The report of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland on the Loughinisland killings outlines clearly the damning and devastating truth that the police force was guilty of engaging in significant collusion in sectarian mass murder on the fateful night of 18 June 1994. The report contains details that are deeply disturbing and expose for all of us, once again, a dark chapter in Northern Ireland’s history.
The families of those six men who were ruthlessly gunned down finally have the truth but they do not have justice. We learned from the report that police officers missed investigative opportunities and destroyed evidence. It concludes that there was collusion between some police officers and loyalist paramilitaries. This report reminds us once again of the desperate and unacceptable attitudes that prevailed within elements of policing and other state forces in Northern Ireland during that era. We now have the truth. Collusion was a factor in the murder of six innocent men in Loughinisland and in the maiming and attempted murder of others in The Heights bar.
Unfortunately, today there is no real evidence that the PSNI has been actively pursuing those identified by the ombudsman report. It is essential that the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman report is referred to the Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland. A clear message must be sent by the Irish and British Governments and by the Northern Ireland Executive to the PSNI directing the service to pursue its investigations in the most rigorous manner possible to ensure that those who committed this heinous crime are brought to justice. The victims and survivors as well as their families and the wider community deserve justice.
There were many dark chapters in the history of Northern Ireland, including at Loughinisland. The depth and scale of collusion with violent gunmen is a damning indictment of the rotten culture that prevailed in parts of the security services. The establishment of the PSNI was an important step forward. Indeed, there is need for ongoing reform of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.