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Murdered ex-IRA prisoner’s widow clears first stage in legal battle over burial place

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Dolores McGuigan, Kevin McGuigan's widow is attempting to have his remains interned in the same grave as their late daughter.

Dolores McGuigan, Kevin McGuigan's widow is attempting to have his remains interned in the same grave as their late daughter.

Dolores McGuigan, Kevin McGuigan's widow is attempting to have his remains interned in the same grave as their late daughter.

The widow of murdered ex-IRA prisoner Kevin McGuigan has cleared the first stage in a High Court battle to have his body exhumed.

Dolores McGuigan was granted leave to seek a judicial review over being denied permission to move his remains for interment in the same grave as their late daughter.

Kevin McGuigan, 53, was shot dead in front of his wife at their home in the Short Strand, east Belfast in August 2015.

Republicans were suspected of sanctioning the father-of-nine’s murder amid disputed claims he was involved in the killing of former IRA commander Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison in the Markets area of the city three months previously.

McGuigan is currently buried in a plot owned by his mother at Belfast City Cemetery.

In August 2021 the Department for Communities turned down a request to be allowed to move the body.

The decision was taken after the murder victim’s mother refused consent to the exhumation.

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Revised policy guidance states that without agreement from the owner, a grave can only be opened in exceptional circumstances.

Mrs McGuigan, as her husband’s nearest surviving relative, is challenging the determination made by the respondent Department.

She alleges that the refusal breaches her entitlement to private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In a statement she described the “devastating impact” of her husband’s shooting and being unable to take part in the decision-making process about his burial.

The court also heard that before she died, the couple’s terminally ill daughter made a request to her grandmother to be buried with her father.

It was claimed that the Department failed to properly balance Mrs McGuigan’s rights against the property rights of her mother-in-law.

Ruling on the preliminary stage of the case, Mr Justice Rooney held that the decision raised Article 8 issues about the final resting place for the remains of a loved one.

“I can foresee cases which might fall within the category of ‘exceptional circumstances’, such as the exhumation of remains mistakenly interred in the wrong grave,” he said.

“However, at the very least, it is the view of this court that the respondent should at least specify its reasons for applying more weight to the owner of the exclusive rights of burial than the nearest surviving relative.”

The judge confirmed: “I allow the application for leave to apply for judicial review.”

Outside court Mrs McGuigan’s solicitor, Harry Robinson of Phoenix Law, said: “Today is a meaningful step forward for the McGuigan family whose right to grieve should be protected and upheld.

“We now look forward to the full hearing, given the potential wider ramifications for many families in similar situations.”


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