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Protecting Rights

Shanaghan family responds to Police Ombudsman’s statement on ‘Operation Greenwich’

The family of Patrick Shanaghan has responded to the Police Ombudsman’s statement on ‘Operation Greenwich’, welcoming some aspects of the report, while criticising its limitations.

Operation Greenwich relates to a series of murders and attempted murders committed across several counties between 1988 and 1994, including the 1991 murder of Patrick Shanaghan. CAJ represents the family of Mr Shanaghan who was the only son of Philip and Mary Shanaghan and older brother of Mary and Anna, from Castlederg. The Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) – a known cover name for the UDA – claimed responsibility for his death.

While Mr Shanaghan’s family is pleased that their concerns about the occurrence of collusive activity are acknowledged as “legitimate and justified” within the statement [22.133], they have expressed disappointment and concern that key aspects of their complaints relating to the actions of RUC officers prior to Patrick’s murder could not be dealt with.

The Ombudsman’s statement references the definition of collusion provided in the Stevens Inquiries as including the “wilful failure to keep records, the absence accountability, the withholding of intelligence and evidence, through to the extreme of agents being involved in murder”, and reports that the Ombudsman investigation has “identified all of these elements in the conduct of former RUC officers” in relation to a number of the cases examined in the Operation Greenwich report. [22.133]   

In relation to the murder of Patrick Shanaghan, the Ombudsman concludes that the VZ58 assault rifle used was part of the loyalist arms importation from apartheid South Africa. [22.20]. In relation to the RUC preventing a local doctor from accessing Mr Shanaghan after the attack, the Ombudsman concludes, “The decision not to afford Mr Shanaghan urgent medical assistance at the scene was incorrect”, recording that one RUC officer subsequently received a disciplinary sanction. [11.88]

The Ombudsman, however, cites gaps in her powers as the reason for being unable to investigate the family’s complaints that prior to Patrick’s murder there were beatings in custody [11.60] and death threats [11.62] against Patrick from RUC officers. The Ombudsman stated it was not presently in her legislative remit to investigate these complaints as they had previously been investigated by the RUC.

The Ombudsman was also unable to reach a conclusion on the family’s complaints that the actions of the RUC in the run up to Patrick’s murder constituted harassment. This was on the basis of factors including the absence of records relating to arrests and repeated stop and searches. The Ombudsman does, however, “fully acknowledge the family’s perception that the nature and frequency of interactions with police amounted to harassment”. [11.54]

In a statement, the family of Patrick Shanaghan said, What is most distressing for us was the blatant disregard the RUC had for Patrick’s life and the inexcusable refusal of police to allow medical assistance for Patrick after he was shot. As in life, Patrick was in death, denied the most basic of human rights.

“Our family will never have Patrick back again and nothing can undo the suffering Patrick had to endure. We stated at the time of Patrick’s murder that we did not want any reprisals and did not want another family to suffer what we suffered and we still stand by that sentiment.  But that does not mean we want the suffering that Patrick endured to go unnoticed. We want people to know what Patrick had to endure in his daily life and the ultimate sacrifice he made because he refused to be driven from his home.”

The family’s statement can be read in full here.

Background to the case:

Patrick Shanaghan was killed one day after his 33rd birthday as he was driving to work at the DoE Roads Service in Castlederg. Patrick was subject to continuous harassment for a decade by the RUC, UDR, and British Army. Between 15 April 1985 and 19 May 1991 he was arrested and detained 10 times, yet never charged with any crime. His family home was subjected to repeated searches, yet no illegal material was ever found. Patrick was subjected to death threats from the RUC when detained at Castlereagh Holding Centre. He was shot and killed after photographs identifying him fell off the back of an army lorry.

His late mother took a successful case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in 2001. The court found that the UK violated the right to life (Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights) by failing to adequately investigate Mr Shanaghan’s murder, stating that Patrick’s case “is a situation, which to borrow the words of the domestic courts, cries out for an explanation.”

In response to the damning judgments in Shanaghan v UK and five other troubles-related cases taken from Northern Ireland, the UK said that the establishment of the office of the Police Ombudsman in Northern Ireland would be a mechanism to investigate police wrongdoing.

Since the 2001 judgment, the Committee of Ministers, which monitors the implementation of European Court of Human Rights judgments, has continued to call on the UK to carry out an Article 2 compliant investigation into Mr Shanaghan’s death and has repeatedly raised its concerns about the serious delays in this case.

Please direct media enquiries to Robyn Scott, Communications & Equality Coalition Coordinator on or 075 1994 1203. Martin Bogues, brother-in-law of Patrick Shanaghan, is available for interview.


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