Supporters of the Loughinisland families today at Laganside court

To hear the final ruling in the judicial review taken by the Retired Police Officers NI (NIRPOA) against the Police Ombudsman (OPONI).

Late last year the court ruled in favour of NIRPOA and today the families will find out the implications in terms of their report that concluded that there was collusion with security force members in the murders of their loved ones. Today’s ruling may also affect other families awaiting reports from OPONI.
PFC is in court in solidarity with the Loughinisland families and will update as soon as we hear the ruling.

With many thanks to the: Pat Finucane Centre

Loughinisland: Judge delays ruling on report
 

A judge has delayed his ruling on a police ombudsman’s report into the murders of six Catholic men in 1994.

He said the ombudsman’s new legal representative needed time to read himself into the case.

The men were shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries as they watched a World Cup football match in a pub in Loughinisland, County Down.

In June 2016, the police ombudsman ruled there had been collusion between some police officers and the gunmen.

But last December, a judge ruled that conclusion was “unsustainable in law“.

The Heights Bar, Loughinisland

He said the officers accused of collusion had been “in effect tried and convicted without notice in their absence”.

Two retired officers are attempting to have the report by Michael Maguire quashed in a legal challenge.

A judge had been expected to make his final ruling on Friday, but that has now been postponed.

The victims were watching the match between Ireland and Italy when loyalist gunmen burst into the Heights Bar and opened fire on 18 June 1994.

The men who died were Adrian Rogan, 34, Malcolm Jenkinson, 53, Barney Green, 87, Daniel McCreanor 59, Patrick O’Hare, 35, and Eamon Byrne, 39.

Five others were wounded.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the origional story.

On 4th December 1971, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), an Ulster loyalist paramilitary group, detonated a bomb at McGurk’s Bar in Belfast. Never forget the innocent victims of the Troubles.

 The pub was frequented by Irish Catholics/Nationalists. The explosion caused the building to collapse, killing fifteen Catholic civilians—including two children—and wounding seventeen more. It was the deadliest attack in Belfast during ’’The Troubles’’.

Despite evidence to the contrary, the British security forces asserted that a bomb had exploded prematurely while being handled by Irish Republican Army (IRA) members inside the pub, implying that the victims themselves were partly to blame. A report later found that the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) were biased in favour of this view, and that this hindered their investigation. The victims’ relatives allege that the security forces deliberately spread disinformation to discredit the IRA. In 1977, UVF member Robert Campbell was sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the bombing and served fifteen years.

The bombing sparked a series of tit-for-tat bombings and shootings by loyalists and republicans, which would help make 1972 the bloodiest year of the conflict.

McGurk’s (also called the Tramore Bar) was a two-storey public house on the corner of North Queen Street and Great George’s Street, in the New Lodge area to the north of Belfast city centre. This was a mainly Irish nationalist and Catholic neighbourhood, and the pub’s regular customers were from the community. The pub was owned by Patrick and Philomena McGurk, who lived on the upper floor with their four children.

On the evening of Saturday 4th December 1971, a four-man UVF team met in the Shankill area of Belfast and were ordered to bomb a pub on North Queen Street. According to the only convicted bomber—Robert Campbell—they were told not to return until the job was done. Campbell said that their target had not been McGurk’s, but another pub nearby. It is believed this was a pub called The Gem, which was allegedly linked to the Official IRA. The 50 pounds (23 kg) bomb was disguised as a brown parcel, which they placed in a car and drove to their target. Campbell says they stopped near The Gem at about 7:30pm, but could not gain access to it because there were security guards outside.

After waiting for almost an hour, they drove a short distance to McGurk’s. At about 8:45pm, one of them placed the bomb in the porch entrance on Great George’s Street and rushed back to the car. It exploded just moments after they drove off. Campbell implied that McGurk’s had been chosen only because it was “the nearest Catholic pub”.

The blast caused the building to collapse. Bystanders immediately rushed to free the dead and wounded from the rubble. Firefighters, paramedics, police and soldiers were quickly on the scene. Fifteen Catholic civilians had been killed—including two children—and a further seventeen wounded. The rescue effort lasted many hours.

