A lawyer representing families whose relatives were state victims of two of the most controversial shooting incidents of the ‘Troubles’ in Derry has said he is ‘gobsmacked’ by a decision to shelve a plan to deal with legacy inquests.
The announcement that the plan to look afresh at more than 80 ‘Troubles’ related deaths centres on the fact that the Northern Ireland Executive failed to sign off on a request for funding by Northern Ireland’s leading legal figure, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan.
The Lord Chief Justice wanted a funding package spread over a five year period to complete the hearing of the outstanding cases. However, it has since emerged that the financial package was not even discussed by the Executive.
Under the executive’s rules, the funding proposal needed the agreement of the first and deputy first ministers to make it on to the agenda for discussion.
It has been claimed that First Minister Arlene Foster blocked the approval of the package and in a later statement the DUP said the proposal would have impacted on the ability of the Executive to address the needs of the bulk of victims. It also said the issue will be re-examined when after the formation of a new Executive following this week’s Assembly elections.
Richard Campbell of Quigley, Grant and Kyle Solicitors in Derry has been dealing with two legacy cases over a number of years.
One is the death in highly disputed circumstances of a 19-year-old IRA member, Seamus Bradley. The teenager was initially wounded by a member of the Scots Guards during Operation Motorman in the early hours of July 31, 1972. Bradley was then apprehended by the British Army and taken at some point to a school in Creggan which had been commandeered as a make-shift operations base. However when his remains were later examined, Bradley had been shot at least three more times and abrasions on his neck have led to allegations by his family that a noose had been placed around his neck during an apparently protracted period of torture.
The second case is that of Manus Deery, who was 15-year-old when he was shot dead by a round fired by a British soldier stationed on the city’s walls on May 19, 1972. The teenager was standing with friends below the soldier’s position in the heart of the Bogside when he was struck.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ Richard Campbell said: “I am in shock about this. I cannot believe that a request from the Lord Chief Justice in order to able to timetable and schedule these inquests look like it was simply ignored. I am gobsmacked.
“I am sorry to say that the impact this will have on these families, the Bradley family in particular will be devastating. This is because the Seamus Bradley case was so close to having a resolution. Now it is a case of being so near, but yet so far away.
“I am dumbfounded that a request by the Lord Chief Justice was ignored and if the leading legal figure in this country cannot get a resolution then how can anyone else?”