Bloody Sunday families demand case to be kept in Co. Derry

Brother says ‘Soldier F’ hearing should not be moved!

Bloody Sunday not forgotten your Poppy here for us means nothing

The Bloody Sunday families will fight “tooth and nail” to prevent the Soldier F murder case being moved out of Derry. Michael McKinney, whose brother, William was among those gunned down in cold blood by British Paratroopers said his family would not allow his brothers murder to be treated differently than any other victim. Mr McKinney (pictured below) was speaking after District Judge Barney McElholm suggested the case be moved to Belfast to ensure a suitable venue was available.

PLEDGE: Michael McKinney said his family will fight ‘tooth and nail’ to keep the ‘Soldier F’ case in Derry

Soldier F is facing two murder charges in connection with the 1972 murders of 13 innocent victims on Bloody Sunday.

“We as a family will not let Willie be treated differently from any other victim” – Michael McKinney 

The former British Paratrooper is to be charged with the murder of William McKinney and Jim Wray (both pictured in the featured image) as well as four counts of attempted murder. He denies the charges. At a preliminary hearing in Co Derry yesterday – at which ‘Soldier F’ was not present – a Public Prosecution lawyer said a decision must be taken on a venue for the case in the near future. Judge McElholm said it looked likely that the case would have to be moved out of Derry. “We cannot convene this in just some hall or public space. There are considerations of security,” he said. “We are willing to listen to any opposition put to us. “At the moment, despite trying to get somewhere closer to the city, I am afraid Belfast looks like the venue.” Solicitor for the Bloody Sunday families, Ciaran Shiels, said the case should be heard in Derry.


“This is where the killings occurred, a stone’s throw from these buildings,” he said. “We have always been of the view that ‘F’ should be attending here in person at his committal and that remains the position.” He said other arrangements could be made to overcome any logistical challenges while, in security terms, police favoured Derry over Belfast.

A very rare photograph of ‘Soldier F’ which was taken in Co Derry in 1972

His comments were echoed by Mr McKinney, who said the Bloody Sunday families were determined that ‘Soldier F’ should stand trial in Derry. “My brother was an innocent young Derry man who was shot dead on the streets of his hometown and now there are moves to take the trial out of Derry,” he said. “We’ll fight tooth and nail to keep this case in Derry.”

Follow this link to find out more in 1971 11 people were murdered in Ballymurphy  by by the same British Army regiment who murdered 13 innocent people on Bloody Sunday in Derry:

The families are also opposing moves to continue anonymity for ‘Soldier F’. Mr Shiels said he been informed that if ‘Soldier F’ wished to maintain his anonymity, his lawyers should set out in detail the legal provision on which they rely.

Ballymurphy 1971 British State Murder For Hire

The Bloody Sunday families have two weeks to make submissions challenging the decision to move the hearings to Belfast. The case has been adjourned until February 7th 2020.

With many thanks to: The Irish News and Seamus McKinney for the original story 

Remembering Bernard McCarron, 45, murdered on this day 1976, by UVF terrorists

#OnThisDay in 1976 the UVF murdered Bernard McCarron, 45. Bernard was an innocent civilian, the unionist terrorists heard him speaking in a Fermanagh accent which they mistook for a southern accent, so they smashed his skull in with a piece of wood and shot him twice.

10:09 PM · Oct 17, 2019·Twitter

With many thanks to: @OnThisDayUDA for the original story 

On this day in 1981 UVF thugs murdered Mary McKay, 68-years-old. Another innocent victim of the Troubles!!

#OnThisDay in 1981 the UVF murdered Mary McKay, 68. The unionist terrorists were allegedly targeting an INLA volunteer, however, they entered the wrong house, but since they suspected Mary of being a Catholic, they decided to murder the innocent pensioner anyway.
1:44 PM · Oct 15, 2019·Twitter for iPhone

I wonder where he got the SA80 rifle…not exactly a weapon you could pick up off your local arms dealer in Bulgaria easily at the time…..standard British mil issue though.

