Belfast Telegraph

IRA unit killed by SAS had been monitored for weeks, court told

By Alan Erwin

Members of an IRA unit shot dead in an SAS ambush 31 years ago had been under military surveillance for weeks, the High Court has heard.

Counsel for the father of one of the eight republicans killed at Loughgall, Co Armagh claimed sensitive new material revealed the extent of the army operation.

Relatives of the dead men and legal representatives later alleged the disclosure proves their deaths could have been prevented. Solicitor Claire McKeegan said: "This information is a huge development in the proceedings."

Undercover soldiers opened fire as members of the IRA's East Tyrone unit approached Loughgall police station with a bomb in a hijacked digger in May 1987.

An innocent civilian, Anthony Hughes, was also shot dead after he unwittingly became caught up in the gunfire.

The military operation inflicted the IRA's single largest loss of life during the conflict. Relatives of those killed claim soldiers operated a shoot-to-kill policy rather than attempt to make arrests.

Declan Arthurs' father, Patrick, is suing the Ministry of Defence (MoD) over the ambush.

With an RUC unit believed to have played a role in the operation, the legal action was widened to include a claim against the Chief Constable.

Sensitive and redacted documents have now been disclosed by police as part of the litigation.

Updating the court yesterday, Mr Arthurs' barrister, Hugh Southey QC, said it revealed an SAS operation had been watching the IRA men for a number of weeks prior to events on the day.

Following submissions, Mr Justice Maguire listed the case for a further review next month.

Outside court, Ms McKeegan, of KRW Law, claimed the new material "proves that the security services not only could have prevented the ambush but that the MoD have not been up-front in relation to their disclosure obligations in this case".

Belfast Telegraph

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