Northern Ireland news

Journalist questioned over Loughinisland documents thanks people 'around the world' for support

 Investigative journalist Trevor Birney

A JOURNALIST questioned by police investigating the suspected theft of confidential documents linked to the Loughinisland massacre has thanked people "around the world who sent messages of support".

Trevor Birney added that it was the families of the victims who had "suffered... again" following his arrest alongside colleague Barry McCaffrey.

The two men were detained on Friday morning in connection with the alleged theft of material used in their film on the 1994 loyalist pub shooting.

The award-winning reporters, who produced the documentary No Stone Unturned, were released on bail shortly before 9pm on Friday.

Investigative journalists Barry McCaffrey (left) and Trevor Birney (right) outside Musgrave Street police station in Belfast. Picture by Liam McBurney, Press Association

Speaking minutes later outside Musgrave police station in Belfast, a tearful Mr McCaffrey (48) described their arrests as "an attack on the press".

Around 100 people had gathered in Loughinisland, Co Down in solidarity with the journalists, while a group of artists, academics and film-makers including actor Stephen Rea also voiced their support.

In a post on Twitter yesterday, Mr Birney (51) said: "Thanks to all our wonderful friends and colleagues around the world who sent messages of support to @Barry_TheDetail and myself.

"Those who suffered most at the hands of PSNI are the #Loughinisland families. Again. #pressfreedom."

Loughinisland families protested outside the Heights Bar following the arrests of the two journalists. Picture by Bill Smyth

It came as the film-makers vowed to keep exposing injustice.

A statement from The Detail, Below The Radar and Fine Point Films said "our journalists will not be deterred from doing their jobs".

"We are extremely proud of our investigative journalism. We will always seek to expose injustice and shine a light on the truth.

"We will continue to turn over the stones that others wish we would leave alone."

Six men were murdered when UVF gunmen opened fire on people gathered in the Heights Bar in Loughinisland, Co Down to watch the Republic of Ireland play in the World Cup.

Six men were murdered when loyalists opened fire on a crowd of football fans gathered around a TV in a pub in Loughinisland watching the Republic of Ireland play in the World Cup

No Stone Unturned last year examined persistent claims of state collusion in the murders and named those it said were suspects.

Police said the confidential material under investigation had been in the possession of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, which reported the alleged theft to the PSNI.

It then asked Durham Police to conduct an independent investigation.

A High Court challenge on Friday by the film company behind the documentary prevented officers from examining material seized during searches pending the outcome of a legal challenge to the validity of the search warrant.

Investigative journalists Trevor Birney (left) and Barry McCaffrey (right) leaving Musgrave Street police station in Belfast. Picture by Liam McBurney, Press Association

The statement published on the The Detail website yesterday said: "Today it is business as usual at The Detail, Below The Radar and Fine Point Films.

"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."

Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon last night said: "These journalists played a key role in the No Stone Unturned documentary, which helped expose the extent of state collusion between the state and loyalist paramilitaries.

"The arrests are of grave concern and run contrary to freedom of the press which is a fundamental element of a democratic society.

"Sinn Féin will continue to support the Loughinisland families in their quest for truth and justice."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said it was "shocking" that the two men had been arrested.

"It is absolutely appalling to see journalists being arrested instead of the people who actually carried out the Loughinisland atrocity."

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