Wife of Belfast man injured by loyalist bomb in 1975 to seek damages

Eileen O’Halloran suing PSNI and Ministry of Defence over alleged state collusion

Eileen O’Halloran is suing the PSNI and Ministry of Defence over alleged state collusion with the gang who carried out the attack in north Belfast in April 1975.

Eileen O’Halloran is suing the PSNI and Ministry of Defence over alleged state collusion with the gang who carried out the attack in north Belfast in April 1975.

 

A hospital patient left traumatised after learning her husband had been seriously injured in a loyalist bombing can pursue a landmark claim for damages, a High Court judge has ruled.

Eileen O’Halloran is suing the PSNI and Ministry of Defence over alleged state collusion with the gang who carried out the attack in north Belfast in April 1975.

Lawyers for the two defendants applied to have the 63-year-old’s action struck out, arguing she did not meet the the legal test for psychiatric injuries as a ‘secondary victim’ because she was neither at the scene nor witnessed the blast.

But Mrs Justice Keegan upheld an earlier decision to allow the case to continue.

“I can well understand why this application was brought, given the amount of legacy litigation in this jurisdiction and a potential flood of new claims from a wide class of victims,” she said. “The fact remains that this particular issue has not arisen in the highest courts before and the point therefore needs to be addressed.

“This case will provide an opportunity to clarify the law which would be of benefit in this jurisdiction.”

Martin O’Halloran was injured in the attack as he waited for a bus on the corner of Oldpark Road and Ballynure Street, close to the Hole in the Wall bar.

He identified one of the bombers who lit the fuse as Trevor King, a UVF commander who was murdered by the INLA in 1994.

At the time of the explosion, Mrs O’Halloran was a patient at the Mater Hospital in north Belfast. She has stated she overheard that a man identified as her husband had been badly wounded in the attack.

The news left her traumatised and caused a psychiatric injury, according to her case.

However, the defendants deny her contention that they are responsible due to the alleged involvement of state agents in either the planning or implementation of the attack. They also argued that she was not a primary victim and has no case for any psychiatric injury. She did not suffer physical injury, was not directly involved in the bombing, and did not directly witness the attack or its immediate aftermath, it was contended.

The defendants mounted an appeal after a High Court Master dismissed an initial bid to have the action ended.

In a newly published decision, Mrs Justice Keegan said: “It is not enough for me to say that the case is weak and may have difficulties in succeeding.”

She confirmed: “There is undoubtedly a high hurdle to be reached before a claim would be struck out.

“The appeal will be dismissed.”