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SAS 'acted disproportionately' in deaths of eight IRA men at Loughgall

SAS soldiers who shot dead eight IRA men and a bystander as they attacked a police station acted excessively, a lawyer for the bereaved claimed.

Solicitor Peter Corrigan claimed the targets could have been arrested as they entered the Co Armagh village of Loughgall in May 1987, avoiding the bloodshed which followed.

Mr Corrigan called for reopened inquests into their deaths to be held speedily.

He said: "The reason for the promptness and expedition is so that there is no perception in the public that the state are colluding or acquiescing in an unlawful act."

The SAS intercepted the IRA unit as it launched an attack on a police station in the village.

Anthony Hughes, 36, was killed after being caught up in the gunfire.

Mr Corrigan added: "The state authorities had prior knowledge and did not effect arrests when they entered Loughgall - they acted disproportionately and excessively."

He said the case should be among the most urgently dealt with by a coroner's system in Northern Ireland which is under great pressure with a backlog of dozens of legacy inquests.

The lawyer said: "It flies in the face of expedition and promptness that we still don't have a date set for an that the public can have confidence that the state are properly investigating controversial murders like this case."

Lord Justice Weir is reviewing all the inquests to determine when they can be held or if the coroner's system is not capable of dealing with some of them.

Controversy has long surrounded the Loughgall ambush with claims the SAS team continued to fire on a number of the IRA men with heavy machine guns as they lay wounded on the ground.

The IRA members killed were Jim Lynagh, 32; Padraig McKearney, 32; Gerard O'Callaghan, 29; Tony Gormley, 25; Eugene Kelly, 25; Patrick Kelly, 32; Seamus Donnelly, 19; and Declan Arthurs, 21.

The UK's Advocate General ordered the new inquest after considering issues of national security.

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