There are fresh calls in the north of Ireland for a much stronger approach to the issue of state collusion following confirmation that it played a significant role in the 1994 Loughinisland massacre.
After decades of cover-up, one complete whitewash and years of deep hostility from public officials in Belfast and London, a Police Ombudsman’s report on Thursday found that state agents were indeed involved in the random killing of six Catholic civilians, which was then covered up.
The murders took place in the Heights Bar in the County Down village when a death-squad opened fire on people watching the Ireland soccer team play Italy during the 1994 World Cup in America. Gunmen in balaclavas burst into the bar and shouted about “Fenians” before firing indiscriminate.
The attack took place amid negotiations between the Provisional IRA and the British government to being about a ceasefire, which was announced ten weeks later.
The new Ombudsman’s report, the second by that office on Loughinisland, was described the Guardian newspaper as “a devastating report that is likely to challenge previous official narratives of the nature of the conflict”.
It detailed a catalogue of collusion before and after the massacre, which included the importation of the weapons used in the murders and scores of others by British agents; the direct involvement of police agents in the planning of the killings; and ‘catastrophic failures’ in the investigation of suspects and the destruction of evidence.
In an unusually strong statement, Ombudsman Michael Maguire said he had “no hesitation in unambiguously determining that collusion is a significant feature of the Loughinisland murders”.
He found that there was a “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” by the security forces to the use of informers.
The report comes more than four years after Mr Maguire dramatically scrapped his predecessor Al Hutchinson’s investigation into the murders and ordered a new inquiry into the killings. The original investigation had been branded a whitewash by the victims’ families when it was published in 2011.
Former Republican MP Bernadette McAliskey, a survivor of another such attack, said the findings support a potential action at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
“When we look at Bloody Sunday, Balllymurphy, Stakeknife and what is beginning to emerge in the loyalist community as well, there is case for war crimes,” she said.
“The British Government used its military to perpetuate a 40 year war here. It used its undercover secrecy to keep it going and lied with impunity about its own actions.
“When you go back and look at what was happening during the peace process, it was ambiguity. It was fudge and they hoped they’d get away with it. We have never had truth, never mind justice.”
Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams called on the 26 County government to put pressure on Downing Street to “open its books” on collusion following the report.
He also urged Dublin to demand the British government hold the long promised inquiry into the murder of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane.
“A step change in the Irish government’s response to collusion is urgently needed. As a co-equal guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, the Irish government must use all of the resources... including the United Nations, to exert pressure on the British government.”