Irish Examiner view: Welcome apology for Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey - but much more is needed

Irish Examiner view: Welcome apology for Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey - but much more is needed
Barry McCaffrey (left) and Trevor Birney standing outside Belfast High Court after Northern Ireland's police chief has made an unreserved apology to the two investigative journalists arrested over material that appeared in a documentary on a Troubles massacre.

Had John le Carré offered the script of the TV documentary No Stone Unturned, on the 1994 Loughinisland atrocity — six people were murdered by UVF gunmen in a bar, while watching the World Cup — his publishers would have, correctly, raised the question that divides run-of-the-mill crime fiction from great crime fiction — plausibility.

Made by journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey, the documentary is a chastening reminder of the officially-sanctioned division and oppression that fuelled and perpetuated deadly sectarianism.

It detailed RUC corruption and collusion that even a le Carré might not offer as believable.

Birney and McCaffrey were subjected to incredible police harassment while making the documentary.

That intimidation led to last week’s ruling from Northern Ireland’s lord chief justice, quashing warrants used to search the journalists’ homes and workplaces. 

PSNI chief constable, Simon Byrne, said he accepted the search warrants were unlawful and apologised to Trevor Birney and his family.

These welcome developments have relevance far beyond the media bubble and are another small step towards normalisation.

However, the overriding issue persists — those who randomly murdered six strangers, because of their religion, and those who conspired with them, have yet to be brought to justice. This, tragically, suggests that collusion is as alive today as it was 26 years ago.

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