Belfast Telegraph

Loughgall SAS killings to be lead case in High Court battle to secure funding for troubles-related deaths inquests

Fomer First Minister Arlene Foster is accused of being responsible for the funding logjam

By Alan Erwin

The SAS killing of eight IRA men and a civilian is set to be the lead case in a major High Court battle to secure funding for inquests into troubles-related deaths.

Brigid Hughes, whose husband Anthony was shot dead after being innocently caught up in the ambush at Loughgall, Co Armagh in May 1987, has been granted leave to seek a judicial review against the Stormont administration and British Government.

Separate litigation is also being pursued on behalf of the families of ten people killed by soldiers in west Belfast nearly 46 years ago.

Legal proceedings were issued on behalf of a daughter of one of the civilians shot dead in Ballymurphy over a three-day period during the introduction of internment in August 1971.

They claim the continued withholding of funding is thwarting a five-year plan devised by Northern Ireland's most senior judge to deal with a backlog of inquests into legacy cases.

But Mrs Hughes' case is now expected to be examined first at a full hearing later this year.

Both challenges are aimed at securing an order for the release of money required to hear all outstanding legacy inquests.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan has called for urgent action to fund his blueprint for having all cases dealt with within five years.

With the cost of the plan estimated at around £10m, the government has said resources will not be released until a political agreement is reaching on dealing with the past.

Mr Hughes was fatally wounded after unwittingly driving into an SAS ambush that inflicted the greatest single loss of life suffered by the IRA during the conflict.

Lawyers for his widow have accused former DUP First Minister Arlene Foster of being responsible for the funding logjam.

At a previous hearing they alleged that a press report where she referred to a perceived skewing towards inquests into state killings pointed to a discriminatory approach.

A reference to innocent victims and killings by paramilitary groups indicated a reliance on political opinion about different categories of cases, it was contended.

Counsel instructed by the Department of Justice and Secretary of State responded that any allegations of discrimination or blocking categories of victims were unsustainable.

Mr Justice Maguire will now scrutinise all arguments in greater detail when full judicial review proceedings get underway.

Outside court Mrs Hughes solicitor stressed the importance for all families still pressing for inquests.

Darragh Mackin of KRW Law said: "It's clearly arguable that this logjam is as a result of a discriminatory approach adopted by the former First Minister.

"We now look forward to a full hearing so this matter can be resolved and all those families subject to the coronial process can have their inquests in a timely and human rights-compliant manner.

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