Dalton family response to DUP Westminster debate

Our father, Sean Dalton, died as a result of an IRA bomb in August 1988 in Creggan, Derry, along with his neighbour, Sheila Lewis. Another neighbour, Gerard Curran, passed away some months later. It is known as the ‘Good Samaritan’ case as Sean, Sheila and Gerard had gone to check on a vulnerable neighbour and inadvertently triggered the bomb.

 In 2013, following a Report by the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland (OPONI), an investigation confirmed that the RUC knew the bomb ‘was in the vicinity of 38 Kildrum Gardens’; they failed to mitigate the threat by advising the local community or its leaders; they failed to protect his right to life under Article 2 of the ECHR; and they failed to properly investigate his death.

We have just learned that a debate was held this week in Westminster, and DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson and others discussed the specifics of our father’s death as a means of attacking the Police Ombudsman’s Office.

Sean Dalton
  • Mr Donaldson states that he understands our anger and concern, but “in the end it is the Provisional IRA who are to blame for that death, not the RUC”. This is repeated by Bob Stewart;
  • At every opportunity our family have stated that we hold the IRA responsible for the murder of our father;
  • It is deeply frustrating that this point is ignored by those who wish to twist our motives and accuse us of being part of a republican agenda to “rewrite history.” We are not in any way affiliated to a republican agenda and are deeply offended by any suggestion of this.  Our only agenda is to seek truth and justice for our father;
  • Likewise, the Police Ombudsman state in their report that responsibility for the deaths “must rest with those who planted the bomb.[1]
  •  We do, however, believe that the RUC are culpable in their failures to protect our father and the residents in Creggan. The OPONI report clearly lays out the evidence they had at the disposal that could have prevented these deaths. Our “anger and concern” is due to having to justify seeking the truth about what happened;
  • We believe that the debate  is full of factual inaccuracies about the specifics of our father’s case. For example, at one stage Mr Donaldson states that “the police did not know the precise location where the explosive device had been left…did not know all the circumstances surrounding the incident…and had only a broad general intelligence about an imminent attack on the security forces.” We take issue with this statement. The OPONI details each piece of information that shows the extent of knowledge of the RUC at the time. The body of evidence allowed the OPONI to reach his damning conclusions;
  • Mr Donaldson also refers to the case as the “Good neighbour” case- it is actually referred to as the “Good Samaritan” case;
  • Comment is made of the failure to bring the real perpetrators to justice as the focus has been on the actions of the RUC. The OPONI was clear that the RUC’s original investigation was deeply flawed. It is our belief, supported by revelations made by the NI Retired Police Officer’s response to the OPONI’s report, that this was done to protect a police informer;
  • Further, comments are made that the OPONI investigation did not result in disciplinary actions against police officers or criminal charges being brought. The OPONI is clear that his investigation was hampered by the lack of co-operation by police officers and former police officers. It is our view that if these individuals had nothing to fear- why did they not cooperate?
  • Conservative MP and ex-British soldier Bob Stewart spoke of his “knowledge of 38 Kildrum Gardens” having served in the area a decade earlier. He speaks of having observed RUC conduct investigations- knocking on doors etc. At one stage he interjects and says, “I bet the police had no idea that the gentleman was missing.” This is a reference to the vulnerable adult who had been abducted by the IRA and was the first piece of information referenced in the OPONI report- had Mr Stewart taken the time to read it before making these comments;
  • Stewart also asks, “How can the police, who always do what they can to save lives, be blamed in any way for what happened?” It is apparent that Mr Stewart has no knowledge of the circumstances of our father’s death, the RUC ‘investigation’ or the investigation of the Police Ombudsman.  He was “tempted not to speak” and this would have been preferable as his contribution, in our view, was arrogant, ill-informed and ridiculous;
  • Emma Pengelly refers to “genuine families” who recognise that the perpetrator was a terrorist organisation but don’t have any options for an investigation. Mr Donaldson claimed that “people go to the police ombudsman as a means of pursuing a grievance”. Again, we would ask the DUP- are you referring to the Dalton family? Are we not a “genuine family” or are our experiences dismissible as they don’t suit your narrative?
  • It is insulting that we have to justify asking questions about the conduct of the RUC and how it contributed to the avoidable death of three people including our father. The bomb also destroyed our family home, leaving two siblings homeless. This was just five weeks after the death of our mother; 
  • No doubt Mr Donaldson and his team would have had to prepare for this debate in advance, yet no one informed us that it was to take place. In fact, none of those MPs who contributed to this debate have ever made contact with our family, including Mr Campbell whose lives just a few miles away from us;
  • We are incredibly annoyed, angry and upset by the actions of Mr Donaldson and his colleagues in using our family as a smoke screen to discredit the Police Ombudsman's office without any concern for the hurt that this may cause to us;
  • It appears to us that the DUP are paid to sit around and talk to each other- Six DUP MPs took part in this “debate”. What a waste of tax-payers money- money that would be better spent to provide adequate funding for the Police Ombudsman’s Office;
  • Our family holds Michael Maguire and his officers with the highest regard and see him as a person of huge integrity doing a very difficult job.


Phyllis Kealey, Kay Devine and Rosaleen Dalton


[1] OPONI Report para 1.18