On reading the excellent analysis of Ben Lowry (Newsletter 11 June) on the Loughinisland Report, I decided that I should read the complete Report for myself.
This is thorough and detailed Report not only of the atrocity itself but also of ‘pre-cursor incidents’. A number of points need to be highlighted. The Police Ombudsman makes some significant statements which appear to have been lost in the public debate:
“the persons responsible for the atrocity at Loughinisland were those who entered the bar on that Saturday evening and indiscriminately opened fire.” (Page 2)
“Despite having intelligence sources at all levels of the UVF, little intelligence apparently emerged, which could have assisted in preventing the murders at Loughinisland.” (9.7)
“My investigation has concluded that the initial police response to the Loughinisland murders was appropriate and timely.” (7.38)
There is some serious criticism of the way in which the RUC handled the subsequent investigation, including such statements as:
“One of the suspects identified by police, who was a legitimate suspect, was not only an informant for the RUC at the time but continued in this role for a number of years after the Loughinisland attack.” (7.158)
“I have seen sufficient information to be satisfied that corrupt relationships existed between members of the Security Forces in South Down and the UVF Unit, to whom police attributed the murders at Loughinisland.” (9.9)
“The RUC investigation of the Loughinisland murders is punctuated by unexplained delays in arrests; the loss of potential forensic opportunities; and what might be described as inconsistencies or anomalies. These issues are indicative to me of poor professional judgement and practice, if not negligence, by the police officers responsible for the investigation.” (7.205)
The unwillingness of Special Branch to pass on information to the CID is well documented in other publications. On balance this Report identifies the fact that: “Special Branch failed to pass on intelligence”.
It is however the use of the word ‘collusion’ which concerns me the most. The Ombudsman states: “I am of the view that individual examples of neglect, incompetence and/or investigative failure are not (de facto) evidence of collusion.” (Page 8) Yet he goes on to accept Judge Smithwick’s definition of collusion – “in terms of an omission or failure to act.” The failures were failures of omission more that failures of commission.
This is contrary to the natural understanding of the word and has been used by some media outlets to present an inaccurate understanding of the Report. If there was collusion it was not institutional but between some members of the RUC and others. ‘Some’ does not appear in the document in relation to membership of the RUC. This omission tars the whole organisation, which sacrificed so much, with the failures of the few.
Brian Kennaway (Rev)
This letter appeared the the Belfast Newsletter on 14 June 2016