Murder victim Malcolm McKeown was a member of a notorious loyalist family involved in sectarian murderers

Clifford McKeown, who was convicted of murdering innocent Catholic taxi driver Michael McGoldrick

MURDER victim Malcolm McKeown was a member of a notorious loyalist family.

Both his brothers served life sentences for separate sectarian killings and were linked to numerous other unsolved murders in the Mid Ulster area as members of Billy Wright’s sectarian Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF).

Clifford McKeown, a former loyalist supergrass, is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of Catholic taxi driver Michael McGoldrick, who was shot dead in July 1996, apparently as a ‘birthday present’ for Wright.

The 37-year-old victim had graduated from Queen’s University just days before. His wife Sadie was pregnant with their second child at the time.

Read more:

Northern Ireland lagging behind in legislation to deal with gangland crime
Fears of more bloodshed after fatal shooting of Malcolm McKeown

INNOCENT: Murder victim Michael McGoldrick who was shot dead by Clifford McKeown.

Clifford McKeown was convicted of the murder in 2003 on the evidence of journalist Nick Martin-Clark.

He had confessed to the killing to during a series of interviews in Maghaberry prison where he was serving a sentence for a number of armed robberies.

Mr Martin-Clark, had promised McKeown confidentiality but decided to break his undertaking after hearing the grisly details of the shooting. He later was forced to leave is home and go into the witness protection programme.

Clifford McKeown remains in jail serving 24 years of a life sentence. Since no group claimed him as a member of its organisation he is ineligible for early release under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

His brother Trevor McKeown was also convicted of shooting dead Catholic teenager Bernadette Martin as she slept in her Protestant boyfriend’s family home in the village of Aghalee, Co Antrim at the height of the Drumcree march dispute.

He shot the 18-year-old in the head as she lay sleeping in a bedroom.

The trial heard that the young couple had stayed overnight at McKeown’s Aghalee home two weeks before the murder.

The murder weapon was the same gun used by his brother in the killing of Michael McGoldrick.

Teenage murder victim Bernadette Martin, who was an innocent Catholic murdered by Trevor McKeown

McKeown was sentenced to life in prison for the July 1997 murder but was released in 2012 by the Sentence Review Commission on the grounds it was “satisfied that, if released immediately, you would not be a danger to the public”.

Trevor McKeown also claimed RUC detectives had urged him to kill Lurgan human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson two years before she was assassinated by loyalists in a 1999 under-car bombing.

He has since disassociated himself from criminality.

Read more:

Northern Ireland lagging behind in legislation to deal with gangland crime
Fears of more bloodshed after fatal shooting of Malcolm McKeown

With many thanks to: The Irish News and Allison Morris for the original story

Follow these links to find out more:



Sad that many people have learned nothing in the past half-century


THE fall-out from Solder F controversy proves the wounds of the past are still open and lying just below the surface.

INNOCENT: Partrick Rooney (9) was in his bed when he was hit by an RUC bullet

But very little that happens here is spontaneous. And the DUP is showing itself up to be a delinquent party. It is disgusting to watch paid politicians stoking up tension.


None of the posturing seen this week will affect the direction or outcome of Soldier F’s forthcoming trial.

A picture of the disgraceful emblem on the shirt of one of the band members from the Clyde Valley Flute Band

And if it turns out that Clyde Valley Flute Band episode was also contrived, then I would say protocols which have allowed loyal order parades to take place unhindered in Derry for years will be a thing of the past. With Lundy Day just around the corner we’ll know soon enough. The Apprentice Boys may well have shot themselves in the foot here. And we could see a rise in support for dissident republican groups. All this – coming as it does on the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of what we euphemistically call the Troubles – doesn’t bode well for the future. It appears some people have learned little or nothing.