Within two hours of the blast, a sectarian clash had erupted nearby at the New Lodge–Tiger’s Bay interface. The British Army and RUC moved in and a gun battle developed. A British Army officer, Major Jeremy Snow, was shot by the IRA on New Lodge Road and died of his wounds on 8th December. Two RUC officers and five civilians were also wounded by gunfire. Eventually, five companies of troops were sent into the district and they searched almost 50 houses.

Meanwhile, the UVF team had driven to a nearby pickup point where they dumped their car. They walked to the area of St Anne’s Cathedral and were picked up by another. They were driven back to the Shankill and met the man who had ordered the attack in an Orange Hall, telling him that “the job has been done”.

Among those killed were Philomena and Maria McGurk, wife and 12-year-old daughter of the pub owner Patrick McGurk. Patrick and his three sons were seriously injured. Shortly after the attack, McGurk appeared on television calling for no retaliation: “It doesn’t matter who planted the bomb. What’s done can’t be undone. I’ve been trying to keep bitterness out of it.”

On 6th December, both wings of the IRA condemned the attack, denied responsibility and blamed the UVF and security forces. That same day, several newspapers received telephone calls from someone claiming to be a spokesman for the “Empire Loyalists”. Their statement to the Belfast Telegraph was:
‘’We the Empire Loyalists accept responsibility for the destruction of McGurk’s pub. We placed 30lb of new explosives outside the pub because we had proved beyond doubt that meetings of IRA Provisionals and Officials were held there’’.

In March 1976, the RUC received intelligence that linked UVF member Robert Campbell and four others to the McGurk’s bombing. Campbell was arrested on 27th July 1977 and held at Castlereagh RUC base. He was interviewed seven times during 27th and 28th July. He admitted his part in the bombing but refused to name the others. On 29th July 1977, Campbell was charged with the 15 murders and 17 attempted murders. On 6th September 1978 he pleaded guilty to all charges and received life imprisonment with “a recommendation to serve no less than 20 years”, in part for a separate conviction for the murder of a Protestant delivery driver in 1976. He is the only person to have been charged for the bombing. He eventually served fifteen years in prison and was released on 9th September 1993.

On 21st February 2011, the Police Ombudsman for ”Northern Ireland’’ published a report about the bombing and the RUC’s investigation of it. The report said that there is no evidence that the RUC helped the UVF bombers. However, it found that the RUC investigation was biased in favour of the view that the IRA was responsible. It failed to give enough thought to the possible involvement of loyalists, and this bias hindered the investigation. The report also found that RUC gave “selective” and “misleading” briefings to the government and media, which furthered the idea that it was an IRA bomb. The Ombudsman has not found an explanation why successive Chief Constables have not addressed this mistake. Ombudsman Al Hutchinson said: “Inconsistent police briefings, some of which inferred that victims of the bombing were culpable in the atrocity, caused the bereaved families great distress, which has continued for many years”.

And still continues to this day…

With many thanks to: Charlotte O’Sullivan for the origional story.

Bereaved mother sends heartfelt letter to James Brokenshire over legacy investigations

 

Brian Service was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries in 1998.                                                                                                A MOTHER bereaved in the Troubles has penned a heartfelt open letter to the British government claiming victims are being forgotten amid the delay addressing the legacy of the conflict.

Ann Service’s son Brian (35) was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries in north Belfast in October 1998.

The widow said her family has been able to learn no more about the circumstances of his death since the day he was killed.

Mrs Service, whose husband Davy died four years ago, said she does not have time to wait further years to have the case re-investigated.

In the letter, she urged Secretary of State James Brokenshire to act to ensure stalled mechanisms to deal with the legacy of the Troubles are finally established.

Proposals signed-off in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement – including a new independent investigatory unit, a truth recovery body and an oral archive – are still on ice due to a small number of outstanding political disputes.

Mr Brokenshire is planning a public consultation exercise on the framework in a bid to move on from the impasse.

Mrs Service recounted the night her son, a Catholic construction worker, was shot as he walked home from his brother’s house in the Ardoyne.

“When they told me he was dead I just wanted to lie down on the ground where he died alone to be close to him even for a moment,” she said.

“I am telling you all this so that you know that Brian was a real person because after his murder that’s not the way he was treated.

“It was as if he never really existed as a person and that his life and death did not matter.

“The police hardly seemed to bother with an investigation.

