La Mon bombing report criticised
A police report into one of the most horrific attacks of the Northern Ireland Troubles has been slammed by victims who said it left major questions on the IRA atrocity unanswered.
A huge incendiary bomb sent a fireball roaring through a dinner dance at the La Mon House hotel outside Belfast in February 1978 killing 12 people and leaving many others with devastating injuries.
But survivors of the attack said they were angry that a Historical Enquiries Team (HET) review of the original investigation offered little new information and raised fresh questions over how key evidence had apparently disappeared.
Three of the families left devastated by the night of horror at La Mon spoke out after waiting two years for the HET report and they questioned if a blind eye was effectively being turned to IRA attacks of the past to avoid unsettling the peace process.
Interviews with IRA members, original papers from up to 100 detectives and notes about a warning call and a car used by the bombers could not be found. Campaigners asked if other items of evidence referred to in the report were still in existence, and if so, if they could be DNA tested.
Jim Mills, whose wife and sister were murdered, said of the report produced by the HET: "It was just a farce. A waste of two years. Building ourselves up - and we're not able to cope with all this pressure - and you go after two years, and absolutely nothing. You could have went to the library and looked it all up in the newspapers. That's just how bad it is."
Billy McDowell and his wife were seriously injured in the blast, and he said of his dealings with the HET: "Each time we were hoping for some good news. In receiving the final report, we are disappointed to find that there is very little information that we didn't already know about before they even started. A lot of questions are left unanswered."
Ulster Unionist MLA Michael Copeland, who has worked with the families to help deliver the HET report, fought back tears as he said he believed he had failed the victims. "I honestly feel to a degree that I have let them down in some way," he said.
Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister, who was called in by the families involved to offer legal advice, was highly critical of the HET review. "This report, I had hoped, would have given more succour and comfort to the families who have suffered so much, than it has," he said.
West Belfast man Robert Murphy was sentenced to life imprisonment for manslaughter in 1981. He was released in 1995 and died in 2006. A second man was acquitted.