The Troubles 1969 – to the present day

Of course there are a number of competing narratives about who actually kicked off the 40-year terror war which claimed nearly 4,000 lives. The so-called Battle of the Bogside in Derry – where not a single shot was fired – was indeed a turning point. Following another contentious Apprentice Boys parade, local people chased the RUC from the area. But soon the violence spread to Belfast where the potential for more serious inter-communal strife was much greater. In West Belfast the Catholic community looked on in horror as hundreds of co-religionists were burnt out of their homes in Bombay Street. And on the Shankill- thanks to the likes of the Rev Ian Paisley and vigilante leader John McKeague – People were led to believe they were facing an IRA uprising. It was nonsense, but that was the perception. Since the shooting of three Catholic barmen outside the Malvern Arms on the Shankill in June 1966, violence had been smouldering away.


And in the early hours of August 14th 1969, Herbie Roy, a 26-year-old father of one from the Shankill Road, was shot dead at the corner of Dover Street and Divis Street off the Falls Road in West Belfast. He was one of a large crowd of Protestants (Vigilantes) who had come onto the predominantly Catholic Falls area and a full-scale riot was soon under way. Herbie was the first victim of IRA violence and one of eight people to die in 48 hours of extreme violence (check-out the links connconnected below). Later the Scarman Tribunal which looked into what happened concluded that the Protestant mob which had come onto the Falls Road in West Belfast beleived they were helping the RUC suppress a Catholic uprising. But the violence begets violence and in response to Herbie’s death, the RUC deployed Shortland armoured cars fitted with heavy machine-guns.

An RUC Shortland armoured car fitted with heavy machine-guns

They began strafing the area with automatic fire. Within an hour, nine-year-old Patrick Rooney, a young Catholic altar boy who lived with his family in the Divis flats complex, was shot dead. He was leaning  against the wall of his bedroom in their ground floor flat at St Brendan’s Path when a round from an RUC heavy machine-gun penetrated the wall and hit him in the back of the head. A child murdered by a stray police bullet made headline news around the world, but no police officer was ever charged in connection with the murder.

Jim McLean who wrote the ballad of Patrick Rooney who was murdered by the RUC at the start of the Troubles

A few days Later, a songwriter friend of mine by the name of Jim McLean was so moved by the tragedy that he wrote a ballad about it. It was later used in a documentary film. And earlier this week. Jim very kindly gave me permission to reproduce it here for the first time on Sunday August 18th, 2019. The melody for the Ballad of Patrick Rooney is the same as the Woody Guthrie song known as THE 1913 MASSACRE.

An accutual  photograph of the scene of the 1913 MASSACRE  but photographed the next morning after the murders were carried out

The Ballad of Patrick Rooney

‘Who killed Pat Rooney, who shot him dead? Who filled all Ireland  with terror and dread? Who caused Britannia to hang down her head? The Lily once Orange, is now bloody red.

He stood at the window, his toys put away, “Get ready for bed son,”his mother did say, He wore his pyjamas, his prayers were said, The Lily once Orange, is now bloody red.

Outside in the street, were the keepers of peace, The Specials of Ulster, the royal police, A Browning machine-gun spat bullets of lead, The Lily once Orange is now bloody red.

No more will he play with the boys in the street, No more to be seen where the wee laddies meet, For one of those bullets got Pat in the head, The Lily once Orange is now bloody red.

The barricades open, the coffin comes through, The women are frightened, the men silent too, Throughout the six Counties, a murmur is heard, The Lily once Orange is now bloody red.

The minister preaches with hellfire and song, He calls on the Lord to right Ireland’s wrong, His voice thunders praise while he’s counting the dead, The Lily once Orange is now bloody red.

So who killed Pat Rooney, and who shot him dead? Who filled all Ireland with terror and dread? Who caused Britannia to hang down her head? The Lily once Orange is now bloody red. 

With many thanks to the: Sunday World and Hugh Jordan

Hugh Jordan who wrote the original article

 for the original story

Follow these links to find out more:



How The Truth Of ‘The Troubles’ Is Still Suppressed

The scene at Heights Bar, Loughinisland, after six men were shot dead by Loyalist paramilitaries, June 18, 1994 PA Images via Getty Images

On August 31, 2018, I was in the Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow, waiting for my flight to New York, when I received this text on WhatsApp: “Trevor and Barry had their doors kicked in this morning in dawn raids and are presently in police custody for breach of s5 of Official Secrets Act.”

