Eamon Cairns, Fearghal Shiels, Mark Thompson

Eamon Cairns with his solicitor Fearghál Shiels (Madden & Finucane) and Mark Thompson (Relatives for Justice).

Catholic brothers were later shot dead in sectarian attack

A notorious loyalist is to be prosecuted with conspiracy to murder two Catholic brothers who were later shot dead in their family home.

In an interview broadcast in 2019, Laurence Maguire claimed he was involved in an aborted attempt to target members of the Cairns family near Bleary, Co Down, in 1992.

Siblings Gerard (22) and Rory (18) Cairns were later shot dead by the UVF on October 28, 1993.

Maguire was questioned by police about the earlier murder plan last year and a file was later forwarded to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

A decision has now been taken to put Maguire in the dock.

The loyalist has previously claimed targeting information provided to his gang came from former UVF commander Billy Wright, which was supplied to him by RUC members.

Wright was one of nine loyalists arrested after the 1993 murders and released without charge.

Robin ‘The Jackal’ Jackson, a former leader of the UVF in Mid Ulster, was also arrested.

Jackson, ex-UDR member, is thought to have worked as a security force agent for more than two decades and is suspected of involvement in dozens of sectarian murders.

It recently emerged during an inquest into the UVF murder of Charlie Fox (63) and his wife Tess (53), who were shot dead near Moy in Co Tyrone, in September 1992, that Jackson had accused Wright of also working as an informer.

Jackson made ten accusations to the UVF about Wright and an associate in 1993 – the same year Rory and Gerard Cairns were killed.

During an interview with the BBC, Maguire told how Jackson put together a plan to kill every male member of the Cairns family in 1992.

He admitted how he and three other men had set off on the murder mission when they received a message over a radio to abort the attack as a helicopter had been spotted.

In October the following year, at which time Maguire was in jail, a UVF gang went to the Cairns family home near Bleary and shot dead Rory and Gerard a short time after they had celebrated their sister’s 11th birthday.

Their father Eamon and another brother escaped death as they were not in the house when the killer gang struck using the same plan as the aborted attack a year earlier.

The double murder was part of a series carried out across Mid Ulster in which collusion is strongly suspected.

Eamon Cairns believes the full extent of collusion has yet to be uncovered.

“Laurence Maguire is part of the tree that needs to be shaken to see what is revealed,” he said.

And he added that loyalists “could only do what they did for as long with the support and knowledge of the British security apparatus”.

Mr Cairns said the BBC documentary “highlighted and exposed the links between loyalist death squads and RUC Special Branch”.

The campaigning father said his family continues to suffer from the loss of Rory and Gerard.

“Their special strength and warmth is sadly missed around our house.

“The things we most think about now is they will not be here to help us in our old age and most painful, they wouldn’t have children to carry on the family name.”

Mr Cairns believes his sons were the victims of an unjust system.

“There never was any equality in our country, the greed and the sectarian bigotry of the British-unionist poisoned in every aspect of normal life,” he said.

The family’s solicitor, Fearghál Shiels of Madden and Finucane Solicitors, said “we hope that the prosecution now proceeds to a successful conclusion, expeditiously and without delay”.

“Whilst this prosecution is a very significant and welcome development, it may not establish all of the facts in this terrible case,” he said.

“It is said that the intelligence provided to the UVF in this case came directly from RUC officers who were said to be working with Billy Wright and that Wright specifically targeted this family as a direct result of that intelligence, with the ultimate consequence that Gerard and Rory were murdered in 1993.

“Mr Cairns will continue to pursue every course of action open to him to secure justice for his sons, and has already lodged fresh proceedings in the High Court challenging the Legacy Act and in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.”

Mark Thompson, of Relatives for Justice, who has supported the Cairns family, described the attack on the brothers as “heinous and purely sectarian”.

“This is not just about the prosecution of Maguire but the broader truth of what happened.”

Mr Thompson referenced RUC members who provided the killer gang with information.

“That lies at the heart of this and that cloud that covers it up needs to be lifted,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Public Prosecution Service said: “Following a thorough consideration of all evidence submitted in a (PSNI) file, we can confirm that a decision has been taken to prosecute one suspect for conspiracy to murder.

“All relevant parties have been informed of the decision.

“As proceedings will shortly become live it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”

Irish News