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Orde 'admits SAS killed IRA gang'
23/08/2004 - 17:58:11

Police chiefs have finally admitted the SAS were called in to kill eight IRA men during a major security operation, the terrorists’ families claimed tonight.

Relatives of Patrick Kelly, who commanded the paramilitary unit gunned down in 1987, also alleged Northern Ireland’s Chief Constable backed the decision to deploy troops.

The IRA man’s sister Roisin emerged from talks with Hugh Orde and said: “He told us the RUC were involved up to a point and then they called in the SAS.

“In my interpretation the RUC abdicated responsibility. Everybody knows around the world that the SAS go in to kill, they don’t go in to arrest.”

She added: “Hugh Orde says he wants to draw a line under all this and move forward yet it seems nothing has changed.”

Amid unionist outrage, Mr Orde agreed to meet Mrs Kelly and her sister Mairead to discuss one of the most controversial shootings in the Northern Ireland conflict.

Kelly, who ran the IRA’s East Tyrone brigade, was shot dead alongside seven terrorist colleagues in a planned ambush as they tried to bomb Loughgall police station.

Innocent civilian Anthony Hughes was also killed by troops who mistook him for part of the team.

Since then the dead men’s families have battled for answers about why they were not arrested.

In 2001 a landmark European court ruling found that their right to life had been violated.

But after being rebuffed by previous chief constables, Mr Orde agreed to meet the relatives.

He also assured the Kelly family, who head a group known as the Loughgall Truth and Justice Campaign, that he will put to British Army top brass their desire to hold talks.

Before the 90-minute meeting at police headquarters in Belfast, Democratic Unionist MLA Ian Paisley voiced anger at the get-together.

He said: “Hugh Orde has taken leave of his senses. How many bereaved families of police officers has Mr Orde taken time out to meet? How many families of innocent victims of terrorism has he met?”

For Ms Kelly, however, the meeting provided a breakthrough of sorts in her effort to get answers.

“This was a confirmation we didn’t have before,” she said.

“Now we want to speak to the (British) Army GOC and ask why, with 24 soldiers sitting around, could they not have arrested these men? Did they have to kill them?”

The Police Service of Northern Ireland described the talks as a useful and open discussion.

A PSNI spokeswoman said: “The Kellys raised a number of issues with the Chief Constable. He in turn offered his assessment of the decision made at the time to deploy the Army against what he termed a dangerous gang.

“Much of the discussion centred on the need to find a process whereby everybody can seek to tell their story and which would go some way to finding answers to the questions they have.”

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