“He was dead and that was it.”

Mrs Service said she complained to the Police Ombudsman but did not expect her son’s case to be dealt with for at least 20 years due to the current backlog.

“I can’t wait that long. I don’t have time.”

Urging Mr Brokenshire to ensure that her family, and other murder victims’ cases would be examined, she said: “Please don’t let us be forgotten all over again.”

With many thanks to: David Young, The Irish News for the origional story.

Legal bid to reinstate charges linked to a loyalist hench mob murder

Robert Hamill, a 25-year-old Catholic, was beaten to death by a loyalist hench mob as the RUC sat by in an armoured police jeep and watched him being murdered in 1997.

The mother of a Catholic man beaten to death by a loyalist hench mob has launched a legal bid to have charges reinstated against three people in connection with the killing.

Robert Hamill’s mother Jessica Hamill.

Lawyers representing Jessica Hamill (pictured above),  told the High Court that a district judge was wrong to halt the prosecution of an ex-policeman and two others for an alleged attempt to obstruct the course of justice.

Her 25-year-old son Robert was attacked in Portadown, Co Armagh in 1997. He never regained consciousness and died in hospital.

Former police reserve constable, in the RUC Robert Cecil Atkinson (63).

RUC officers in the area at the time have been accused of failing to intervene in the assault on Mr Hamill.

Mr Atkinson’s wife Eleanor Jean Atkinson (63)

Former police reserve constable Robert Atkinson (63) and his wife Eleanor Atkinson (63) with an address at Brownstown Road, Portadown, had been charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in connection with the investigation into the killing.

Kenneth George Hanvey (65)

Similar allegations were made against another man, Kenneth Hanvey, 65, of Derryanvil Road in the town.

All three defendants denied the claims against them.

In September 2014 a judge at Craigavon Magistrates’ Court refused to return the trio for trial after ruling that a key prosecution witness was unreliable and unconvincing.

It had been alleged that a phone call was made from the police officer’s house to the home of a former suspect in the killing, with advice given to destroy his clothing.

Mr Atkinson denied making the call and claimed his phone was used by another man, whose ex-wife Andrea Jones later gave evidence to contradicted this.

She said she had been asked by her former partner to make a false statement about the incident.

Jones subsequently pleaded guilty to carrying out an act tending to pervert the course of justice.

But the prosecution against the Atkinsons and Mr Hanvey was stopped for a second time on the basis of insufficient evidence against them.

Mrs Hamill’s legal team are now seeking to have that decision quashed, arguing that it was irrational.

Frank O’Donoghue QC insisted Jones’ own conviction should have been treated as corroborating evidence.

He also contended that her credibility should have been determined at the Crown Court, where there were still sufficient safeguards.

“There’s a world of difference between an accused being acquitted as a result of a trial process in which the witness gives evidence, and a district judge at the Magistrates’ Court deciding such are the issues of credibility that in fact the defendant should not stand trial at all,” he said.

“That is a very dangerous precedent to set.”

Tny McGleenan QC, representing the Public Prosecution Service as a notice party in the legal challenge, countered that the district judge was not determining reliability on “collateral matters”.

He added: “Some of the credibility problems related to the core issue – the authenticity and veracity of material in the (witness) statement.”

Reserving judgment in the case, Lord Justice Stephens, sitting with Mrs Justice Keegan, pledged to deliver a verdict as soon as possible.

He said: “It’s obviously a most important case and, equally obviously, we are going to take time to consider what our judgment is.”

Follow these links to find out more: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Robert_Hamill

http://www.portadowntimes.co.uk/news/my-client-s-position-vindicated-for-third-time-says-solicitor-1-6284879

http://www.anphoblacht.com/contents/10226

https://eurofree3.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/licence-to-kill/

With many thanks to: The Simple Truth and The Irish News for the original story.

Remembering Eileen Quinn from Kiltartan, Gort, Co Galway who was murdered by British Crown Forces on the 21st of November 1920.

As they passed her home in a lorry. The 23 year old married woman was sitting on a stile at the front of her house with her 9 month old baby in her arms when a speeding military lorry passed, shots were discharged and hit her in the abdomen. She was seven months pregnant at the time and her three surviving children were all under 4 years of age.

With many thanks to: Clan na Gael.

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