Loughinisland families ‘relieved’ collusion ruling upheld in appeal

Loughinisland families ‘relieved’ collusion ruling upheld in appeal

24 June 2020

THE families of those killed in the Loughinisland massacre have said they hope that the latest legal ruling will give hope to other families waiting for “truth and justice”.

Former Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire’s controversial report into the UVF murder of six local men at the Heights Bar in 1994 was the subject of Court of Appeal proceedings.

Last Thursday, the appeal court judges found that the Ombudsman’s 2016 report had “overstepped the mark” several times by accusing police of criminal offences regarding “catastrophic failings” in the police investigation, but they did not go as far as to quash the report’s overall critical findings.

The men were shot dead while watching the Republic of Ireland v Italy World Cup match on the evening of June 18, 1994.

They were Adrian Rogan (34), Malcolm Jenkinson (53), Dan McCreanor (59), Patsy O’Hare (35), Eamon Byrne (39) and 87 year-old Barney Green.

Thursday’s ruling came on the 26th anniversary of the murders. 

Mr Rogan’s daughter Emma Rogan, now a South Down MLA, is a spokesperson for the families involved.

She said the latest judgement meant that families could now remember their loved ones with the “dignity and respect they deserve”.

“It was a strange day for us given the date,” Ms Rogan told the Recorder.

“We all feel relieved as this has been hanging over us for nearly for years. Although the case was not directly towards us, we were implicated in it given that the report was on Loughinisland.

“It’s great that Dr Michael Maguire’s report still stands as the legal case called into question Dr Maguire’s role. As far as we are concerned we have our report in black and white but we feel for the other families coming behind us who are still waiting.”

She said that other reports carried out by the Police Ombudsman, such as the Ormeau Road bookies attack in 1992 which left five men dead, had been held up from being published due to the legal challenge.

She continued to support the role of the Police Ombudsman and said: “For any semblance of a normal society in this part of this island, there needs to be confidence in our police force so there has to be a mechanism for constructive criticism for mistakes happen. They will happen because people are human. The role of the police ombudsman is so important and needs to be fully supported and funded.”

Mr Raymond White, representing the Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers’ Association, and Mr Ronald Hawthorne, a former sub-divisional police commander, were involved in the long-running legal challenge.

In November, 2018, a High Court judge rejected the retired officers’ case that Dr Maguire had exceeded his legal remit and refused to quash the report.

Mr White and Mr Hawthorne mounted an appeal against that ruling, which resulted in the recent verdict. 

South Down MP Chris Hazzard claimed the British government was “continuing to deny access to truth and justice to the families of those killed in the Loughinisland massacre in 1994”.

The South Down MP said the ruling had “reinforced” the finding that the murders were a result of “state collusion with loyalist killers and that there had been ‘catastrophic failings’ in the police investigation of the killings”.

“This has vindicated the position of the Loughinisland families who have been tireless in their campaign for truth and justice,” the Sinn Fein member continued.

“This also reinforces the fact that 26 years on, the families of those killed in the Loughinisland Massacre are still waiting for access to truth and justice over the deaths of their loved ones. 

“It’s long past the time the British government implemented in full the legacy mechanisms agreed in the Stormont House Agreement in a human rights compliant manner.”

Baroness Margaret Ritchie said the judgement was a “vindication of the rights of the families of the bereaved and the local community who have sought and campaigned  for justice for many, many years”. 

Baroness Ritchie said the judgement brought much relief for the families.

“Whilst the Lord Chief Justice wrapped the former Police Ombudsman over the knuckles for the use of some language around the issue of accusations of police involved in criminal offences, nonetheless the report still stands,” she remarked.

“What is now required is that the police, as a matter of urgency, working along with the active efforts of the local community, re-double their efforts to beaver out and source who perpetrated these dastardly murders and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.”

She added: “Those six men, their families and the local community in Loughinisland, Drumaness and Teconnaught deserve truth and justice.”