A UDA murder gang is targeting west Belfast lawyer Padraig O Muirigh, it has emerged. It is the same outfit which, in collusion with British forces, carried out the 1989 killing of high-profile Belfast defence lawyer, Pat Finucane.
Mr O Muirigh was warned by the PSNI police last week that his movements were being monitored by the UDA who were planning to attack him. It is believed that the threat is linked to Mr O Muirigh’s representation of Protestant woman Tracey Coulter who was intimidated from her home by loyalists.
In January of this year loyalist William ‘Mo’ Courtney was given a suspended sentence for head-butting Ms Coulter in the offices of the Lower Shankill Community Association. The threat to the lawyer is being linked to a lawsuit against Courtney and the community centre where he works.
Mr O Muirigh said the threat was a “sinister development”.
“Given the nature of the threat and the people behind it I shall be seeking an urgent meeting with the PSNI,” he said.
“I am taking this as a serious threat to my life. However, it will not deter me or intimidate me from representing clients from all sides of the community including Ms Coulter”.
The lawyer said he represents a wide range of clients from both communities and is “baffled” as to why he would be singled out.
Among his other clients are unionist Raymond McCord, whose son was killed by members of the Mount Vernon UVF, and families of people murdered by the British army’s undercover Military Reconnaissance Force.
He also represents a number of former internees who are taking a group action against the British government for unlawful detention, as well as many cases that have no connection to the conflict
“I have been told that information has been received by PSNI that ‘loyalist paramilitaries’ have gathered information my ‘movements’ and ‘may intend to cause him harm at an unknown time’,” Mr O Muirigh said.
“I represent families from both sides of the community, covering a wide spectrum, my work is not conflict-related.
“I have represented many people from the unionist community and will continue to do so in the future.”
Two high-profile lawyers, Rosemary Nelson and Pat Finucane, were assassinated by loyalists in separate attacks in the past 25 years.
Mr Finucane was shot dead in front of his wife and children in his north Belfast home in February 1989 by members of the UDA. Lurgan solicitor Rosemary Nelson was murdered in March 1999 when a bomb exploded under her car. The UDA-linked Red Hand Defenders claimed responsibility for the killing.
There was strong evidence of collusion in both murders and while the British government ordered an independent inquiry into the killing of Rosemary Nelson, it reneged on a commitment to hold a public inquiry into Mr Finucane’s murder. Both lawyers had previously received death threats conveyed by the police.
Mr O Muirigh said: “While this threat is worrying and sinister I will not be deterred from continuing to represent families from all sides of the community without fear or favour.”