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Widow of innocent man shot dead in Loughgall hails ‘good day’ in landmark case

The widow of an innocent man shot dead during an SAS ambush in Loughgall in 1987 has won a landmark case over funding for legacy inquests.

Eight IRA men – members of the ‘East Tyrone brigade’ – were shot dead on a Friday evening at the start of May.

They had been preparing to mount an attack on the village police station.

Brigid Hughes’ husband Anthony, was killed and his brother seriously injured when they were caught in the cross-fire as they travelled through the Co Armagh village.

She challenged the failure to provide adequate funding for legacy inquests and won.

Outside Belfast High Court she hailed it as “a good day”.

Mrs Hughes had challenged the ongoing failure of the Executive Office, the Executive Committee, the Department of Justice, the Minister of Justice and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to “put in place adequate funding to prevent further delays to the holding of legacy inquests relating to deaths during ‘the Troubles'”.

She contended that the effect of the failure had been to “cause inexcusable delay to the listing and completion of numerous inquests”, including that of her late husband, Anthony.

Part of her case was that the former First Minister, Arlene Foster, “unlawfully prevented the tabling and discussion of a paper put forward by the Minister of Justice which attempted to advance the securing of additional funding for the coronial system, to assist it in progressing the legacy inquests and reducing systemic delays.”

Judge Sir Paul Girvan held that the former First Minister, Arlene Foster’s decision not to permit a paper on legacy inquests to go before the Executive Committee meeting on March 24, 2016, was “unlawful”.

He said Mrs Foster “erroneously took into account the absence of an overall agreed package to deal with legacy issues as being relevant”, and left out of account that there was “an obligation on State authorities to ensure that the Coroners Service could effectively comply with Article 2, irrespective of whether an overall package was agreed to deal with all legacy issues”.

The judge directed that the Northern Ireland departments and the Secretary of State must “reconsider the question of the provision of additional funding for legacy inquests” and said this “cannot be postponed until an outcome to a political agreement is resolved”.

Outside the court, Mrs Hughes said the court’s ruling “means a lot” and called for movement to ensure an inquest can now be carried out.

She said: “The British Government needs to sort out the money for the inquest and I would like it as soon as possible.

“I’m not getting any younger, nor I’m not feeling any better health wise.

“It would be wonderful if they could just do what’s right and what should have been done long ago – forward the money on for the inquest.”

While Sinn Fein welcomed the court’s judgement, the DUP has said it will want to “careful study” the outcome.

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