26 November 1998 Edition

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Patten member defended Marines

by Ned Kelly

When Peter John Caraher made an oral submission to the public meeting of the Patten Commission in Crossmaglen, South Armagh last Thursday evening, it was made in good faith. Those present were assured by Commission members Peter Smyth QC and Sir John Smith that they would be heard with ``an open mind''.

Peter John Caraher did not know at the time that Peter Smyth QC had led the defence of the British soldiers who shot his two sons, killing Fergal and seriously wounding Micheál.

Peter John said, ``I can't believe the hypocrisy of the man to come and sit on that bench after he defended those who shot my son dead and got them off. The audacity to sit there and tell me he was there with `an open mind'''

British Royal Marine Commandos had opened fired in broad daylight and in front of numerous witnesses on 20-year-old Fergal and 23-year-old Micheál Caraher as they drove from the Lite & Easy Bar carpark in Cullyhanna at the end of December 1990.

The shooting of the brothers was followed by a high profile International inquiry organised by Cullyhanna residents. Michael Mansfield QC, who led the Cullyhanna inquiry, said after its completion that the shooting incident was not unique but that he believed the people in South Armagh were subject to the ``daily grind'' of crown force oppression and that the killing of Fergal Carragher or another Nationalist was a matter of time.

Two British soldiers were later prosecuted and Peter Smyth led their defence during the three week trial. Chief Justice Hutton gave his judgement on the day before Christmas. The family sat surrounded by British soldiers and RUC men who cheered as Hutton announced that despite not believing the accused Marines' evidence he had ``no option'' but to acquit the two.

Peter John Carahar said he was ``shocked'' and ``like the trial this Commission is going to be a farce. It's like throwing chaff against the wind, you know what road he [Smyth] is going down.''

Legal sources confirmed that Smyth has also been involved in at least one other high profile defence case for the British Ministry of Defence.

One member of the legal profession said, ``Peter Smyth is a known Unionist but he's not the worst. He is very practical and influential behind the scenes in the Ulster Unionist Party.''

A Patten Commission press spokesperson told An Phoblacht that Peter Smyth would not comment on the issue and felt it did not affect his professional impartiality.

Chris Patten, Maurice Hayes, Lucy Woods and Gerry Lynch from the Patten Commission are due back in Crossmaglen Community Centre at 1 pm on 3 December.


McElduff critical of commission

Sinn Fein's Assembly member for West Tyrone Barry McElduff has criticised the Patten Commission's plans to hold only one meeting to cover Omagh and Strabane and it is being held during work-hours on December 2.

``People in this area have a lot to say about future policing arrangements in this society,'' said McElduff. ``This is why I am unhappy at the hearings taking place during work-hours.''

McElduff has requested the Commission to schedule hearings for the evening. He is also calling for two separate meetings to be held in Castlederg and Carrickmore to ``properly gauge opinion in these parts of Tyrone''.

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