A 70-year-old County Tyrone man is facing trial on historic IRA charges, despite concerns that the prosecution amounts to an abuse of process, as prosecutions of British soldiers remain suspended or effectively abandoned ahead of pending legislation for conflict-related amnesty.
Prosecutors have charged pensioner Arthur McNally in relation to an attack on a British soldier in 1987.
He was brought to court for a hearing in Dungannon Magistrates Court last Friday. He is the first IRA Volunteer to be prosecuted for a pre-Good Friday Agreement offense in almost ten years.
He was previously arrested and released without charge in connection with the Provisional IRA’s Ballygawley attack in 1988, in which eight British soldiers died. He and a number of other republicans successfully won a case at the European Court of Human Rights over their mistreatment by the judicial system.
Speaking at the committal procedure, the defence lawyer said he had “grave, fundamental concerns regarding the structural integrity of this proposed prosecution.”
“The court will be aware of the intended legislation before parliament in the northern Ireland Troubles Legacy and Reconciliation Bill... which states no criminal investigation for any Troubles-related offence may be continued from 1 May 2023,” he said.
“The government’s clear intention was that this would have attained Royal Assent by 19 July, which was the date this Bill was to become law, and insofar as that’s the case, the court may be intended to participate in an Abuse of Process to commence and/or entertain this prosecution.”
He continued: “This case will require careful consideration. There are evidential issues … which immediately raise concerns in my eyes. It pains me to say this, but the prosecution has been brought in bad faith.
“This has been hastily put together to meet arbitrary deadlines set against the passage of the Bill through Parliament. The British government seeks to protect its own actors with this legislation yet is intent on bringing tenuous and cynical cases such as this.”
The defence described McNally as a retired father-of-four who was previously in prison, but since his release in 1979, he has never been back.
“He is a peaceful, law-abiding, very well-respected member of his community, and this prosecution has caused him great distress and concern,” said the defence.
The judge adjourned the case, which will be in court again later this month.