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Families and diocese welcome finding of police ‘collusion’ in massacre of Catholics in Northern Ireland

Loughinisland families give a press conference following the release of the ombudsman's report (PA)

A police ombudsman’s report detailing police collusion in the 1994 massacre of six Catholic men by paramilitaries loyal to Britain in a pub attack in Northern Ireland was applauded by relatives of the victims and welcomed by the Diocese of Down and Connor.

Niall Murphy, a lawyer for the families of the six men in Loughinisland village, said the report released on June 9 “evidences catastrophic and indefensible investigative failings which amount to a corruption of the criminal justice system.”

At a news conference in Belfast after the report was made public, Murphy described the much-anticipated document as “one of the most damning expositions of state collusion in mass murder ever published.”

A diocesan spokesman, Fr Edward McGee, told Catholic News Service, “There is a healing to be found in truth and in justice — the families and the diocese welcome this report as an important step on that journey.”

Michael Maguire, the Northern Ireland ombudsman, said in his report released  that “collusion is a significant feature of the Loughinisland murders.”

The six men were gathered in the Heights Bar in Loughinisland, a tiny rural community in County Down June 18, 1994, to watch Ireland play Italy in the World Cup when two Ulster Volunteer Force paramilitary gunmen burst in.

The invaders killed Adrian Rogan, 34, Malcolm Jenkinson, 53, Barney Green, 87, Daniel McCreanor, 59, Patrick O’Hare, 35, and Eamon Byrne, 39. Five other men were injured in the attack.

The victims’ families had alleged for more than two decades that the police in Northern Ireland failed to investigate the killings properly because they were protecting informers.

“The traumatic loss of life in such horrendous circumstances was compounded by the manner in which the investigation by state authorities into the attack was carried out,” Fr McGee said, referring to the police mishandling of the investigation outlined in the report.

“The report brings a sense of healing for the families, but it also presents the bitter confirmation of state collusion in the murder of their loved ones,” he added.

The priest paid tribute to the resilience of the families. “They have waited for this report and its findings with tremendous dignity, faith and tremendous strength of character,” he said.

Moira Casement, Green’s niece, said during a news conference, “We have the truth today, 22 years on. Now it is time for justice and accountability. It is now up to the British Government to ensure that there is full accountability.”