Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has refused to withdraw comments she made about collusion, following last week’s report on the Loughinisland murders.
In February, Villiers said claims that state collusion with paramilitaries was rife were “pernicious” and a “deliberate distortion of the truth.”
Last week’s report of the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Dr. Michael Maguire into the murder of six Catholics in a bar at Loughinisland, Co. Down, said he had no hesitation in determining collusion between police and security services and loyalist paramilitaries. The attack happened on June 18, 1994, when Ireland was beating Italy in a World Cup match at Giants Stadium in New Jersey.
The six dead people and five others who were injured were watching the game on TV in the Heights Bar when the gun attack was made by members of the outlawed loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).
Maguire’s report concluded that one suspect in the UVF attack was a police informant. His report also said that the murder squad that carried out the mass shooting had been involved in a number of other murders in the period beforehand, but had avoided arrest because the Royal Ulster Constabulary’s Special Branch intelligence unit had withheld evidence from RUC detectives investigating the crimes.
Maguire said that Special Branch officers had adopted a “hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil” mind-set that placed the collection of information above the detection and stamping out of crime.
He found that a gun used in the Loughinisland attack was part of a shipment of arms brought into Northern Ireland by loyalist paramilitaries in late 1987/early 1988.
Now Villiers is under pressure to resign and apologize to the families of the Loughinisland victims for her February comments which she has refused to retract.
She said then when setting out the British government’s stance on dealing with the past that there was now a “pernicious counter narrative” to the dedication of the security services.
“To suggest that misconduct by the police and our Armed Forces was somehow rife or endemic is … in the view of this government … a deliberate distortion and a narrative of The Troubles that is not justified by the facts,” she said.
She argued that it wasn’t the police or army that “pulled the trigger” at Loughinisland.
SDLP MP for South Down Margaret Ritchie said Villiers must resign if she does not accept the findings of the Police Ombudsman’s report into the Loughinisland massacre in its entirety.
Ritchie added: “Her continued equivocation over state collusion in the face of the damning report is outrageous. It is an insult to the families who have campaigned with dignity and resilience for so long and offensive to all the people of the North who are opposed to paramilitary and state violence.”
The Republic’s Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said the police report is “deeply disturbing,” particularly the determination that collusion was a significant feature of the Loughinisland murders.
Flanagan added in a statement, “The findings must now be carefully examined with a view to the question of further investigations and possible prosecutions.”
Nobody was ever prosecuted for the murders in which the men who died were Adrian Rogan, 34, Patrick O’Hare, 35, Eamon Byrne, 39, Malcolm Jenkinson, 53, Daniel McCreanor, 59, and the oldest, 87-year-old Barney Green.
It is a tragedy that is likely to be remembered by many soccer fans when Ireland again meets Italy next week in the European Championship.