With a few clicks and a hasty review of a police press release from Belfast, Northern Ireland, I was able to grasp the basics. Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey, two producers on a documentary film I had directed, No Stone Unturned, had been arrested and held for questioning for the “theft” of classified documents relating to the Loughinisland Massacre, the subject of the film. The arrests had been noisy.

Some 100 police officers, fully armed, had turned up at the homes of Birney and McCaffrey, and the offices of Birney’s company, to take them into custody and confiscate their computers and digital records—everything from company hard drives to personal cellphones.

Russia was an odd place to receive this news. On a trip to meet Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, I was carrying a newly wiped Chromebook and burner phone to forestall hacks into my systems either by Russian gangsters or by government spies. But the threat, it suddenly seemed, was not as present in Moscow as it was in the United Kingdom, where police, confronted with compelling evidence of likely suspects in a grisly mass murder, avoided reckoning with the homicides and sought instead to harass filmmakers for trying to reveal the truth.

A further call revealed that Birney and McCaffrey weren’t the only ones wanted by the police. There was one other suspect: me.


I first became involved in the story when Birney, a Belfast-based producer with whom I had worked on the Irish portion of Mea Maxima Culpa, a film I directed about clerical sex abuse, alerted me to the Loughinisland story.

I directed a short about it for ESPN called “Ceasefire Massacre,” but then, intrigued by new clues in the case, I returned for a more rigorous investigation.

On the evening of June 18, 1994, the headlights of a red Triumph Acclaim pierced the twilight of midsummer’s night as it rumbled its way past the paddocks and small farms of County Down, toward Loughinisland (pronounced “Loch-en-island”), some twenty miles south of Belfast.

The village itself is little more than a church, a Gaelic football pitch, and a pub, the Heights Bar, where, that night, a group of men huddled around a battered TV set to watch Ireland play Italy in the World Cup.

Few expected powerhouse Italy to lose, but, just after half-time, Ireland was leading 1–0. Everyone in the bar was focused on the TV, transfixed by a giddy sense of possibility.

A few minutes later, the Triumph pulled up outside. While one man waited behind the wheel, two men in coveralls and balaclavas burst from the car with automatic weapons in hand.

One man held the door, and the other knelt in a military stance in the entryway and opened fire. Bullets from a Czech-made VZ–58 assault rifle tore through the backs of the men watching the TV. Six men were murdered that night—including eighty-seven-year-old Barney Green, the oldest man killed in the Troubles—and five were wounded.

While the Troubles finally claimed more than 3,500 lives, this particular mass murder struck a universal nerve. The victims, from a sleepy small village, were so defenseless, and the killers so ruthless.

Witnesses said they heard one of the death squad shout “Fenian bastards” as the shots rang out, and the gunmen were heard laughing as they ran back to their car. The loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), claimed credit for the attack. While all the victims were Catholic, none of them had any connections with paramilitary or terrorist activity.

Letters of condolence poured in, including one from the Queen and another from the Vatican. The British secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Sir Patrick Mayhew, pledged that the police, then known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), “will never give up until the perpetrators of this heinous act are brought to justice.” In following every clue, they would, as relatives were told, “leave no stone unturned.”

The funeral procession for two of the victims of the Loughinisland Massacre, Barney Green and Dan McCreanor, June 20, 1994 John Giles/PA Images via Getty Images

That proved an empty boast: no one was ever charged with a crime, despite an extraordinary amount of physical evidence and damning testimony. When families of the victims called for an accounting of the investigation, they learned that much of the evidence and testimony had been destroyed.

“I don’t think they ever lifted a stone,” said the widow of one of the victims, Clare Rogan, “let alone turned it.” She and the other grieving survivors came, in fact, to believe that there was a systematic cover-up of the crime, possibly because the RUC was implicated in it.

This is where I came in, moved by the struggle of the families to learn the truth. Initially, for the ESPN short, I had explored the possibility that the killing was part of an effort to sabotage the peace process. But urged on by Trevor Birney, I returned to do a longer film because of emerging evidence that supported the suspicions of Rogan and others.

