Loughinisland: Collusion was not in murders but in follow-up investigation, says SDLP’s Dolores Kelly

Dolores Kelly is a former member of the Policing Board
Dolores Kelly is a former member of the Policing Board

Former SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly has affirmed that there was no suggestion of state collusion in the commission of the 1994 Loughinisland pub murders.

However, the Upper Bann MLA said that she does believe there was collusion in the follow-up investigation.

Mrs Kelly was speaking after police dropped investigations into journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey after a documentary they produced, No Stone Unturned, named a suspect based on sensitive documents.

The pair had been arrested as part of an investigation into suspected theft of the documents from the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland (PONI).

UVF gunmen shot dead six Catholic men in a pub in Loughinisland, Co Down in 1994.

After welcoming that police had dropped investigations into the journalists, Mrs Kelly said that the PONI report on the attack had not suggested that police were involved in carrying out the atrocity.

“There is no collusion, as I understand it, in the commission of the offence [murders],” she told the News Letter, adding that the meaning of the term ‘collusion’ depends on the definition used.

PONI took the definition from the Smithwick Tribunal, she said, which she noted made a distinction between collusion in the “commission” of a terrorist office and “omissions” made in the follow-up investigation.

Regarding Loughinisland, she said, PONI found there was “a failure to harvest and retain” evidence, a suspected getaway car was disposed of and there was a failure to make early arrests.

Former RUC officers in the case said the car was stripped of all forensic evidence before it was scrapped and rejected all suggestions of collusion.