An inquest into the murder of Gaelic sports official Sean Brown which was due to resume this month has now been put back until March after it emerged that a suspect in the killing is believed to be a serving member of the British Army’s Royal Irish Regiment (RIR).
The 61-year-old was attacked and beaten as he locked the gates at the Bellaghy Wolfe Tones club, in County Derry, in May 1997.
It has also emerged that another suspect held a personal protection weapon and was regularly visited by an RUC police officer at his home.
After he was placed in the boot of his own car, Mr Brown was taken to a country lane outside Randalstown, County Antrim, where he was shot six times.
His murder was carried out by a pro-British death squad operating under the banner of the loyalist paramilitary ‘Loyalist Volunteer Force’ (LVF).
Collusion is strongly suspected, and several of those thought to be involved are believed to be state agents.
Mr Brown’s inquest, which has involved around 40 hearings, has been held up on several occasions due to a transparent PSNI delaying strategy.
Mr Brown’s family have accused state agencies of “cynically” trying to “derail” the long-delayed inquest. It was due to resume this month, but has now been put back until March.
Under the British government’s controversial Legacy Act, inquests that have not reached their findings stage by next May will be halted.
During Friday’s hearing, barrister for the Brown family, Des Fahy KC, expressed dismay at the censorship of Crown Force documents provided to the inquest.
He also revealed that a person designated as ‘Suspect 15’ and who is described in an unredacted section as “believed to be a serving member of the Royal Irish Regiment”.
“This is wholly new information to the next of kin and the potential impact of such information is obvious I am sure to everyone involved in this inquest,” he said.
Mr Fahy also referred to a person designated as Suspect 2.
“There are clear inferences from a next of kin point of view as to circumstances as to which a person, never mind a suspect, would legally hold a personal protection weapon,” he said.
One document revealed that two main suspects were stopped by the RUC in Randalstown a day or two days before the murder of Mr Brown and that their details were taken. He hit out at the censorship and said the matter was of huge potential significance to the Brown family.
“We are bewildered that the security services document, the statement that we have seen, is redacted to the extent that it is,” said Mr Fahy.
Public support for justice in the case has grown after the GAA in Ulster passed a motion supporting the families of Sean Brown and another assassinated member, Councillor Patsy Kelly, along with “all other families impacted by the legacy act”.
On the 22nd of December last, Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAC in County Derry issued a powerful statement regarding the murder of their then chairman. Sean Brown and his recently deceased son Damian were both passionate members of the GAA.
They share the fear that the British state will attempt to ‘run down the clock’ on such cases until ‘The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill’ comes into effect.
GAA county boards in Tyrone, Derry and Armagh all passed motions at their recent annual conventions supporting the family of Sean Brown in their quest for justice. On social media over thirty GAA clubs have voiced their support for the Brown family and for Wolfe Tones GAC Bellaghy. There is increasing pressure for the powerful national organisation to support the families of their murdered members.
In a statement earlier this month, Éirígí urged the GAA to “bring the full force of its influence and membership to bear on those seeking to prevent justice for the family of Sean Brown by demanding an inquest without any more delays”.