During the Troubles, the British government tried hard to recruit informants, or “touts,” as they were called, among the paramilitary gangs on both sides of the conflict.

Maintaining these sources meant that the state, which represented the rule of law, sometimes had to look the other way as their double agents committed crimes. For the paramilitaries, committing violent crimes such as punishment beatings or even murder often became a rite of passage. For the double agents in their midst—and their handlers—the more gruesome the atrocity, the more convincing their cover.

With our investigation leading us into this murky realm, other themes surfaced. As the film took shape in the cutting room, we began to wonder out loud how a society can best come to terms with an ugly, traumatic past. Given the fragile peace in Northern Ireland, did it make sense to stir up the embers of smoldering sectarian hatreds?

This was not just an abstract moral question for us, but a life-and-death issue for some of our potential sources: one police officer we spoke to declined to give us critical information about the likely suspect, not because he wanted to protect the man, but because he was afraid that friends or the families of the Loughinisland victims might seek revenge.

But we, too, were entering a minefield. By collecting intelligence from terrorists engaged in deadly criminality, the state can be complicit in those crimes. And when informants commit murder, the state has an incentive to keep its homicidal secrets hidden from the citizens it is sworn to protect. This raised the biggest question of all: What secrets should the government be able to keep forever? That issue would cause the filmmaking team itself to become a target of the government of Northern Ireland.

In our interviews with the survivors and victims’ families, it was clear that they felt betrayed: they wanted to know what had happened and who had pulled the trigger, and as citizens of the United Kingdom, they felt that their own government was keeping that knowledge secret.

To address such concerns, Northern Ireland established in 2000 the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (PONI) to look into past crimes and assess, on a case-by-case basis, whether the RUC had failed in its duty or, worse, been guilty of collusion with paramilitary groups.

Emma Rogan, the daughter of Adrian Logan who was murdered in the Loughinisland Massacre, protesting outside Belfast High Court, January 19, 2018 Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

On June 24, 2011, the Police Ombudsman’s Office—under the leadership of Al Hutchinson, a former Canadian Mountie—published a report on Loughinisland that largely exonerated the RUC.

Clare Rogan and the other family members reacted furiously to what they saw as a whitewash—and they succeeded in getting the report quashed. A new ombudsman, Michael Maguire, was appointed and opened a new investigation.

Maguire was working on this report while we were filming; he declined to cooperate with us, and we feared that his investigation could simply be a repeat of the first.

It was immediately clear from our research that the original 1994 RUC investigation of the murders was either staggeringly incompetent or intentionally bungled.

During the Troubles, it was common practice for terrorists to torch their getaway vehicles to eradicate potential forensic evidence such as fingerprints, footprints, and hair. But remarkably, in the Loughinisland case, both the car and weapons were recovered—along with DNA evidence that would connect to one of the suspects.

Even more astounding, the car was found in a field a stone’s throw away from the family home of the chief suspect.

Despite that fact, not a single RUC officer bothered to knock on the door, much less search the place, immediately after the crime. Once the initial phase of the investigation was completed, all of the interrogation logs—along with the car—were destroyed.

When the leading suspect was finally arrested, he had already received a tipoff from the police the night before, enabling him to dispose of any incriminating evidence.

Trevor Birney, himself the son of an RUC cop as well as a veteran reporter on the Troubles, was producing my film. In October 2015, Birney called me to say that he had a “walk-in,” a whistleblower with critical information: a former RUC officer named Jimmy Binns who had been involved in the Loughinisland investigation and present for the questioning of the prime suspect.

In an on-camera interview, Binns revealed that the “interrogation” of the suspected shooter had lasted only ten minutes, with a handful of laughably perfunctory questions: “Did you do it?” Answer: “No.” Then, according to Binns, the detective in charge of the interrogation spent the next ninety minutes or so trying to persuade the suspect, a known member of the UVF, to commit another killing—of a local IRA gunman.

