Belfast Telegraph

Concerns raised on SAS ambush files

Lawyers for an IRA man shot dead in an SAS ambush have expressed concern at delays in releasing personnel files of the soldiers involved to a coroner.

Kevin Barry O'Donnell, 21, was one of four IRA members shot dead in the village of Clonoe near Coalisland, Co Tyrone in February 1992.

Sean O'Farrell, Patrick Vincent and Peter Clancy were also killed in the special forces operation, which was carried out at the chapel graveyard minutes after the IRA men had opened fire on Coalisland police station with a heavy machine gun.

At a preliminary coroner's court hearing in Belfast ahead of an inquest into the four deaths, a barrister representing the O'Donnell family said they held "genuine and real concerns" that the timetable for disclosing police and military files on the case was not being adhered to.

Among the documents the family are waiting sight of are Ministry of Defence personnel files on the 14 soldiers involved in the operation and, in particular, information as to whether they had been involved in other lethal force incidents during their military careers.

Lawyers for both the PSNI and MoD today said their respective disclosure work was anticipated to be completed by Christmas.

Ian Skelt, representing the O'Donnell family, told coroner Jim Kitson there had been a "shifting back" of an already delay-hit timetable.

"It does seem we are shifting back months and months every time we appear before you sir," he said to Mr Kitson.

"We have genuine and real concerns. While this needs to be dealt with properly, it also needs to be dealt with quickly."

He added: "We want material as soon as possible, we can't see why it keeps getting shifted back."

Ken Boyd, appearing for the MoD, said work was ongoing to produce the personnel files.

"This is not a matter of the Ministry not attending to this," he said.

"This is being worked on and given the urgency required."

Mark Robinson, representing the PSNI, said the police's outstanding disclosure work was also being addressed.

"I believe that the team are working hard in relation to all the material," he said.

Both Mr Robinson and Mr Boyd indicated that the work of their clients was set to be completed before Christmas.

With a number of documents then required to be passed to the Government to be assessed on national security grounds, the families will be in for a further wait before full disclosure is delivered.

Mr Kitson said he wanted the Christmas timetable to be adhered to by the PSNI and MoD.

"I do share Mr Skelt's concerns that indications (on disclosure timing) are given and indications are revised," he said.

"But I'm hearing a very clear message that by Christmas all those documents are hopefully going to be completed."

He told the police and Army's legal representatives: "If it becomes clear that matters are slipping I would expect my office to be informed immediately.

"It's important that all matters get explored fully, but it's not an open book in terms of timescale."

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