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Inquest hears claims of state agents involvement ‘in mass murder’

A preliminary inquest into the deaths of two people in the Step Inn bar bombing in Keady in 1976 has heard it alleged it was part of the “biggest involvement of state agents in mass murder on British soil”.

The preliminary hearing in Belfast today (Tuesday) was told by Mr Leslie Thomas QC that full inquests would take a year to complete and would be akin to the investigation of the Hillsborough Football Disaster.

He claimed there had been collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and soldiers and RUC officers in 80 murders across Armagh and Tyrone over a six year period from 1972.

Many of these involved the so-called Glenanne Gang.

Mr Thomas said: “If what we say is right this is the biggest involvement of state agents in mass murder on British soil.”

Thirty-eight-year-old Elizabeth McDonald and Gerard McGleenan were killed in a bomb attack on the Step Inn bar and lounge in Keady in August 1976.

Mr Thomas said the families wanted the truth to come out and for justice.

He alleged that, had one individual or the weapons been taken off the streets “earlier on”, then the murder of Mrs McDonald, a mother-of-three, could have been avoided and that, “in terms of Betty McDonald’s right to life we say she may be still here today, living long into life with her husband”.

Mr Thomas also quoted the Historical Enquiries Team report into the Step Inn bombing which stated that it “could have been prevented and should have been detected”.

Last night, (Monday), speaking ahead of today’s preliminary hearing, local Sinn Fein MLA Mickey Brady also quoted the HET report which had described the RUC’s handling of the case as “catastrophic”.

Mr Brady said: “This attack was carried out by serving members of the RUC and UDR. And the car used in the attack was stolen from a serving RUC officer days before.

“A recent HET inquiry into the RUC investigation was described as catastrophic.”

He said it is essential now that “a date is set for the inquest proper”.

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