Ruairí McHugh, a classmate of Arlene Arkinson, supports family call for full public inquiry

Derry City and Strabane Council passed a notice of motion supporting the Arkinson family in their call for the Justice Minister Naomi Long to establish a full public inquiry into the RUC investigation into Arlene Arkinson's disappearance.

Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 11:33 am
Updated Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 11:34 am
Arlene Arkinson and her suspected killer Robert Howard

The 15-year-old from Castlederg disappeared in August 1994 after a night out in Bundoran in County Donegal.

She was last seen in a car driven by convicted child killer and rapist Robert Howard, and her body has never been found.

Sinn Féin Councillor Ruairí McHugh, a classmate of Arlene at St. Patrick’s Primary School, brought the motion to council.

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He said: “This July at the conclusion of the inquest into what happened to Arlene, the coroner concluded that she had been murdered and her body secreted somewhere in this jurisdiction by Robert Howard.

“Howard was a serial sex offender. He had a decades-long record of sexual convictions including the rape of a 50-year old woman in Cork, the attempted rapes of a six-year old child and 23-year old woman in England.

“These were convictions the then RUC would have undoubtedly known about. Within a very short period of time after Howard would have come to Castlederg in 1991, yet the community were never alerted to his crimes."

Colr. McHugh said there remain 'many unanswered questions around Arlene’s case'. and criticised the use of 'public interest immunity certificates in this case.'

"We need to support the Arkinson family in their call to the Justice Minister for the establishment of a full public enquiry into this whole sordid affair.

“This is essentially the last legal recourse for Arlene’s family and it may even help locate Arlene’s remains which would bring some sort of closure to Arlene’s family by affording them the right to have a Christian burial for Arlene.

Party colleague Michaela Boyle commended Councillor McHugh for bringing forward the motion before SDLP Councillor Steven Edwards gave his party’s support.

“The inquest did uncover a lot of failings on behalf of the RUC into the investigation,” he said. “There were serious failures detailed and we do support the Arkinson family’s call for a public enquiry.”

Although deciding to abstain on the motion, Alliance Councillor Rachael Ferguson said: “We fully understand Kathleen’s drive to get truth and justice for her sister and we are fully supportive of this motion and the need for the family to lay their sister to rest.”

Derg DUP Alderman Keith Kerrigan offered his party’s support, agreeing with previous speakers that ‘there are questions that need to be answered.’

Thanking Councillor McHugh for bringing the motion forward, UUP Alderman Ryan McCready called the disappearance and murder of Arlene as ‘wholly abhorrent.’

He said: “I want to thank the Member given his personal connection from when he grew up and the fact he told us and it wasn’t filtered. It was descriptive in a way that conveyed that actual brutality and how horrendous these events were and that’s needed as a reminder of what happened.”

Deputy Mayor, Sinn Féin Councillor Christopher Jackson thanked Members in the Chamber for the ‘passion that is clearly evident’, he also thanked them for the respect shown to the family.

Members voted in favour of the motion with the exception of the two Alliance councillors who abstained.