Civil actions over alleged police and military collusion with a notorious loyalist gang who carried out the Dublin and Monaghan bombings should be halted, the High Court heard today. Counsel for the PSNI and Ministry of Defence (MoD) contended insufficient facts have been set out to sustain claims that members of the security forces were complicit in acts of mass murder. Thirty-three people, including a pregnant woman, were killed and almost 300 others injured in coordinated explosions during evening rush hour in May 1974.
No-one was ever charged with carrying out the bombings blamed on the Glenanne Gang, a loyalist terror unit which operated in mid Ulster at the time. Survivors and those bereaved in the greatest single loss of life during the Troubles are suing over the alleged role played by serving soldiers and RUC officers. Writs have been issued against the Chief Constable and MoD claiming state representatives either aided the perpetrators or ran them as agents. Families of those killed and injured in the bombings attended the High Court in Belfast today for the legal bid to have their compensation cases struck out at a preliminary stage. Paul McLaughlin KC, for the defendants, argued that it was not enough to make broad allegations of collusion without providing the facts required to establish any liability. “These claims involve allegations of the highest severity and seriousness,” Mr McLaughlin stressed. “They do not get more serious than allegations of mass murder.” According to the barrister, however, the statements of claim do not meet the required legal standard. “It’s not enough to make the allegation, you must state the facts capable of sustaining the allegation,” he submitted. The families are seeking damages for negligence, assault and trespass, misfeasance in public office, and conspiracy to perform an unlawful act. Proceedings have been brought in Northern Ireland as the jurisdiction where the gang operated and built the bombs before transporting them across the border. During the hearing a number of former UDR soldiers and RUC officers were referred to without their identities being disclosed. Emphasising that those accused of involvement have never been convicted of any offence, McLaughlin suggested they could be left with an “enormous stigma” without providing the necessary factual basis for linking them. He stressed it would be disproportionate to order the defendants to “open their cupboards to every form of national intelligence gathering taking place in the 1970s” in a bid to find out if anyone was running agents connected to the case. “When one looks at the facts which it is contended will be relied upon to prove all of this, they fall very far short,” he told the judge. “We say you should strike the proceedings out.” A further challenge centres on jurisdictional points to establish if a claim over events back in 1974 has been brought in time. Lawyers for the plaintiffs are set to argue that the case should proceed in the courts in Northern Ireland, where there is a discretion to hear actions which would otherwise be statute barred. The hearing continues.
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