Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

No review of La Mon police probe

Theresa Villiers says the police investigation into the La Mon bombing that killed 12 people will not be subject to a Government review
Theresa Villiers says the police investigation into the La Mon bombing that killed 12 people will not be subject to a Government review

A much criticised police investigation into an IRA fire bomb that killed 12 people will not be subject to a Government review.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has told the families of those killed in the La Mon Hotel bombing in east Belfast in 1978 that she felt a re-examination of evidence would not provide new answers.

Confirmation that a review had been ruled out came as the Government also turned down calls from relatives of those shot dead by the British Army in Ballymurphy in west Belfast in 1971 for a similar probe.

In the La Mon case, Ms Villiers had been considering whether to commission a review of the files by a QC - along the lines of the 2012 exercise carried out by Sir Desmond de Silva into the loyalist murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989.

Twelve members of the Irish Collie Club were killed in the La Mon outrage. The club was holding its annual dinner dance in the hotel when the fire bomb ignited.

The victims, all of whom were protestant, included three married couples. More than 20 other people were seriously injured.

Bereaved relatives have alleged republicans suspected of involvement in the attack have been shielded from justice due to their latter roles in the peace process.

These claims intensified when an investigation by the Police Service of Northern Ireland's Historical Enquiries Team (HET) in 2012 found that historic police files on the case had been lost.

Ms Villiers said she did not believe a review would uncover further evidence related to La Mon.

"After consultation and careful consideration, I have decided not to initiate a de Silva-type review into the La Mon House bombing," she said.

"I have written to the families advising them of my decision.

"I understand that this is not the decision they were hoping for, but I do not believe that an independent review would reveal new evidence or reach a different conclusion from the investigations that have already taken place.

"I was very moved by my meeting with the families and I know that no matter how much time passes, the pain experienced by the victims of this shocking atrocity remains. I continue to offer my sincerest sympathy to the families for the loss of their loved ones and the injury they have suffered."

East Belfast Assembly member Michael Copeland said the families would be devastated by the development.

"This news will devastate the victims and survivors of La Mon who have long fought for truth and justice," he said.

Mr Copeland added: "This news will only fuel those who believe the people responsible for the atrocity are in some way a protected species, perhaps because they now hold elected office.

"When I met with the Secretary of State last year along with families affected by La Mon, we spoke of our disappointment at the lack of new information contained in the HET report into the bombing.

"Today's decision will only serve to frustrate the victims who have had great patience in their wait for the truth of La Mon.

"There are people out there who know what happened that day, know why it happened and know who gave the orders for it to happen. It is disturbing that they continue to keep the families in the dark.

"Today will be hurtful for those families of the innocent people who were so disgracefully and unforgivably targeted on 17 February 1978. I will continue to help and support them in their fight for truth."

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