The European Court of Human Rights found that the British Government had violated Article 2 of the ECHR (the right to life article) in a number of controversial lethal force cases in the North of Ireland.

01 May 2002

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg today gave judgment in favour of the families of eight men who were murdered by a Loyalist murder gang in the South Armagh area in the mid 1970’s. The cases were taken to Strasbourg following the failure of the British Government to properly investigate detailed allegations made by a former member of the RUC, John Weir, about security force collusion. The families’ legal representative, Fearghal Shiels, of Madden & Finucane, Solicitors, Belfast said:

"In 1999, the RUC purported to conduct a police investigation into John Weir’s allegations. The RUC took no steps to interview John Weir, and irrespective of the cogent and credible evidence of widespread collusion by members of UDR and RUC with a loyalist murder gang based in Mid-Ulster, concluded that his allegations were false.

Today's findings by the European Court of Human Rights that the families’ human rights were breached by the UK Government vindicates the families’ central contention that there was a total lack of independence, transparency and accountability on the part of the RUC, in investigating the activities of this murder gang."

The cases related to the deaths of Colm McCartney, who was murdered at Altnamackin in August 1975; Trevor Brecknell, who was murdered at Donnelly’s Bar, Silverbridge in December 1975; John, Brian and Anthony Reavey, murdered at Whitecross and Joseph, Barry and Declan O’Dowd murdered near Gilford on the same evening as the Reavey brothers in January 1976 and the wounding of Michael McGrath in a gun attack at the Rock Bar, Keady in June 1976.

The families are today arranging to meet with their solicitors to discuss the important implications of the ruling.

Press Statement on behalf of those ‘Murder Triangle’ families affected by the European Court judgment.

28 November 2007

We welcome yesterday’s judgement at the European Court of Human Rights which found that there had been a breach of Article 2 of the Human Rights Convention in respect of those cases where we lost family members and/or were shot and injured as was the case with Barney O’Dowd who is with us today and Mick Mc Grath who is also with us.

In 1999 John Weir, a former RUC Sgt and SPG member, made a number of alarming allegations concerning the activities of a Glenanne based loyalist gang made up, he said, of UVF, members of the RUC Special Patrol Group and UDR soldiers from mid Ulster. State agents such as Robin Jackson, the Jackal, played a central role in this gang and their activities were known of and tolerated at a senior level within security and NIO circles. A number of the gun and bomb attacks carried out by this group were directed by agents working to Special Branch and Army Intelligence. As a result of this I began to research the Glenanne gang and the Murder Triangle under the auspices of the Pat Finucane Centre.

The following can be stated as fact ;

  • At least 120 people died as result of the activities of this wider group;
  • The dead included Irish and British citizens (such as my Birmingham born father),
  • Catholics and Protestants on both sides of the border and Italian and French nationals in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and perhaps saddest of all- three families lost both parents in savage gun attacks carried out by gang members which include state agents and members of the security forces.

This goes to the heart of our concerns over the years-the Court has found that the RUC response to Weirs 1999 allegations were a violation of Article 2 –two final points should be made before opening the floor to questions-John Weir was and is probably the single most significant whistleblower to have emerged in the past 37 years. Yet ongoing attempts were made to dismiss his allegations by dismissing John Weir. I have met him on a number of occasions. I have accompanied him to meetings with the HET. He is a credible witness though no doubt he has much more to contribute in a different legal context. This is what the European Court had to say about John Weir.

‘… the Court notes, first, that the allegations made by Weir were serious, involving security force collusion in systematic targetting of innocent civilians and that they were, prima facie, plausible, deriving from a source who had been involved in such incidents and giving concrete details…’

The final point I would like to make is this,

Credible and convincing evidence of collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries has emerged in the recent past-the Glenanne case is, in its way unique. The facts, not the allegations of Glenanne, are that members of the RUC,UDR and security service agents were DIRECTLY involved in murders and bombings. There are relatives at this press conference today who have had official confirmation that police officers, soldiers and agents were the main suspects in these attacks. Gradually the truth is emerging. This judgement has vindicated the families.

I leave you with one question. Months ago we asked the Director of the Public Prosecution Service for a meeting with families to explain the actions of that key institution in the cover-up that was the Rock Bar trial and the dropping of charges. Will the Director now meet with us?