Ballymurphy Massacre ~ Inquest Opens

Today had been listed for many months as the opening of the new inquest into the Ballymurphy Massacre, when 11 people were killed by members of the British Parachute Regiment between 9th and 11th August, 1971.

Mrs Justice Keegan is presiding over the inquest and shows great concern to keep momentum moving despite the prevarication over disclosure by the Ministry of Defence and continuing problems over identification of relevant military witnesses. Her concern seems genuine for families to have a sense that things are moving forward.

A considerable body of supporters walked from the City Hall to the courts in a great show of encouragement and solidarity for the families in the lead up to the hearing.

Once the inquest convened, in the largest court in the building (a reflection of the level of interest), a short hearing heard of a revised timetable as set out below.

Essentially, it is hoped to get through non-contentious material between November and the Christmas break, consisting of opening matters, and routine witnesses: ambulance personnel, mappers, witnesses with factual information about the area and the circumstances leading to the deaths. In 2019, the contentious witness evidence will be heard: military personnel, eye-witnesses, forensic and ballistics evidence and so on. In detail, the schedule is now as follows:

Week beginning 6th November, screening applications (for witnesses who wish to give anonymised testimony)
Week beginning 12th November, formal opening of inquest and family statements. Each family will nominate one member to give a statement about their loved one, their lives, the impact of the loss on their family and their hopes for and expectations of the inquest. Counsel of the coroner will then make an opening statement outlining the general circumstances of the deaths, post-incident matters, the practice at the time for the Royal Military Police to interview soldiers involved, proceedings at the first inquest, some details on the structure and manner of proceedings for the inquest and the law and any precedents to be borne in mind for proceedings. The scope of the inquest will also be outlined.
Along with the non-contentious evidence, this should all take matters through to the Christmas break. Tracing of military witnesses will continue through the autumn, with Fridays set aside for this task and any rulings required in relation to it.
The inquest will normally be in session from 10am to 4pm, Monday to Thursday, in Court 12, on the fourth floor of the Laganside Court building.
The inquest is set to last for a considerable number of months, and given previous experience of the behaviour of the British military and MoD, further delays and prevarication are no doubt to be expected.

With many thanks to: Relatives For Justice for the original posting.

Anger as ex-soldier charged over Ulster killing in 1988

ARMY veterans were left furious yesterday after an ex-soldier was charged with killing a Sinn Féin activist in the North of Ireland 30 years ago.

Aidan McAnespie was killed in 1988 in Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone.

Former Grenadier Guardsman David Holden is set to be prosecuted over the death of Aidan McAnespie in February, 1988.

McAnespie, 23, died after he was hit by one of three machine gun bullets which ricocheted off the road at an Army checkpoint in Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone.

Mr Holden, who was only 18 at the time, has always insisted the weapon slipped in his wet hands and he pulled the trigger accidentally.

He was initially accused of manslaughter but the charge was later dropped.

McAnespie’s sister Margo, father John and brother Vincent yesterday in Belfast.

In 2009, the Government expressed “deep regret” over McAnespie’s death and a formal re-investigation was launched in 2016.

Mr Holden, now 48, was told via email he will face a charge of gross negligence manslaughter.

It is understood the decision was based on a new ballistics report.

Formal papers will be served in the coming weeks.

McAnespie’s father John, sister Margo and brother Vincent reportedly met the Public Prosecution Service in Belfast yesterday.

Veterans have condemned the move as yet another example of the “great betrayal” of servicemen who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

While IRA terrorists have been let off scot-free, hundreds of soldiers are now facing investigation as part of the peace process.

Alan Barry, a fellow Grenadier Guardsman and founder of the Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans (JNIV) campaign group, said: “It was an accident. This is all part of a Republican-driven witch hunt.”

The funneral of Aidan McAnespie in 1988

 

Three other former soldiers have been charged over incidents in Northern Ireland in the 1970s.

The JNIV wants a time limit for so-called “legacy” prosecutions.

Last week, almost 200 former soldiers gathered outside the House of Commons, calling for a 10-year time limit on prosecuting people in the military.

The Daily Express’s Betrayal Of Our Veterans campaign seeks to protect troops who served in the Troubles.

With many thanks to the: Daily Express for the origional story.

