THE families of two IRA Volunteers killed in a shoot-to-kill operation over 20 years ago are taking their case to the European Court of Human Rights. Martin McCaughey and Dessie Grew were shot dead by the British undercore soldiers in Loughgall, County Armagh, in October 1990.
No attempt was made to arrest either man despite the fact that both were unarmed. Dessie Grew was shot 48 times and Martin McCaughey 12 times close to a farm building near Lislasley. It later emerged that an IRA arms dump within the building had been under surveillance and the RUC had prior intelligence that the two men were due to visit. Over two decades later, inquests into the deaths have yet to be held.
Since their deaths, the victims’ families have mounted a series of legal challenges around the RUC’s failure to investigate the killings and the refusal to hand over intelligence documents.
In 2001, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the deaths of ten other republicans had not been properly investigated. In 2007, the ECHR further ruled allegations of collusion had also not been properly investigated.
Shortly afterwards, British law lords conceded that all police intelligence files relating to the killing of Grew and McCaughey should be disclosed to the coroner to allow the inquests to take place.
Speaking on behalf of the families, Fearghal Shiels, of solicitors Madden and Finucane, said papers had been lodged with the European Court.
“The families contend that the state has clearly breached its legal obligations to conduct an effective official investigation into the deaths of Martin McCaughey and Dessie Grew.”
The solicitor said the RUC officers who investigated the killings lacked the requisite degree of independence from the undercover soldiers involved in the killings.
“No attempt was made to challenge the excessive force used, involving the firing of at least 72 rounds and in circumstances where one of the men was shot twice on the ground as he was dying or was already dead,” said Shiels.
“There was clearly no meaningful attempt made by the RUC to explore the credibility of the accounts provided, failing even to re-interview the soldiers in light of significant discrepancies.”
ONE OF A SERIES
The shooting was one of a series of ‘shoot-to-kill’ operations by the SAS in which unarmed IRA Volunteers from Tyrone were summarily executed. In 1983, two unarmed Volunteers died in a hail of 50 bullets, fired without warning, as they arrived to check an arms dump in the Derrylaughlin area.
In 1984, the SAS were lying in wait as an unarmed IRA Volunteer crossed fields at Ardboe. He was wounded in the legs but died from a single shot to the head. Witnesses reported a burst of sustained fire followed by a single shot. At the inquest a British soldier admitted shooting a man already wounded and lying in the grass.
In 1985, three IRA Volunteers died in a SAS ambush in Strabane. The Volunteers were returning weapons, already broken down and sealed in plastic bags, to an arms dump.
In 1987, eight IRA Volunteers were ambushed in Loughgall. All eight were killed together with a civilian, Anthony Hughes, who was trapped within the SAS killing zone.