Amnesty International has publicly backed its Northern Ireland programme director after retired police officers accused Patrick Corrigan of making “highly offensive” comments about the Loughinisland investigators.
Speaking ahead of a judicial review into the circumstances surrounding the arrest of two Belfast journalists, Mr Corrigan claimed officers were “raiding the homes” of journalists “while helping killers evade justice”.
Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey were detained in August 2018 after a highly sensitive document – which was either stolen or leaked from the police ombudsman’s office – was used to make the film No Stone Unturned.
The judicial review later ruled that the material seized should be returned to the two journalists, with search warrant deemed “inappropriate”.
In the film, a number of contributors make allegations suggesting police had ‘colluded’ in some way with the UVF killers who gunned down six Catholic men in the Heights Bar in June 1994.
However, following two intensive police ombudsman investigations into the atrocity, and the RUC’s handling of the case, no officers were identified as having committed any offences or of breaching the police code of conduct.
Chairman of the NI Retired Police Officers Association Raymond Fitzsimmons wrote to Amnesty to express serious concerns around what he called Mr Corrigan’s “untrue and libellous slur”.
In the letter, Mr Fitzsimmons said: “The association would like to know whether this untrue and libellous slur represents the official position of Amnesty International UK. If it does not then we look forward to written confirmation that you reject Mr Corrigan’s assertion.”
It adds: “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’.”
Amnesty UK director Kate Allen responded saying, that the PONI report had noted “there was, undeniably, significant wrongdoing by the RUC following the murder of six innocent men by the UVF in 1994.”
She added: “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.”
• Speaking to the News Letter earlier this year, a number of former police officers broke a 25-year silence to set the record straight on what they claimed were a number of “myths” that had grown up around the atrocity – including how almost all of the original concerns around the actions of the RUC investigators have now been dismissed as bogus or unjustified, and how the so-called treasure trove” of evidence provided by the killers’ getaway car had in fact been stripped of every forensic opportunity by the NI Forensic Science before it was destroyed.