A decision by the Irish national soccer squad to wear armbands to mark the 18th anniversary of the Loughinisland massacre has been widely welcomed.
Six Catholics were shot dead in the sectarian massacre in the Heights Bar in Loughinisland, County Down, on June 18, 1994, as the Irish team played Italy in the World Cup at Giants’ Stadium in New York.
A loyalist death squad burst in and opened fire indiscriminately, killing six men and seriously injuring five others.
The six dead were Adrian Rogan (34) Malcolm Jenkinson (53), Barney Greene (87), Daniel McCreanor (59), Patrick O’Hare (35), and Eamon Byrne (39).
Mr Green, aged 87, was the oldest victim of the conflict.
Despite 16 people being arrested over the years no one has been convicted of the murders. Questions remain over possible collusion in the atrocity, which came at the height of the peace process and boosted public support for an end to the IRA’s armed campaign. The Provisional IRA declared a ceasefire just ten weeks later.
John Delaney, the chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), said the commemoration was particularly poignant as Ireland will be playing Italy on the anniversary.
“What happened in Loughinisland in 1994 was an awful tragedy and deeply moving for all football fans.” He also thanked the UEFA competition organisers for assisting in commemorating the atrocity.
Mr Rogan’s daughter, Emma Rogan, welcomed the FAI’s gesture.
“We are very touched that the FAI and UEFA have seen fit to commemorate the murder of our loved ones at the upcoming European championships,” she said.
“It is emotional and poignant that Ireland play Italy on the exact anniversary and we feel proud and privileged that a memorial will be conducted on such an international stage.”
It emerged earlier this year that a key eyewitness to the attack, who provided the police with a description of the gang’s getaway driver within hours of the massacre, was never called to identify the killers. Instead, the police passed her details to a relative of the man she believes was the loyalist getaway driver.
Ms Rogen said she hopes the gesture will put fresh pressure on authorities to reveal all they know about the atrocity.
“Our campaign is one of social justice,” she said. “The atrocity that happened at Loughinisland is representative of so many others that happened through out the Troubles and evidence of state collusion with paramilitaries is only now beginning to seep out.”