Northern Ireland

Families of three IRA men take legal action against Lord Maginnis

Martin and Gerard Harte Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption IRA men Martin and Gerard Harte were shot dead along with Brian Mullin in 1988

The families of three IRA men shot dead by the SAS in County Tyrone in 1988 are taking legal action against former Ulster Unionist Lord Maginnis, the government and the chief constable.

It follows a recent RTÉ documentary on collusion.

Brothers Gerard and Martin Harte died along with Brian Mullin when the SAS fired on them near Drumnakilly.

The shootings came 10 days after eight soldiers were killed in the IRA Ballygawley bus bombing.

The families claim what was said in the documentary shows that a so-called "shoot-to-kill policy" was being operated at that time.

Lord Maginnis was among those interviewed for the programme.

He stated that in the immediate aftermath of the Ballygawley bombing he was in direct contact with then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

He said he gave Mrs Thatcher the names of people he thought would have been involved in carrying out the attack. He said the people he named ended up dead.

Just over a week after the bombing, the Harte brothers and Brian Mullin were shot dead by the SAS.

Image caption Ken Maginnis, seen here in the aftermath of the shootings in 1988, said he told Margaret Thatcher who he believed would have been involved in an IRA bomb attack in which eight soldiers were killed

Lord Maginnis, a former Ulster Defence Regiment soldier, told the programme: "Of course I felt, thank God that's the end of those fellows, they will not be killing any more of my soldiers. And that's war."

The Harte and Mullin families are also taking civil actions against the Ministry of Defence, the Northern Ireland Office and the chief constable of the PSNI.

The claims for damages contained in legal documents say: "As a result of the murder of our client's brothers and the recent revelation that agents of the state were directly involved in the planning and carrying out of the same, our client has sustained a severe psychiatric injury.

"Medical evidence has been commissioned in this regard, In addition, the deceased's estates have incurred significant financial losses."

Image caption The three IRA men were shot dead in County Tyrone in August 1988

The families' lawyer Peter Corrigan said "This is clearly a case where the state at the highest level has ordered a shoot-to-kill policy against our clients and we are taking a civil action.

"It's clear from the programme that the authorities have usurped the judicial process.

"Names were provided, no evidence was adduced, there was no trial process, there was no charging and men were executed by the state on the authority of the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher."

Ignatius Harte, a brother of two of the IRA men shot dead at Drumnakilly, said: "It's evident from what Ken Maginnis had to say that the orders came from Thatcher herself that Gerard, Martin and Brian had to be taken out at whatever cost."

He accepts the three men were armed and involved in IRA activity at the time of the shootings.

"They had prior knowledge of the men being armed, they had access to the weapons, so therefore they could have been arrested at any time and charged.

Image caption Ignatius Harte said his brothers had been "lured into an ambush"

"They lured them into an ambush and shot them dead without any warning."

The lawyer said they expect the case to be heard in the High Court in due course.

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