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United by Irish football and a sectarian pub massacre: The full story of Loughinisland is finally being told

A new documentary names the suspects in the massacre that killed five people while they watched Ireland play in the 1994 World Cup.

Soccer - World Cup USA 94 - Group E - Ireland v Italy Source: Peter Robinson/EMPICS Sport

18 JUNE 1994 was meant to be a triumphant day for Ireland. Its football team beat Italy, thanks to a sumptuous Ray Houghton goal in a sun-soaked Giants Stadium in New York.

A nation celebrated watching the ball loop over the Italian goalie within the first 15 minutes, and the 75 minutes of heroic defending that followed. Paul McGrath in particular was immense, as he blocked every piece of Italian trickery that came his way.

On that same day, members of the Ulster Volunteer Force burst into a Co Down pub and started shooting. Six people died, and five were injured.

The pub in Loughinisland was chosen because it was mainly frequented by Catholics, supporters of the Republic of Ireland national team.

For decades, the family of the victims have sought justice, alleging that the crime was covered up and that police colluded with the perpetrators. No one has ever been charged with the murders.

Now, a new documentary reveals startling details about the shooting, including information from the wife of one of the suspects who turned him in three times.

From Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney, No Stone Unturned also hears from the families of the victims, and from solicitor Niall Murphy who’s spent much of his career trying to get justice for them.

Collusion

Murphy told TheJournal.ie that “at every stage and at every level”, the families of the victims have been confronted with “negativity and hurt”.

He said that the families were ignored at first and had to fight every step of the way to even get the issue looked at properly by the proper authorities.

“For years they had no legal recourse to what was essentially a massacre,” he said. “They had no evidence at first. So they engaged with the Police Ombudsman, engaged with senior police, and it became very apparent very quickly that their worst fears were confirmed.”

Murphy took on their case in 2005, but it took another 11 years for the authorities to provide a definitive take on the massacre.

A damning report from the Police Ombudsman, published in June last year, “unambiguously determined” that there was collusion between the Loughinisland murderers and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

It went on: “My conclusion is that the initial investigation into the murders at Loughinisland was characterised in too many instances by incompetence, indifference and neglect.”

Speaking to Dave Fanning on RTÉ last week, filmmaker Gibney said it was “just staggering to believe they couldn’t bring anybody to justice”.

Bringing the story to life

The documentary argues that the evidence shows that RUC officers colluded to help the suspects evade justice, in return for information on the goings-on in loyalist circles.

With the legal avenues yielding nothing substantial for the families by in 2012, Murphy contacted colleagues in the film industry to try to get more recognition for the issue.

“The families felt that there’d been no recognition for the collusion that was uncovered,” he said.

At the time, doors were shut. It’d been a whitewash. At the time we weren’t getting an Ombudsman report. I felt this needed to be considered internationally… that a State would permit murder to protect its intelligence agenda.

To that end, Murphy linked with Trevor Birney from production company Below The Radar, and Irish News journalist Barry McCaffrey to work on a documentary about Loughinisland.

“So it would be a two-pronged strategy,” he said. “I pursued the legal angles, and they pursued the journalistic angles.”

The project got the green light from ESPN, as part of their 30 for 30 series. “They wanted docs on how sport transcends into societal issues,” Murphy said.

The result was a 22-minute long documentary called Ceasefire Massacre and stands along other documentaries made in the series about the Hillsborough disaster, and Argentinian footballer Ossie Ardiles going to play for Tottenham during the Falklands War.

Source: GreenArmyNews/YouTube

Feature film

Although that film focused on the football aspects of the tragedy, it hints at the collusion involved in the last few minutes and it was this that piqued the interest of Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney.

He won the Academy Award for best documentary in 2007 for Taxi to the Dark Side but has also directed documentaries about Wikileaks, Lance Armstrong and Steve Jobs.

Murphy said: “He was enthralled by the concept of collusion. He could understand the international resonance.

The families were delighted with Ceasefire Massacre, but they could see it could go further. Gibney was very passionate about making a feature-length documentary.

The result is No Stone Unturned, which provides a comprehensive look at the event itself and the fallout that came afterwards. It has faced legal battles to even make it to screen, with the film’s premiere being pulled from New York’s Tribeca Film Festival earlier in the year. It has, however, been cleared to be shown in the UK and Ireland.

“This is required viewing,” Murphy said. “It is a significant contribution to this debate. All Irish football fans… all Irish people should watch this film.”

Source: Double Exposure: Investigative Film Festival and Symposium/YouTube

As the suspects are named in the film, the PSNI is investigating how it came to be that sensitive, confidential documents were used in the documentary.

Murphy said that the PSNI would be better served properly investigating the Loughinisland massacre instead.

Emma Rogan, speaking on behalf of the families, said: “The families first concern is for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. But the PSNI statements provides us with a cruel insight into their priorities: Their only investigative action arising from the film, and the work of journalist and lawyers to expose the truth, is an allegation of theft against the filmmakers. It’s stunning and disgraceful in equal measure.”

Irish football’s tribute

Speaking on the eve of another crucial game for Irish football, Murphy said this only emphasised the tragedy and poignancy of what happened at Loughinisland.

“I must say the FAI really went above and beyond for these families in the past,” he said.

In a quirk of fate, and a time when justice and vindication seemed very far away in 2011, the draw for Euro 2012 was made.

Ireland drew Italy in their group. And the date that game was scheduled for was 18 June, the same date of the massacre 18 years previously.

The families wrote to John Delaney, and the FAI sought to mark the event during the game in some way.

“And he delivered,” Murphy said. “The Irish team wore black armbands that day.”

Soccer - UEFA Euro 2012 - Group C - Italy v Republic of Ireland - Municipal Stadium Robbie Keane wearing a black armband during the game at Euro 2012. Source: John Walton/EMPICS Sport

On a day when Ireland’s World Cup fate again hangs in the balance, the families of those who died at Loughinisland will be reminded once again of the event that took their loved ones away and the fact that, 23 years later, those responsible have not yet been brought to justice.

No Stone Unturned is being shown at selected cinemas nationwide, including the Lighthouse Cinema, the Everyman Theatre in Cork and the IFI

Read: Police renew appeal over pub murders during 1994 Ireland-Italy match

Read: Security forces colluded with UVF before World Cup ’94 massacre, damning report finds

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