Efforts are intensifying to ensure investigations into British war crimes can obtain files still being withheld by the Crown Forces ahead of a cut-off date for conflict investigations.
The Coroner at the inquest into the murder of Gaelic sports official Sean Brown (pictured, left) said it was “amazing” that the PSNI had admitted it “misplaced” 18 folders of sensitive material about the killing which are now to be made available.
The court was told that a substantial amount of “police material” has recently been uncovered. The Coroner insisted he inquest would go ahead despite a guillotine date next May for conflict-related legal actions.
Collusion between loyalists and British forces is suspected in the abduction and murder of the prominent nationalist as he locked the gates at Bellaghy Wolfe Tones Club in County Derry in May 1997. No-one has been convicted of his killing.
His inquest began in March and is scheduled to resume next January. Opening the hearing, counsel for the Coroner said he had gone to view an expected three or four folders of material on Friday.
“It was something of a shock for me to find that it wasn’t three or four folders of material, but in fact 18 folders of material that I needed to deal with,” he added.
The material is now to be subjected to a ‘public interest’ censorship process.
Representing the Brown family, Des Fahy said every time a stone was turned over in the case, more material was uncovered.
He said: “Obviously our desire is that all available material is disseminated to all the properly interested parties to this inquest.
“But clearly there has to be some finality to this. We can’t come to each preliminary hearing and be told a significant body of further material has been identified and uncovered otherwise we are going to run into timetabling difficulties.”
He added: “It seems that up to this point the searches that have been conducted have not been sufficiently comprehensive.”
Coroner Justice Kinney said he was not entirely sure whether he should be criticising or congratulating the PSNI for the ‘find’ but said the inquest would not be stopped.
“How you misplace in terms, 18 folders, is amazing. I need to know this is the end of the line and I need an assurance by the next review that there has been appropriate due diligence and there are no further materials which are as yet undiscovered.”
PAUL ‘TOPPER’ THOMPSON
Separately, the family of a west Belfast man murdered by loyalists have called for information on the potential role of British intelligence in his death to be considered at his inquest.
Paul ‘Topper’ Thompson (pictured, right) was shot dead in April 1994 after a loyalist death squad cut a hole in a peace line fence close to a British army base to enter a nationalist area.
The authorities failed to act when told of the potential attack route. It was later reported that a number of cameras on the nearby Henry Taggart British army barracks were ‘not working’.
The gun used to kill the popular community artist is believed to have been smuggled into the north by British intelligence in the late 1980s. It was part of an arms supply linked to British Army agent and paramilitary killer Brian Nelson.
Information provided by Nelson was used by the UDA to target dozens of Catholic civilians in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
It has now emerged that Nelson was told by one of his British Army handlers that the taxi firm where Mr Thompson worked was linked to the Provisional IRA.
In a journal kept by Nelson he reveals that during a conversation the handler claimed the firm was “a PIRA run concern and I can be assured that everyone working there was PIRA connected in some way or another”.
He went on to say that he had “already formed that opinion” adding his belief that the IRA was involved with a number of taxi firms.
Mr Thompson’s brother, Eugene said the link between Brian Nelson, British intelligence and the firm his brother worked for is “very significant”.
“ We know also that a British soldier was arrested with a floor-plan of the (taxi firm) premises and that loyalists was monitoring the radio calls by the taxi firm.
“This is all material that needs to be examined by the inquest,” he said.
Mr Thompson spoke of his desire to “get justice for Paul, and justice for all, before the terrible new legacy legislation comes into force”.
Mike Ritchie of Relatives for Justice said: “This is an extremely important matter, tying the Paul Thompson’s murder to the targeting by loyalists of his place of work.
“It is a crucial matter that should be examined by the inquest which is ongoing.”
>>>>>> Brexit ‘driving acceptance of Irish unity’
U2 lead singer Bono has gained international headlines for comparing moves towards Irish reunification to a marital relationship – and a small frog pond.
The Dublin-born singer, real name Paul Hewson, has previously identified with the normally pro-unionist Fine Gael party.
He became the subject of international ridicule when, performing in 1987 in San Francisco, in he spotted signs with the abbreviation ‘SF’ and attacked fans he believed were expressing support for Sinn Féin.
And despite a song about the Bloody Sunday massacre being a factor in the band’s early success, Bono would typically preface every performance of ‘Sunday, Bloody Sunday’ with the words, ‘this is not a rebel song’ in order to reduce criticism of the British Army.
Interviewed ahead of a three-month residency in Las Vegas, Nevada, Bono’s views appear to have changed. He told Channel 4 News that joining the North of Ireland with the South would be “wonderful” as “this pond is too small for a feud among frogs”.
He also said: “In any marital arrangement, you’d like to think both parties would be attracted to each other – indeed falling in love would be great. We might not be at the falling in love stage, but we’re dating...I think we look more and more attractive to our northern partner.”
But one unionist hardliner was having none of it. Recent election results show unionist voters are now outnumbered by nationalists, but DUP MP Gregory Campbell still refuses to accept the possibility of change.
Writing on Facebook, he asked Bono if he is part of a United Ireland “fantasy world”.
He wrote: “A man of your age should know ‘dating’ is a two way process. It begins when both agree to date, WE DON’T. It goes further when they both agree to take it further, WE DON’T.”
Public debate has been embracing reunification as a way of ending the constant crisis of partition, including from within the unionist community itself.
Right-wing English politician Nigel Farage stated categorically last week that a united Ireland would happen. And the staunchly unionist Daily Telegraph newspaper headlined a recent article as: “The ‘inevitable’ vote on a united Ireland – and what it could mean”.
“The question of Irish unification is moving into the mainstream, 102 years after six counties in Ulster were partitioned,” it declared.
It also noted that in a poll this week, Sinn Féin extended its lead over its rivals in the 26 Counties and remains on course to be comfortably the largest party in the next Irish parliament.
“Brexit has changed everything because it has brought this conversation well beyond our republican base,” Sinn Féin MP John Finucane explained.
“People are no longer looking to London for the future. They very much see themselves as European and they recognise that the South is no longer a jurisdiction to be feared.”