror victims have branded it “unbelievable” that families of eight IRA men killed at Loughgall are to appear in court on Wednesday to press for funding for a special legacy inquest into their deaths.
The eight members of the East Tyrone IRA were killed by the SAS in 1987 as they launched the latest of their many attacks on border police stations.
The Historical Enquiries Team later found out that the IRA men opened fire first and that it would have been impossible to arrest them.
Lawyers for the Loughgall families will appear at Belfast High Court today to apply for a judicial review of a decision by the Executive to withhold funding for a special Troubles legacy inquest into the matter.
Mairead Kelly, chair of the Loughgall Campaign for Truth and Justice, said: “Once again the families are faced with political obstacles designed to keep the truth hidden from the families.”
She added: “No relative is more deserving than another, we all want the truth and we all deserve the truth: there should be no hierarchy of the victims of the conflict.”
The group’s lawyer, Darragh Mackin of KRW Law, said it was regrettable that the Loughgall families have to take legal action for an inquest meeting human rights standards.
“It is concerning that this further road block within the coronial process comes on foot of the first minister’s comments regarding her perception of an inequality with ‘innocent victims’,” he added.
Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United said that his group “does not revel” in the deaths of the IRA men and acknowledges that their families will mourn their passing.
“However, what we will not cease from doing is challenging the warped mind-set of anyone – including families of the bereaved – who would seek to airbrush away the activities of their loved ones.”
He noted that Ms Kelly said the families were forced to wait years “for the truth” but added that the IRA unit had been responsible for “the murders of dozens of innocents” which are on record in PIRA’s intelligence files.
If the eight men were so convinced of their political beliefs “then they should be on the record to own the acts that they committed” he added.
He added: “Their families and apologists should consider those left broken as a result, those who have empty chairs at the table this Christmas Day and every other day of the year”.
He added that there “most certainly is a hierarchy of victims” regardless of the current legislation.
“There are victims and then there are perpetrators whose premeditated actions created victims – the ‘Loughgall Eight’ fall into the latter category.”
Victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer said his members were angered by the legal application.
“We find it unbelievable that the families of the eight men shot at Loughgall are actually going to court to seek leave for a judicial review,” he said.
“Given the background of the eight individuals of Loughgall and the fact they were going out to murder and destroy property, we would like to know, is the state funding this application for judicial review?
“The hypocrisy is unbelievable given the death and destruction they had inflicted before they were stopped in Loughgall.
“To even consider that these people are entitled to truth and justice is an insult to any law-abiding citizen, especially for the families of the loved ones who these individuals killed or maimed.
“If there ever was to be a need for these people to be told what happened in Loughgall it should come after the people whose loved ones were killed by these terrorists, not before!”
He noted that the families’ lawyer said the lack of funding is “discriminatory and contradictory to our clients’ human rights”.
But he added: “Where are the rights for the victims that these individuals murdered and maimed?”
It was always claimed that SAS soldiers hiding in nearby fields fired the first shots as the IRA men retreated after bombing Loughall station. They used a hijacked digger to carry the bomb and smash through a perimeter fence. However, the Historical Enquiries Team found in 2011 that the IRA men could not have been safely arrested and the soldiers were within their rights to open fire.