North’s police ombudsman calls for new historical inquiries unit

Dr Michael Maguire says the ‘way Northern Ireland deals with its past is not working’

A reconstruction of the scene of the Loughinisland massacre in ‘No Stone Unturned’.

A reconstruction of the scene of the Loughinisland massacre in ‘No Stone Unturned’.

 

The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland has said the creation of a historical inquiries unit would be a preferable and more comprehensive approach to dealing with atrocities from the Troubles.

“The way in which Northern Ireland deals with its past isn’t working,” Dr Michael Maguire said at a screening on Wednesday of No Stone Unturned, Alex Gibney’s new documentary on the Loughinisland massacre.

Six people were killed when gunmen burst into the Heights Bar in Loughinisland, Co Down, during a Republic of Ireland match at the 1994 World Cup and sprayed the room with bullets. Nobody has ever been prosecuted over the incident.

Dr Maguire said there were difficulties with how Northern Ireland addressed such issues.

He said his own office was underfunded, with less staff now than in 2012 when he had 170 cases to investigate. Today he has more than 400 cases.

“That for me is symptomatic of the way in which we, Northern Ireland, is dealing with the past. It is simply not working,” he said.

He said he himself was unable to engage with the military, other agencies or with the paramilitaries “who pulled the trigger”.

“A comprehensive approach to dealing with the past through an historical inquiries unit can do that and will have the powers of compellability across the state that I don’t have and will have the ability to look at those who were actively involved in terrorist attacks. That has to be a better way of doing it.”

Evidence of collusion

Last year, Dr Maguire met with the Loughinisland victims’ families at the local GAA club and told them he had conclusive evidence the RUC had colluded with the Ulster Volunteer Force gang that carried out the atrocity.

Adrian Rogan, Barney Green, Dan McCreanor, Eamon Byrne, Malcolm Jenkinson and Patsy O’Hare were all killed in the attack.

Gibney’s documentary exposes corruption surrounding the massacre, implicating the RUC’s Special Branch.

“We cannot have for all of the incidents in Northern Ireland . . . all of the other terrorist attacks, the high-profile incidents that have caused grief to hundreds and indeed thousands of people; we cannot have a documentary for all of them,” Dr Maguire, who participated in the film, said on Wednesday.

“We need a better way of doing it. We need a better way of answering the questions and addressing in a realistic term what dealing with the past means.”