A disturbing development

Posted By: September 01, 2018

Fr. McManus on Arrest of Two Journalists in the North

“ The Good Friday Agreement promised a ‘ new beginning to policing.’
Some new beginning! 
The two journalists who exposed the collusion behind the awful slaughter of Laughinisland are arrested, the killers are free since 1994. As the Editorial from today’s Irish News of Belfast ( below) says: ‘It has also been noted that the authorities seem more interested in finding journalistic sources than in tracking down those responsible for these terrible crimes.’”
—Fr. Sean McManus.

Irish News Editorial.  Belfast. Saturday, September 1, 2018

The arrest of two award-winning journalists who carried out a major investigation into the Loughinisland massacre is a disturbing development that has caused deep concern, particularly among families campaigning for the truth.

Former Irish News journalist Barry McCaffrey and independent filmmaker Trevor Birney both worked on a documentary about the UVF murders of six men at The Heights Bar in 1994.

No Stone Unturned, which was produced by Oscar-winning documentary maker Alex Gibney and released last year, examined claims of collusion in the killings, raised questions about the police investigation and named those suspected of involvement in the atrocity. It was an important and hard-hitting piece of investigative journalism, aiming to uncover the full truth about a dark and murky episode.

Mr. McCaffrey and Mr. Birney were detained yesterday by officers from Durham Police, who had been asked by the PSNI to conduct an investigation into the theft of confidential documents relating to the Loughinisland killings.

Police said the material, which featured in the documentary, had been in the possession of the Police Ombudsman.

Relatives of the Loughinisland victims said they were “shocked and appalled” by the arrests while the National Union of Journalists expressed “grave concern” at the development, saying the protection of journalistic sources of confidential information is of vital importance.

Certainly, the way in which these arrests have been conducted, along with the searching of homes, is profoundly alarming.

There will be justifiable fears that this aggressive approach will have a chilling effect on investigative journalism which plays a crucial role in holding the powerful to account.

It has also been noted that the authorities seem more interested in finding journalistic sources than in tracking down those responsible for these terrible crimes.

Six innocent men died in Loughinisland. Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney delved into the circumstances of their murders and asked legitimate questions about those responsible as well as the RUC investigation.

Their work is undoubtedly in the public interest. Their arrests most definitely are not.    

Journalists arrested over Loughinisland documents release

Allison Morris. Irish News. Belfast. August 2018 31

A JOURNALIST arrested by police investigating the suspected theft of confidential documents linked to the Loughinisland massacre said it was “an attack on the press” as he and a colleague were released on bail on Friday night.

Families and supporters of those killed in the 1994 attack had staged a vigil in solidarity with award-winning reporters Barry McCaffrey (48) and Trevor Birney (51).

The two men, who produced the documentary No Stone Unturned about the UVF gun attack at the Heights Bar, were detained at 7 am on Friday.

They walked out of Musgrave police station in Belfast at 8.55pm, with a tearful Mr. McCaffrey saying: “There are families here [who] lost loved ones who didn’t get justice today.

“This man [Mr. Birney] was taken away from his wife and his children this morning. My neighbors had to see me getting taken away. It’s not fair. It’s not fair.

“And it’s an attack on the press, everybody should realize. It’s us today. Tomorrow it could be you.”

Mr. McCaffrey’s lawyer John Finucane said he was “deeply disturbed” by the men’s detention, while Mr. Birney’s solicitor Niall Murphy said he had gone through four taped interviews but “not one scintilla of evidence” was put to him.

Police said the confidential material under investigation, which officers say featured in the documentary, had been in the possession of the Police Ombudsman’s office.

Durham Constabulary – which made the arrests – was asked to conduct an independent investigation.

Around 100 people turned out at the Heights Bar in Co Down on Friday night in silent solidarity with the journalists.

Several held a banner aloft calling for justice and others held framed photographs of their murdered loved ones.

Emma Rogan, whose father was murdered in the shootings, said the “whole community was shocked to hear [the journalists] were arrested while the perpetrators of this heinous act have never been charged”.