Leslie Thomas QC of Garden Court Chambers has been instructed to represent the family of Betty Macdonald in an inquest which will seek to establish whether there was state collusion in her murder, including involvement by police officers and soldiers.
Mr Thomas was addressing a preliminary hearing in Belfast of two inquests involving an Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) bombing at the Step Inn in Keady, County Armagh, in 1976 during which Catholics Elizabeth McDonald, 38, and Gerard McGleenan, 22, died. The bombing was carried out by ‘The Glenanne Gang’.
The Glenanne gang was a secret alliance of Loyalist paramilitaries who carried out shooting and bombing attacks against Catholics, and Irish Nationalists in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. Most of the attacks took place in the so-called “murder triangle” counties Armagh and Tyrone. The Gang also launched other attacks in the Republic of Ireland. The gang included British soldiers from the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), and members of the Mid-Ulster Brigade Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).
In his address, Mr Thomas said: "This is the biggest case of state collusion in mass murder of innocent individuals. This is a state murdering its own, you cannot get bigger than that, and therefore while one sees and understands and looks at what is happening in Hillsborough, if what we say has occurred on, lets face it, British soil, why should that not be investigated?
"British security agents being involved in deaths of British citizens, it does not get worse than that."
"Many of those responsible were either serving or former members of the security forces. There were close ballistic links between the victims, the weapons used in many of the killings which originated within the Ulster Defence Regiment (a branch of the army recruited in Northern Ireland)."
"Despite the obvious pattern and linkages between these offences, only cursory efforts have been made to investigate further. This (Step Inn) bombing could have been prevented and should have been detected."
The evidence of collusion in the Glenanne series of cases has previously been established by a wide variety of sources. These have included the Historical Enquiries Review Summary Reports; the affidavit of a former RUC member and statements of other members; Court documents; four reports commissioned by Justice Barron of the Irish Supreme Court - known as the Barron Inquiry - conducted in the Republic of Ireland (the first, second, third and fourth reports are all available) and ballistic evidence linking the same weapons to a number of attacks.
In addition, there are a number of academic and journalistic investigations including a report by the Centre for Civil and Human Rights of Notre Dame Law School, Indiana. Most recently, the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) published a book called ‘Lethal Allies’ (October 2013).