Louginisland victim’s niece furious over shooting collusion claims

The scene outside the Heights Bar, Co Down, after the loyalist gun massacre which killed six men in 1994.
The scene outside the Heights Bar, Co Down, after the loyalist gun massacre which killed six men in 1994.

The niece of the oldest man murdered during the Northern Ireland conflict has expressed fury at allegations that police obstructed an investigation into the killing.

Moira Casement’s uncle was one of six Catholic men shot dead indiscriminately by loyalist paramilitaries as they watched a Republic of Ireland World Cup game at a country pub in Loughinisland, Co Down, 20 years ago.

A watchdog which investigates complaints against the Police Service of Ireland (PSNI) is taking legal action against the chief constable in an attempt to force him to hand over sensitive intelligence material - some believed to involve informers to the security services.

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire claimed police stalled his investigations into allegations against the force involving 60 murders.

Ms Casement said: “We were promised in 1994 that no stone would be left unturned but here we have the chief constable refusing to co-operate and causing delays - which is time people don’t have.”

The unprecedented action has been brought by Dr Maguire, who said he had no alternative because he had received more than 100 refusals of bids for information. He added the material was necessary for his investigators, who have full security clearance, to do their jobs.

Sir Keir Starmer QC, the former director of public prosecutions for England and Wales and a former human rights advisor to the Policing Board which oversees the PSNI, is representing the ombudsman.

A police spokesman said the primary consideration in controlling its information was protecting life and added the force was seeking to agree a solution with the ombudsman about what he called “complicated and sometimes competing legal issues”.

Investigations chief constable Matt Baggott is accused of hindering include the murder of six men by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) at The Heights bar in Loughinsland in June 1994.

It has been claimed that the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the predecessor to the PSNI, did not conduct a proper investigation because it was protecting an informer and that there was collusion between some police officers and the killers.

A report by previous ombudsman Al Hutchinson found that the RUC failed to properly investigate what happened in Loughinisland but said there was insufficient evidence of collusion.

Those findings were quashed after a legal challenge by relatives of those killed and Dr Maguire is conducting a new investigation.

Ms Casement’s uncle Barney Green, 87, was among those to die during the bloodbath at The Heights.

She said: “We are furious at this development.

“It is absolutely unbelievable that the chief constable would refuse to co-operate with the ombudsman. Who does he think he is?

“The ombudsman has an absolute entitlement to demand details on the intelligence that police hold on who murdered our loved ones.

“My aunt Brigid, Barney’s widow, died last December fighting for justice and didn’t get it.

“What is the chief constable trying to hide? Who is he covering up for?

“These deliberate cover ups and obstruction are costing millions but the truth costs nothing. It’s time for truth.”

Family lawyer Niall Murphy said the decision to take the chief constable to court could not be more significant in the context of how society deals with the legacy of the conflict.

He added: “The behaviour of the chief constable underpins why we need a proper truth process...and indeed why PONI requires additional powers of compellability.

“It further underlines how the PSNI / HET (Historical Enquiries Team of independent detectives) cannot deal with historic cases at all.”

Jonathan Craig, a Democratic Unionist Party member of the Policing Board, said the legal action was regrettable.

He added: “Nobody has a blank cheque when it comes to gaining intelligence information.”