One of the most controversial killings of the ‘Troubles’ is at a fairly advanced stage in terms of proceeding to a fresh inquest, a Belfast Court has been told.
Before the Court on Tuesday was the case of Seamus Bradley, a 19-year-old member of the IRA who was killed by the British Army during Operation Motorman on July 31, 1972. The Bradley family maintain that after the teenager was shot and then captured by the Army he was taken to a school that the security forces had commandeered in Creggan where he was shot again as well as tortured.
The court was told that the most pressing delay was the tracing of military personnel present at the time.
However, the court heard that all information deemed as ‘non-sensitive’ held by both the PSNI and Ministry of Defence had now been disclosed to the legal counsel for the Bradley family.
There was an issue over material held in a closed War Office file the court was told, and moves were in motion to have that material released and that the Ministry of Defence are holding a further seven pages of material deemed to be ‘sensitive’ whilst the PSNI they have around 100 pages of material which they also claim qualifies as ‘sensitive’ as well.
A central part of the preliminary hearing was the calling as witnesses to the forthcoming inquest of both Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. Seamus Bradley’s next of kin, his brother Danny, instructed his family’s legal counsel to do so based on the attendance of both men at a meeting with British representatives in the weeks leading to Operation Motorman in July, 1972. It is the intention of the inquest to ask both republican leaders if they gained any forewarning of the British operation and that after that point the Provisional IRA in Derry were ordered to stand down.
A statement giving by the lawyer for the Deputy First Minister revealed that he was prepared to co-operate with the inquest either by making a statement or appearing at the proceedings when they are listed to go ahead.
However a letter from the legal counsel for Gerry Adams states: “Mr Adams supports the demands for a proper investigation into Seamus Bradley’s death and has raised this serious issue with the Taoiseach. He instructs that he has no information whatsoever about the murder of Seamus Bradley other than what is in the public domain. While it is true as stated in the solicitor’s letter, Mr Adams was a member of the Republican delegation that met representatives of the British government in 1972, the subsequent (IRA) ceasefire had already broken down.
“We would respectfully suggest the written submission does not set out any basis whatsoever for the inclusion of Mr Adams on the Inquest witness list.”
Lord Justice Weir said: “Has anybody asked Mr McGuinness or Mr Adams if they had learned of Operation Motorman at the meeting in Derry in 1972?
Mr David Heraty, barrister for the Bradley family told the court in relation to the 1972 meeting and the attendance of Mr McGuinness and Mr Adams as members of a republican delegation: “This is important information, we need to know their recollections of the events. Where the Provisional IRA in Derry told to stand down?
In considering the release of ‘sensitive material’ in relation to the case, counsel for the Crown, Mr Robinson said the Ministry of Defence had passed material forward to be released but that it required certification from the Minister of Defence.
Lord Justice Weir then queried the length of time this will take and was told that it could take two months. He also asked if the request to the Minister for the release of the material had actually been made and told “no” by Mr Robinson.
“No. More delays. It’s very important given the time frame that we get on with this. All these delays laid out end to end waste time.”
Crown counsel also contended that no minutes or records of the meeting between republicans and the British government in Derry in 1972 could be found.
Justice Weir responded: “It’s not a secret anymore, it has been widely written about. It was a meeting of certain political figures in the early 1970s. Somebody must have records of it.”
With regard to the tracing of military personnel the Crown barrister said the Ministry of Defence had compiled a spreadsheet of names that may be of benefit to the inquest. However, Mr Robinson said that the list could not be cross referenced with the original list from the initial inquest in 1973 because it could not be found.
“This is wearing a bit thin,” said Lord Justice Weir.
”Even though the Bloody Sunday Inquiry could locate all the soldiers involved in that, but you can’t find these ones. I find that very difficult to believe. You’ll have to employ a tracing agency like they did for the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. It’s about time we knew who these people are.
“It is important that these soldiers are brought forward, but there is no suggestion that if they are not that the inquest will not go ahead. No one should think that inactivity will prevent the inquest. In fact certain inferences may be drawn from their absence. Find these people, get statements from them and get them there as witnesses. This is a matter of bringing this to a conclusion,” he said