Loughinisland murders judge steps down

Loughinisland murders judge steps down
Judge Bernard McCloskey

Loughinisland murders judge steps down

A legal challenge to the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman’s ruling of collusion in the 1994 County Down Loughinisland killings is to be reheard by a new judge after lawyers for the ombudsman and victims’ families had asked the original judge to withdraw.

Six Catholic men were slaughtered by Loyalist gunmen at the Heights Bar on 18 June 1994 as they watched the Republic of Ireland play Italy in the World Cup.

Loughinisland murders judge steps down
Loughinisland massacre

They were 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. No one has ever been convicted over the attack.

In 2016 Northern Ireland’s police ombudsman ruled there had been collusion between some police officers and the UVF gunmen.

Two police officers challenged the legal basis of the report and Mr Justice McCloskey found in their favour in December.

In 2001 when he was just barrister Bernard McCloskey QC he unsuccessfully challenged a report by former Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan which found there had been failings by the RUC during the investigation into the 1998 Omagh bombing.

Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan
Former Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Baroness Nuala O’Loan

Last week judge Mr Justice McCloskey said the legal test for him to step aside had not been satisfied but that he would step aside anyway.

The judge said that the families of those killed at Loughinisland had “become engulfed in a maelstrom” of a legal system that has been “far from straightforward”.

He added: “Our legal system will not have served the families well if they are not given the opportunity of having this case heard by a differently constituted court.”

Emma Rogan, whose father Adrian was one of the six men killed, said she welcomed the announcement of a fresh hearing into the case.

“As the families, we respect the judge’s decision to step aside and he is going to do that.

“We are delighted that our report still stands in its entirety – the report that we got in 2016 is still the report that’s on record.”

“All we ever wanted was the truth – that’s it bottom line. Everybody deserves it, it’s human decency for people to know and for people to acknowledge what happened to their loved ones.”

The families’ solicitor, Niall Murphy, described it as “the most unprecedented” outcome to a judicial review he had ever seen: “What we have now is an opportunity for the police ombudsman and the families, as interested parties, to re-engage in a brand new reflection of the legal issues raised and we look forward to doing that as quickly as possible.”

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