Newry and Armagh MP Mickey Brady has called on new PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne to ensure an “independent investigation” is conducted into alleged collusion between security forces and the notorious Glenanne Gang after Friday’s ruling by the Court of Appeal.
The gang was reportedly behind some of the most shocking murders carried out during the Troubles in the 1970s.
These included the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974 – in which 33 lost their lives – and the 1975 Miami Showband massacre.
The attack on the Reavey family at Whitecross – which left three brothers dead – and the O’Dowd family, where an uncle and two nephews were killed near Gilford, was also attributed to the Glenanne Gang, as was the Step Inn pub bombing in Keady (pictured above), in which two people died.
On Friday, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Edward Barnard, whose 13-year-old brother Patrick was one of four killed in the 1976 St Patrick’s Day bomb attack at the Hillcrest Bar, Dungannon.
The court “upheld a decision that the brother of Edward Barnard had a procedural legitimate expectation that an overarching report would be carried out by an independent police team”.
But it concluded that there was “no enforceable duty under Article 2 ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) given the passage of time since the death”.
The court declined to direct the Chief Constable how the independent investigation should proceed, but noted that if he “unduly delays appointing the officers he would be at risk of further proceedings challenging such a failure”.
It was the outgoing PSNI Chief Constable, Sir George Hamilton, who had appealed against an earlier court ruling from an order made by Mr Justice Treacy on November 27, 2017.
That court declared that the “failure/refusal on the part of the PSNI Historical Enquiries Team to complete and publish an overarching thematic report regarding the linked Glenanne Gang cases was unlawful and in breach of Article 2 ECHR”.
And it made an Order of Mandamus to “compel the appellant to expeditiously honour its enforceable public commitment to provide an overarching report into the Glenanne Gang group of cases”.
Sir George had argued that in relation to the atrocity on the Hillcrest Bar, police had fulfilled obligations by securing a conviction.
In December 1980, Garnet James Busby was arrested for the bombing. During interview he admitted to his involvement in the Hillcrest Bar bombing and to membership of the UVF.
And during these interviews, he also admitted his involvement in the murders of Peter and Jane McKearney on October 23, 1975, the placing of a car bomb outside O’Neill’s Bar, Dungannon on August 16, 1973, and another outside Quinn’s public house, Dungannon, three months later.
In October 1981, Busby was convicted of a total of 14 offences including the Hillcrest bar bombing. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders and concurrent sentences for other offences. He was released on life licence in February 1997.
The outgoing Chief Constable had also argued that a review by the Historical Enquiries Team had not found any evidence of collusion between security forces and the Glenanne Gang.
Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan, at Friday’s Court of Appeal, upheld that the families had a “legitimate expectation” of an independent investigation into the murders of their loved ones.
Newry and Armagh Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady said that Friday’s ruling should now mean that that investigation takes place.
He added: “It’s now over two years since the courts first ruled that the PSNI had failed in its responsibilities to facilitate an effective, independent and overarching investigation into collusion between British state forces and the infamous Glenanne Gang which murdered over 120 people.
“That judgement marked a pivotal day for the Glenanne families in their fight for justice for some of the most notorious atrocities of the conflict, including the Miami Showband Massacre and the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
“Regrettably, rather that implement that decision, the PSNI has sought to frustrate and delay progress and justice by appealing it.”
Mr Brady said that the new PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne “should now listen to the courts”.
He added: “That appeal has now failed and the court was clear that an independent investigation must take place into the brutal campaign carried out by the Glennane Gang in league with the RUC and British Army at that time.
“The new PSNI Chief Constable should now listen to the courts and listen to the families by ending the stalling tactics.
“He should not resort to a further appeal but should get on with facilitating an effective, independent investigation in line with the families wishes.”
Chief Constable Byrne said he accepted the judgement of the Court of Appeal.
And he added: “While we will take time to consider the fullness of its implications, we will now commence work to appoint the Independent Police Team to conduct an analytical report on collusion as ordered by the court.”
Sign up for our weekly newsletter here.