 

Death of Aidan McAnespie has hung heavily over community for 30 years

Aidan McAnespie was shot dead in February 1988

THE shooting of Aidan McAnespie as he made his way to a football match on a Sunday afternoon in February 1988 has hung heavily over the GAA and wider nationalist community.

Before his death the 23-year-old was the focus of a campaign of harassment by security forces and the manner of his death opened a sore that has festered for more than 30 years.

His family now hope that the prosecution of the British soldier who fired the fatal shot will provide answers to questions they have been asking for decades.

They have always rejected army claims that the Aughnacloy man was struck in the back by a ricochet bullet.

At his funeral, Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich was scathing in his criticism.

The anger felt by nationalists was compounded when a manslaughter charge against Grenadier Guardsman David Jonathan Holden was dropped in September 1988 and he was allowed to return to the British army.

Earlier this year former GAA director general Páraic Duffy wrote to the Irish government asking it to release the Crowley Report, which was compiled by then Garda deputy commissioner Eugene Crowley after the shooting.

The results of the investigation were received by then justice minister Gerry Collins in April 1988, but have never been published.

It also emerged this year that the north’s state pathologist has confirmed that a section of the Tyrone man’s rib cage was removed and later “disposed of”.

Archbishop Eamon Martin appealed to Secretary of State Karen Bradley to help locate the missing body part.

The continuing campaign for truth has taken its toll on the McAnespie family.

Speaking yesterday, Aidan’s brother Vincent paid tribute to his sister Eilish McCabe who died in 2008.

“My sister fought the campaign for nearly 20 years, she fought tirelessly for it,” he said.

“It actually wore Eilish down and it ended up she passed away after a 20-year campaign.

“But it was Eilish that got the HET (Historical Enquiries Team) on board at that early stage.

“And in fairness the HET helped to lead to this result.”

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the oigional story.

 

 

 

The family of Kathleen Thompson were in Coleraine Court today as the inquest into the circumstances of their mother’s death in November 1971 resumed.

However it adjourned shortly after lunch with further enquiries necessary to identify potential military witnesses. A preliminary hearing has been set for the end of June.
The court heard from David Thompson, Kathleen’s son, who is believed to be the last person to speak to his mother alive before she was shot dead in her garden in the early hours by a British soldier.
The court also heard from Matthew Lewsey, an expert from the MOD who outlined the steps undertaken to identify documents and military witnesses.
Karen Quinlivan QC, representing the family, cross examined the witness- outlining various steps that had not been taken to identify soldiers A, B & C- the three soldiers who had provided statements to the RMP & inquest at the time.
Quinlivan stated that all the soldiers had been identified as part of the Saville inquiry- including those in the Royal Green Jackets and Royal Anglians, but that was not the case in relation to the shooting of Kathleen Thompson. The MOD confirmed that steps had not been taken to determine whether any of those identify for Saville were A B or C but they could be followed up on. Further steps, including examining personnel files and providing info for the Coroner to approach HMRC re current addresses based on pension records had also not been pursued. These potential avenues came to light during a preliminary hearing as part of the Ballymurphy inquest. Counsel for the family then took instructions and the court heard that they would like these further avenues to be addressed by the MOD. The case was adjourned until the end of June, at which time an update will be provided and hopefully a further date to conclude the inquest will be determined.
Soldier D, the shooter, gave evidence at an earlier hearing in March. He had in effect ‘traced’ himself when he wrote to the RUC in 2002 asking that the files relating to Kathleen’s death not be released following publicity in local press following an intervention by Mark Durkan.
PFC was in court supporting the Thompson family, who are represented by Fearghal Shiels from Madden & Finucane.

With many thanks to the: Pat Finucane Centre for the origional story.

Plastic bullet files ordered closed for up to 84 years

Paul Whitters (15) died ten days after being hit by a plastic bullet.

The mother of a teenager killed by a plastic bullet 37 years ago this week has called for all files on her son’s death to be published.

Helen Whitters was speaking after it was revealed that a file about the death of her son, Paul (15) in 1981 has been closed at the National Archives at Kew until 2059.

The Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) has discovered that other files at Kew relating to plastic bullet deaths are to remain closed for 84 years until 2071.

Paul Whitters was struck on the back of his head by a plastic bullet fired by an RUC constable on April 15 1981. He survived for ten days, dying on April 25. In 2007, then Ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan found that the use of the plastic bullet round was “wrong and unjustifiable.”

