Loughinisland families: `2016 report is still the one that's on record'
"THE report that we got in 2016 is still the report that's on record," Emma Rogan said outside Belfast High Court yesterday.
Ms Rogan, whose father Adrian was killed at Loughinisland, was addressing reporters on behalf of those who lost loved ones in the 1994 terror attack.
"I will be here fighting for truth and justice until I have no fight left in me," she said.
Concern for the families, who "have travelled this lengthy, unpredictable and uncertain litigation road with both fortitude and admirable dignity and restraint", was the reason given by Mr Justice McCloskey for referring the case to a new judge.
Last month, they had been disappointed by his damning judgment against Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire, ruling that he had exceeded his statutory powers by declaring officers guilty of colluding in the UVF attack in the Co Down village of Loughinisland in 1994.
He had not yet ruled on whether Dr Maguire's findings should be formally quashed when the recusal application was made by lawyers for the Ombudsman, supported by the Loughinsland families.
"All we ever wanted was the truth, that's it, the bottom line - everybody deserves it. It's human decency for people to know and for people to acknowledge what happened to their loved ones. That's all we want.
"We welcome a new judge taking fresh eyes and looking at our case again."
Their solicitor Niall Murphy described yesterday's ruling as "the most unprecedented resolution to a judicial review application that I have ever experienced in my years in practice".
"What we have now is an opportunity for the Police Ombudsman and the families to re-engage in a brand new reflection of the legal issues raised and we look forward to doing that as quickly as possible," he said.
However, he remained unequivocal on one point: "Let there be absolutely no doubt - there was collusion in Loughinisland."
SDLP legacy spokeswoman Dolores Kelly, who was with families at court, welcomed the judge's decision to step aside.
"It is no criticism of his professionalism or position to suggest that there would be perceived bias in any determination," she said.
"The interests of justice and the confidence of the Loughinisland families must be paramount here.
"(They) have become far too used to making the early morning journey to Belfast's High Court.
"For two decades, they have sought justice for their loved ones and for too long they have been pushed from pillar to post by the justice system."
Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard, also welcomed the judge's decision.
"The report by the Police Ombudsman that collusion was a major factor in the loyalist murder of six men at Loughinisland in 1994 was an important milestone in the families campaign for truth and justice," he said.
"In this context, today's decision is a welcome development.
"Sinn Féin will continue to stand with the families in their decades long campaign for truth and justice."
Meanwhile, UUP justice spokesman Doug Beattie said the decision "raises serious questions for the administration of justice in Northern Ireland".
"We live in a country that still has deep divisions and allegations and perceptions of bias are an inevitable fact of life,"
"...(that) Barra McGrory previously represented senior Sinn Féin figures proved no barrier to his later appointment as Director of Public Prosecutions and indeed he is now representing the families in the very case from which Mr Justice McCloskey has just recused himself.
"Many people will be forgiven for asking why the perception of bias in our legal system only seems to apply to those who have previously acted for the police and not to those who have previously acted for republicans."