Belturbet families threaten legal action

We act on behalf of the next of kin of Geraldine O’Reilly and Patrick Stanley both of whom were killed in a Loyalist paramilitary bomb explosion in December 1972. No one has ever been convicted of the attack which also left 8 people injured. Gardai have undertaken six separate reports but to date the details of those reports haven’t been made known to the families because to do so would compromise the murder investigation.

In October 2022 Gardai announced they were reopening the investigation following new lines of inquiry. In June 2023 the Irish Authorities contacted the PSNI, MOD and the PPS seeking answers to a series of intelligence – led inquiries touching upon matters of National Security. As of Friday 29/9/23 there has been no response. We have now written formally to all engaged Northern Agencies demanding an immediate response.

Speaking today Solicitor Kevin Winters of KRW LAW Conflict Litigation Dept said,

“We understand Gardai have identified up to 80 issues of an intelligence evidential nature which were submitted to the Northern Authorities via The Department of Justice. Gardai have been waiting on a reply since 24/6/23. The recently enacted Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act 2023 is now serving to shut down all Conflict – related legal cases. We are very concerned this doomsday legislation will have an insidious impact on all legal cases in the Republic of Ireland because it could inhibit cross jurisdictional exchange of information especially of an intelligence nature.

Given the continued delay and in the absence of any response there’s a growing suspicion the so called Legacy Act could seriously undermine cases in the South. Failure to exchange critical information with their Southern counterparts could impede all unresolved Troubles investigations in the The Republic. The Belturbet reinvestigation is now at a critical point and cannot meaningfully progress in the continued absence of a substantive response from Northern Agencies. We have put them on notice today that unless we get a proper reply within 14 days we will take judicial review proceedings in Belfast.

This prospective legal challenge has additional resonance given last Thursdays comments in the Dail. The Tánaiste has indicated that a decision will be made in the next few days on an inter-State challenge against the UK. On Friday Leo Varadkar said he is prepared to take legal action against the UK over legacy laws. If ever the Irish Government needed a strong legal basis upon which to launch either an inter-State challenge in Strasbourg or to add itself as a Notice Party to a possible domestic challenge in Belfast then they need look no further than Belturbet. Theres nothing to stop them doing either. We urge the Irish Authorities to take cognisance of the ongoing impasse in the Gardai Belturbet reinvestigation. It has now ground to a halt. Gardai need the full cooperation of the PSNI and others in the North but for whatever reason they aren’t getting it.

Senior Irish politicians are on record as saying that the entire process must have a “victim centric approach.” To that end the families of the murdered children of Belturbet are stuck outside a victim centric approach because UK Agencies, for whatever reason, wont send critically important information to the Irish DoJ. We call upon the British Government to confirm immediately they aren’t hiding behind the Legacy Act as a reason not to respond to the Irish Government on Belturbet. Either way we anticipate the stance taken to date by the PSNI and others on Belturbet ought to inform decision making by the Irish Attorney General on an inter – State challenge against Britain. Ireland launched such a case nearly 10 years ago on The Hooded Men. We urge a similar application now against the UK on its Legacy Act. We’ve written to the Irish Government this morning to update them on what has been sent to all UK Agencies on the Belturbet case.”