21 November 2002 Edition
British attempting to cover-up killings
On Tuesday 19 November, another preliminary hearing into the scheduling of four inquests surrounding the killings of four men at Clonoe, three men at Coagh, both by the SAS, and 76-year-old pensioner Roseanne Mallon at Dungannon, in collusion with loyalists, opened at Cookstown Court House.
In the village of Coagh, Co Tyrone, Tony Doris, Lawrence McNally, and Pete Ryan, were ambushed and killed in 1991 by the SAS in a pre-planned operation.
At Clonoe in Coalisland, County Tyrone in 1992 the SAS ambushed and killed Kevin Barry O'Donnell, Peter Clancy, Sean O'Farrell, and Daniel Vincent, also in a pre-planned operation.
On the outskirts of Dungannon, County Tyrone, in 1994, loyalists shot dead Roseanne Mallon in her home. A neighbour accidentally stumbled upon sophisticated surveillance cameras trained on the pensioner's home. A covert British Army unit was also dug in and had been observing the Mallon home at the time of the killing. Statements from the covert unit, disclosed through civil action taken by the family, revealed that they were ordered not to act as the killing occurred.
In light of the European Court on Human Rights ruling (ECHR Article 2) condemning the way in which the British government has consistently failed to properly investigate state killings, including killings in which collusion is alleged, the families, through Róisín Uí Mhuirí, issued the following statement:
"The killings of our loved ones were unjust and unlawful. In two incidents there was ample opportunity to make arrests and prevent the loss of life, yet a very conscious decision was taken to kill our loved ones. Those responsible for that decision must now be made accountable. So too must those who carried out the killings.
"In the remaining incident loyalists were involved and collusion between the death squads and the State is widely believed and strongly evidenced.
"The inquest system is completely insufficient in terms of dealing comprehensively with the killings of our loved ones. Although four separate incidents, all of these killings occurred in highly controversial and disputed circumstances which to date remain contested and at variance with official versions of events provided by the State. If we are to have the full facts then we must have a full and proper examination of each of these killings.
"Additionally, the inquest system does not comply with international human rights standards nor the international obligations to which the British government has signed up to and which it are duty bound to uphold. The European Court of Human Rights recently highlighted this in relation to four very similar incidents.
"The implications of the European ruling mean that the investigations into the deaths of our loved ones must be reopened and independently examined. As yet in cases where state forces are implicated or involved in the taking of life, the British government has failed to implement proper independent investigative mechanisms that comply with international human rights agreements.
"This inquest, and the attempt to push it through in advance of any compliance with the European Court ruling, is in direct violation of those agreements and our rights as bereaved relatives. This is also a matter of public interest. A public that will increasingly ask what it is the British have to hide.
"The attempt to carry on with this inquest hearing will not determine the full facts nor will it bring to public attention exactly what happened when eight lives were violently taken. This is precisely the aim of the British. In
short, the State should not be investigating itself.
"The failure by the British Ministry of Defence to even provide the coroner with documentation surrounding the killings is further evidence that this inquest will not provide the necessary answers to the many outstanding issues around all of the killings.
"As a matter of urgency, we are now calling for proper independent investigations that comply with international human rights standards into these four incidents.
"Furthermore, we are in contact with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Summary and Arbitrary Executions to also examine all of the killings.
"We will also be seeking urgent meetings with the British Secretary of State, Paul Murphy, and the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowen."
Tyrone inquest controversy
BY LAURA FRIEL
Relatives of people killed in separate incidents in County Tyrone have accused the British government of attempting to cover up the circumstances surrounding the deaths. The families were speaking as another preliminary hearing into the scheduling of four inquests opened in Cookstown Court House this week.
In the village of Coagh in June 1991, the British SAS in a pre-planned ambush killed Tony Doris, Lawrence McNally and Pete Ryan. In February 1992, in Clonoe on the outskirts of Coalisland the British SAS executed Kevin Barry O'Donnell, Peter Clancy, Sean O'Farrell and Daniel Vincent in a similar ambush. In both incidents no attempt was made to arrest and none of those killed were given the opportunity to surrender.
