Friday 23 August 2019

PSNI chief ordered to appoint independent probe into Glenanne Gang killings

PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne
PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne

Rebecca Black

Northern Ireland's chief constable has been ordered to conduct an independent probe into alleged state collusion with a notorious loyalist murder gang, that has been blamed for around 130 murders and linked to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

At the Court of Appeal in Belfast, Lord Chief Justice Declan Morgan rejected an appeal by former Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chief George Hamilton against a 2017 judgement that the police's failure to conduct an overarching examination of state collusion with the Glenanne Gang was inconsistent with its human rights obligations.

The gang was a unit of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) that counted rogue security force personnel among its members.

Operating mostly in Tyrone and Armagh, the gang has been blamed for around 130 sectarian murders during the 1970s and 1980s.

READ MORE:  Dundalk bombing families in court for landmark ruling on collusion report

There was standing room only in court on Friday morning as families of those killed filled the public gallery and lined the aisles to hear Declan deliver the response to the appeal.

Outside the court, supporters, including other bereaved families such as those who lost loved ones in disputed shootings at Ballymurphy in 1971, held banners in solidarity.

The judge said said the court would not direct Chief Constable Simon Byrne on how the independent officers should proceed but he warned that if there are any unduly delays in appointing the officers, he would be at risk of further proceedings challenging such a failure.

The independent Historic Enquiries Team (HET) had partially completed a probe into the activities of the Glenanne Gang before its work was halted by PSNI commanders.

The HET had examined individual murders committed by the gang but had not undertaken an overarching thematic review of the collusion allegations.

The PSNI's decision to stop the HET review was challenged by way of judicial review by the family of one of the gang's victims.

The judicial review was taken by the family of Patrick Barnard, who was killed in a bomb blast in Dungannon in 1976.

The murder gang based at a farm in Glenanne, Co Armagh, allegedly contained members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment.

Up to 120 murders in nearly 90 incidents in Mid Ulster and Irish border areas are under scrutiny.

They include outrages such as the 1975 Miami Showband Massacre, where three members of the popular group were taken from their tour bus and shot dead on a country road in Banbridge, County Down, and the Step Inn pub bombing in Keady a year later, which claimed the lives of two Catholics.

It has also been linked to the murder of 33 people, including a pregnant woman, in the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

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