While the Republic of Ireland – Italy game is going on, two members of the Loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force walk into The Heights Bar in Loughinisland, Co Down with assault rifles and kill six Catholics who are watching the game. One of the dead was 87-year-old Barney Green, the oldest victim of the Troubles. No satisfactory resolution to this appalling crime has been made. The original Ombudsman’s report published in 2011 (17 years after the event) was deemed a whitewash by relatives of the deceased who state with some conviction that the murderers received significant support from Crown forces. In 2012, Belfast High Court quashed the report’s findings and Hutchinson was replaced by Michael Maguire, who ordered a new inquiry into the massacre.
On the 18th anniversary of the attack, the Republic of Ireland football team again played Italy – this time in the Euro 2012 at Poznań, Poland. The Irish team wore black armbands during the match, to commemorate those killed while watching the same teams playing 18 years before. The idea was proposed by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and backed by UEFA. Some prominent loyalists berated the move. South Belfast UDA brigadier Jackie McDonald said that it was “bringing politics into sport” and would lead to “dire repercussions” for football. Another leading loyalist, Winston Churchill Rea, also raised concerns about the tribute. However, the victims’ families fully supported the gesture.
In August 2016, it was reported that Oscar-winning film-maker Alex Gibney was making a documentary film about the massacre, called No Stone Unturned. The film’s name comes from Claire Rogan’s (widow of Aidan Rogan) statement that police had assured the families they would leave “no stone unturned” in the investigation. Their daughter Emma Rogan—later a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for South Down—said the film would be “a permanent memory to the victims and the injustice done”. Gibney had earlier directed a shorter documentary about the massacre, named “Ceasefire Massacre”, broadcast on 29 April 2014 by ESPN, as part of their 30 for 30 series. No Stone Unturned was released in November 2017.
The film named the main suspects in the massacre, one of whom was a soldier in the British Army. It claims that in 1995 the wife of a main suspect anonymously told police he was the gunman, and named the others involved. These anonymous messages were noted in the Police Ombudsman’s report. Police allegedly recognised her voice because she worked in a local police station. She and her husband were arrested and she admitted making the claims, but they were released without charge.
The film also claims that one of the killers was an informer, and an ex-police officer told the film-makers that Special Branch may have had foreknowledge of the attack. According to the officer, Special Branch told him there was an arrest operation ready to catch the UVF unit, after receiving intelligence from an informer. The informer told Special Branch hours before the attack that it had been called off because of problems with the getaway car. The arrest operation was cancelled, but the attack went ahead.
On 31 August 2018 the Police Service of Northern Ireland arrested Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey, two journalists who researched the event, in connection with the theft of material relating to the Ombudsman’s investigation, handling stolen goods, and possible breaches of the Official Secrets Act and data protection laws.
Image | Memorial to the six men murdered