Article 2 of Human Rights Act brought up 'in nearly every inquest', coroner says
A coroner has told a hearing that claims the state failed to protect lives in Northern Ireland seem to be made at almost every inquest he has been involved in.
Patrick McGurgan said he initially did not believe Article 2 of the Human Rights Act, which enshrines the official responsibility to safeguard the right to life, was relevant to the murder of a man shot dead outside a pizza shop four years ago.
Kieran McManus, from Orchard Hill in Crumlin, Co Antrim, suffered shotgun wounds to the chest and abdomen after he was attacked in a car park beside a Domino's Pizza outlet at Kennedy Way, West Belfast, in March 2013.
The coroner said: "Article 2 seems to be raising its head in nearly every inquest that I hear."
He told a lawyer for Mr McManus' family: "I don't want War and Peace on Article 2."
A number of inquests have been reopened in Northern Ireland into deaths in which the state was a participant, some dating back decades and involving killings by members of the security forces.
Article 2 has been a key plank of lawyers' arguments surrounding alleged state wrongdoing.
The 1998 Human Rights Act fixed the European Convention on Human Rights, which is enshrined by EU treaties, in domestic law.
Brexit has placed a question mark over the legal framework, according to lawyers unconnected to the McManus inquest.
The historic cases being heard in Northern Ireland, following a major review of conflict era killings, have no bearing on Mr McManus' death in 2013 which was considered during a brief hearing in Belfast on Monday.
Police said at the time McManus, who was father of a six-year-old child, was brutally gunned down in a public place by a lone gunman. A car was found burned out nearby.
The 26-year-old died at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast a short time later.
Members of Mr McManus' family were present at the inquest where the coroner said it was his preliminary view Article 2 was not relevant, or "engaged", in the inquest into his death.
John Finucane, a solicitor acting for the family, said he thought the coroner had already decided it was engaged and said he would need to undertake further legal work on the issue.
A criminal trial touching on the death is due to go ahead next year which has delayed some preparatory work.
Sensitive material has yet to be dealt with and a lawyer for the police said he feared full disclosure of some documents could prejudice the pending trial.
The coroner said: "We are probably 12 months away from an inquest."