A decision by the Police Ombudsman to investigate allegations of collusion between the PSNI and the unionist paramilitary UVF has been welcomed.
The ombudsman is to examine allegations that police colluded with the UVF by failing to properly investigate fatal shootings in north and west Belfast between 1989 and 2010 -- including that of Bobby Moffett, who was murdered on Shankill Road after a dispute with a senior UVF man. It is widely believed that the PSNI had approved the cold-blooded murder, which took place in a casual manner on a busy street in May 2010.
A number of families of UVF victims have welcomed the Ombudsman’s intervention and it is their testimonies which have led to this move.
It is believed investigators will examine claims that no-one has been charged or convicted in connection with the murders because police agents and informers were being protected.
The investigation bears strong similarities with another Ombudsman inquiry.
Operation Ballast, which homed in on north Belfast’s Mount Vernon estate, revealed UVF killers were protected from prosecution because they were police agents.
Raymond McCord, whose son was murdered by the UVF, has welcomed it.
“What people have to understand is that when people from the unionist community or any community go to the Police Ombudsman’s office and make a complaint it has to be investigated,” he said.
“This isn’t having a go at any paramilitary group and I’m delighted because hopefully now it’ll show that there wasn’t a proper investigation in a lot of the murders.”
Meanwhile, the PSNI have said they are ‘unable’ to extradite a man suspected of killing Derry republican Kieran Doherty in 2010 -- but do not want an inquest to go ahead.
A PSNI inspector said a suspect had left the jurisdiction some time ago, but that extradition “would not be relevant”. He said was concerned that “matters would be revealed” in the coroner’s inquest which could be “detrimental to the investigation”.
Senior coroner John Leckey said during decades of conflict in the North, coroners routinely held inquests quite soon after a death and he could not remember police objecting.
The Doherty family remain suspicious of the involvement of MI5 (British military intelligence) in Kieran’s death, despite a report by senior British barrister Alex Carlile which denies this.
Family lawyer Fiona Doherty said: “There is a serious allegation, a serious issue in this inquest about the approaches made to the deceased, Mr Doherty, by MI5 for a continuous period of time up to his death and the family have serious concerns about that and serious concerns about the possible involvement of state agents in the death.”
The family want the full contents of the Carlile report to be available to the coroner. Kieran Doherty’s uncle, Vincent Coyle, said they were only given two paragraphs of the report.
“Now we know there is a lot more in that report which we have not seen. In fact we think there’s a report the size of a phone directory and that must be made available to the inquest,” he said.