The PSNI police have said they need ‘more time’ to hand over reports into shoot-to-kill murders by the force (then RUC) in the Six Counties in the 1980s.
Coroner John Leckey, who set a November deadline for the material to be handed over, has received a letter from the PSNI asking for a three month delay. This comes less than a week after PSNI Chief Matt Baggott grabbed headlines with a promise to hand over the documents in a censored form.
His new request for more time will be considered at a court hearing at the end of this month. The curent inquest has already been delayed for over two years by crown force stonewalling on the issue, while the last inquest had to be abandoned due to the RUC refusal to hand over the report.
Between November 11 and December 12 1982, the RUC murdered six people in the north Armagh area.
IRA volunteers Gervaise McKerr, Eugene Toman and Sean Burns were shot dead in Lurgan on November 11; 17-year-old civilian Michael Tighe was shot dead near Craigavon on November 24; and INLA volunteers Seamus Grew and Roddy Carroll were shot dead close to Armagh City on December 12.
The British investigation into the murders was carried out by former Greater Manchester Police deputy chief constable John Stalker and Colin Sampson of the West Yorkshire Police. Their reports were suppressed as the British government attempted to cover-up the truth behind the killings.
Mac Cionnaith said: “The PSNI is intent on withholding as much information as possible from inquiries into its actions when it was known as the RUC.
“Hugh Orde became notorious for obstructing inquiries and inquests, including the shoot-to-kill and Pearse Jordan cases. Now, Matt Baggott seems determined to follow in his footsteps.
“eirigi has consistently pointed out that the PSNI remains as unaccountable as ever. Not only are the Six County Policing Board and the District Policing Partnerships incapable of holding it to account in the here and now, the force is also determined to prevent itself being held to account by other bodies for past actions.”
Mac Cionnaith continued: “Even if the PSNI is forced to hand over the Stalker and Sampson reports, it has rolled-out the usual ‘national security’ caveat to ensure that the most damning evidence is withheld from scrutiny. It is impossible to believe that all this is going on without the complicity of the British government.
“The RUC grievously hurt six families when it carried out its shoot-to-kill operations in north Armagh in 1982. That hurt is being added to by the obstinate refusal to co-operate with this probe.
“In the interests of truth and justice, the Stalker and Sampson reports should be released to the general public, not just to coroner John Leckey.”
Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson has said that it situation was “unacceptable”.
“Not only have the PSNI refused to hand over the Report but they have also misled the Policing Board,” she said.
“Sinn Fein intends to raise the issue as a matter of urgency as we will not allow bad practices of the RUC to be carried through into the PSNI.
“We are demanding that the Stalker Report is given to the Coroners’ office immediately so that these inquests can proceed as soon as possible.”