Northern Ireland

Police Ombudsman will report on 160 Troubles’ deaths despite legacy deadline

Introduction of Legacy Act on May 1 ended all investigations

The bullet riddled minibus at the scene of the infamous Kingsmill Massacre. Picture by Alan Lewis, Photopress
The bullet riddled minibus at the scene of the infamous Kingsmill Massacre. Picture by Alan Lewis, Photopress

The Police Ombudsman will still report on the deaths of more than 160 people during the Troubles despite the introduction of the British government’s controversial Legacy Act on May 1.

Some of the investigation reports to be completed focus on attacks carried out by both loyalist and republicans - including the notorious Glenanne Gang and Kingsmill massacre.

Under the act the ombudsman is permitted to produce reports in cases where the ‘investigation phase’ was completed before the May 1 deadline.

On that date all legacy investigations were halted, with responsibility for oversight transferring to the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR).

Many victims and relatives of those who died during the Troubles remain bitterly opposed to the ICRIR and believe it was created to protect state players from accountability.

Legal challenges have been launched against the contentious legislation, including one by the Irish government at the European Court of Human Rights, while a High Court judge has already ruled that conditional immunity and plans to close down some civil actions are unlawful.

Under the act the Police Ombudsman is permitted to produce reports as long as the investigation phase was completed before the May 1 deadline.

In April it was confirmed that more than 330 Troubles related cases will not now be investigated by the watchdog.

While it was known the ombudsman intends to complete 95 cases, it has now emerged they cover the deaths of more than 160 people, spanning 18 investigations.

This includes Operation Newham, which is investigating the activities of the notorious loyalist Glenanne Gang.

It comprised members of the RUC, UDR and UVF, and is believed to be responsible for killing around 120 people.

Other cases include the shooting dead of ten Protestant men after the minibus they were travelling in was stopped near Kingsmill, south Armagh, as they made their way home from work in January 1976.

While the attack was later claimed by the South Armagh Republican Action Force, earlier this year a coroner found the IRA was responsible.

Brian, John Martin and Anthony Reavey were murdered in their Whitecross home by the Loyalist Glenanne Gang in 1976
Brian, John Martin and Anthony Reavey were murdered in their south Armagh home by the loyalist Glenanne Gang in 1976

The Kingsmill killings took place close to where Catholic brothers, John Martin Reavey (24) and Brian Reavey (22) were shot dead a day earlier by the Glenanne Gang.

A third brothers Anthony (17) died weeks later from his injuries.

Within minutes of the Reavey murders three members of the O’Dowd family were killed near Gilford in Co Down by the same gang.

The ombudsman is also expected to complete an investigation into an IRA bomb attack at the La Mon Hotel, near Belfast, that resulted in the deaths of 12 people in February 1978.

Former Aontú councillor Denise Mullen saw her father Denis being shot dead by members of the Glenanne Gang at the family home near Moy in Co Tyrone in 1975 when she was aged just four.

Although she welcomed news about the Glenanne report she remains cautious.

“Until I actually see it in black and white and have been briefed officially, I can’t take their word for it,” she said.

Ms Mullen said it is “very important” the report is completed.

“We are talking 50 years for some people, or approaching that, it’s time we had the answers,” she said.

“We know the answers, but it’s official recognition we want.”

A spokeswoman for Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson said she has confirmed that “she aims to conclude and communicate her findings in 95 Troubles-related cases under Legacy transitional arrangements by April 30″ next year.

“These span 18 investigations and include the deaths of more than 160 people,” the spokeswoman said.

“As well as investigations regarding police conduct in respect of individual murders, a number are also thematic, bringing together cases with common features and linkages.

“These include an investigation relating to murders and attacks by the mid-Ulster UVF in the 1970s, including attacks in the Republic of Ireland, an investigation in respect of the Kingsmill murders and attempted murder, and the murders of two RUC Officers, and an investigation into the circumstances of the La Mon Hotel bombing.”