Northern Ireland

Loughinisland massacre relatives win court battle

The Heights bar, Loughinisland
Image caption Six men were murdered in the attack at the Heights bar in Loughinisland

The families of six men murdered in the Loughinisland massacre have won a High Court battle over being refused funding to challenge a watchdog report into the shootings.

A judge quashed the decision to deny legal aid to the victims' relatives and ordered that it be reconsidered by a fresh panel.

The families are bringing proceedings over former Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson's report which found insufficient evidence of security force collusion with the loyalist killers.

That case was put on hold while the Legal Services Commission's funding refusal was contested.

Shot dead

The six murder victims, all Catholics, were killed when UVF gunmen went into the Heights Bar in rural County Down and opened fire indiscriminately as customers watched the Republic of Ireland play Italy in a World Cup football match in June 1994.

Those shot dead included 87-year-old Barney Green, one of the oldest victims of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Also killed were Adrian Rogan, 34, Malcolm Jenkinson, 53, Daniel McCreanor, 59, Patrick O'Hare, 35, and Eamon Byrne, 39. Five others were seriously wounded.

No one has been convicted of the murders, although 16 people have been arrested in connection with the attack.

Victims' relatives suspect the RUC investigation was undermined in order to protect informants.

But in June last year Mr Hutchinson found there was not enough evidence of collusion between police and the loyalist gang.

He did identify failings in the investigation, criticising it for a lack of diligence, focus and leadership.

Funding for a legal challenge to the Ombudsman's report was refused partly on the basis that one of the bereaved had an unmortgaged property which could go towards the costs.

Public interest

But Mr Justice Treacy accepted arguments by the families' legal team that other issues should have been taken into account.

He said: "There is no evidence that there was any consideration of other factors in deciding what would be reasonable and proper."

These included considerations of public interest and potential prejudice.

The judge concluded that the LSC panel had erred in not taking everything into account.

He said: "All I have done is to quash the decision. They are going to have to go back to a fresh panel to decide the matter in light of what I have said."

Costs of bringing the judicial review challenge were also awarded to the Loughinisland families.