Suspension of inquests into Northern Ireland killings is lifted

John Teggart, whose father was killed in the 70s in Ballymurphy, said questions need answered

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Up to 21 inquests into controversial killings in Northern Ireland are to proceed after a suspension was lifted.

The tribunals, ordered by Attorney General John Larkin, were halted when senior coroner John Leckey questioned whether he had exceeded his powers.

But a legal challenge to that move by some relatives formally ended at the High Court in Belfast on Monday.

After the ruling, some of the families said they no longer had any faith in Mr Leckey.

The hearings were adjourned at a preliminary stage last November amid uncertainty over the attorney general's right to authorise them.

At the time the coroner, appointed chief legal adviser to the Stormont Executive in 2010, cited potential national security issues.

Outrage

The dispute centred on whether the cases should instead have been considered and directed by the advocate general for Northern Ireland.

The coroner's decision provoked outrage among relatives of those whose deaths were to be scrutinised.

Lawyers for a number of the families launched legal challenges, claiming the move was unlawful and procedurally unfair.

The deaths that were due to be scrutinised include 11-year-old Francis Rowntree, who was hit by a rubber bullet fired by a soldier in west Belfast in 1972.

John Leckey (l) John Mr Larkin (r) NI's senior coroner John Leckey (l) suspended the inquests in November, saying Mr Larkin (r) may have exceeded his powers

Another case involves Gerard Slane, a 27-year-old father of three shot dead by the Ulster Defence Association at his home in the city in 1988.

His killing sparked claims of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and the security forces.

Proceedings were also brought on behalf of relatives of Gerard Casey, murdered by the Ulster Freedom Fighters in Rasharkin, County Antrim in 1989; Danny Doherty and William Fleming, shot dead by the SAS in Londonderry in 1984; and Francis Bradley, killed by the SAS near Castledawson, County Londonderry in 1986.

A full hearing of the families' judicial review challenge was due to take place next week.

Outside the court solicitor Paul Pierce, representing Mr Slane's widow Teresa, said: "We welcome the decision by the coroner to lift the suspension in relation to these inquests."

John Teggart whose father was killed in the 70s in Ballymurphy said questions need answered.

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