Clonoe families launch shoot-to-kill report
Relatives of four IRA Volunteers killed by undercover British soldiers 20 years ago have launched a report to highlight their campaign to establish how they died.
Peter Clancy, Kevin Barry O’Donnell and Sean O’Farrell, from the Coalisland area, and Patrick Vincent from Dungannon were shot dead in the grounds of St Patrick’s Church at Clonoe, County Tyrone, during the covert British military operation on February 16 1992.
They were ambushed minutes after taking part in a gun attack on nearby CoalislandRUC station during which noone was injured. All four were aged in their late teens or early twenties.
A barrage of 514 rounds were fired at the IRA unit by 12 undercover soldiers, believed to include SAS members. Eight cars, each containing two soldiers, provided back-up to the undercover troops.
Despite the passing of two decades and more than 20 preliminary hearings, a full inquest into the men’s deaths has yet to be held.
Relatives travelled to the US in March and presented the report, which has been compiled by victim-support group Relatives for Justice, to Irish and American politicians.
Six-County Justice minister David Ford and PSNI Chief Matt Baggott also received copies.
Relatives believe the soldiers ignored chances to arrest some of the IRA men prior to the planned ambush.
Hours before the shoot-out, O’Farrell was stopped at a British army checkpoint near the spot where he died.
He was allowed to continue on his journey. O’Donnell’s sister Roisin Ui Mhuiri said she and the other relatives deserve to know what happened.
“It’s about finding out the truth,” she said.
“For 20 years they have refused to tell us the truth of what happened that night.
“This is going to eat away at us until we find out the truth.
“If we stay silent, which is the easy thing to do, it means we accept what happened that night.
“It was a well-planned military operation and we believe that instead of arresting those men, which they could have done, a decision was made high up to shoot them.”
“The British government should hold up their hands so we can move forward as a community and we can heal not only as families but as a community. Instead there are families still holding all this pain and grief.”
Controversy continued after the killings when 200 mourners walked out of the funeral Mass of O’Donnell and O’Farrell at the Church of the Holy Family in Coalisland after parish priest Mgr Liam McEntegart denounced the IRA leadership.
In the aftermath of the ambush the then British ‘security’ minister, Dr Brian Mawhinney, said he had no reason to doubt that the soldiers followed proper procedures.
The report, ‘Ambush, Assassination and Impunity’, was launched at the Cornmill Heritage Centre in Coalisland on Thursday night.
“It has become apparent that state forces had exact knowledge of the IRA plan to attack the RUC station,” the report by Relatives for Justice says.
“The obvious question would, therefore, be why the state made no attempt to arrest the IRA men.
“The deployment of SAS soldiers, noted solely for their ambush and execution methods, rather than effectively securing and making arrests in accordance with international standards, adds to the concern that the aim of this operation had indeed been to kill the IRA men and not to arrest them. This was never an arrest operation.”
It demands that the full inquest should now be held and that the Public Prosecution Service should review the case.