A month earlier, father of four Kevin McKearney and his 70-year-old uncle Jack McKearney were shot dead by the UVF at their butcher's shop in Moy. The McKearney family had received a death threat the week prior to the killing that named the day of the attack. Despite informing the RUC of the pending attack, no action was taken to thwart it.
On the outskirts of Dungannon in May 1994, loyalists shot dead elderly pensioner Roseanne Mallon in the home of a relative. After the discovery of sophisticated surveillance equipment overlooking the murder scene, it emerged that a covert British Army unit had been observing the Mallon house during the killing. It was later established that the unit was ordered not to intervene during the loyalist attack.
Speaking on behalf of the families, Roisin Uí Mhuirí described the killings as "unjust and unlawful".
"In Coagh and Clonoe there was ample opportunity to make arrests and prevent the loss of life, yet a very conscious decision was taken to kill our loved ones. Those responsible for that decision must now be made accountable, as too must those who carried out the killings," said Roisin.
"In the killings involving loyalists, collusion between the death squads and British state is widely believed and strongly evidenced," she said.
Calling for independent public inquiries, the families of the victims pointed out that the inquest system in the north of Ireland is completely inadequate in dealing with disputed killings.
"All these killings occurred in highly controversial and disputed circumstances which to date remain contested and at variance with official versions of events provided by the state," said Roisin.
"The inquest system does not comply with international human rights standards or the international obligations undertaken by the British government. The European Court of Human Rights recently highlighted this in relation to four very similar incidents."
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Summary and Arbitrary Executions has been contacted by the relatives and will be examining the killings. The families are currently seeking urgent meetings with British Secretary of State Paul Murphy and Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Cowen.
"We are calling for proper independent investigations that comply with international human rights standards," said Roisin.
Meanwhile, the presiding coroner Roger McLernon launched an unprecedented public attack on the lack of resources in the inquest system. Speaking during the hearing, McLernon said that coroners outside Belfast had no administrative back up system and the inquest system was in danger of grinding to a halt if more resourses were not made available by the British government.
Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness described the inquest hearing as "an insult to the families who had come here in the hope of uncovering the truth".
Commending the coroner for highlighting concerns about the inquest system, the Mid Ulster MP said he would taking the matter up with the two governments. Criticising the failure of lawyers acting for the RUC and British Army to produce relevant documents about the killings to the coroner, McGuinness said it was important "to ensure that the tactics used by the British military establishment in its attempts to frustrate the Bloody Sunday Tribunal are not deployed to prevent open and transparent inquests".
McGuinness slams Coroners Court system
Speaking after attending the start of Coroner's preliminary hearings in Cookstown Courthouse into the killings of ten people by Crown Forces and unionist paramilitaries on Tuesday, Mid-Ulster MP Martin McGuinness was scathing of the Coroners Court system.
Speaking to reporters outside the court, McGuinness said "this morning's proceedings were an eye opener for me. What I witnessed in Cookstown Courthouse today was an insult to the families that came here in the hope that the process of uncovering the truth of how their loved ones died would begin.
"Instead what we saw was arguments over whether or not the families would receive funding from the Court Services to pursue their cases, stalling and failure by lawyers for the RUC and British Army to produce relevant documents about the killings to the coroner. Denial of access to documents and lawyers for the families having to threaten High Court action to ensure that the ruling about funding by the European Court of Human Rights under Article 2 is complied with.
"Now none of this is in any way intended to be a criticism of the Coroner, Mr Roger MacLernon. In fact, the Coroner is to be commended for his own critical comments about the inadequacy of funding and facilities available not just to the families but to him and his colleagues outside of Belfast. During the hearing, Mr MacLernon commented that the manner in which the coroners outside of Belfast are being treated threatens to bring the Office of Coroner into disrepute. He claimed that coroners are forced to use their own private office facilities as no back-up service is available, even to the extent that stenographers are not available to record proceedings.
"This state of affairs is an absolute disgrace and I will be taking it up with the British and Irish governments at the first opportunity to ensure that the tactics used by the British military establishment in its attempts to frustrate the Bloody Sunday Tribunal of Inquiry are not deployed to prevent an open and transparent Coroners Inquest into these deaths.
"I wholeheartedly support the families' assessment that the implications of the European Court decision demands the investigations into the deaths of their loved ones be reopened and independently examined."