Submission from the Loughgall Truth & Justice Campaign to the Independent Commission on Policing in the North of Ireland.
The Loughgall Truth and Justice Campaign welcome this opportunity to outline our opinions and suggestions on an acceptable Policing Service in the North of Ireland.
On The 8th May 1987 the security forces at Loughgall Co. Armagh killed eight IRA men and one civilian. Our belief along with forensic evidence and legal opinions points to the fact that the operation carried out by the security forces on that night was one to eliminate all suspects regardless of the risk to civilian safety or to the rule of law.
The Following is a summary of the points, which the families wish to highlight about the Loughgall incident.
The security forces had at least 24 hours notice of the impending IRA attack on the Loughgall barracks.
The SAS and special elite unit of the RUC were sent to Loughgall in the early hours of the morning and positioned in strategic points around the barracks to ensure that the IRA unit would be surrounded and that all avenues of escape would be sealed.
At no stage before during or after the SAS\RUC operation were warnings issued.
The IRA unit were observed by the security forces passing the RUC barracks at least three times before the attack. [As stated in the SAS\RUC depositions at inquest in 1995.] At no time was the IRA unit alerted to the ambush or prevented from launching their attack on the barracks.
A 300lb bomb was permitted to be set and explode in Loughgall, no attempts to prevent this occurrence were made despite the fact that the IRA unit were observed travelling through the village on at least three occasions that night with the bomb.
The IRA men were permitted to open fire on the barracks and no warnings or preventative measures were taken by the SAS or RUC, despite the obvious outnumbering of the IRA by the SAS\RUC.
No measures were taken to prevent civilians from entering a carefully well planned stakeout area, even during the shooting.
At no stage of the route into and out of Loughgall were roadchecks mounted.
There has been no independent inquiry into the actions of the SAS\RUC that night. An RUC inquiry in 1988 declared that there was no case to be answered and that no prosecutions would take place against any of those involved in the ambush.
The families are still requesting an explanation as to why no attempts were made to procure an arrest, no warnings were issued and why no one has been held accountable for the murders of nine men at Loughgall on MAY 8th 1987.
From the above it is obvious that there was a strong RUC influence on the events that night at Loughgall. Immediately after the incident there was supposedly an alleged full investigation into the Loughgall killings. This investigation was carried out by the RUC into an incident that involved at a high level members of their own organisation. This was not an impartial, thorough or satisfactory investigation. How could it be? How can the agents of the state, acting on behalf of the state be investigated by the same state?
The reports from this investigation were handed over to the D.P.P. We are told that the D.P.P. is fully independent. If this is the case then we must assume that the full facts of the Loughgall case were not handed over by the RUC. We base this belief on the facts that :
Nine men were killed in a carefully, well planned and pre determined ambush. The operation set up plan proves this.
There is substantial evidence to prove that some of the men were shot at close range before and after they were dead.
There were written statements stating that the Hughes’ brothers were shot intentionally.
Forensic evidence proves that excessive force was used on all the dead…
Four of the nine men shot dead were unarmed whilst they were shot with excessive force.
There are numerous other facts that can be pointed to that would warrant the D.P.P. to call for prosecutions arising from the incident. Therefore in light of the fact that the D.P.P decided that the RUC investigation did not lead them to believe that prosecutions were warranted then we believe that the RUC were flawed in their report. We see here evidence of a lack of will and determination to bring the perpretrators of the deaths of the nine men to justice.
The key issue concerning this investigation in 1988 is the lack of independence and thoroughness. We lack the confidence in the RUC to investigate an incident in which members of its force were involved at the highest level. We do not base this lack of confidence solely on the Loughgall incident but also on the catalogue of incidents throughout the last 30 years where in cases were lethal force has been used and were members of the security forces have killed and injured persons there has been no accountability, no prosecutions and no convictions.
Fairness, openness and cover ups:
From the outset of the Loughgall case the RUC have displayed nothing short of a total disregard for the relatives of those killed. Only one of the nine families were informed at an official level that their relative had been killed. The relatives have suffered threats harassment and abuse before and after the killings. The history of abuse both physical and verbal on the eight IRA men killed is a very revealing catalogue. From the statements of close family members and friends of the 8 IRA men it is blatantly apparent that some of the deceased and their families experienced an increase in harassment threats and abuse in the months leading up to the Loughgall incident at the hands of the RUC. After the deaths family members continued to experience such harassment in an even more degrading offensive form.
All 8 dead and their families experienced many years of intimidation, harassment and physical and verbal abuse particularly in the form of aggressive house raids lengthy detentions at checkpoints. 6 of the 8 families recall quite clearly verbal threats by the RUC to kill or have killed the deceased in the months prior to their deaths. Immediately following the deaths the families report harassment, threats and intimidation by the RUC while identifying the deceased’s body, while removing it from the morgue, at the wake or at the funeral. Most of the families experienced continued harassment, threats and abuse in the months following the incident especially in the form of house searches, highly offensive remarks, lengthy detentions at checkpoints and arrests. It is in light of these facts that we feel that the RUC have destroyed any chance of us having any faith or trust in them.
Over the past two years our legal representatives and we have encountered a lack of impartiality by the RUC in relation to assisting us in unveiling the truth regarding the deaths of our loved ones at Loughgall. We have tried on several occasions to obtain evidence relating to their deaths to assist us in our investigation only to be met with resistance and a lack of courtesy and co-operation by the RUC. They have defied assurances from the Coroner to us that our loved ones clothing etc would be returned to us and instead have incinerated these items without our consent. How can we have trust or faith in them when all they have done is to try to block any effort to arrive at the truth relating to these nine deaths?
The Way forward:
We would advocate for a new police service: a service that is community based. A service that would be derived from both communities and would represent both in a fair and equal manner. The acceptability of such a service would be dependent on its impartiality and openness and its willingness to scrutinise its agents and to ensure that they work within the rules of law. The paramount to this acceptability would be accountability. The new service would have to display an openness and willingness to have its agents scrutinised and where necessary sanctioned for wrongdoing. We would strongly recommend the reform of the laws to ensure that no one is immune from prosecution based on their uniform.
More immediate measures we would like to see implemented are as follows:
The setting up of an international independent investigation into the RUC.
All reports from this investigation must be made public.
Arrests, prosecutions and sentencing must follow.
International investigations into all incidents were the RUC have been involved in the killing and injury of members of the public. The reports from these investigations must be made public and all cover-ups of the past revealed.
An independent complaints department must be set up immediately whereby members of the public can complain freely without prejudice or fear of intimidation, treat, harassment or abuse.
The Loughgall Truth and Justice campaign have provided here our views and ideas relating to the RUC and why we have no confidence or trust in them as a police force. We would fully appreciate being kept up to date on any developments in relation to the above and would be willing to provide expansion on any of the issues raised.