Con­tro­versy es­ca­lates over ar­rests of Belfast jour­nal­ists

The Irish Times - - Home News - SU­SAN McKAY

The dis­pute be­tween the North­ern Ire­land Po­lice Om­buds­man and Durham Con­stab­u­lary over the events sur­round­ing the ar­rests in Au­gust of two Belfast jour­nal­ists has deep­ened.

De­spite claims to the con­trary from Durham, om­buds­man Michael Maguire in­sisted his of­fice had not made a com­plaint that doc­u­ments fea­tur­ing in a doc­u­men­tary about the 1994 Lough­in­is­land mas­sacre had been stolen from it.

The doc­u­men­tary No Stone Un­turned was re­leased in 2017: “We stand very much be­hind the state­ment we is­sued to The Ir­ish Times – we did not re­port a theft,” a spokesman for the om­buds­man said. How­ever, ques­tioned on foot of the om­buds­man’s de­nial, Durham’s chief in­ves­ti­ga­tor, Dar­ren El­lis, stood by the pre­vi­ous de­nial is­sued by Durham Con­stab­u­lary’s chief con­sta­ble, Mike Bar­ton. It had been clear “from the start that its in­ves­ti­ga­tion cen­tred upon “theft, unau­tho­rised dis­clo­sure and other linked of­fences which arise from [om­buds­man’s of­fice] re­port­ing the in­clu­sion of se­cret doc­u­ments in a doc­u­men­tary”.

Writ­ten state­ment

Durham main­tains the PSNI sub­se­quently re­ceived a writ­ten state­ment of com­plaint about the theft from a se­nior of­fi­cer of the om­buds­man’s of­fice. This is ab­so­lutely dis­puted by the om­buds­man’s of­fice.

On foot of th­ese com­plaints, ac­cord­ing to Durham Con­stab­u­lary, it was called in to in­ves­ti­gate by the PSNI. Jour­nal­ists Barry McCaf­frey and Trevor Bir­ney were ar­rested and their homes and of­fices searched on Au­gust 31st this year. They were not charged but are sub­ject to bail con­di­tions. The es­ca­lat­ing con­tro­versy arises over doc­u­ments used by the film-mak­ers that con­tain in­for­ma­tion that ap­pears to orig­i­nate in the om­buds­man’s of­fice. The PSNI has de­clined to com­ment.

Emma Ro­gan, whose fa­ther, Adrian, was one of the six men mur­dered by the UVF at Lough­in­is­land, said the fam­i­lies were an­gry. “Do the PSNI and Durham not re­alise that six peo­ple were wiped off the face of the earth, and that this film, along with Dr Maguire’s re­port, con­tained in­for­ma­tion that could help them to catch the mur­der­ers?” she asked.

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