Families united behind No Stone Unturned journalists

Families united behind No Stone Unturned journalists

5 September 2018

THE Loughinisland families have vowed to maintain their support for two journalists arrested in connection with a documentary into the 1994 UVF killings.

Relatives of the six men killed in the Heights Bar attack gathered outside the bar at the weekend to show solidarity with Trevor McBirney (51) and Barry McCaffrey (48) who produced the No Stone Unturned documentary.

The award-winning journalists were arrested on Friday in connection with the alleged theft of confidential documents relating to the massacre, which police said had been in the possession of the Police Ombudsman. They were freed on bail later that evening.

Airing last November, the Alex Gibney-directed documentary was a hard-hitting examination of claims of state collusion in the murders, which broke new ground by publicly naming alleged suspects.

The six men killed in Loughinisland were Adrian Rogan, Barney Green, Dan McCreanor, Eamon Byrne, Malcolm Jenkinson and Patsy O’Hare.

Clare Rogan, wife of Adrian Rogan, said the families would not be deterred in their search for truth and justice.

“We are shocked and appalled at the arrest of two journalists related to the No Stone Unturned documentary, which exposed the extent of state collusion between the state and loyalist paramilitaries in Loughinisland,” she said.

“The British government have systematically denied and continue to cover up its role in the murder of six people in the Heights Bar. 

“These arrests show the lengths of desperation that the British government and state forces are prepared to go to, in order to stifle the truth about what happened in Loughinisland.

“The Police Ombudsman’s report into Loughinisland murders was one of the most damning expositions of state collusion in mass murder ever published. 

“Our families, and many other families across the island, some of whom have been denied the basic right to an inquest, have campaigned for many years against state collusion and for truth and justice for our loved ones.”

South Down Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has thanked those who came out to stand with the Loughinisland families on Friday night.

“The arrests of two leading investigative journalists who helped lift the lid on collusion following the 1994 Loughinisland murders through ‘No Stone Unturned’ has re-opened many wounds for the families of those murdered,” he said.

“That truth would never have been possible without journalists like Barry and Trevor who acted always with integrity. The thoughts of all of us here in South Down are with them and their families at this difficult time.”

Following criticism of the arrests, PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton tweeted: “These arrests were carried out by Durham Constabulary. I invited Durham Police to investigate the alleged theft of documents as reported to PSNI by the Police Ombudsman. I invited an external service to conduct the investigation to address any perceived conflict of interest.”

A Durham constabulary spokesman described the investigation as complex. 

“The terms of reference given to our inquiry were clear in that the investigation is solely into the alleged theft of material from PONI,” the spokesman said. “The theft of these documents potentially puts lives at risk and we will follow the evidence wherever it leads us.”

In a statement, Ulster Unionist Alan Lewis welcomed the police investigation.

“We need to remember intelligence is not evidence,” he said.

“I welcome the fact that investigators have taken action regarding this alleged breach of confidentiality and theft of sensitive material.

“This isn’t about journalistic integrity, nor it is an attack on the freedom of the press. It’s simply a criminal investigation centred on the theft of confidential documents [RUC suspect list] and the more serious matter of how said suspect list was publicised to the world.

“We cannot allow the legacy of the past to be investigated through trial by media and public opinion, this would set a dangerous precedent in which lives would undoubtedly be put at risk.”

An editorial from the film’s makers on Monday indicated they remained defiant.

“Today it is business as usual at The Detail, Below The Radar and Fine Point Films,” the film makers said.

“As always, we will continue to leave no stone unturned in our public interest journalism. Our team is here to investigate and produce stories that matter.

“We want to say a huge thank you for the overwhelming support received since Friday.

“There are too many people to acknowledge individually but we particularly appreciate how the journalist community locally and wider afield vociferously rallied to our side.

“It was heartening to read the statements issued by the National Union of Journalists and Amnesty International NI and, of course, the wider public whose interests are always at the heart of our work.”

The statement continued: “Our legal team challenged the legality of this search in a hearing at Belfast High Court on the same day. The result was that all computer equipment and documents seized must remain sealed until a further court hearing due this Friday.

“Trevor and Barry were released without charge. The Durham Constabulary-led investigation is into the suspected theft of confidential documents and these are allegations our colleagues robustly deny.

“Most importantly, the Loughinisland families are still seeking justice 24 years after their six loved ones were brutally murdered by loyalists.”