La Mon families to continue their fight for justice

Aftermath of the La Mon hotel bombing in 1978.
Aftermath of the La Mon hotel bombing in 1978.

Victims of the La Mon Hotel bombing last night reacted with anger to news that the much-criticised police investigation into the IRA firebomb that killed 12 people will not be subject to a Government review.

In a statement issued through the Ulster Human Rights Watch, La Mon victims stressed they will “continue to pursue their quest for truth, justice and acknowledgement demanding that a proper investigation be carried out into this atrocity”.

Earlier yesterday Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers told the families of those killed in the east Belfast bombing in 1978 that she felt a re-examination of evidence would not provide new answers.

Confirmation that a review had been ruled out came as the Government also turned down calls from relatives of those shot dead by the British Army in Ballymurphy in west Belfast in 1971 for a similar probe.

In a statement from Ulster Human Rights Watch, a spokesman for two of the La Mon families – Jim Mills, whose wife and sister were murdered in La Mon, and Billy and the late Lily McDowell, who were both seriously injured – said a letter “was addressed and delivered to only one of the La Mon House atrocity victims, Mr William McDowell” from the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers indicating “that she had decided not to initiate an independent review into the La Mon House atrocity for which the Provisional IRA was responsible”.

“The letter does nothing to elucidate the issue which had been raised with her in a comprehensive report submitted by the Ulster Human Rights Watch in August 2013, ie the allegation of collusion between RUC Special Branch and state agents involved in Provisional IRA terrorist activities,” adds the statement.

“It is in the public interest to establish the truth and see justice done in a case that was described by Lord Justice Gibson on 29 September 1981 as “the one [attack that was] by far the most serious, indeed the most horrific in the history of this community”.

In the La Mon case, Ms Villiers had been considering whether to commission a review of the files by a QC – along the lines of the 2012 exercise carried out by Sir Desmond de Silva into the loyalist murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989.

Twelve members of the Irish Collie Club were killed in the La Mon outrage. The club was holding its annual dinner dance in the hotel when the fire bomb ignited.

The victims, all of whom were Protestant, included three married couples.

More than 20 other people were seriously injured.

Bereaved relatives have alleged republicans suspected of involvement in the attack have been shielded from justice due to their later roles in the peace process.

These claims intensified when an investigation by the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET) in 2012 found that historic police files on the case had been lost.

Ms Villiers said she did not believe a review would uncover further evidence related to La Mon.

“I understand that this is not the decision they were hoping for, but I do not believe that an independent review would reveal new evidence or reach a different conclusion from the investigations that have already taken place,” she said.

“I was very moved by my meeting with the families and I know that no matter how much time passes, the pain experienced by the victims of this shocking atrocity remains.”

Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United said the Secretary of State’s announcement “does not represent a 1-1 score draw, but rather is a 2-0 defeat for victims”.

Mr Donaldson added: “Justice has effectively been sacrificed in this society for a ‘peace process’ with foundations built on sand. The ‘past’ cannot be removed, it must be faced up to and all those responsible must account for their actions.

“No sustainable peace can be built without the processes of justice and truth having been fully worked through.”

TUV leader Jim Allister told of his disappointment at “Ms Villiers dismissive response and alarmed by the refuge she is taking in ‘the public interest’”.

“Is this another episode of protecting untouchable terrorist politicos?” he asked.