Irish Republican News · October 6, 2018
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
New Lodge investigation ordered

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A decision to order a new investigation into the killing of six men in north Belfast 45 years ago has been widely welcomed.

The victims died during two separate shooting incidents in the New Lodge area in February 1973. Three of the men were IRA Volunteers but were not involved in republican activities at the time.

Last year the families of some of those killed asked the North’s attorney general John Larkin for a new inquest. In a letter to campaigns group Relatives for Justice, an official at his office has said Mr Larkin “considers there was no adequate criminal justice investigation at the time”.

The official said that Mr Larkin “does not think that directing an inquest now would contribute materially to identifying and punishing the perpetrator or perpetrators of these killings or be otherwise advisable”.

He said Mr Larkin is of the view that “the better course of action” is to ask the Director of Public Prosecutions to use his power to “require the chief constable to investigate”.

Relatives believe that an undercover British army unit known as the Military Research Force (MRF) may have been involved in killing at least two of the men, Vols. James Sloan and James McCann.

RFJ spokesman Mike Ritchie said relatives will now be seeking a meeting with the DPP.

“The feeling is this is a good development,” he said.

Sinn Fein’s Caral Ni Chuilin paid tribute to the families of those killed and their campaign for justice.

“The police investigation which has been called for by the Attorney General has the opportunity to bring truth and justice to the families of these men and it is my hope they will finally get truth and justice.”

McGURK’S BAR CHALLENGE

Ms Ni Chuilin also welcomed confirmation that the family of two victims of the McGurk’s bar bombing are bringing forward a fresh legal challenge to establish the truth about what happened to their loved ones.

The move follows the failure by the Attorney General in July to order a new inquest into the 1971 UVF attack that killed 15 people.

Terence Keenan initiated proceedings in the Belfast High Court, challenging the decision not to order a fresh inquest. Mr Keenan’s parents were among those who lost their lives in the bombing.

Mr Keenan said: “There has been a vast amount of new information made available in recent years that was never put before the original inquest. That inquest had an ‘open verdict’ because it could not pin responsibility on the correct perpetrators.

“Despite the fact the UVF admitted responsibility in 1977, the British state has yet to acknowledge its role in the attack and its cover-up. A new inquest cannot only correct the open verdict that stands to this day, it can also uncover the level of state involvement in the atrocity”.

Relatives and campaigners have discovered large amounts of new evidence not heard at the original inquest held the year after the massacre.

The bombing was carried out by the UVF but at the time Crown Forces blamed the IRA, with the false suggestion it was an IRA bomb which had detonated prematurely.

A Police Ombudsman’s report in 2011 said the RUC had shown an “investigative bias”.

Ms Ni Chuilin welcomed the latest development.

“These families have been campaigning for truth and justice for 47 years,” she said. “There are still too many unanswered questions about the involvement of various state agencies in the attack both before and after the massacre of 15 people.”

© 2018 Irish Republican News