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Victims speak out as new Loughgall inquests ordered

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 25/09/2015

The Hiace van used by the IRA gang that was ambushed by the SAS outside Loughgall RUC station in 1988
The Hiace van used by the IRA gang that was ambushed by the SAS outside Loughgall RUC station in 1988
John Proctor
June McMullan
Patrick Kelly
Mairead Kelly

The widow of a policeman murdered by the IRA has said that it would have cost less money if "a bullet had been put into" her husband's killer.

June McMullan's angry reaction came in the wake of the news that a second inquest has been ordered into the deaths of eight IRA men and one civilian in 1987 during a terror attack on Loughgall police station.

The Loughgall ambush in which the SAS killed the Provo unit as they tried to blow up the rural police station has proven to be one of the most contentious events in the history of the Troubles.

A new inquest has been approved by Northern Ireland Advocate General and Conservative MP Jeremy Wright QC after a long campaign by the families of those who died.

However, while these families welcomed the inquest as a way of establishing the full truth of what happened that night, it has opened old wounds for other victims still seeking truth and justice for their loved ones.

Now remarried, Mrs McMullan's first husband - RUC reservist John Proctor - was murdered by gunmen in a hospital car park as she lay in a maternity ward after giving birth to their second son.

The Upperlands woman and her family will present a petition at Stormont next Monday of 3,000-plus signatures requesting that killers such as Seamus Kearney do not enjoy release privileges.

Kearney (58), of Gorteade Road in Maghera, was handed a minimum 20-year sentence in December 2013 after being convicted of her husband's murder based on DNA evidence on a cigarette butt found among spent bullets at the scene.

But under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement he will spend only a tenth of that period in jail.

He is due to be freed in November, but had brought legal challenges to extend his temporary prison release arrangements before that.

He now enjoys 48-hour home leave periods.

Mrs McMullan will also be back in the High Court on Tuesday for another challenge against Kearney.

Mrs McMullan said: "I believe that all victims have the right for the truth to be told about what happened to their loved ones.

"But we would have saved a lot more money if a bullet had been put in him instead of wasting all of this money on this court case."

The news of the second Loughgall inquest was also met with disappointment by Aileen Quinton, who lost her mother Georgina in the Enniskillen bombing in 1987.

She is angry that the victims of the Remembrance Day atrocity are still waiting on the outcome of the Historical Enquiries Team investigation since just before the 25th anniversary of the atrocity in 2012.

Last night she told the Belfast Telegraph: "There is all this talk here that there should not be a hierarchy of victims, but there absolutely should be. It seems like the less innocent you are, the more you matter. In an ideal world, you should arrest people rather than kill them.

"But sometimes you have to make a judgment call. If someone has to die, I would rather it was a bad guy than a good guy."

She is angry that the HET's recommendation Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness should be questioned about Enniskillen was blocked.

Victims' needs and the rights to truth and justice was raised in Dublin yesterday at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United said afterwards that the new proposed Historical Investigations Unit should house the coroner inquest system.

"The Loughgall case was fully closed off yet the Advocate General has just confirmed that a new inquest is to be held without providing any substantive rationale - is this a sign of things to come?" asked Mr Donaldson.

'Villiers statement was just a joke'

June McMullan's first husband John Proctor was killed by convicted IRA terrorist Seamus Kearney in 1981 when the RUC reservist went to visit his wife in a maternity hospital in Co Londonderry.

"We would have saved a lot of money if there had have been a bullet put in Seamus Kearney, instead of wasting all this money on a court case.

"There has been more spent on him one way or another than I got in compensation for Johnny's death.

"We'll be going up to Stormont on Monday to hand in a petition of over 3,000 signatures to protest against how my husband's killer has been allowed out on release from prison.

"And we will be back in court again on Tuesday because of Mr Kearney.

"However, I do think that all of the victims have the right for the truth to be told.

"But what Theresa Villiers has come out and said about amnesty today has been a joke.

"The news about the second inquest into the Loughgall attack doesn't really affect me or concern me in any way, nor does it have anything to do with my case.

"But these boys (the IRA unit killed at Loughgall) were going out to harm, so do their families think that new evidence will be uncovered at the second inquest? We will just have to wait and see what the outcome is."

'All we want is the truth to be told'

Mairead Kelly's brother Patrick was one of eight IRA men who were shot dead during the SAS operation in Loughgall, Co Armagh, in 1987.

"The basic thing that we want is for the truth to be told about what happened that night.

"The inquest under the new guidelines will mean that we will be able to face the soldiers and police and anyone else who was involved in the operation that night and they will face questions from our legal teams.

"We have the right to ask questions and have those questions answered. I sympathise with everybody who lost people in the Troubles because I'm in the same position myself. I just want everyone to be given the right, no matter who killed their people, to be given the truth. It gets a bit tiring to hear people say that we don't deserve the right.

"I think it's not knowing the truth that is most painful. We won't know what the new inquest will lead to until all the stuff is out there, it might end there, we just don't know.

"I believe once you know stuff, you can move on. There's a lot of heartache that we (the families) have gone through, we have seen things that most people should never see in their lifetime, regarding how our family members were killed.

"As long as we are given the truth, I'm quite prepared for the inquest."

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