Stop fishing and catch Loughinisland killers, police told

Police who arrested two film-makers who produced a documentary on the Loughinisland massacre must stop fishing and catch the killers, the National Union of Journalists has warned.

Seamus Dooley, secretary of the Irish NUJ, called for the investigation into Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey to be dropped as the men returned to police custody in Belfast.

The award-winning reporters were arrested in August over the alleged theft of confidential material from the offices of Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland Michael Maguire.

They were questioned for 14 hours on how material held by the ombudsman ended up in the reporters’ documentary on the notorious 1994 murders.

The Loughinisland victims: Patsy O’Hare, Barney Green, Adrian Rogan, Eamon Byrne, Daniel McCreanor and Malcom Jenkinson
The Loughinisland victims: Patsy O’Hare, Barney Green, Adrian Rogan, Eamon Byrne, Daniel McCreanor and Malcom Jenkinson

Six men were killed when Ulster Volunteer Force gunmen opened fire inside the Heights Bar in Loughinisland, Co Down, in June 1994. The victims were football fans who had gathered to watch the Republic of Ireland play in the World Cup.

The 2017 documentary by Mr Birney and Mr McCaffrey broke new ground by publicly naming those it said were suspects. No one has ever been convicted for the killings.

The journalists were released in August to return to police custody on Friday for further questioning.

Seamus Dooley, right, speaks as Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney arrive at Musgrave Police Station
Seamus Dooley, right, speaks as Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney arrive at Musgrave Police Station

They were applauded by a crowd of around 60 journalists who gathered to show solidarity as they arrived at the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s (PSNI) Musgrave Street station in the city centre.

As Mr McCaffrey handed a box of chocolates to his demonstrating media colleagues, Mr Dooley addressed the crowd.

Northern Ireland: ‘free press under threat,’ says Amnesty, as investigative journalists face further police questioning https://t.co/xwR3fHz8sqpic.twitter.com/w0kxZb7nJj

— Amnesty Int'l NI (@AmnestyNI) November 30, 2018

“This is an extraordinarily important day for press freedom in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“This is about press freedom but more importantly it’s about the Loughinisland families.

“Our message as working journalists and trade unionists is very simple – stop the fishing and find the killers.

“This is a fishing expedition. Get it over with.”