Coroner accepts

Press release: 16th March 2004

Coroner accepts ‘systemic’ flaws in inquests system citing need for public inquiry.

Speaking immediately after today’s preliminary hearing into the
killings of 10 people in Co. Tyrone over a decade ago Relatives for
Justice spokesperson, and nephew of Roseanne Mallon, Martin Mallon said:

‘This is the 16th preliminary hearing that we have attended in a 2-year
period. We are deeply disappointed that once again there is yet another
delay in convening the inquest proper. Dealing with violent loss has
been very difficult enough for the families to cope with and the now
seemingly norm of delay is adding to existing hurt and trauma. It needs
to stop.

‘We recognise the fact that the Coroner is also faced with resource
implications and legislative restrictions that are inconsistent with
international legal obligations. He has been vocal on these areas on a
number occasions and has directly addressed these shortcomings to us in
the course of the proceedings. Today he once again drew attention to
this and added that in England the policy, with regard to contested and
controversial cases such as those before him, appeared to be one of
independent inquiry citing the case of Dr. David Kelly and Hutton
Inquiry. Previously he also
cited the case of black teenager Stephen Lawrence murdered by white
extremists. The Coroner also drew attention to the Cory report and
stated that the cases he was tasked with hearing fell into the same
category as those that Judge Cory looked into.

‘The Coroner also accepted that there were systemic problems with the
inquest system that needed to be addressed, adding that in the absence
of governmental change or policy similar to that in England allowing
for public inquiry, he felt there was no alternative route other than
to proceed with a system that had serious flaws.

‘Roisin ui Mhuiri, the sister of Kevin Barry O’Donnell and RFJ
spokesperson, also said that: ‘We believe that the state is taking
advantage of the deliberate flaws in the current inquest system using
it as a stalling mechanism. The PSNI and the MoD have also indicated
that if the Coroner orders them to disclose material that they will
introduce Public Interest Immunity Certificates (PIIC). This is both
unacceptable and in contravention of international norms. They are
effectively using their sovereignty as a shield to prevent the public
from witnessing their actions that claimed 10

‘Roisin added ‘It is in this context that the families will seek legal
advice as to how we move forward to comprehensively address these
killings in a framework that adheres to the international legal
obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and not an
inquest system that has been designed to hinder disclosure, and prevent
truth and justice.’


Editors Notes:

On June 3rd 1991 in the village of Coagh County Tyrone Tony Doris,
Lawrence McNally, and Peter Ryan, were ambushed and killed by the SAS
in a pre-planned military operation that also involved the RUC. Several
hundred bullets were fired into their car and their bodies were
subsequently burned beyond recognition in the vehicle that they were
travelling in.

On February 16th 1992 at Clonoe in Coalisland County Tyrone the SAS
again in a pre-planned pre-mediated shoot-to-kill operation ambushed
and killed Kevin Barry O’Donnell, Peter Clancy, Sean O’Farrell, and
Daniel Vincent. This too also involved the RUC.

On the outskirts of Dungannon Co Tyrone loyalists shot-dead Roseanne
Mallon in her home on May 8th 1994. A number of weeks after the killing
a neighbour accidentally stumbled upon sophisticated surveillance
cameras trained on the Mallon home. It later emerged that a covert SAS
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 Mallon family, revealed
that on reporting activity and then hearing gunfire they were ordered
not to act as the killing occurred or to
apprehend those responsible afterwards. The Mallon family was the
subject of a sustained campaign of harassment and intimidation by the
RUC and British army that included numerous death threats.