Belfast Telegraph

Loughgall shootings lead court bid to get funding for Troubles inquests

By Alan Erwin

The SAS killings 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 in May 1987, has been granted leave to seek a judicial review against the Stormont administration and the Government.

Separate litigation is being pursued on behalf of the families of 10 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. 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 the cases dealt with within five years. Mr Hughes was killed after unwittingly driving into an SAS ambush that saw the greatest single loss of life suffered by the IRA during the Troubles.

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 when full judicial review proceedings get underway.

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