Belfast Telegraph

Loughinisland massacre: I want to meet the men who carried out killings, says survivor

By Claire Williamson

A man who survived being shot four times in the Loughinisland massacre has made an impassioned plea to those suspected of the killings to come forward and meet him.

Colm Smyth was just 23 when UVF terrorists attacked The Heights Bar in the Co Down village on June 18, 1994.

Six men died in the slaughter.

A few regulars were in the pub to watch the Republic of Ireland play Italy in a big World Cup game.

Colm had taken his best friend's father Malcolm Jenkinson (52) to the pub for a drink for Father's Day, as his son was in England. He sat on a stool at the bar with Malcolm on one side and Adrian 'Frosty' Rogan (34) on the other.

But within the space of a few minutes both Malcolm and Adrian were dead. Father-of-two Colm, originally from Drumaness, now aged 47 survived and lives in Cork.

Oscar-winning American film maker Alex Gibney's recently released No Stone Unturned documentary examines collusion around the massacre.

Loyalist Ronald Hawthorne was named for the first time in the film as the suspected gunman. He was arrested but never charged.

The documentary reached out to those named but received no response.

Incredibly Colm says meeting the accused would be the final piece of the jigsaw. He said he felt positive after watching the documentary.

"Seeing all the evidence they brought together in one place, that was shocking but also great to see the work they had done," he said.

"It was really reassuring and vindicated everything the families have been saying for many years and KRW Law solicitor Niall Murphy has been working on.

"And it will help other people understand the level of obstruction and collusion that went on right from the guys responsible, all the way back to the investigation."

The hardest revelation for Colm to take is that the alleged suspect lives only a few miles from the scene of the tragedy.

"Knowing you could walk down the street and you could walk past him at any time of the day," he said.

"And for many years we didn't know who they were but they would have known who we were. That is the stand-out thing."

Remarkably, despite his years of suffering, Colm would like to meet the alleged suspects.

"With the Good Friday Agreement, the chances of anybody being convicted now is unlikely. Those involved going to jail for two years is nothing. I would like just to hear it from them.

"Everybody has a conscience no matter how bad or dangerous they are.

"It's always been my philosophy that if any of those involved that night are willing to sit down and have a private conversation, without tapes, without media and just explain to us the reasoning why they did it, why it was covered up, what went on - just so we can understand.

"They can get it off their conscience, I can get a certain amount of closure on it and it allows us to get a better understanding on why our loved ones were murdered.

"We have to learn to forgive, otherwise the bitterness eats you up.

"To hear why they felt the need to murder Catholics - why was that something that drove them to do what they did? And are they willing to take responsibility for what they did.

"It's not about trying to vilify. I want to hear from their own lips why they did it so it at least gives us a chance to take the next step forward of learning to live with what's happened."

Colm said as those involved grow older, time is running out for a confession.

"What's the point in staying silent for another 20 years until they die just to protect somebody else. I would like to think they would get a benefit out of meeting me as much as I would out of meeting him," he said.

Colm believes a symbolic meeting outside Stormont could create an example.

"Somebody who committed one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles and somebody who survived, come together and find a way to forgive, shake hands and show our communities that this is the only way forward.

"At this moment in time the ball is in their court."

Colm says the memories from the attack will never leave him.

"I don't think there's a week that's went by since it happened where I haven't thought about Malcolm that night or had a nightmare.

"To this day, the wind catching a door and it slamming shut still makes me jump.

"Again the symbolism that the weekend the documentary is released and the day I see it at the Cork film festival, the Republic of Ireland have another World Cup game on that evening.

"It's got easier as the years go on because we found out more about the truth and the pieces of the jigsaw started coming together.

"The last piece of the jigsaw is still out there and it's those involved.

"I don't want to speak to them to throw accusations, or so I can make him feel bad - that's not the purpose of it. I want to speak to them so I can understand.

"With understanding comes forgiveness, and with forgiveness comes reconciliation and that's what we need to be able to do. And until that happens we will still keep living with it day after day."

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