Public inquiry should be held into suspected collusion in murders of Gerard and Rory Cairns, High Court told

Report from the High Court today where Madden & Finucane represent the family of Gerard and Rory Cairns.

A public inquiry should be ordered into “shocking” television documentary evidence of suspected collusion in the loyalist terrorist murders of two young brothers, the High Court was told on Tuesday.

Counsel for the father of Gerard and Rory Cairns claimed no action has been taken since a convicted killer interviewed in the programme admitted involvement in a previous aborted bid to kill members of the family.

Fiona Doherty QC said: “It’s not only scandalous, it’s not only illegal, it’s inhumane.”

The brothers, aged 18 and 22, were shot dead after gunmen broke into their home at Bleary, near Portadown, in October 1993.

No-one has ever been brought to justice for the killings carried out by the UVF’s notorious Mid Ulster unit, headed at the time by Billy “King Rat” Wright.

Even though subsequent Police Ombudsman and Historical Enquiries Team (HET) investigations found no evidence of security force collusion, the family continued to believe the murderers were protected.

Those suspicions were reinforced by a BBC Spotlight documentary broadcast in October 2019.

In the programme one of Wright’s former associates, Laurence Maguire, claimed some police officers provided information to help the murder gang target potential victims.

Maguire indicated that he had been part of a four-man team who took part in an aborted plan to “murder any male occupant” of the Cairns household a year before the brothers were killed.

He also named Wright and Robin Jackson, both now deceased loyalist leaders, as accompanying him in the earlier, thwarted operation, the court heard.

According to the programme Wright and Jackson were believed to be state agents.

Gerard and Rory’s bereaved father, Eamon Cairns, is taking legal action in a bid to have the Secretary of State compelled to hold a public inquiry.

“What emerges from that programme is shocking,” Ms Doherty submitted.

“It confirmed all the suspicions ever held by the Cairns family, and served in their minds to undermine all previous investigations into the murders and their faith in them.”

Maguire, believed to be the first person in Northern Ireland convicted of directing terrorism, was in prison when the killings were carried out.

But counsel argued that his information is crucial.

“We have a man making an on-air recorded admission to conspiracy to murder,” Ms Doherty said.

Sixteen months later, she contended, no action has taken over those alleged confessions.

“There’s no evidence that the police ever alerted Eamon Cairns to the fact there had been this (earlier) planned aborted attack,” the barrister continued.

Mr Cairns now wants a public inquiry into his sons’ deaths because “he’s been through everything else”.

“The information that comes from Maguire potentially undermines the results of previous investigations,” Ms Doherty added.

“How can we be sitting 16 months after a man admitted conspiracy to murder, and admitted to having additional information about actual murder, and we know nothing about it?

“The people who saw their two sons, their two brothers, dead in the living room, how can they know nothing about it?”

Tony McGleenan QC, for the Secretary of State, described the legal challenge as “misconceived”.

He stressed the family’s complaint centred on alleged flaws in the Ombudsman and HET investigations, or apparent inactivity since the documentary was broadcast.

“Those are matters the Secretary of State cannot remedy,” Mr McGleenan said.

“The Secretary of State doesn’t have a means of investigating and doesn’t have a responsibility to do that.”

Mr Justice McFarland reserved judgment in the application for leave to seek a judicial review.

Belfast Telegraph