Northern Ireland

Gerard Slane inquest: Anger over 'collusion' files delay

The government has been accused of frustrating the release of files that expose a "state- sponsored programme of assassination" in Northern Ireland.

A lawyer for the family of Gerard Slane made the claim ahead of a new inquest into his death.

Gerard Slane, 27, was shot dead by the UDA at his home at Waterville Street, west Belfast in 1988.

Barrister Fiona Doherty has asked for an explanation for the delays in disclosing the files to the coroner.

"This was a state-sponsored assassination programme going on here of which Gerard Slane was an entirely innocent victim," she told the coroner.

Volume

She was critical of written responses from both Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers and the Cabinet Office to requests from the coroner.

The letters suggested they may hold relevant material but asked for further information from the coroner.

The court heard that a reply has not been received to a similar letter sent to the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland.

The solicitor representing the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Ministry of Defence said it was vital that all documents were rigorously security checked before being handed to the coroner.

He also noted the volume of work currently facing the authorities in terms of other legacy inquests.

He asked for more details on specific material requested to help expedite the disclosure process.

"The process is being engaged in," he said.

"But we must ensure what goes out is safe. That takes time, it takes careful analysis of documents and it must be viewed in the context of the number of these inquests and the pressures upon those performing the exercise.

"These matters are being expedited as fast as they can be in the circumstances."

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