Preliminary Hearing’s into some of the most controversial killing’s during the ‘Troubles’ in Derry will begin in Belfast this morning. And, one of the cases will hear a statement made on behalf of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness by his lawyer’s.
One of the North’s most senior judges yesterday began the process a review of inquests. There are 56 outstanding cases involving a total of 97 deaths and they include killings by British soldiers, members of the RUC and others that involve allegations of state collusion.
Lord Justice Weir, the presiding judge of the Coroners’ Service, will spend the next two weeks examining the cases to assess their readiness to proceed to the inquest stage.
Four cases involving security force killings in Derry between 1972 and 1984 will go ahead at Laganside Court this morning. Three of the Derry cases are over 40-years-old.
The first of these is the case of 15-year-old Manus Deery who was shot dead by a British soldier close to his home in the Bogside in May, 1972. Next is the case of Seamus Bradley, a 19-year-old IRA member who was killed by the British Army during Operation Motorman in Creggan in July of 1972. The Court will also hear submissions from the lawyers of Thomas Friel who was 21-years-old when he was struck in the head by a rubber bullet in Creggan in May, 1973. Mr Friel was travelling home in a car following a night out. He died from his injuries five days later.
The other case involves the killing by the SAS of IRA members William Fleming and Daniel Doherty in December, 1984. They had gone to the grounds of Gransha Hospital in an attempt to kill a part-time member of the security forces. The motorbike on which they were travelling was rammed by the SAS who they opened fire killing both men without giving prior warning or making any attempt to arrest them.
In the case of Seamus Bradley, the Court will hear a statement from lawyer’s acting on behalf of Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuinness.
Belfast Court will hear from O’Muirigh Solicitors in relation to the killing after the familiy of the deceased requested input from the Deputy First Minister. Whilst giving evidence at the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday, Mr McGuinness stated that he was Adjutant, or second-in-command of the Derry Brigade of the Provisional IRA. Operation Motorman was six months after Bloody Sunday. The senior Sinn Fein figure subsequently said he left the IRA in 1974.
A letter from Mr McGuinness’ lawyers, seen by the ‘Journal’, states: “Please note that our Mr O’Muirigh will be in attendance at the Premliminary Hearing on 19 January, 2016 (today) to provide the Court will a full update and response from Mr McGuinness.”
The family of Seamus Bradley, who was unarmed when he was killed, have long alleged that after he was shot and captured by the British Army he was subsequently tortured and shot again.
Richard Campbell, solicitor for Derry legal firm Quigley, Grant and Kyle, who represent both the Bradley and Deery families said today’s court process “will begin to determine which cases are deemed ready to proceed and then the process of prioritising them will begin.”
Seamus Bradley’s brother Danny said that he hoped today’s hearing means the British Ministry of Defence will now hand over all relevant documentation so that a fresh inquest into the killing can proceed. He also said: “I want assurances that these cases will have juries and will not be determined by a judge. My brother’s case is too serious not to go ahead withiut having a jury in place.”
Helen Deery, sister of Manus Deery also wants a jury led inquest into her brother’s death: “I have not changed my position on this. I want a normal inquest, with a jury in place and the overturning of the open verdict given at the original inquest in 1973.”
The Preliminary Hearing’s into all the Derry related cases are scheduled to begin from 9.30am onwards this morning at Belfast’s Laganside Court Complex.