In 1994, as Ireland played in a World Cup match in New Jersey, terrorists attacked fans who had been sitting watching the game in a small bar in Northern Ireland.
Ireland won, defeating Italy one-nil in one of their most famous ever soccer victories, but celebrations were cut short after the savage murder of six innocent people watching the game in a pub in Loughinisland, in County Down.
Now, decades later, family members are still searching for answers about the unprovoked attack and what exactly the British government knew. A new documentary for ESPN premieres on Tuesday, April 29, directed by award-winning director Alex Gibney and re-examines what took place.
There was a significant Irish American dimension as a group of Irish American leaders who were deeply involved in the peace process and the pending IRA ceasefire were at the game. Two of them – Mutual of America former Chairman Bill Flynn and Irish Central founder Niall O’Dowd – were interviewed for the program.
The massacre took place on the June 18, 1994 in the small village of Loughinisland.
Members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a loyalist paramilitary group, burst into a pub with assault rifles and fired on the customers, killing six civilians and wounding five.
The pub was targeted because it was frequented mainly by Catholics, the attack is believed to have been in retaliation for the killing of three UVF members by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).
Allegations still persist that police (Royal Ulster Constabulary) informers were linked to the massacre and that police protected those informers by destroying evidence and failing to carry out a proper investigation.
Locals had gathered to watch the match in the Heights Bar. Just after halftime two gunmen entered the bar. No one saw them because everyone's attention was on the game. With their faces hidden in balaclavas, the men knelt down in the doorway and opened fire, killing six and wounding five. As they ran out of the pub and hopped into their getaway car, they were heard to laugh.
Despite the discovery of eyewitnesses, the recovery of the getaway car, the guns, balaclavas, fingerprints and DNA, why was no one charged, never mind convicted? Why was key evidence destroyed by local police? It turns out that the assault rifles were from Czechoslovakia transshipped to South Africa and brought into Northern Ireland with the aid of British Intelligence. Were they pulling the strings for the attack and the cover-up?
The new documentary aims to answer some of the untold tales of that night.
Here’s a clip from the upcoming documentary