Binns also related how his superiors had directed him to stay away from certain witnesses and lines of questioning that might lead to arrests of the actual perpetrators. Last, Binns shared details that led us to believe that the Special Branch, the intelligence division of the RUC, may have known about the attack in advance. (Many of the details in Binns’s testimony would later be confirmed by the Maguire report.)

Further evidence came from our visit to Patsy Toman, a retired local councilor. A few months after the massacre, he had received an anonymous letter written in longhand that began: “Dear Mr. Toman, I am writing you to advise you of certain facts… in your quest to cage the Loughinisland murders [sic].” The letter went on to reveal that “the gunman was one Ronnie Hawthorn, a married man from Clough. Gunman Two was Alan Taylor, single from Dundrum. The driver of the getaway car was Gorman McMullan, a convicted terrorist from Belfast…”

Ronnie Hawthorn pictured here on the left holding the ladder putting up election posters for the DUP

This document, which had been turned over to the police in 1994, contained other extremely significant details, including a confession that the author was involved in planning the crime but “pulled out of the attack due to a prior engagement… this information will somehow ease my conscience, but will never fully clear my name.

But I do this for the family and children of the men who were slaughtered in Loughinisland.” None of the men mentioned above has been charged, and none has had the opportunity to present a legal defense against the allegations.

Thanks to the letter, we had names of potential suspects—and one, Hawthorn, matched the name of the man whose interrogation Binns had observed. But for official confirmation, we would have to wait for Maguire’s report.

While Maguire had declined to share any information with us, he did give us permission to film his presentation on June 8, 2016, of the PONI Report to the families of the victims. When he addressed the crowded oak-paneled room in the Loughinisland Athletic Club, he said, “I have no hesitation in saying that collusion was a significant element in relation to the killings in Loughinisland.”

As he paused over the word “collusion,” there were audible gasps from the crowd. Some began to cry: they had waited nearly twenty-five years for any official recognition of their pain—now the UK government was finally acknowledging its complicity in the massacre. The collusion Maguire detailed included the supply of weapons to the terrorists and Special Branch’s secret knowledge of the death squad.


In the wake of the announcement, Birney, McCaffrey, and I retreated to an office in Belfast with a copy of the report to dig into the details. But we still had one other vital source. A few months earlier, McCaffrey had opened his mail to discover a plain envelope with no return address. Inside was a photocopy of an early draft of the first PONI report on Loughinisland.

This draft did not contain the whitewashing conclusions of that first report and it gave far more forensic detail. Last, and most important, it was unredacted. All the names of the suspects and their dates of interrogation were revealed.

This was the document that would cause the police to send some 100 officers to arrest Birney and McCaffrey for its “theft.” It was also the key to understanding the original cover-up.

In Maguire’s report, both suspects and police officers were identified only with letters or numbers, but with the leaked copy of the draft PONI report, we were able to correlate names and dates and crack the code.

What emerged was a remarkably detailed account of collusion and cover-up, as well as confirmation of the names of the prime suspects. The author of the anonymous letter was revealed: Hilary Hawthorn—the wife of the man she had named as the gunman.

Why would she turn in her own husband? In her letter, she claimed it was her sorrow for the victims. In fact, we later learned, she had ratted out Ronnie when she discovered he was having an affair.

In 1994 the police had twice arrested Ronnie Hawthorn for questioning but never charged him. But more damning, Hilary had also been questioned and admitted to the police that she was the author of the letter.

As a confessed accessory, why hadn’t she been charged? Or why, at the very least, hadn’t the police used her information to compel cooperation from her husband (with whom she had by then reconciled)?

For answers, we sought out one of the officers involved in the investigation. The name of the detective who had questioned the suspects, Albert Carroll, appeared in the leaked report. He refused to be interviewed on camera, but he did confirm to us crucial details contained in the documents.

When asked why he let Hilary go so quickly, he said she was a “proper lady,” from a “nice background.” In fact, she worked at the nearby Newcastle police station, which was assisting in the murder investigation. Carroll told us that he decided to let her and her husband go only on the strength of Hilary’s “cooperation” that would hopefully “ensure that Ronnie would never kill again.”

