Protest over Noah Donohoe inquest files to be held in Belfast

Protest over Noah Donohoe inquest files to be held in Belfast

Fiona Donohoe, accompanied by her sister Niamh, delivers a petition to police headquarters in February. Picture: Rebecca Black/PA

A protest is to be held in Belfast on Saturday over a PSNI application to redact some information in police files to be used during the inquest into the death of schoolboy Noah Donohoe.

The protest is being organised by the Donohoe family, and will take place at Belfast City Hall at 1pm.

It comes after Northern Ireland Secretary of State Shailesh Vara signed off on a request by the PSNI for public interest immunity (PII) in relation to three police files.

Earlier in the week, the law firm representing the Donohoe family expressed “grave concerns” over Mr Vara’s actions, claiming that the move appeared to “exacerbate rather than allay deeply held concerns”.

Noah Donohoe’s mother Fiona arrives at Laganside Courts in Belfast for a pre-inquest review hearing for the 14-year-old schoolboy in June last year (Niall Carson/PA)

Northern Ireland first minister designate and Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill said Mr Vara’s decision was “totally unacceptable”, and that the use of a PII in Noah’s case was “wholly inappropriate”.

She called on the PII application to be withdrawn.

Noah, a 14-year-old pupil at St Malachy’s College in Belfast, was found dead in a storm drain in north Belfast in June 2020, six days after he went missing.

His mother Fiona is hoping to secure answers to some of the questions surrounding his death through the inquest process.

Speaking ahead of the protest, People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll said the Donohoe family “deserve to know the full facts”.

“The Secretary of State and the PSNI have thus far resisted calls to withdraw this PII, so it is imperative that the public support Saturday’s demonstration to help force their hand,” he said.

This type of certificate, usually used to protect informers, is preventing a grieving family from knowing the truth about their loved one’s death

“I have previously written to the PSNI Chief Constable to express my concern over the police use of a PII in this case. This type of certificate, usually used to protect informers, is preventing a grieving family from knowing the truth about their loved one’s death.

“This is unacceptable and deeply immoral.”

The application to redact sensitive materials, being made by the PSNI through the PII process, needs to be supported by a certificate signed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland or another Northern Ireland Office minister.

It emerged at the end of July that Mr Vara had signed the PII certificate, which was met with criticism by the Donohoe family.

The decision on whether to approve the application now rests with the coroner in the inquest, Joe McCrisken.

The inquest into Noah’s death is scheduled to begin on November 28 and to run for three weeks.

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