The controversial decision by senior coroner John Leckey to halt inquests into a series of Troubles-related killings affects a fresh probe into the murders of three RUC men in an IRA bomb in 1982.
The coroner’s office confirmed yesterday that 21 inquests would now be adjourned while further clarification is sought on the matter.
Among the seven previously unreported inquests are that of Sergeant John Quinn (37), Constable Alan McCloy (34) and Constable Paul Hamilton (26).
The RUC officers were killed in October 1982 by an IRA landmine which exploded beneath their armoured police car at the Kinnego embankment, Oxford Island near Lurgan.
IRA men Sean Burns and Eugene Toman were suspected of involvement in the bombing. Along with Gervaise McKerr they were killed just over a fortnight later in a so-called ‘shoot to kill’ incident.
Danny Doherty and William Fleming, shot dead by the SAS in Derry in December 1984, and Gerard Casey, murdered by the UFF in Rasharkin, Co Antrim in April 1989, are also among the additional inquests put in doubt by the coroner’s ruling.
The Commissioner for Victims and Survivors, Kathryn Stone, said she has requested an urgent meeting with Mr Leckey to discuss the implications of his decision.
“Given the significant psychological trauma that many victims and survivors of the conflict have experienced already, public representatives need to exercise responsibility and display empathy to the plight of all individuals and families who have been and continue to be affected by the past conflict.”
Fearghal Shiels of Madden and Finucane solicitors, who represents a number of the victims’ families, said Mr Leckey’s shock ruling was “all the more surprising in circumstances where his office had written to us more than six months ago confirming the PSNI had been directed to serve disclosure of documents on our office”.
Mr Larkin’s office has yet to comment on the coroner’s ruling.
Since being appointed as attorney general in June 2010, he has found himself at the centre of a number of news stories.
It emerged this week that Ian Paisley jnr had sent a letter to First Minister Peter Robinson in August 2009 urging him not to appoint Mr Larkin to the powerful legal post, stating: “I think the government should steer away from appointing this controversial personality.”
Earlier this year Mr Larkin offered to assist the assembly’s justice committee to investigate whether Belfast’s new Marie Stopes clinic, which offers private abortions, was operating within the law. His offer is believed to have been declined.
Last year legal action taken by the attorney general against former secretary of state Peter Hain for comments made in his autobiography about a senior judge created further controversy.
The case was later resolved after clarification from Mr Hain.