Northern Ireland

Loughinisland: A night watching a World Cup match that ended in terror

Those who died were 34-year-old Adrian Rogan, Barney Green, 87, Daniel McCreanor, 59, Eamon Byrne, 39, Malcolm Jenkinson, 53, and Patrick O'Hare, 35 Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Those who died were 34-year-old Adrian Rogan, Barney Green, 87, Daniel McCreanor, 59, Eamon Byrne, 39, Malcolm Jenkinson, 53, and Patrick O'Hare, 35

The Heights Bar in the village of Loughinisland is the kind of tiny rural pub that peppered the countryside across Northern Ireland.

On 18 June 1994, a few regulars had just finished watching the Republic of Ireland's footballers beat Italy in the World Cup.

Just after 22:00 BST, two gunmen from the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), one armed with an AK47 and the other with a Czech-made rifle, walked inside and began firing indiscriminately.

Six men were killed instantly.

They were 34-year-old Adrian Rogan, Malcolm Jenkinson, 53, Barney Green, 87, Daniel McCreanor, 59, Patrick O'Hare, 35, and Eamon Byrne, 39.

Image copyright bbc
Image caption The attack took place on 18 June 1994 at the Heights Bar in Loughinisland

All were Catholic civilians. Mr Green was one of the oldest people to be killed in the Northern Ireland Troubles.

Witnesses said that the killers laughed as they ran to their getaway car.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the brother of the bar owner described how the dead were "piled on top of each other".

"We are still in a state of complete numbness. My head is just saturated with the thought of it all. My feelings for these poor families," Keiron O'Toole said.

Image copyright bbc
Image caption The Ulster Volunteer Force claimed responsibility for the attack

He also rubbished claims by the UVF that the bar had been hosting a republican meeting.

Explanation

"That is absolute nonsense. This was a mixed pub, Protestant and Catholic came in, no-one cared what religion they were.

"There was just a complete attempt to kill Catholics and who ever else happened to be in the bar among them."

The UVF's explanation for the attack was also dismissed angrily by unionist politicians.

"Obviously these people are psychopaths - nothing short of it," an Ulster Unionist councillor said.

"I feel shocked and disgusted to think that these people call themselves loyalists."

Senior police officers had their own views on the reason for the murders - a random sectarian attack in response to other killings.

Two days previously, republican terror group the Irish National Liberation Army had killed three UVF members in Belfast.

The following day, the UVF responded by killing a Catholic taxi driver and later two Protestants, they believed to be Catholic.

They then turned their attention to the County Down bar.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Relatives remembered their loved ones on the 20th anniversary of the atrocity in 2014

No-one has ever been convicted over the Loughinisland attack and the families of those who died became concerned about the investigation.

In 2006, they lodged an official complaint with the police ombudsman, who has the power to investigate the actions of police in Northern Ireland throughout the Troubles.

The families said they were prompted by revelations that linked the gang with at least one person who was an agent of the security forces.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Relatives of those who died were strongly critical of the original ombudsman report when it was finally published in 2011

They were also concerned that the getaway car used by the killers was destroyed by police ten months after the shootings and not retained for evidential purposes.

The ombudsman's report has been delayed on several occasions.

It had been scheduled for publication in 2009, but was postponed after new material came forward.

Relatives of those who died were strongly critical of the original ombudsman report when it was finally published in 2011.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The findings in the report by the then police ombudsman, Al Hutchinson, were later quashed by the High Court

It found that the police did not properly investigate the killings but said there was no evidence of collusion between police and the UVF paramilitaries who carried out the attack.

The report's findings were later quashed by Belfast High Court and a fresh investigation was opened by the ombudsman.

In 2014, one of the survivors, Colm Smyth, called on those responsible to come forward.

A police reservist was arrested and questioned over perverting the course of justice and withholding information in 2010.

After considering the charges against him, the Public Prosecution Service said there was insufficient evidence and it would not be proceeding with a court case.

More on this story