Belfast Telegraph

Wife of man seriously injured in loyalist bomb attack seeking damages for psychiatric injuries

Belfast High Court.
Belfast High Court.

By Alan Erwin

A woman who allegedly learned her husband had been seriously injured in a loyalist bomb attack while she was in hospital has launched a potentially landmark claim for damages.

Eileen O'Halloran is seeking compensation for the trauma she was said to have suffered at discovering her husband Martin was among those wounded by the blast in north Belfast in April 1975.

The case is expected to explore the rules on secondary victim status for psychiatric injuries.

Current law is based around decisions in the 1989 Hillsborough Stadium disaster, which resulted in the death of 96 Liverpool football fans, and other cases.

Mrs O'Halloran, 62, is suing police and the Ministry of Defence over alleged state collusion with the bombers.

Her legal team predicted the action could have major implications for hundreds of others who weren't physically at the scene of terrorist atrocities during the Troubles.

But lawyers for the defendants are seeking to have the claim struck out, arguing that she cannot establish sufficient direct physical and temporal proximity to the traumatic event.

Their application is continuing at the High Court in Belfast.

Papers in the case set out how Mrs O'Halloran's husband was injured in the bomb attack as he waited for a bus on the corner of Oldpark Road and Ballynure Street, close to the Hole in the Wall bar.

At the time she was a patient in the Mater Hospital in north Belfast.

Mrs O'Halloran has stated she overheard that a man identified as her husband had been badly wounded in the explosion.

The news left her traumatised and caused a psychiatric injury, according to her case.

However, the defendants have denied her contention that they are responsible due to the alleged involvement of state agents in either the planning or implementation of the attack.

They also argue that she was not a primary victim and has no case for any psychiatric injury.

She did not suffer physical injury, was not directly involved in the bombing, and did not directly witness the attack or its immediate aftermath, it is claimed.

Outside court Mrs O'Halloran's solicitor, Kevin Winters, said: "This case has potential far-reaching significance for hundreds of Conflict post-traumatic stress disorder survivors, many of whom were seriously traumatised on learning about the death or injury of other victims even though they weren't physically present at the scene.

"It's a first time challenge in this jurisdiction, seeking a change in the law arising from the 1989 Hillsborough Stadium deaths and other cases."

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