One in four Troubles legacy cases 'could be settled by next summer'
Almost a quarter of all legal challenges into Northern Ireland's troubled past could be dealt with by next summer under newly announced High Court plans.
A judge predicted hearings taking place in 10 out of more than 40 so-called legacy judicial review cases currently in the system, if lawyers provide full co-operation.
Mr Justice McCloskey set out the target as he granted leave for further scrutiny of alleged police failures to properly investigate the activities of a loyalist paramilitary murder gang.
Co Down man John McEvoy was injured during a UVF gun attack on the Thierafurth Inn in Kilcoo in November 1992. Another man, Peter McCormack, died in the shooting.
Members of the same loyalist unit have been linked to the massacre of six Catholic men in another pub less than two years later.
Gunmen opened fire at the Heights Bar in Loughinisland, Co Down, as their victims were watching a World Cup match in June 1994.
The men who died were Adrian Rogan (34); Malcolm Jenkinson (53); Barney Green (87); Daniel McCreanor (59); Patrick O'Hare (35), and Eamon Byrne (39).
In June last year Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire said collusion was a significant feature in the murders.
He found no evidence police had prior knowledge of the attack, but identified "catastrophic failings" in the investigation.
One of the suspects in the attack was an informer, according to the findings.
Police were also said to have been aware of a UVF gang operating in south Down and involved in previous murders.
Other failures identified in the report included a delay in arresting suspects whose names were known within 24 hours of the terrorist shooting. Backed by the families of other victims, Mr McEvoy is challenging the PSNI's alleged failure to ensure an independent investigation of his attempted murder.
In court yesterday Mr Justice McCloskey confirmed the case had cleared the first stage, stating: "I grant permission to apply for judicial review."
The challenge joins a list of other legacy-related proceedings currently in the court system.
It has now been announced that a week-long administrative assessment was carried out earlier this month in a bid to speed up the cases and help clear the backlog.
As families involved in some of the judicial reviews gathered in the public gallery, Mr Justice McCloskey pledged to deploy the "limited judicial resources... in the best possible way at all times".
He added: "It's expected broadly, between March and June 2018, provided the courts receive full co-operation and assistance from legal representatives, that approximately 10 of these cases could be heard.
"That would be the best forecast I can give you."
The new plans were backed by a law firm representing a number of families who lost loved-ones in the Troubles.