Freedom to Write Campaign: Loughinisland Action

Last August, two Belfast-based journalists – Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey – were arrested for their part in making a documentary about the Loughinisland murders. The title of the documentary – No Stone Unturned – is ironic: no one has ever been charged with the murders, which happened when a Loyalist gang attacked a bar where people were watching Ireland play Italy during the 1994 World Cup. Six people were killed. Five were injured. The documentary makes it clear that the authorities are well aware of the identities of the killers.

It is seriously disturbing that, while the killers have never been charged, the journalists who brought the case to light again have been treated like dangerous criminals.

(More info here:

Amnesty International and the NUJ ran a campaign to show solidarity with the journalists. In support of this campaign, the Freedom to Write group (FTW) collected signatures from Irish writers for addition to a statement of solidarity.  Almost 20,000 signatures in total were collected on the Amnesty website.

As part of a separate action, FTW wrote to candidates in the recent European elections concerning the importance of freedom of expression as a democratic principle. That letter referred to the Loughinisland journalists’ case and the murder of Lyra McKee as clear indicators that we can’t afford to be complacent in Ireland, or take such rights for granted.

A judicial review has found that the original arrest warrant was inappropriate, that the seizure of notes and records from the two journalists was unlawful and that their material should be immediately returned:

We can all be glad that these two journalists have been completely exonerated and that their material will be returned to them. However, questions still remain as to why they were targeted in the first place and why the original investigation into the actual murders has never yet resulted in arrests, detention, or trial.

In a letter to MEP election candidates which highlighted both the case of Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey and the murder of Lyra McKee, the Freedom to Write group asked them to be vigilant in safeguarding the crucial democratic right to Freedom of Expression at home and abroad.

The Freedom to Write Campaign (Ireland) is an independent group of writers that has emerged from WORD, a professional writers’ network associated with the Irish Writers Centre. We work to promote Freedom of Expression by raising public awareness about the plight of writers who are at risk or in prison, or who have been murdered because of their writing. We are linked with Irish PEN and we have worked with PEN International, Fighting Words and Front Line Defenders on some of our actions to date.

We are: June Considine, Catherine Dunne, Kate Ennals, Tony Glavin, Liz McManus, Maria McManus, Lia Mills and Éilís Ní Dhuibhne.