Loughinisland and the law’s delay

In his famous ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy, Hamlet concludes that the only thing which keeps many people from killing themselves is the uncertainty of the world that might follow death. If it were not for that fear , surely people would find it impossible to put up with the injustices of this world:

“Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,

The pangs of despis’d love, the law’s delay”

I’m sure you can think of your own examples of the injustice of oppression, the arrogance of proud men and women,  and the emotional wounds of loving someone who doesn’t love you. But it’s that last one I want to focus on: “the law’s delay”.

How could Shakespeare have known, hundreds of years ago, the factor under which so many people in our Tormented Green Corner (TGC) are suffering? In 1971, the Parachute regiment shot dead 10 innocent people in Ballymurphy; in 1972 they shot dead 14 innocent people in Derry. There has been much to-ing and fro-ing about both events since. The British army most certainly have the names of the men who killed these innocent people; yet nearly fifty years later not one of them has been prosecuted. And there are literally hundreds of cases documented in Ann Cadwallader’s book Lethal Allies,  showing collusion by the authorities with loyalist paramilitaries. Yet nothing is done. The Lord Chief Justice urges the release of money to deal with the most pressing cases. It doesn’t happen. The law’s delay, that leaves free those people who were trained and armed at public expense to defend us, and who chose instead to slaughter.

This morning there is another glaring example in the headlines: the Loughinisland killings. They happened almost 25 years ago ; the law’s delay is a polite way of describing what has happened, or rather not happened. There are so many factors pointing towards inadequate investigation into these killings, it’s hard not to believe someone is pulling a hand-brake tight against any progress in this long-ignored case.

Last August two investigative journalists, Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney were arrested in the early hours and in the most ostentatious way possible. At the PSNI’s Serious Crimes Unit, the journalists were informed that “on October 4th, 2017 the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland reported the theft of two ‘secret’ documents from their offices.”

The Ombudsman’s Office has released a statement” “We did not make a complaint of theft.” Which as Niall Murphy, the solicitor for McCaffrey and Birney says, the fact that there never was a complaint about document theft by the Ombudsman’s office “undermines the entire integrity of the decision” to arrest the two men. You can draw your own conclusions as to why the PSNI would so publicly have arrested two investigative journalists researching the Loughinisland case. Meanwhile, 24 years later, the families of the victims wait for the law to crank into action and provide justice.

One final point, regarding the law’s delay. McCaffrey and Birney were arrested last August. Why are we only now, over two months later, hearing that they were charged with something the Ombudsman’s office says never happened?

More unexplained delay. It mightn’t drive you to suicide but it certainly puts some serious questions about justice in our TGC, about the conduct of the PSNI as well as the RUC, and about the Ombudsman’s delay in telling the public what they should have been told immediately: McCaffrey and Birney were arrested on what looks like a non-existent charge.


Footnote: If you haven’t watched No Stone Unturned, get comfortable and click on the link below. Without delay.




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