Players wear black armbands in memory of Loughinisland tragedy

The Heights bar, Loughinisland The shootings happened at The Heights bar in Loughinisland

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The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has said its players will wear black armbands during the Italy match at Euro 2012 to mark the 18th anniversary of the Loughinisland tragedy.

Six Catholic men were killed after gunmen opened fire in a County Down bar in June 1994.

They were watching Ireland play Italy at the time.

UEFA agreed after an approach by the FAI on behalf of the families.

Ireland's match against Italy in Euro 2012 will fall exactly 18 years to the day since the tragedy occurred.

The FAI said it was "particularly poignant" because the shootings happened while the victims were watching Ireland vs Italy during World Cup USA.

FAI chief executive John Delaney was in America following the Irish team when he heard about the killings.

"What happened in Loughinisland in 1994 was an awful tragedy and deeply moving for all football fans," he said.

"I would like to thank UEFA for assisting us in commemorating this atrocity and take the opportunity to remember all those who lost their lives in the Troubles."

Tragedy

He said it was "proper" that the team should wear the armbands.

"It's a poignant remembrance of what was a horrific tragedy as were many, many other tragedies in Northern Ireland on both sides of the community.

"It was more that the Irish team recognised this particular one as important given the significance of the date and the team that we're playing."

Mr Delaney said he would be meeting some of the players on Thursday to tell them the "reason and the rationale" of why the FAI was doing this.

"Our players have a great understanding of history and tradition and they've always been very respectful of tradition," he said.

"They'll be very understanding of the difficult occasion and the difficult memories for people, the families, of what happened 18 years ago."

Niall Murphy, solicitor acting for the families said: "The families are touched that this tragic event can be commemorated on such a poignant day, the eighteenth anniversary of the atrocity.

"We would like to thank the FAI and UEFA for their assistance in providing a forum to recall the awful events that took place on that fateful day when Ireland played Italy in 1994."

On 18 June 1994, the rural pub was busy with people watching the match when just after 2200 BST, two UVF members walked in and fired indiscriminately.

Civilians

The six men who died were Adrian Rogan 34, Malcolm Jenkinson, 53, Barney Greene, 87, Daniel McCreanor 59, Patrick O'Hare, 35, and Eamon Byrne, 39.

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

Sixteen people have been arrested in connection with the attack but no-one has ever been convicted.

The families of six men murdered in the Loughinisland massacre are taking legal action following a Police Ombudsman's report into the killings.

The report found insufficient evidence of security force collusion in the 1994 attack by loyalists.

Victims' relatives are seeking to have Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson's findings' quashed.

Lawyers for the families claim the conclusions reached are flawed.

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