PSNI bid to disguise its role in journalist arrests
PSNI bid to disguise its role in journalist arrests


Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams has accused the British state of “a new and despicable twist” in its efforts to protect itself from the legal consequences of its collusion with loyalist paramilitaries during the conflict.

Two award-winning journalists involved in the film ‘No Stone Unturned’, Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey, were arrested, questioned for 14 hours and released last week.

Their film looked at the events which led to and followed on from the UVF paramilitary attack on the Heights Bar in Loughinisland on 18 June 1994 as a small number of customers watched Ireland’s World Cup opening soccer match against Italy.

Masked men burst into the small room and opened fire with semi-automatic rifles. Six men were killed and five other people were injured.

In June 2016 the Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, published a report which revealed police informers were linked to two of the weapons involved. Former members of the RUC went to court and challenged the Ombudsman’s report and in particular his accusation of collusion. That case is still ongoing.

This week, lawyers for the journalists protested the PSNI’s portrayal of the operation of being led by police from Durham in England. They pointed out the events in Belfast on August 31 were dominated by local PSNI members throughout.

Lawyers Niall Murphy and John Finucane, who represent Mr Birney and Mr McCaffrey respectively, have questioned the independence of the inquiry, pointing to the dominant role of the PSNI throughout the arrest and search operation.

Mr Murphy said only three Durham police were in Belfast for an operation that he said involved more than 100 PSNI officers in total.

Mr Finucane said he only had interaction with one police officer from Durham.

“Since the arrest on Friday I have now material in relation to the warrant to enter and search Mr McCaffrey’s home - that was granted on the basis of a PSNI application and supported by PSNI evidence,” he said.

Computers and mobile phones taken from the men’s homes have been examined by police, although lawyers representing the documentary maker Fine Point Films have challenged the legality of the search warrant executed at their premises, which has prevented the PSNI from examining the devices and papers seized there. The firm has accused the PSNI of exceeding their powers.

An editorial from the company said its journalists would not be deterred from doing their jobs: “We are extremely proud of our investigative journalism. We will always seek to expose injustice and shine a light on the truth. We will continue to turn over the stones that others wish we would leave alone.”

Former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams described the arrest operation as “a new low” for the British state. He said British Direct Ruler Patrick Mayhew had lied when he claimed that the RUC would leave ‘no stone unturned’ to get at the truth, which gave the film its title.

“The reality is that every effort was and continues to be made by the British system to keep the truth from the families and victims,” he said.

“No one who has any understanding of the role of collusion or of the actions of the British state in defence of its self-interest will have been really surprised by Friday’s events.

“Successive British governments have worked tirelessly to defend and protect those within its military, intelligence and security apparatus who tortured prisoners, used plastic bullets to kill and maim, or engaged in the state sponsored murder of citizens.”

“The British political and security establishment continue to deny collusion was a matter of institutional and official practice,” he added.

“They do this through the denial of access to legacy funding and inquests by victims and their families, or through obfuscation and the manipulation of the courts.

“The goal is simple: to obstruct and frustrate the creation of a meaningful truth recovery process and to hide the truth of its counter-insurgency and collusion policies.

“The Irish government has shown no real interest in combatting or championing this policy. Until it does so the British government and its agencies will continue to act with impunity.

“The responsibility of the Irish government and political parties on this island must be to support the families, support Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey, frustrate Britain’s malign efforts to thwart the right of victims and families to truth, and hold the British government to account on all of these matters.”

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