Families call for inquiry into New Lodge killings

THE brother of a man shot dead by the British army 30 years ago demanded last night that the UK government establish an inquiry into the killing.

Willie Loughran’s brother John was one of six men shot dead during a 90-minute period on the night of February 3 and 4 1973 in the New Lodge area of north Belfast.

The other men who died were Jim Sloan, Jim McCann, Tony Campbell, Brendan Maguire and Ambrose Hardy.

Yesterday the New Lodge Six Time for Truth committee marked the thirtieth anniversary of the killings by launching the report of a community inquiry into the men’s deaths. A panel of international jurists opened the community inquiry in November last year.

The British army initially claimed that it had shot dead six armed IRA men but later retracted that statement.

The IRA admitted that Mr Sloan, Mr McCann and Mr Campbell were all members but denied that they were on active service at the time.

Willie Loughran, who was joined at yesterday’s launch by senior politicians and religious figures, said the inquiry findings proved all six men had been vindicated and their innocence proven.

“That night was a very peaceful night. There was not an incident at all. This act was planned out and went like clockwork and took the lives of six innocent sons from the New Lodge,” he said.

“This is a sad moment for all the families but it should also be celebrated because the truth that the families have known all along has been established.”

Mr Loughran said it was vital that the British government established a full independent and public inquiry into the deaths.

“I think that the onus is now fairly and squarely on the British government to at least respond to the findings of the inquiry,” he said.

“In the interests of peace-building and reconciliation it would only be fair and just that the British government respond so people see that justice is done.”

In its findings the inquiry panel concluded that there was no evidence to indicate that any of the deceased and wounded were armed at the time of their shooting or acting in a manner which might have been interpreted as a potential threat to the security forces.

New Lodge Six committee chairman Paul O’Neill said that the report put the British government in the dock over the killings.

“The New Lodge community has always emphatically denied the version of events promoted by the British government,” he said.

“This version has caused much distress and anxiety to the families while also ensuring it remains an open wound to this day.”

Angela Ritchie from Madden and Finucane Solicitors said the findings would be presented to the British government.