No Stone Unturned (2017)

November 22nd, 2017
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Alex Gibney; Documentary; UK/US 2017, 111 min.

US Oscar winning writer/director Alex Gibney’s fascinating cold-case documentary about a pub massacre in Northern Ireland is more fascinating than any feature film story, and together with the political implications amounts to a Brechtian “Lehrstück” about the uncertain role of the state when it comes to crime and punishment.

On the 18th of June 1994 O’Toole’s Pub in Loughinisisland, County Down, Northern Ireland had a full house enjoying a Football World Cup match between the Republic of Ireland and Italy taking place in New Jersey, USA. The pub was known for its Catholic clientele and shortly after the ROI team scored, two men burst into the bar – one holding the door open, whilst his accomplice killed six men, shooting them in the back with his automatic rifle, injuring many others. This was an exceptional massacre even by Troubles standards (the three decades long civil war between Catholics and Protestants). The citizens of Loughinisisland had enjoyed a peaceable existence up to then, and the shocked community of Catholics and Protestants, attended a funeral for the victims. But for the victims’ relatives, the wait for the identification of the killers would last for over 22 years.

Whilst the Secretary for Northern Ireland, Sir Patrick Mayhew declared shortly after the shooting on TV: “we will left no stone unturned” to put the killers into jail for a long time, the investigation itself was strangely hampered from the beginning. The killers’ get-away car was found a day later in a field nearby, but ended up in a scrapyard; interview transcripts were mysteriously lost, and forensic research was patchy, to say the least. The relatives had no answers for over ten years, and finally they convinced the Ombudsman in 2007 to come up with a report investigating the police procedures. Whilst certain irregularities were noted, no action was taken. Only the second Ombudsman report of 2016 shed light on what really happened in that night in 1994. Although the report did not name any names, Gibney and his team helped to put names to the code figures in the report. As it turned out, the killers were members of the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force), who wanted to avenge the killing of Protestants by the IRA a few days earlier. The investigation showed a bizarre picture: the police was given the name of the killer by a female informant, who turned out to be the wife of the perpetrator avenging her husband’s infidelity with his denouncement. These two, still married, continue to live near the scene of the crime, running a business.

At the heart of the matter lays the well-known ‘collusion’ of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) with the protestant paramilitary forces. Often, RUC infiltrators became engaged in killings on both sides, and the police forces had to protect their ‘assets’, even if it meant, like in this case, ‘bending’ the system and leaving the victims and their families without justice. This problem is neither a British one or confined the conflict in Northern Ireland: the State has always used infiltrators in the fight against alleged or real terror. But for the surviving relatives of the victims, this rationale is not enough: “They never lifted a stone, never mind turning it”. AS


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