Belfast Telegraph

38 years on, Malachi McDonald craves justice for wife he lost to brutal UVF gang

By David Young

Nearly four decades after the murder of his wife, a widower is only now able to take the first steps towards what he hopes will be justice.

The years may have taken their toll on him, but Malachi McDonald remains determined to find out the truth behind the bombing that claimed the lives of his wife Elizabeth and young Gaelic footballer Gerard McGleenan.

Mother-of-three Elizabeth 'Betty' McDonald (38) and Mr McGleenan (22) were killed when a no-warning loyalist bomb detonated outside the Step Inn pub and nearby houses in the village of Keady, Co Armagh, in August 1976. Twenty-five other people were injured in the blast.

Aside from claims of security force involvement in the bomb team, it has been alleged that RUC Special Branch and Army surveillance personnel knew an attack was being planned by the gang, but failed to prevent it. Mr McDonald and Mr McGleenan's brother Robert were at Belfast Coroner's Court yesterday as the preliminary hearing took place before Senior Coroner John Leckey.

Outside the court, a tearful Mr McDonald described the hearing as "one more step" toward justice.

"It is a hard path but one we are forced to take because those who were paid to protect life were the organisers and perpetrators of the car bomb which went off without warning on our family home of husband, wife and three children, aged seven, four and one-and-a-half."

The court heard a public inquiry must be considered into notorious loyalist paramilitary murder squad the Glenanne Gang, whose members allegedly included RUC and UDR members. The UVF gang operated out of farms in Armagh and Tyrone in the mid-1970s.

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire is examining allegations against RUC officers, while the Historical Enquiries Team has found "indisputable evidence" of security force collusion in the murderous group.

Attorney General John Larkin had ordered a new inquest into the Step Inn deaths. But a lawyer for Mr McDonald, one of an estimated 120 victims of the gang, insisted only a major State probe can get to the truth.

Mr McDonald's solicitor Peter Corrigan insisted the collusion claims in the Glenanne case were systematic.

"This wasn't just a few bad apples, this was collusion and this was policy," he said. Mr Leckey asked for full written submissions on the issues involved so he could assess them more fully.

In a statement, Robert McGleenan said: "The family want to say they were never informed police could have prevented the bombing, nor were they informed until recently that RUC Special Branch knew the identity of all those involved. The HET report has called this investigation and the whole process 'catastrophic,' and it has indeed been catastrophic for these two families."

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