Real accounting with the past needed

On the night of 18th June 1994, the Heights Bar in Loughinisland was packed with fans watching the Ireland versus Italy game in the World Cup. Members of the UVF burst in and opened fire, killing six innocent men and wounding five others. No Stone Unturned tells the story of their families’ fight for justice. This massacre was the UVF’s answer to the killing of three of its members in Belfast by the INLA and part of the long cycle of ‘tit for tat’ killings.

The name of the documentary is taken from comments from the RUC to the families that they “would leave no stone unturned.” The reality, of course, was very different and the documentary shows the lengths to which the RUC went to cover up the involvement of their informers in this atrocity. The film names the main suspects, one of whom was a UDR soldier and the other a police informer.

One ex-investigator interviewed says there was “a forensic goldmine”, yet – as the Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney put it – the cover-up “was staggering in terms of its breadth and audacity.” The field where the getaway car was found was never properly examined. A remarkable amount of evidence was destroyed, including the transcripts of the suspect interviews and the car which the gunmen used in the attack.

The narrator ends by saying that British officials now want to tell us what to “remember and what to forget.” This, of course, is very true. Former Secretary of State Theresa Villiers claimed, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the many examples of collusion between the state and loyalists represent a “pernicious counter-narrative” and a “deliberate distortion of the truth.” The government continues to refuse, under the cover of ‘national security’, to hand over countless documents that could provide some degree of truth to families and victims of state violence.

However, it is not just the state but also the sectarian forces on both sides who want to tell us what to remember and what to forget about the Troubles. At the time of writing, Sinn Féin MP Barry McElduff is embroiled in controversy for making a video featuring Kingsmill bread on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre, a sectarian atrocity in January 1976 which saw ten workers murdered by the IRA – using a cover name – simply because they were Protestants. At best, McElduff displayed shocking insensitivity and, at worst, disgusting sectarian triumphalism. How can McElduff and his Sinn Féin colleagues be trusted to provide any truth or justice to the families of the Kingsmill victims?

How can the DUP provide any truth or justice to the families of the Loughinisland victims? Its leaders were central figures in the founding of Ulster Resistance, an organisation which collaborated with the UVF and UDA to import guns from South Africa to Northern Ireland, one of which was used in the attack on the Heights Bar.

All the contending forces in the Troubles seek to examine the past through the prism of today in order to reinforce their positions. A genuine examination of the past would expose the rotten roles of the state, sectarian parties and paramilitary groups.

Throughout the Troubles, trade unionists took action to oppose sectarian barbarism. After the killing of six Catholics by the loyalist Glennane Gang and the subsequent Kingsmill massacre, Newry Trades Council organised a strike against tit-for-tat killings, bringing thousands onto the streets. It is the labour movement, which tried to hold working-class communities together during the Troubles, that is uniquely positioned to deliver a credible account of the past.

No Stone Unturned does a great service in illuminating the reality of collusion and showing the horror of this sectarian atrocity. It is a warning about the brutality of the Troubles and why we must resist the attempts by the Orange and Green politicians and the lurking paramilitary forces to divide our communities for their own cynical ends and potentially plunge us back into conflict.

By Kevin Henry