FORMER Ulster Unionist Party leader Tom Elliot has said two South Derry men killed during the Troubles were ‘not real victims’ because they were not murdered by the IRA.
Speaking at a meeting held in Cookstown on Friday night, the MLA slammed money being spent into re-examining the murder of Bellaghy man Sean Brown, killed by loyalists in 1997, and Francis Bradley, shot dead by special forces in Toomebridge in 1986.
Mr Elliot said that the money being used should benefit the “real victims” of the Troubles - the friends and family of those murdered by the IRA.
He also urged those present to demand inquests into the IRA deaths of relatives to “choke the system up”.
He made his comments at a meeting organised by Cookstown UUP councillor Robert Kelly, attended by a number of people maimed, injured or who had lost loved ones at the hands of the IRA.
At the gathering, Mr Elliot read a numbe rof names from the list of 44 deaths set to be re-investigated by the Coroners Service. Among those were 61 year-old Mr Brown, Castledawson man Francis Bradley and 50 year-old Joan Connolly from West Belfast.
Speaking at the Royal Hotel on Friday night, the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA described the inquests as a “huge difficulty”.
He said: “I don’t think many of those, in fact I don’t think any of them, and I haven’t studied the list, are people that were murdered by the Provisional IRA or the Republican movement.”
“And that is the difficulty that we have. We almost have 44 separate public inquiries that are going to open up in the very near future, if some of them already haven’t opened up.”
Mr Elliot added that he believed that if the “real victims” of the Troubles - relatives of those murdered by the Provisional IRA - could “band together”, they could “stop” the inquests from happening.
“How can we do anything about it? And let me say folks, there is quite a substantial pot of money in the process at the moment, but how is it going to be spent? The vast majority of it is unlikely to be spent on the people who really need it and who should really have access to it.
“It’s more likely to be spent on those people who are maybe relatives of the people on the list like this, that the Attorney General is going to have coroner court inquests into. And let me tell you folks, we have heard about the millions that was spent on Bloody Sunday, whenever these 44 cases start to open up God knows how much will be spent on them as well. How do we do anything about it?”
“I actually believe if we could get the people who are the real victims to band together in some way and come forward and say that they want inquests into the murders of their loved ones, it would at least choke the system up. That if you had 1000 cases to be inquired into and investigated, then at least it would likely block this system up, and stop this (inquests) from happening.”
The former Ulster Unionist leader added: “I just believe the system is continually being weighed against the security forces in Northern Ireland and the former security forces in Northern Ireland.”
Mr Elliot’s comments will no doubt anger the families of both Mr Brown and Mr Bradley. In both cases questions remain over the deaths of both South Derry men.
20 year-old Francis Bradley was shot eight times by special forces at a paramilitary weapons store at a remote farm.
In the wake of the killing, the IRA denied the young Catholic was a member of the organisation.
The initial inquest heard that soldiers who confronted Mr Bradley shouted at him to stop and he turned on them in a threatening manner, at which point they opened fire. But other evidence suggested he was shot from behind at close range.
Sean Brown, 61, was abducted by an LVF gang as he locked up the Wolfe Tones Gaelic Athletic Club in Bellaghy on May 12, 1997.
The father-of-six was shot several times in the head and his body was later found beside his burnt out car in Randalstown.
Alongside victims campaigner William Frazer, also present at the meeting, Mr Elliot said he would assist those who wanted the death of a loved one re-investigated by the Attorney General.