There was another question to answer: Among the Loyalist killers, had there been an informant? By cross-referencing the Maguire report with the draft PONI report and some information from Niall Murphy, the attorney for the survivors and victims’ families, we concluded that the three named suspects were part of a four-person gang that had likely committed other murders in the County Down area.

Through legal disclosure, Murphy told us that one of the four men was an informant for the British government at the time of the Loughinisland Massacre. Another document we obtained suggested that two of the four had been touts. Finally, we were able to obtain government confirmation that the gang had included at least one informant.

Just before the film’s final edit, we offered the named suspects a “right of reply,” sent by registered mail; our letters went unanswered. We informed the Ombudsman’s office of the likely suspects the film would name.

PONI then passed that information on to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the successor to the RUC. We wanted to be sure the PSNI was informed in case there was any concern for the safety of the suspects or in case the police had any other compelling reason why the film should not be released. We received no response.

No Stone Unturned premiered at the New York Film Festival in 2017, and shortly thereafter at the London Film Festival; it went on to receive a successful theatrical release in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The film made waves in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, where discussions resumed about how to reckon with the past. There was no official government reaction to the release.


I had never intended the film to be a relitigation of the Troubles. In fact, I purposefully avoided the theme of sectarianism and treated the murders simply as a cold case in the hope that, if we could come close to identifying the suspects, it could bring some salve to the psychic wounds of the survivors and families of those who had been killed.

I also hoped that the film might spur the police to investigate, properly this time, the mass-murder it could have solved but deliberately didn’t.

Certainly, the police should have been embarrassed into acting. Investigators had had all the suspects in custody, had physical evidence, including DNA, the murder weapons, the getaway car, intelligence linking the suspects to a chain of prior murders, and a written confession from one of the conspirators.

Then there was the destruction of evidence, the refusal to acknowledge how much was known, and the concealment of government collusion. Since the release of the film, however, there has been no move by the police to bring the killers to justice. Instead, last August, we saw a major police operation to punish and silence the messengers.

Following their arrest, Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey were held for questioning for fourteen hours. After they were released on bail, Birney told me that the potential charges were: theft of government documents, the disclosure of the whereabouts of a police officer, and violation of Section 5 of the Official Secrets Act.

When I hired my own lawyer, he told me that stealing confidential information (as opposed to computer records) is not an offense as you are stealing a piece of paper (which has no value) rather than what is written on it. In revealing the whereabouts of Detective Albert Carroll, there is only one guilty party: the French telephone book, which is where McCaffrey found Carroll’s address.

Button Section 5 of the UK’s Official Secrets Act is a serious charge that allows for the prosecution of newspapers or journalists who publish secret information leaked to them by a crown servant or government contractor, and it can carry a two-year prison term.

There were other odd aspects to the arrests. Although PSNI officers carried them out, the PSNI was not officially in charge of the investigation. In cases of political sensitivity, the PSNI calls in an external police constabulary—in this case,  from Durham, England—to reassure the public that the police aren’t improperly investigating themselves.

Rosemary Nelson and Pat Finucine both executed by loyalist death squads on the orders of MI5, Special Branch and the British government

The precedent stems from an instance in 1999, when a solicitor named Rosemary Nelson (pitcured above) raised questions about police collusion before US Congress. Shortly after she complained that local police were threatening to kill her, she was murdered.

In our case, the police claimed that they were pressed into action by a complaint of “theft” from the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. But Michael Maguire confirmed to me that PONI had never made such a complaint.

To date, no charges have been filed but Birney and McCaffrey are still restricted by terms of bail—they must, for instance, ask permission to leave the country. I, also, must inform the Durham police of any entry into the UK, in case there is a desire to question me.

In challenging the search warrants, Birney’s lawyer, Niall Murphy, who also represents the Loughinisland victims’ families, accused the PSNI of using a dramatic show of force as a kind of warning shot to other journalists who might want to investigate police corruption or criminality.

