Leading article

Police Ombudsman must act firmly over Greenvale tragedy

Public alarm about the circumstances surrounding the tragic deaths of three teenagers outside the Greenvale hotel has been growing steadily since the dreadful events on St Patrick’s Day.

Morgan Bernard (17), Lauren Bullock (17) and Connor Currie (16) were all killed during an appalling crush among an estimated 600 young people who were queuing for admission to a disco at the Cookstown venue.

It is clear that police faced a hugely challenging task when they came across scenes of sheer panic and total confusion in a confined space outside the popular nightclub on one of the busiest nights of the year.

However, according to briefings given to the families of the victims, as we set out yesterday and today, the officers remained in their vehicle for five minutes when they arrived at the hotel car park before they then withdrew and did not return for a further 11 minutes when an ambulance was deployed.

It has not yet been established if the police at first simply failed to realise the full gravity of the situation, or had security issues of some kind, but an explanation of the decision making process which resulted in a 16-minute delay at such a crucial stage is urgently required.

Today’s coverage indicating that a member of the public called police to raise concerns about the gathering hours in advance of the event is another disturbing factor.

As one of the parents has made clear, the basic question is whether or not further steps could have been taken which might have saved lives on the night.

It is entirely appropriate that the case has been referred to the office of the Police Ombudsman, which has said that all reasonable lines of enquiry in relation to the PSNI response will be pursued.

Although the Ombudsman’s staff need to be given the time to properly complete their investigation, there will be a firm expectation that their final report will be both direct and comprehensive and made available to the grieving relatives as soon as is practical.

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