The families of six Catholics murdered in a County Down pub by unionist paramilitaries 12 years ago have accused police of protecting those involved in the killings.
The attack on the Heights bar sent shockwaves throughout the world and was condemned by Pope John Paul II and the Queen.
Word of the massacre reached the Football Association of Ireland after the Ireland’s victory over Italy in New Jersey and they sent their condolences to the relatives` victims.
Five people were also wounded in the indiscriminate attack which was over within a matter of seconds.
At a press conference in Belfast, relatives of those who died in the Loughinisland massacre said it was clear the RUC police had colluded with the UVF murder gang responsible for the slaughter.
Their statement came on the back of revelations that the car used in the murders, which was provided by an RUC agent, was later crushed by the RUC, preventing the recovery of crucial forensic evidence.
Eamon Byrne, Barney Green, Malcolm Jenkinson, Daniel McCreanor, Patrick O’Hare and Adrian Rogan died in the attack on the Heights bar in June 1994. The six were watching Ireland play Italy in a World Cup game when the gunmen struck.
Niall Murphy, a solicitor for the Loughinisland families, told a packed press conference this week that a Czech-made rifle used in the killings was part of a South African weapons consignment brought into the North by British army agent Brian Nelson.
British forces knew of the arms shipments and did not prevent them reaching Ireland.
It was revealed that the RUC (now PSNI) refused to carry out DNA tests on 177 items connected with the investigation until 2005, and that the PSNI continue to deny the families access to the ballistic history of the weapons used.
It also emerged the PSNI is still refusing to reveal whether any of the suspects or the eight people questioned about the attack have been used for intelligence purposes.
Mr Murphy said the launch of the families’ campaign for a proper police investigation was born out of frustration at the stagnation in the murder investigation. He also expressed astonishment that the getaway car used in the attack was destroyed.
“I can think of no reasonable reason why any police officer would destroy such an exhibit, which must have contained a wealth of evidential product,” he said.
“Certainly I have my suspicions as to why it was destroyed. That the car was destroyed in itself creates inherent suspicion.”
Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan is currently investigating the families concerns about the RUC/PSNI investigation.
The killings will also feature in a soon to be published Police Ombudsman report into allegations of collusion between Special Branch detectives and a UVF gang based in the loyalist Mount Vernon estate in north Belfast.
Emma Rogan, who was eight when her 34-year-old father Adrian was shot dead in the attack, said: “We want to know how high does this collusion go.
“Six innocent men who did not do anybody wrong in their lives were wiped off the face of the earth because somebody said go and do it. We want to know why.”
Moira Casement, whose 89-year-old uncle Barney Green was the oldest victim, said the families were shocked and disgusted by revelations a police informer code-named ‘Mechanic’ was involved in preparations for the attack.
Sinn Féin assembly member Caitriona Ruane said serious questions remain unanswered.
“For 12 years the families of the six men killed by the UVF at Loughinisland have patiently waited for justice. As the years have gone on the families have began to raise serious questions about the murders and specifically the subsequent investigation into it.
“This situation is disgraceful and goes to the very heart of the British systems involvement in Ireland. At least one British agent was directly involved in the murders and that the subsequent investigation by both the PSNI and RUC has been more of a cover-up than anything else.
“The British government need to realise that issue will not go away. The killings at Loughinisland had a deep impact on people across this island and the revelations of British involvement and cover-up will provoke much anger. Sinn Féin will be raising these revelations with the both the British and Irish governments.”
* A call to support the family of a UVF murder victim from County Donegal has won unanimous support from councillors.
Henry Cunningham, a Presbyterian, was just 16 when he was murdered while travelling home on the M2 motorway outside Belfast in 1973.
The teenager had been working on building sites in Belfast and was returning to Carndonagh with his brothers when a gunman opened fire on their vehicle.
It is believed it was singled out because of its 26-County registration.
Unusually, the Donegal teenager’s inquest was held within weeks of his death. No-one has ever been brought to justice.
Last year the Cunningham family approached the Pat Finucane Centre in Derry for help in uncovering the full facts behind the murder.
At this week’s meeting of Donegal County Council, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty proposed that it convey its support to the Cunningham family.
He also said the council should call on the Irish and British governments to help the family find the truth about the murder.
Mr Doherty said the Cunningham family had been let down by the governments, pointing out that they only discovered the UVF was responsible when someone showed them a copy of the Lost Lives book detailing conflict-related deaths.