There’s no doubt that it’s part of a global trend of governments harassing, prosecuting, and even murdering journalists who expose state secrets. In the United States, where our president has called the press the “enemy of the people,” the CIA has fought a bitter battle against reporters and filmmakers to prevent any accountability for the agency’s failure to prevent September 11 or for the likely crimes of its post-September-11 torture program.

Myanmar, a former British Territory, used its own Official Secrets Act to jail two reporters for seven years over their reporting of a government-backed massacre of Rohingya Muslims. Two Russian journalists and a filmmaker were murdered recently while investigating the alleged involvement of Yvgeny Prigozhin, known as “Putin’s chef,” in mercenary operations in the Central African Republic.

And most notoriously of all, there was the Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, assassinated and dismembered in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul by agents of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, a favored ally and friend of the Trump administration. A total of fifty-three journalists were killed last year for doing their jobs.

Journalists Trevor Barney and Barry McCaffrey, with their solicitors Niall Murphy and John Finucane behind, arriving at a Belfast police station for questioning, November 30, 2018 Brian Lawless/PA Images via Getty Images

It’s hard to know why the police waited for a year to burst into the homes of Birney and McCaffrey, but I can guess at reasons for such a display of force. They may have hoped to intimidate McCaffrey into revealing his source—though he has said he has no knowledge of who sent him the draft report. More likely, the police may be acting on behalf of British intelligence and security services, which have little patience with being held to account for past crimes and want to send a message.

As if to underscore this point, the Police Service of Northern Ireland recently informed the ombudsman’s office that it had withheld as many as 13,000 pages of police records that PONI had requested for another investigation into murders tainted by possible collusion, a 1992 attack by Loyalist paramilitaries on a bookmaker’s shop in Belfast that killed five people.

While the PSNI has blamed the failure on clerical errors, Niall Murphy sees evidence of “dark forces” determined to keep government misconduct hidden from the public. Murphy also claims that these records relate to the same shipment of weapons—from South Africa, arranged by a British agent—that were involved in the Loughinisland case.

“These VZ–58 weapons had never been in this jurisdiction before ever,” Murphy told the Belfast Telegraph this month. “They would then go on to kill over seventy people. The arms importation that had Browning handguns, grenades, rocket-propelled launchers would go on to kill 229 people.”

The Loughinisland story matters because it raises universal questions about how societies reckon with the past, particularly when that history involves crimes committed in an internal conflict. Many people in North Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are anxious, with good reason, not to revisit the Troubles.

It may be that in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement, there was little stomach to re-investigate Loughinisland lest the cause of justice upend the delicate balance of peace.

Today, with the specter of a hard Brexit, Ireland and Northern Ireland may have to return to an old paradigm and “build a wall” between the two countries where the current marking of the border is nothing more than a sign on the highway. That prospect is already inflaming tensions between paramilitary groups—Irish nationalists and loyalists alike—which retain many of their weapons.

With that prospect, the willful denial of past crimes can be a first step down the road to perdition. Government officials argue against disclosing secrets because it may expose sources and methods.

But in the long run, transparency is vital for democracies to ensure that mistakes are not repeated and misdeeds not overlooked. Intelligence services always resist declassification and reappraisals of covert operations lest they undermine the morale of those who put themselves at risk to protect the citizens they serve. But what about the morale of all those who observe the rule of law yet see those who subvert the rules to deadly effect never held to account?

In the case of No Stone Unturned, the police—or whoever is issuing the orders on which the police are acting—have fired a warning shot aimed at those who are willing to reveal dirty secrets and tell uncomfortable truths about government informants and handlers involved in past atrocities.

From the perspective of the government, keeping secrets is the price of law and order. But from the perspective of victims and survivors, a secret that hides the truth is not any kind of justice; it means getting away with murder.

Film still from No Stone Unturned (2017), directed by Alex Gibney

No Stone Unturned can be viewed worldwide on Amazon Prime.

With many thanks to: NYR Daily and Alex Gibney for the original posting

Fintan O’Toole