Belfast Telegraph

Loughinisland ruling: Paisley calls for review of all collusion accusations

By Allan Preston

Ian Paisley has called for the Police Ombudsman to resign and for all previous reports with accusations of collusion to be reviewed.

The North Antrim DUP MP's comments came after a High Court ruling on Thursday over the Loughinisland atrocity.

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire concluded last summer that six Catholic men watching a World Cup match in the Heights bar in the Co Down village in 1994 were gunned down by loyalists acting in collusion with some RUC officers.

On Thursday Mr Justice McCloskey ruled the report "unlawful and procedurally unfair", and that the officers had been effectively "accused, tried and convicted without notice and in their absence".

Mr Paisley said he had written to Secretary of State James Brokenshire calling for all Ombudsman cases referencing collusion to be re-examined.

However, Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly said Dr Maguire had bolstered public confidence in the Ombudsman's office.

Mr Paisley said: "A conviction (for collusion) seems to be the standard that courts now want and I welcome that.

"If that's the basis then this word of collusion, which has been used loosely as an accusatory word, that means it can no longer be bandied around by those looking to ruin the reputations of former police officers."

He added Dr Maguire "should have already resigned given the seriousness of the judgment".

Dr Maguire has already rejected calls to stand down, while a formal decision is due next month on whether his Loughinisland findings will be quashed.

Mr Paisley said the cost of reviewing Ombudsman cases would have to be borne by the public purse despite the already crippling price of legacy cases.

"If it's been good enough to spend money in the past to throw accusations at former police officers, and if they're now wrong, then I'm afraid they then have to spend the money from the public purse to put that right," he added.

Defending the Ombudsman, Mr Kelly said the High Court ruling should be appealed as it could have a "catastrophic implication" for the setting up of an Historic Investigations Unit.

Mr Kelly added that the Ombudsman had rebuilt public confidence despite the Government reducing resources to his office.

"In the current environment, legacy inquests and the office of the Police Ombudsman are the only mechanisms through which families can achieve recourse to truth and justice. Many of these families have waited over 40 years for this basic right," he said.

"The Police Ombudsman's office has delivered disclosure and closure to several families who have been ignored and neglected by the State for a lifetime. Despite DUP attacks in recent days the office of the Ombudsman and the work of Michael Maguire is crucial to current policing and indeed in legacy cases."

UUP Justice spokesman Doug Beattie said this week's court ruling showed the urgent need for a definition of collusion.

"The casual use of terms such as collusion is not helpful and the definition has been stretched so wide on occasion as to render it almost meaningless while at the same time having a serious detrimental impact on the likes of the PSNI and RUC in particular," he claimed.

"Going forward - and in light of the High Court ruling regarding the Loughinisland report - I believe we need to arrive at an agreed definition in order to examine what really happened on both sides of the border."

Belfast Telegraph

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