18 September 2003 Edition
British to fight coroner's ruling
The British government and the PSNI are set to defy a coroner's ruling that they hand over unedited documentation relating to the killings of ten County Tyrone nationalists during the 1990s.
After a delay of two years and 12 preliminary hearings, when the MoD and the PSNI refused to produce all relevant material, coroner Roger McLernon has now ordered the MoD and PSNI to produce all intelligence documents relevant to the killings within 21 days so the inquests of Roseanne Mallon, Jack and Kevin McKearney and of seven IRA Volunteers can go ahead.
Welcoming the coroner's 16 September ruling, Roisín Uí Mhuirí, the sister of deceased IRA Volunteer Kevin Barry O'Donnell, said: "We expect that following today's decision that the inquest proper will begin immediately.
"We further expect that the compellability element of the inquest be invoked and the SAS members and relevant RUC members who were involved in these killings be brought to the court," she said.
Uí Mhuirí stressed that the families wanted those involved in the killings to appear in court so that the "inquest gets to the bottom of who sanctioned and directed these killings".
And Martin Mallon, whose 76-year-old aunt was killed by loyalists in his house while it was under British Army surveillance, has called for the videotape from the surveillance operation to be handed over "in full and undoctored".
Speaking to An Phoblacht, Mark Thompson of the human rights group, Relatives for Justice, warned that he expected British Minister Geoff Hoon of the MoD and Northern Secretary Paul Murphy to issue Public Interest Immunity Certificates (PIIC) and refuse the coroner's order.
By refusing to hand over the relevant documentation, the British government and PSNI will not only be defying the coroner, they will also be in breach of the European Court of Human Rights.
According to Thompson, "the Article 2 ruling of May 2001 found that the inquest court, and indeed all domestic investigative procedures, were in default of the British government's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.
"As yet there has been no official changes to the inquest court in compliance with the May 2001 ruling. As such, the coroner's ruling will be measured against a series of continued failings on the part of the British government to implement the necessary requirements in accordance with their international obligations."
Sinn Féin's Michelle Gildernew described the ruling as "an important step forward in the search for truth.
"The refusal of the British MoD and the PSNI to give the families access to unedited evidence has been detrimental to these inquest proceedings," she said.
"The British state will go to any length to prevent the truth about the policies of collusion and shoot to kill coming out."
In 1991, Volunteers Pete Ryan, Lawrence McNally and Tony Doris were ambushed and killed in Coagh, County Tyrone.
Roseanne Mallon was shot dead by loyalists in 1994 while the UVF killed Jack McKearney and his nephew Kevin in 1992.
Also in 1992, IRA Volunteers Kevin Barry O'Donnell, Peter Clancy, Sean O'Farrell and Patrick Vincent were executed at Clonoe, outside Cookstown, County Tyrone, by the SAS.