A British government minister has approved the withholding of files from the inquest of a schoolgirl abducted in County Donegal in 1994 over ‘national security’ concerns.
Stormont minister Ben Wallace has approved the Public Interest Immunity (PII) application for a series of documents linked to the case of Arlene Arkinson. The final decision on whether it will be granted rests with the coroner.
While the government has obtained such immunity on conflict-related cases where informers have been involved, for example, there is a mystery as to why any such secrecy would be required at the inquest of the missing schoolgirl, pictured above.
Arlene, 15, from Castlederg, County Tyrone, vanished after a night out at a disco in County Donegal in 1994. She was last seen with convicted child killer Robert Howard, who died in prison last year.
Howard was acquitted of the teenager’s murder by a jury that was unaware of his previous conviction for murdering a schoolgirl in south London. He always remained the police’s prime suspect in the Arkinson case.
Last month, it was reported that a former leading RUC policeman may be forced to appear at the inquest It is understood that Eric Anderson, a retired detective superintendent may still possess documentation relating to the schoolgirl’s disappearance.
The former RUC man has claimed ill health as a reason for non-attendance at other high profile inquests.
The long-delayed inquest is due to finally get under way on Monday in Belfast. The probe could take up to 10 weeks.
In a separate development, one of the six men wrongly imprisoned for the 1974 Birmingham bombing has called for a full investigation into allegations that English police ‘could have prevented’ the attack due to the involvement of an IRA informer.
Ashley Underwood QC told an inquest application hearing that relatives of those who died suspected English police officers of lying to gain wrongful convictions to cover up the actions of their informer.
He said there was reason to believe that the police knew in advance about the attack, and had time to evacuate after telephone warnings were received. “Records about those things were falsified,” he said.
Hugh Callaghan of the Birmingham Six urged the British government to reveal what it knows about the bombing, which led to one of Britain’s worst ever miscarriages of justice.
Mr Callaghan, who still lives in England, said he was angered to think that they had been beaten into making confessions when police knew the IRA planned the bombs.
“People don’t realise the whole world was against us, even the other prisoners. It was deadly and now to think they may have known all along that we were innocent.”
NEW LODGE SIX
And in another development this week, secret files prepared for the British Prime Minister and uncovered for the first time have revealed that the British army lied when it said it had not been responsible for all of the New Lodge Six killings in 1973.
The massacre began with the assassination of two teenagers in what appeared to be a random drive-by sectarian killing, followed by the murder of four other peopke in what the British army have always maintained that they were involved in a shoot-out with Provisional IRA gunmen. However, dozens of civilian eyewitness pointed out that the victims were unarmed and posed no threat.
The first two deaths can now also be laid at the feet of the British Army after a document published by researcher Ciaran MacAirt shows the Crown forces claimed all six ‘hits’.
On Wednesday night, over 100 people attended a rally held beside a permanent memorial to the men on the New Lodge Road. John Loughran, whose uncle was one of those killed, said that the families would continue to seek answers.
“The memorial is about remembering those that died but it’s also about keeping up the profile of the families who are still seeking acknowledgement,” he said. “Families have legitimate questions about the death of their loved ones. The Stormont House Agreement did not live up to our hopes, while the disclosure element of the Fresh Start deal is still preventing disclosure.
“No-one is asking for the state secrets but under accountability families have every right to as much information that is held on their loved ones.”