The former Ombudsman found that the police officer fired the plastic bullet gun at under the minimum permissible range; that no attempt was made to arrest the teenager and that the police account was inconsistent with that of seven eyewitnesses. She criticised the police investigation for failing to interview civilian witnesses who said that when the fatal shot was fired earlier rioting had stopped. Almost a year to the day after the teenager’s death, 11-year-old Stephen McConomy, also Derry, died after being hit by a plastic baton round.

Mrs Whitters said: “What right does the government have to withhold information until those who knew and loved Paul are long dead.

“This is about the death of my son at the hands of a RUC constable. This file must be opened and I am appealing to everyone with influence to raise this matter with the Secretary of State.”

PFC spokeswoman, Sara Duddy said: “For years families have campaigned for information relating to the use of plastic and rubber bullets, lethal weapons that killed 17 people during the conflict, mostly children. Many more suffered life-changing injuries. It is unacceptable that information is still being withheld.”

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the origional story.

Arlene (the green crocodile) Foster ‘should be held fully liable for legal costs’.

Arlene Foster was first minister at the time the decision to block the funding was taken.

A lawyer for Arlene Foster has said she should not have to pay the costs of a successful legal action against her.

Last week a judge ruled that the former first minister’s decision to block funding for a legacy inquests plan was unlawful and flawed.

The Attorney General said that as she was no longer first minister she had no ministerial responsibility.

John Larkin QC added that she should not be liable for any damages awarded to the person who took the case.

He said this was because an allegation of discrimination had been rejected by the court.

Foster decision on inquests ‘unlawful and flawed’
However a lawyer for the woman who took the case argued that the leader of the DUP should have to pay costs because she was the “main culprit”.

Brigid Hughes challenged the failure by Stormont’s executive office, the justice department and the secretary of state to put in place adequate funding to prevent further delays in holding legacy inquests.

Her husband, Anthony, was a civilian shot dead along with eight members of the IRA in May 1987 by the SAS as republicans attacked Loughgall police station in County Armagh.

Judge Sir Paul Girvan last week ruled in her favour.

He said Mrs Foster was wrong to think the decision on funding a proposal from the Lord Chief Justice for dealing with legacy inquests could be postponed until after a wider political agreement on dealing with the past.

At a hearing to determine costs and other issues on Friday, lawyers for the executive office, the justice department and the secretary of state also argued that they should not have to foot the bill.

At one point the judge said: “The long and the short of is that the various parties failed to progress this issue.”

‘Main culprit in all this’
Barry Macdonald QC, representing Mrs Hughes, rejected the arguments and said his client had won her case and was therefore entitled to have her legal bill paid.

He said those paying should include the leader of the DUP.

“The former first minister was really the main culprit in all this,” he told the court.

“She blocked consideration of the proposal, she promoted the notion that it was permissible and lawful to withhold funding for legacy inquests pending a resolution of overall legacy issues.

“Costs are appropriate against her.”

Last week the judge also ruled that the secretary of state and relevant Stormont departments must now reconsider the issue of funding for Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan’s plan to deal with all legacy inquests within five years.

Lawyers for the secretary of state, the justice department and the executive office argued he should not issue a court order compelling their clients to reconsider.

Image caption
Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan called for extra funding for inquests
They said there was no need to do so as they were public authorities and would therefore comply with his judgement.

But Mr Macdonald insisted there was a need for an order because the response of those named in the legal action demonstrated that they had “failed to recognise their responsibilities”.

“An element of compulsion is necessary because any party failing to act would be in contempt of court,” he said.

‘Lack of transparency’
The judge also referenced comments by the head of Northern Ireland’s civil service, David Sterling, who earlier this week revealed there was a policy of not taking minutes at some meetings.

Speaking at the inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme he said this was so the details would not be available under Freedom of Information, and to avoid potential embarrassment to DUP and Sinn Féin ministers.

Discussing Barry Macdonald QC’s submission that there should be an order compelling compliance with the judgement issued last week, Sir Paul Girvan said: “Unless you have a more intrusive order you will end up with a perpetuation of nothing happening – in a context where there’s a lack of transparency of how decisions are reached because it might embarrass somebody.”

The judge will deliver his ruling on costs and the next steps to be taken by the relevant authorities later this month.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the origional story.