On this day 24 years ago I was ridiculously happy.
I was on vacation in Mayo with my family.
We had taken a little place in Gaoth Sáile for a fortnight.
A seriously overloaded Volkswagen Polo had made it from Glasgow to the Wesht.
It was my son’s first time in the land of his grandfather.
I was taking him home.
In those pre-digital times, it was peace and quiet in a place I have always loved.
We fussed over the ancient range in the kitchen and the inquisitive toddler who was my first born provided the entertainment.
However, the World Cup was on and I was given permission to go and watch the match.
A buddy of mine was based up in Béal an Mhuirthead so I was excused family duties for a day.
I drove up through the summer sun and it wasn’t even raining!
That night in Lavelle’s in Belmullet was properly mental from the moment Ray Houghton’s looping shot dropped over Gianluca Pagliuca.
The global Irish village was affixed to any available TV screen screaming at our boys to “put him under!”
When Paul McGrath started with the back heel stuff it was a rapture at the crossroads.
I joke with buddies here that I really should go to meetings for people who drink tea.
Booze just isn’t my thing, but Jaysus I was drunk that night!
The Italian team were full of stars, they always are, but our lads had home advantage in the Giants Stadium.
I awoke, well I came out of an alcoholic coma on himself’s couch, to be greeted with an entirely different headache to the one that I fully deserved.
General Kitson’s dirty war had not taken the night off to watch the soccer like the rest of us.
Six innocent men in a quiet village most of us in Ireland had never heard of had been shot in the back.
The weapon that was used (VZ58 rifle) at the Heights bar in Loughinisland was part of a consignment that British spooks had arranged from Apartheid South Africa in 1988.
The Six men were watching a soccer match involving the Republic of Ireland.
That was enough for the killers who shouted “Fenian bastards” as they opened fire.
If any of this is new to you then this documentary is the full story.
The second report by the Police Ombudsman into the attack was quite clear about the evidence trail that led from the rifle used in the massacre:
“9.2 On the basis of the information available to me, I have concluded that police were aware of plans by the UVF, UDA and Ulster Resistance to import a significant consignment of weaponry to Northern Ireland in mid to late 1987 and knew about the arrival of the assault rifles, semiautomatic handguns, grenades and other weapons forming the shipment shortly after it was landed in Northern Ireland.”
“9.9 I have seen sufficient information to be satisfied that corrupt relationships existed between members of the Security Forces in South Down and the UVF Unit, to whom police attributed the murders at Loughinisland. The failure by police to investigate the veracity of intelligence that those responsible had been ‘warned’ by a police officer of their imminent arrest is inexcusable.
The most damning finding was in an earlier part of the report:
5.79 The evidence of Police Officer 3 suggests that security forces in the Newcastle Sub-Division had been compromised, principally from the UDR but also from within the local RUC, through either direct involvement with loyalist paramilitaries, associations or sympathies.”
Allow me to translate dear reader:
Collusion is no illusion.
You can read the full report here.
The Loughinisland families are still waiting for justice, almost a quarter of a century later.
I hope that their wait will not be as long as the bereaved of Bloody Sunday or the Ballymurphy massacres.
The World Cup is meant to be a joyous coming together of the global village.
I’m delighted for Mexico.
Last night here in Donegal I kicked every ball as they repulsed the Germans in the second half.
I was making such a racket that herself thought that Ireland was playing!
It’s great when the little guy catches a break.
When the final whistle sounded I punched the air like a Mexican.
That unfortunate country could do with a day off from their troubles and have a party.
However, my thoughts are dragged back to that morning in Mayo when I learned that while I was partying the night before six decent innocent men were dying on the other side of this small island.