Belfast Telegraph

Loughinisland horror 25 years ago is still etched in village's memory

Scene of the massacre in 1994
Scene of the massacre in 1994
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

It's just after 6pm in Loughinisland - one day before the 25th anniversary of the massacre at Heights Bar which claimed the lives of six men.

A workman is busy on the front porch at the bar's entry and moves aside with a smile.

A few men have called in for a pint on their way home.

Through an archway a couple are enjoying a quiet drink. An elderly gentleman is sitting peacefully on his own. Another smile and a nodded greeting.

Horse racing is on the television.

It could be any ordinary day. It could be June 18, 1994.

These people could be Adrian Rogan, Malcolm Jenkinson, Daniel McCreanor, Patrick O'Hare, Eamon Byrne and Barney Green, the six men murdered when members of the UVF burst in and opened fire. A quick chat with the barmaid goes just how you would expect it to. There's another smiled greeting but "no, we're just going to remember in our own way. Quietly, peacefully and respectfully".

In a village like Loughinisland, about half-a-mile off the well beaten track between Ballynahinch and Newcastle, it's easy to understand why.

It's just like many other small rural villages around the country - quiet, peaceful and respectful.

A haven far enough away from the main A24 road that you can't hear the traffic.

The victims (top row from left) Patrick O'Hare, Adrian Rogan, Barney Green and (bottom from left) Eamon Byrne, Daniel McCreanor and
Malcolm Jenkinson
The victims (top row from left) Patrick O'Hare, Adrian Rogan, Barney Green and (bottom from left) Eamon Byrne, Daniel McCreanor and Malcolm Jenkinson

Welcoming, yes, but they keep themselves to themselves, despite how impossible that may seem as the Co Down village remains in the eye of a very public whirlwind over the events of that night a quarter of a century ago. The allegations of collusion that will not go away, the arrest of investigative journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey over their No Stone Unturned documentary, the legal wrangling that followed has all kept the village in the public eye.

The Heights Bar is content to let that all flow around it.

It's getting on with things as it ever did.

Relatives of the victims and supporters in their search for truth will return to the bar tonight.

It's a planned night out, just like the planned night 25 years ago to cheer on the Republic of Ireland in their World Cup match against Italy.

This time they'll gather to remember, and among them will be the O'Toole family who still run the bar. Aiden O'Toole, now 50, was behind the bar this night 25 years ago and every day he walks back through the door he brings a reminder of the massacre with him - a bullet carried in his kidney.

Earlier this week he reflected on the horrific events.

"I'm still recovering and it never goes away from you," he said.

"You just have to tear away. What else can you do?

"I just want the people who done it to be brought to justice. I know they might only serve two years in prison but that's immaterial. We accepted the Good Friday Agreement, to let people out of jail, and we did that for peace."

The people of Loughinisland remember in their own, peaceful way, but that doesn't mean they want to be forgotten.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph