Belfast Telegraph

Inquiry call over loyalist weapons

Allegations that the British authorities helped to arm loyalist paramilitaries during the Northern Ireland troubles should be subject to an independent public inquiry, campaigners have said.

The call comes amid ongoing legal bids by relatives of those killed in two notorious loyalist massacres to sue the police and security services for compensation.

The High Court test cases have been taken by families of the victims of a shooting in the Sean Graham bookmaker's shop on Belfast's Ormeau Road in 1992 and the 1994 gun attack on the Heights Bar in Loughinisland, Co Down.

Five men were killed in the bookmaker's, while six men died two years later when gunmen opened fire in the village bar, which was packed with football fans watching the Republic of Ireland play in the World Cup.

The families allege that the authorities colluded with loyalists involved and, as a consequence, failed to investigate the crimes properly.

The civil actions also focus on the allegation that weapons used in the attacks came from a huge shipment smuggled into Belfast from apartheid-era South Africa in 1987 with the assistance of a British agent.

Campaign group Relatives for Justice believes up to 300 people died in attacks using the South African weapons.

Mark Thompson, from the group, said the claims should also be investigated by an independent inquiry.

"There needs to be a full judicial inquiry into the arming of loyalists with these weapons," he said.

He dismissed the current British government stance that there should be no more major public inquiries into the Northern Ireland troubles.

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