EXCLUSIVE: Maginnis says ‘wasn’t a wild guess’ naming Hartes

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FORMER Ulster Unionist peer and UDR officer Ken Magginis has defended his position after being called upon by the sons of two IRA men who were killed by the SAS to explain why he gave their names to Margaret Thatcher, mere days before they were shot.

Cousins Colm and Declan Harte have spoken out since Lord Maginnis allegedly said in an RTE documentary that Mrs Thatcher, angered by an IRA explosion near Ballygawley that killed eight soldiers, asked who was responsible.

Gerard Harte (29), Martin Harte (23) and his brother-in-law Brian Mullin (26) were killed in an ambush on August 30, 1988 between Carrickmore and Omagh, within two weeks of Lord Maginnis visiting Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher in London.

Lord Maginnis told the TIMES: “Mrs Thatcher did not come to me, I led a delegation to Downing Street the morning after the bomb.

“I told the Prime Minister, and it wasn’t a wild guess; from my previous time in the UDR and intelligence I possessed who were the leading and likely perpetrators of the atrocity - they weren’t the victims of ‘shoot-to-kill’.

“They were watched until they were involved in an ambush trying to kill a coal man.

“They were actually in the act of shooting at the person they thought was the coal man when they were ambushed and killed in the return of fire.

“It shouldn’t be forgotten that these three were terrorists on a terrorist operation.

“I was involved for many years in anti-terrorism - it was not confined to any particular group.

“In terms of you saying to me these lads thought I should have spoken to them.

“Let me say this...

“It has never been the practice to visit the sins of the fathers on the children.

“I didn’t even know that these children existed nor do I believe they should now get themselves involved in the mists of history, particularly if their information is based on hearsay.”