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Government must apologise for IRA deaths, say families

By John Mulgrew

Relatives of four IRA men shot dead in Co Tyrone 20 years ago will today ask the Government to apologise for what they believe was a shoot-to-kill operation by security forces.

The families were set to attend a press conference in Belfast this morning — launching a new report into the deaths of the four men.

The men were killed when members of a specialist undercover military unit opened fire on them in a church car park in Clonoe in February, 1992.

Their deaths followed an IRA attack on an RUC base in nearby Coalisland.

They were killed as they dumped a lorry used in the machine-gun attack on the station.

Kevin Barry O’Donnell (21), Peter Clancy (21), Sean O’Farrell (22), and Patrick Vincent (19) died during the shooting.

According to Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice, the families of the four gunned down still want answers.

“Twenty years on and there is still no inquest. We are saying it was never an arrest operation — it was always the intent to kill,” he added.

“Maybe it’s time for the British Government or Owen Paterson to face up to it. Both the Secretary of State and Justice Minister David Ford have been given a copy of the report.”

But DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson refuted allegations of any form of shoot-to-kill policy by security forces, adding there would be no government inquiry carried out into the deaths. He said: “The question that the relatives should be asking is, why were these people in this position? The shooting has never been deemed unlawful and the matter should rest there.”

In August last year getaway driver Aidan McKeever — who was wounded during the attack — was awarded £75,000 in compensation — a decision Mr Donaldson branded “appalling”.

A High Court Judge, at the time, ruled that the shooting of the unarmed driver had not been justified.

Speaking ahead of today’s press conference, Roisin Ui Mhuiri — sister of Barry O’Donnell — said it “was never an arrest operation”.

The 32-page report claims that at least four days prior to the shootings, “knowledge existed that could have prevented any attack on Coalisland RUC station” which included “knowledge of the principal weapon”.

In the report the families call for “full disclosure of all material evidence” and that inquests into the killings begin, and include evidence from all security personnel involved.

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