Amnesty backs Northern Ireland chief's claim RUC helped Loughinisland massacre killers escape justice
Amnesty UK has thrown its full support behind Northern Ireland programme director Patrick Corrigan over his comments claiming police helped those involved in the Loughinisland massacre "evade justice".
The Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers Association (NIRPOA) - which represents more than 3,500 retired officers - called on Amnesty International to retract the "highly offensive" comments describing them as "wholly unfounded" and a "slur".
The day before a court hearing of a judicial review into the granting of a warrant for raids on the homes of two journalists who examined the investigation into the 1994 loyalist attack, Mr Corrigan suggested "police were helping killers evade justice".
The Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers Association (NIRPOA) wrote to Amnesty UK's director in London, Kate Allen, voicing concerns over what he said were "serious suggestions" and warned "further action" will be considered if the organisation failed to clarify its position. It demanded to know if the comments represented the official position of Amnesty.
Concerns were also raised over what chairman Raymond Fitzsimmons called a "highlighting" of the fact that police officers were armed during the raids.
In a letter seen by the Belfast Telegraph, he said by pointing out police were armed served to "dramatise the matter for any readers" given officers are required to carry firearms as part of their daily duties as a response to the threat they face.
In response Amnesty said it full supported Mr Corrigan.
Ms Allen said: "The families of the Loughinisland victims have yet to see the killers of their loved ones held to account.
"Amnesty International UK will continue to support them and other families' campaigns for truth and justice. The trauma and the pain they have suffered is unacceptable, and nothing should be allowed to distract from that."
A warrant authorising police raids on the homes and offices of investigative reporters Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey was quashed at Belfast High Court in recent weeks, with police directed to return the seized materials to the pair.
The two Belfast film-makers had been investigating the 1994 Loughinisland atrocity for their documentary No Stone Unturned.
“Amnesty International UK fully supports the remarks made by Patrick Corrigan, our Northern Ireland Programme Director, in relation to the police investigation into journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey," continued Ms Allen who expressed concern at the media reports of the letter ahead of her organisation receiving it branding it a "PR stunt" by NIRPOA.
“The report by the Police Ombudsman into the Loughinisland massacre noted that there was, undeniably, significant wrongdoing by the RUC following the murder of six innocent men by the UVF in 1994.
“The report states: “the protection of informants through both wilful acts and the passive ‘turning a blind eye’; catastrophic failures in the police investigation; and destruction of exhibits and documents”, all of which helped the killers to evade justice.
NIRPOA, which has 3,500 members throughout Northern Ireland and further afield, represents the interests of retired members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross (RUCGC) and the PSNI as well as their families.
NIRPOA chairman Fitzsimmons, said the allegation of helping killers evade justice was "untrue and a libellous slur".
He said it would "constitute the gravest of offences, amounting to aiding and abetting murder, conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice and so on".
"You ought to be aware that an investigation by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (PONI) led to a report to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) concerning police actions before and after the Loughinisland atrocity and as a result of which both parties agreed that there was no evidence upon which to base a prosecution of any police officer for any offence in connection with this matter," he wrote in the letter to Amnesty.
"No legitimate inquiry or hearing based on due process has established any wrongdoing by any of the police who were involved in this case, let alone 'helping the killers evade justice'."
The PSNI has since dropped the investigation into the film-makers, and their seized possessions have been returned.
Six Catholic men were shot dead at Loughinisland, Co Down, after UVF gunmen opened fire in a village pub as their victims watched a World Cup football match in 1994.
Belfast Telegraph Digital