Families ‘demand truth’ on 20th anniversary of SAS Clonoe ambush

Peter Clancy, Barry O’Donnell, Sean O’Farrell and Patrick Vincent, who were shot dead by SAS forces outside Clonoe chapel on February 16, 1992

Relatives of the four IRA members who were killed in Clonoe by undercover soldiers exactly 20 years ago today have renewed calls for the government to hold an inquest into their deaths.

East Tyrone Brigade members Peter Clancy, 19, Barry O’Donnell, 21, Sean O’Farrell, 23, and Patrick Vincent, 20, were shot dead by SAS forces outside Clonoe chapel on February 16, 1992, following an IRA machine gun attack on Coalisland’s RUC station.

series of commemorative events, organised by the Eamonn Ceannt Society and the Thomas Clarke Society, will be held today and over the weekend to mark 20 years since the deaths.

Barry O’Donnell’s sister Róisín Ui Mhuiri said in a statement: “We demand the truth about the circumstances of the deaths of Peter, Patrick, Sean and Barry.

“The British government has delayed this inquest for 20 years in an attempt to cover the truth. We know the truth – our sons, brothers, were killed in a well-planned ambush.”

A stray bullet was thought to have hit a fuel storage tank in Clonoe chapel, starting a fire through part of the building

The four Provisional IRA members were killed after being involved in an attack on Coalisland’s RUC station with a heavy machine gun, mounted on the back of a stolen lorry. No police officers were injured in the attack.

But as the men tried to dump the lorry in Clonoe chapel car park and escape in getaway cars, members of a specialist undercover military unit opened fire.

Angered relatives of the four IRA men say the RUC had sufficient information to make arrests, but a high-level decision was made to shoot them dead in a “shoot-to-kill” operation.

“The RUC and British Army have many questions to answer about the events leading up to, and the shootings in Clonoe,” said Ms Ui Mhuiri.

The lorry used in the attack on Coalisland’s RUC barracks stopped at Clonoe chapel as the IRA men tried to escape in getaway cars

Family members have attended court over 20 times after preliminary cases began in 2002.

Ms Ui Mhuiri said: “The PSNI and Ministry of Defence have not provided all relevant material and much of what they provided is so heavily redacted that the documents are useless.

“The coroner stated that he believed the only way forward was an inquiry. The last date given was December 2004 and since then we are waiting for the inquest to open in Belfast.

This has put increased pressure on all of us and it is with much sadness that we think about siblings and parents who have died during this long search for truth.”

She added: “We feel that we are still being victimised by the deaths of our loved ones.  We are unable to move on as we are still denied an inquest into their deaths by the British government.

“The state is legally bound to hold an inquest.  However the British government has so far failed to do this in our case, and in the cases of other controversial shootings in East Tyrone.”

Veteran Sinn Féin politician Francie Molloy has also joined calls for “the truth” on what happened in Clonoe two decades ago.

In October last year, an unarmed getaway car driver was awarded compensation of £75,000 for being wounded by soldiers during the incident.

The High Court judge ruled that the shooting of Aidan McKeever was not justified after the 41-year-old sued the  MoD for assault and battery.

He alleged the soldiers opened fire on him when he was unarmed and not close to anyone with a weapon, and claimed that he was given no warning or opportunity to surrender.

>Calendar of commemorative events to mark the 20th anniversary

>BBC report: Judge rules getaway driver shooting ‘not justified’

>View a television report broadcast shortly after the IRA attack in 1992


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