Sinn Fein has declined to back up claims by its leader that the UK authorities “armed” the Loughisland killers and “directed” the massacre.
Gerry Adams had made the comments in the wake of a Police Ombudsman’s report which focussed on the infamous 1994 crime.
That report also looked at the wider context in which the bloodbath took place, and found evidence of collusion between the security forces and loyalist groups.
In particular, the report was critical of the authorities’ use of informers within loyalism, saying that it had shielded them from investigation.
It also highlighted failures to recover imported loyalist weaponry once it had arrived in Northern Ireland, or to prosecute those behind the importation of arms which were linked to the killings.
In a press statement on Tuesday, Mr Adams said: “The British government and its agencies armed, directed and then covered up the killings at Loughinisland, that’s a fact.”
The Ombudsman’s report had stated that the security forces were informed that a shipment of loyalist arms was to arrive in late 1987 or early 1988.
The arms were believed to be from South Africa and Israel, and included weapons to be used against the police and military.
The Ombudsman’s report cited evidence from RUC Special Branch that said that whilst the police had been aware that importation was expected, detailed information “regarding routes, methods and personalities involved” had not been received.
The Ombudsman “found no suggestion that weapons would be deliberately allowed into Northern Ireland to protect a police informant”.
Crucially, the Ombudsman also concluded that there was “no evidence the security forces were aware the UVF were planning to mount an attack in Loughinisland”.
The News Letter put it to Sinn Fein that Mr Adams’ statement overstated the actual findings of the Ombudsman, and challenged the party to provide supporting evidence for Mr Adams’ statement from his report.
It gave no references, but instead replied: “The News Letter’s editorial stance on the denial of British state collusion in the murder of Irish citizens in the face of a growing and overwhelming body of evidence is staggering.”
It added: “We suggest the News Letter takes off its blinkers when studying the Police Ombudsman’s report and the mounting evidence of British state involvement in the Loughinisland killings, in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the murder campaigns of the Glenanne Gang, the murder of Pat Finucane and others by the UDA and the activities of the Mount Vernon UVF.”