Allison Morris: Loughinisland ruling highlights once again the need to properly address the past

Emma Rogan, daughter of one of those killed in the Loughinisland massacre, outside the High Court in Belfast yesterday. Picture by Hugh Russell.

MR Justice McCloskey held nothing back in his scathing judgment of the Police Ombudsman's findings into the Loughinisland massacre.

In June last year when Dr Michael Maguire delivered his report into the 1994 murder of six Catholic men in the Heights Bar in Loughinisland, there was a huge sense of relief from the families of the victims.

A previous report by his predecessor Al Hutchinson was dismissed by the victims' families as having not thoroughly investigated the background to the police investigation.

Dr Maguire came at the case from a different angle. He looked at where the guns used in the sectarian attack had been sourced - a shipment brought into Northern Ireland with the involvement of police informers who he said were at the highest "echelons" of loyalism.

But Dr Maguire did not order that any officers should be arrested or send files to the Public Prosecution Service. The ombudsman said there was not enough evidence to support criminal charges.

This was questioned by the Chief Constable George Hamilton at the time who said if he was "convinced in a very clear way that collusion was a key element of the Loughinisland murders then I'd be looking to take that conclusion into evidence through arrests, interviews, charges".

Justice McCloskey's ruling yesterday echoed the words of Mr Hamilton that when he said detectives involved in the investigation - but not named by the ombudsman - were in effect "accused, tried and convicted without notice and in their absence".

The judgment questioned both the procedure and the remit of the ombudsman in coming to the conclusion he did.

All this only adds to the emotional trauma of those bereaved during the Troubles and when the dust finally settles it will surely once again highlight the need to deal with the past in an agreed way, rather than this seemingly, never ending and torturous cycle of lengthy, legal judgments.

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