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Victims and families deserve whole truth

Editor's viewpoint

Published 10/06/2016

Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire speaking to the media at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast
Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire speaking to the media at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast

The findings of the Police Ombudsman’s report on the Loughinisland killings are truly shocking, and all the more so because it has taken so long for the truth to be uncovered.

The conclusions in Dr Michael Maguire’s investigation must also be deeply unsettling for the relatives, given the long and arduous journey they have had to take to obtain this information.

Even 22 years after these terrible murders of six innocent men took place, no one has been brought to trial.

In this regard, they are similar to so many other victims of the Troubles and their long-suffering families. This is one of the unpalatable facts of our peace process.

One distinguishing factor here is the finding that no charges were brought because of collusion between the security forces and the UVF murder gang.

Collusion remains a major problem in our society, as well as the lack of guidelines — despite repeated requests for clarification — on the handling of agents.

It is important to stress Dr Maguire’s comment that many officers in the RUC and the PSNI have worked tirelessly to bring those responsible for the massacre to justice, but nevertheless there have been fundamental flaws in the investigation.

The RUC, which handled Loughinisland, paid a heavy price among its rank-and-file during the worst of the Troubles, and many of its honourable members did their best.

They were operating in what were difficult and dark days for the force, when policing was carried out in the constant shadow of terrorism, and officers lived under a permanent threat to their lives.

Nevertheless, there are still many questions to be answered, and calls for an inquiry are justified.

There may be criminal charges made in due course in the long search for justice and closure.

The Loughinisland case is similar to other atrocities, including that at Kingsmills, given what has emerged recently at the inquest into that terrible event.

The Loughinisland relatives deserve the truth too.

All of this has much wider implications concerning policing and investigating the past.

Whatever the cost — financial, reputational and disturbing — this should not be a hindrance or deterrent to full exposure.

The dead, and their relatives deserve this — at the very least.

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