By Mark Thompson (Relatives for Justice)
Resilient is too inadequate a word to describe Sinead and Michael Monaghan. Both have suffered immeasurably during the conflict. Sinead’s father, Sean McParland, was gunned down in front of their children, his grandchildren, while minding them. Michael had been the intended target.
The killers, Gary Haggarty and Mark Haddock, were assisted and protected by the RUC. They were RUC special branch agents. The driver of the getaway vehicle Terry Fairfield was also an RUC agent.
Michael’s siblings were targeted too and his brother Bobby was also murdered by the same North Belfast based Mount Vernon UVF gang that killed Sean.
Nuala O’Loan’s ground breaking report Operation Ballast detailed the litany of murders, attempted murders, bombings, shootings, drug-dealing, rackets and associated criminality these and other state agents within that gang were involved in. It also detailed how tens of thousands of pounds were paid to these killers from the public purse by their RUC special branch handlers.
This morning Michael and Sinead sat in Belfast High Court as part of a landmark civil action their lawyers, KRW Law, initiated some years back on behalf of victims.
After endless campaigning, battling, the sham trial of Haggarty and failure to hold to account his special branch handlers, and not without an incalculable toll of trauma and associated illness, they remain resolute in their efforts to have the truth revealed about the full extent of collusion.
Standing on the steps of the high court Michael Monaghan said:
“Giving up is not an option for us. We’ve buried our loved ones. We won’t let the truth be buried with them. We owe it to our families and to our children who witnessed their grandfather being killed.”
They were in the High Court as part of their civil case against the authorities.
Previously Justice Stephens demanded - ordered - the PSNI to handover key documents related to Michael’s legal action yet the PSNI resisted and clung on refusing. So much was the resistance by the PSNI to cling to the darkest secrets of the RUC’s dirty war, that the matter was heading towards an inevitable ‘secret closed hearing’ - something the courts here wanted to avoid given the very negative connotations associated.
Disclosures of the files were, as the court put it at the time, relevant to arriving at a quantum for damages and thus an assessment of the full extent of collusion was essential. The court wanted to see firsthand what really went on. The PSNI fought tooth and nail!
Instead, a ‘gist’ was prepared from the material the PSNI refused to handover.
The gist was provided in the related case of John Flynn also targeted by this notorious gang - a lead applicant as part of the wider legal strategy applied by KRW Law’s foremost figures Kevin Winters and Niall Murphy.
In response to the BBC’s Vincent Kearney asking why the PSNI were vigorously resisting a court order to hand over files the PSNI’s ACC Mark Hamilton said: “We just thought that if we paid out money the matter would simply go away.”
This was an extraordinary comment by the police chief who was put out front on legacy. Whilst Mark Hamilton’s answer was, from his perspective, honest, the reality was that another more senior police chief, then PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris, was in the actual driving seat.
The only logical conclusion is that the PSNI/MI5 objective is to conceal material relevant to a series of murders and attempted murders which if revealed would show the extent of collusion beyond that which is already known. It is believed this too could well implicate former RUC special branch agent-handlers. Noting that the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) determined not to prosecute the handlers of the killers this might well be material evidence relevant to a review of that decision. A review of existing material, again instrumental by the actions of Michael and Sinead challenging that initial decision not to prosecute, is now underway by the PPS.
And what of - where is - the so-called new beginning to policing I hear you ask?
Well, the wider cost of this constant shielding of special branch wrongdoing casts a long, dark shadow over current policing when it comes to legacy. A cost it appears that has no ceiling for the PSNI who are prepared to pay time and time again in terms of trust and public confidence rather than to hold to account former agent handlers who facilitated and covered up multiple murders. It mirrors the psychology of the most extreme Brexiteers.
And so as the battle for Michael and Sinead continues on with this civil case and a review by the PPS it is hoped that 2019 might yield results as the momentum of their long campaign pushes ever forward.
It’s the determination of people like Michael and Sinead Monaghan that will inevitably bring and create change in this society despite the best efforts of institutions and leading figures who seek to stand in their way.
NB. Attending the court hearing this morning were Sinead & Michael, Niall Murphy KRW Law and Eoin Murphy of Padraig O’Mhuirigh & Co Solicitors on behalf of the Brady family, that also forms part of the overall case. RFJ’s Mark Thompson was also in attendance. The next hearing is scheduled for January 24th 2019.