PSNI chief George Hamilton stands accused of subverting justice in regard to dozens of loyalist killings in the late 1980s and early 1990s after secret police documents relating to collusion unexpectedly came to light.
The PSNI claimed that they had previously been “unable to find” the documents, after lawyers were told they didn’t exist. That received a scathing response from families of the victims.
Due to retire this June at the ripe age of 51, Hamilton is being told to go immediately. It is clear that allegations of a continuous and continuing police cover-up in an orchestrated campaign of murder will not be answered by him.
The archive was traced when one file came to light as part of a civil legal action unrelated to previous police investigations or oversight. Much of it relates to a crucial supply of weapons smuggled into the north for loyalists in the late 1980s.
The publication of three reports by the Police Ombudsman on its investigations into killings by UDA paramilitaries will now be delayed. The Ombudsman revealed that the previously unidentified files include “sensitive material, intelligence-led material, and.. information (on) covert policing”.
The stalled reports include investigations into the large-scale campaign of sectarian murder between 1988 and 1994, including the ‘trick or treat’ massacre of eight people and the murder of Donegal Sinn Féin councillor Eddie Fullerton; the massacre of five Catholic men at Sean Graham bookmaker’s on Belfast’s Ormeau Road in 1992; and the murder of 17-year-old Damien Walsh in west Belfast in 1993.
Damian Walsh’s mother, Marian dismissed the apology by PSNI deputy chief Stephen Martin, who blamed the scandal on “complex challenges associated with voluminous material”.
“He didn’t apologise to me personally, I just heard he apologised somewhere to somebody,” she said. “It is just a sham, and excuses. How come one person was able to find it and yet all these other ones couldn’t?”
The anguished mother said she had been expecting to receive the results of the Ombudsman’s investigation.
“I thought the report must have been ready, but then I was told it wasn’t ready again,” she said.
She said she broke down when she got the news.
“I just thought, I am so tired now, I have just got so old, so sick and I don’t know how I am going to go on with this. And then I rallied and thought, I have no choice, I have to keep going to see this through.”
Sinn Féin policing spokesman Gerry Kelly described the news as “appalling and unacceptable”.
Some of the recently discovered information relates to a huge cache of Czech-made arms imported into the north by loyalists. It previously emerged that one of these submachine guns, used to kill seven Catholic men, was put on display at the British Imperial War Museum in London.
Reports previously issued by the Ombudsman’s office may now have to be withdrawn amid fears that several investigations could have been subverted.
Lawyer Niall Murphy explained why some relatives want Hamilton to resign immediately.
“The families are appalled,” he said. “Many parents and siblings have passed away even in the last 12 months and people are dying without access to justice.”
Campaign group Time For Truth organised protests in locations around Belfast today [Saturday] in solidarity with the victims and survivors, and to demand full investigations and legacy inquests.
“We call on citizens to sign the petition and show their support for victims and survivors across the community who are still denied their basic human rights,” said organiser Ciaran Mac Airt.
“Just look at the news this week. Families from the Ormeau Road have been failed yet again by police investigating atrocities in the past.
“Hundreds of other families are experiencing the same and are being re-traumatised on a Dáily basis.”