Loughinisland scandal must be addressed
WHILE every murder during The Troubles was evil, bringing shame and disgrace on the perpetrators and any cause with which they were associated, there must always be particular concern over cases in which credible evidence suggests the forces of the state played a role at any level.
The 1994 Loughinisland massacre falls into the darkest category possible as there can be no longer be any reasonable doubt that it should have been prevented and that the UVF gang which carried it out was effectively immune from subsequent prosecution.
It was an appalling crime in which six innocent men, all Catholics aged between 34 and 87, were shot dead in a small bar in a rural part of south Down as they watched a World Cup match on television.
There were suspicions from the start about the way in which the gunmen targeted such a quiet district, which had been largely untouched by the violence of the era, and then apparently casually left a comprehensive trail of forensic clues behind as they made their escape.
It still took the long-term commitment of journalists, lawyers and above all the relatives of the victims to establish most of the shocking background before last year's report by the Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire confirmed the catastrophic failures of policing which had occurred.
The entire scandal, as we have reported over recent days, has been finally laid bare through the compelling documentary No Stone Unturned by Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney, which goes on general release later this week.
In addition to the grim details already in the public domain, it reveals how the wife of the prime suspect had repeatedly implicated him without either of them ever facing charges and how he was allegedly encouraged by an RUC detective to kill a leading republican.
What it all amounted to was nothing less than blatant collusion by a range of officers, although it largely emerged through the courageous testimony of some of their colleagues.
It should also be noted that the film gives a balanced portrayal of the bloodshed inflicted by all sides down the decades and points out that, through the notorious activities of Freddie Scappaticci and others, collusion extended to both republicans and loyalists.
However, nothing can remove the right of relatives to expect that the devastating facts which have been painstakingly set out about the Loughinisland outrage should at long last be properly addressed by the authorities.
The PSNI is a service which has introduced significant reforms, recruits from all sections of the community and is subject to transparent levels of scrutiny and accountability as it goes about its complex and dangerous duties.
It has said that it is committed to apprehending those responsible for the slaughter in the Heights pub, although there will be concern over suggestions that it is also actively pursuing sources which assisted in the research of the Loughinisland documentary, and its approach to these key issues will be closely scrutinised in the coming weeks.