Loughinisland massacre families call for justice after collusion revelations
Following Police Ombudsman's damning report, relatives demand former RUC officers face prosecution over 1994 loyalist attack on bar in which six people were murdered
The families of six men gunned down in the Loughinisland massacre said they have finally been told the truth - but they are now demanding justice.
They have called for prosecutions to be launched against police officers who colluded with a UVF murder gang.
Civil proceedings have been launched by the families against the PSNI and MoD after "significant" collusion within the police and security services with loyalist terrorists was uncovered by Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire.
They said that the Ombudsman's findings cannot be left to "gather dust on a shelf" and vowed to pursue justice through the criminal or civil courts.
Two UVF gunmen burst into the Heights Bar in the Co Down village as people were watching a World Cup football match on June 18, 1994.
Six Catholic men - Adrian Rogan (34), Patrick O'Hare (35), Eamon Byrne (39), Malcolm Jenkinson (53), Daniel McCreanor (59) and Barney Greene (87) - were killed. Five others were injured.
A major investigation by the Police Ombudsman found that collusion "was a significant feature of the Loughinisland murders".
Dr Maguire said that one suspect in the UVF attack was a police informant.
He revealed that the murder squad responsible for the attack on the Heights Bar was involved in previous murders but had avoided arrest because the RUC's Special Branch had withheld information from detectives investigating the crimes.
It also emerged that guns used in the atrocity came from a large shipment of weapons imported into Northern Ireland by police informants at the most senior levels within loyalist paramilitary organisations.
The watchdog's report also found that the protection of informants led to "catastrophic failures" in the police investigation into the massacre.
The Government said the report makes clear "that those responsible for the carnage at Loughinisland were the terrorists who planned and carried it out", but it "also reaches some very grave conclusions about the conduct of the police".
A Government spokesperson added that allegations of wrongdoing by the police are taken "very seriously and that "where there is evidence it should be pursued and those responsible held accountable." Following yesterday's damning report the families of the murder victims also demanded an apology from Secretary of State Theresa Villiers who said in February that RUC officers and British soldiers had no direct involvement in the atrocity.
In a speech about legacy issues Ms Villiers said: "It wasn't the RUC or the Army who planted the bombs at La Mon, Enniskillen, or the Shankill, or pulled the triggers at Loughinisland or Greysteel." Emma Rogan, whose father Adrian Rogan died in the Loughinisland gun attack, said Ms Villiers' comments had been "a deceitful attempt to rewrite the truth".
"We finally have a report that vindicates our long-held suspicions and belief that the truth about these murders was being covered up by the very people, the police, who were supposed to be on our side and investigate and bring to justice those responsible. Police actively worked against truth and justice," she said. "We need justice and accountability from those in authority."
Moira Casement, whose 87-year-old uncle Barney Green was murdered, one of the oldest victims of The Troubles, said the Ombudsman report "makes clear our loved ones were murdered as a direct result of (collusion)".
"We have the truth today. Now it is time for justice and accountability," she said.
The families' solicitor, Niall Murphy, said that the Ombudsman report "evidences catastrophic and indefensible investigative failings which amount to a corruption of the criminal justice system".
He said that the opportunity to prosecute the killers was going to be very difficult, as vital evidence had not been secured or preserved.
However, the Loughinisland families are hopeful prosecutions of those involved in state collusion will follow the Police Ombudsman's report.
Mr Murphy said there had been "a perversion of the course of justice on an industrial scale".
"One would hope that all of (the Ombudsman's) material will be considered in depth with view of prosecutorial outcomes," he added.
South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has demanded a targeted police investigation and prosecutions.
"(The) report was always going to damage the reputation of intelligence services within the RUC/Special Branch and highlight their failures in protecting our communities, but it has also brought to the fore questions that could undermine confidence in the PSNI investigation into the Loughinisland murders," said Ms Ritchie.
She added: "We must now use this report to put pressure on the PSNI, the Policing Board and the Minister for Justice, to bring about prosecutions and bring real justice to the victims, survivors, their families and the wider community in south Down.
"Due to the in-depth nature of this report, and the issues it raises about intelligence policing during direct rule, I am also asking the Prime Minister to personally intervene in this particular matter."
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said the report made "uncomfortable" reading and that those responsible should be held accountable.