The Ministry of Defence is failing to cooperate with an inquest into the deaths of three IRA men killed in an SAS ambush, Belfast Coroner’s Court heard yesterday.

Michael ‘Peter’ Ryan (37), Anthony Doris (21), and Laurence McNally (38) were gunned down at Coagh, Co Tyrone, in June 1991.

Lawyers for their families claimed a “startling” lack of cooperation suggested a corporate decision had been taken on the matter.

The allegations were made during a preliminary hearing at Mays Chambers in Belfast where it was revealed that soldiers involved in the fatal shootings had not made fresh statements for the long-awaited inquest.

However, a lawyer acting on behalf of the MoD said the coroner’s office had not made a formal request for new statements.

Coroner Jim Kitson told the MoD to contact their witnesses “with a view to finding out whether or not they are prepared to cooperate further”.

Meanwhile, the court was also told that a police video of the scene and surveillance tapes had not been disclosed to the families’ legal teams.

And, it was revealed that a senior British army officer was involved in seven separate incidents where lethal force was deployed.

Another preliminary hearing was scheduled for December 17.

Meanwhile, a British soldier with serious offences on his record may have been part of the unit that shot dead two IRA men in Co Derry 30 years ago, a separate hearing at Belfast Coroner’s Court heard yesterday.

Daniel Doherty (23), and William Fleming (19), were killed in the grounds of Gransha Hospital in Derry in December 1984.

It was alleged that the pair, who were both from Derry, were planning to carry out an attack on an off-duty member of the UDR when soldiers ambushed them.

The SAS and the army’s 14th Intelligence Company were believed to have been involved.

At a preliminary inquiry, barrister Karen Quinlivan QC argued against protecting the identity of the army captain because his name was already well known.

She also asked the court to look into claims that the officer had serious convictions for crimes committed in Sweden.

The hearing was told three other soldiers had declined to be interviewed by the investigating officer appointed to the case and had refused to make a further statements for the inquest.

Four others have yet to indicate whether they will or will not give statements, the court heard.

Concerns were also raised that the process employed by the MoD to protect the identities of former personnel had rendered some information useless.

Ms Quinlivan said inconsistencies in the ciphering system meant legal teams were unable to ascertain if soldiers had been involved in other fatal shootings.

Another preliminary hearing has been scheduled for December 4.

Fearghal Shiels of Madden and Finucane Solicitors, who represent the daughter of Laurence McNally, as well as the Doherty and Fleming families, said last night they will apply to the coroner to ask the MoD to disclose what roles the soldiers involved had in other fatal shootings.

The Irish News