Thomas Friel inquest scheduled

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One of the first fresh inquests into killings from the North’s troubled past will focus on a Derry man who was hit by a rubber bullet.

Thomas Friel (21) was shot in Creggan on May 18, 1973 after returning from a night out. He died four days later.

The Attorney General ordered a fresh inquest to examine the circumstances of Thomas’ death five years ago.

The order in which dozens of fresh legacy inquests will be heard was announced by the Presiding Coroner Mrs Justice Keegan earlier this week.

She said the decision on which of the cases will be heard first had been one which she had given “very anxious consideration”.

Mrs Justice Keegan emphasised that no legacy inquest is “more important or of greater priority than any other”.

The Department of Justice plans to release £55 million over six years to deal with 52 legacy inquests involving 93 deaths between the 1970s and 2000.

On Wednesday, the public gallery of Belfast Coroner’s Court, sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice, was filled to capacity with bereaved families as Mrs Justice Keegan announced the planned sequencing.

The inquest into the death of Thomas Friel is to be one of the first three hearings to be held between April 2020 and April 2021.

The final inquests to be listed for year one include the killings of William Fleming and Daniel Doherty who were shot in the grounds of Gransha Hospital in 1984.

She told the court she recognised that some people would be left disappointed but offered reassurance that the remaining cases will be kept under review.

“I give you the commitment that my judicial colleagues and I will do everything in our power to complete legacy inquests within the five-year timeframe,” she added.