Activities of Glenanne gang ‘deeply disturbing’, says judge

Families bereaved by Glenanne Gang hear evidence includes list of service members

Eddie Barnard, whose brother Patrick (13) was killed by a bomb planted by the gang in his home town of Dungannon in 1976, is seeking an order from the Belfast High Court that the Chief Constable complete a draft report into collusion which was undertaken by the Historical Enquiries Team. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Eddie Barnard, whose brother Patrick (13) was killed by a bomb planted by the gang in his home town of Dungannon in 1976, is seeking an order from the Belfast High Court that the Chief Constable complete a draft report into collusion which was undertaken by the Historical Enquiries Team. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

 

A High Court judge in Belfast has described the activities of a gang in which members of the security forces carried out sectarian murders alongside loyalist paramilitaries as “deeply disturbing.”

Mr Justice Seamus Treacey made the remark during a judicial review of the PSNI’s decision not to complete a report into the Glenanne gang by the now defunct Historical Enquiries Team.

The judge has deferred until next month the conclusion of the case brought by Eddie Barnard whose 13-year-old brother, Patrick, was murdered by the gang when it bombed the Hillcrest Bar in Dungannon, Co Tyrone in 1976, killing four people.

The gang is believed to have killed about 120 people, mostly mid-Ulster Catholics, during the 1970s. Mr Barnard wants Mr Justice Treacey to order the chief constable to have the HET’s report completed. The chief constable claims it is not his responsibility to do so.

The HET told families that as well as providing them with reports of individual case reviews it carried out, an overarching report into the gang’s activities was an “absolute necessity”. However, the report was abandoned in 2010 when it was almost finished. The HET was wound up in controversial circumstances in 2014 and it has yet to be replaced.

“The report is important because the families know that the state knows these cases were inextricably linked,” said Danny Friedman QC, representing Mr Barnard. “There is an enormous difference between the families and their supporters analysing those links and the state taking responsibility for that analysis.” It was about the value of truth and accountability and the interests of wider society, he said.

Tony McGleenan QC, representing the chief constable, said the case was “tilting at windmills”. There was no evidence of collusion in the Hillcrest attack and most of the material in the draft report had already been presented to families. In most cases the HET had found there were no futher evidential opportunities to pursue and no evidence of collusion.

He said the PSNI could not stand over the draft report. It was “flawed and inadequate” and “would need to be done all over again”. There was “no utility” in doing this, McGleenan said. “It will produce nothing new.” He said it was not the responsibility of the chief constable to investigate collusion.

Families heard that a spreadsheet presented in evidence on behalf of the Chief Constable of the PSNI included a list of members of the security forces who were either convicted of offences carried out by the gang or were suspects.

Mr Justice Seamus Treacey commented that the list ran over five pages.

Alan Brecknell, whose father, Trevor was murdered by the gang in 1975 said it was the first time a judge had commented on the disturbing and shocking nature of the Glenanne allegations. Mr Barnard said it saddened him to note that among those in court to listen to proceedings were the grandchildren of the victims.

“The pain of this is moving into another generation,” he said.