I am grateful for the opportunity to respond to Eoghan Harris's article criticising our film Unquiet Graves on the basis of the credibility of a whistleblower (former policeman and self-confessed RUC murderer John Weir), bias against the RUC, and the source of the film's funding. I will deal with these in turn.
John Weir: Mr Weir's credibility was the subject of judicial scrutiny. Justice Henry Barron determined that his evidence was "credible" overall. Garda officers who interviewed him in 1999 concluded that he was an "intelligent and discerning man who is a very convincing witness".
The independent panel of academic experts and a judge-led Oireachtas inquiry into the 'Glenanne Series' of attacks found corroborating evidence for Weir's testimony in RUC files on no fewer than 11 murders.
The film is based on the book Lethal Allies. I would encourage close consideration of the 26 pages of source references it relies upon. The vast majority of these cite official police reports and declassified documents from the British National Archives.
RUC bias: Harris unfairly suggests that the film is biased against the RUC. He ignores both the credit given to RUC Det Sgt Gerry McCann (who first suspected wholesale collusion in the Glenanne murders) and the very clear distinction to be made between Special Branch and the majority of RUC officers.
Harris heaps praise on a "top RUC team" that prosecuted "rogue" officers for the attack on the Rock Bar, yet one of the RUC gang who led that 1976 gun and bomb attack willingly confessed his role and named his co-conspirators. The RUC later withheld evidence from the prosecution at the trial and did not call a victim/chief eyewitness to give evidence.
All except one of the RUC would-be mass murderers received suspended sentences for their role, the trial judge opining that they were merely hoping to "rid the land of pestilence" by attacking the small country bar. The UVF weapons used were deployed in 16 further murders. The "top RUC team" failed to investigate these links.
Harris praises RUC man Kevin Sheehy. Mr Sheehy revealed in his autobiography that fellow officers had planned to bomb Det Insp Maurice Neilly, who suspected RUC collusion in the Rock Bar attack.
A garda superintendent blamed the existence of RUC informants for RUC failures to assist the investigation into the bomb in Dundalk in 1975, which was linked by forensics to the bomb at Castleblayney in March 1976. No one was ever charged for these attacks.
Financing: Harris's "film budgeting experts" graciously think that the film's quality suggests a budget of £300,000. It cost a small fraction of that figure, being powered by a committed team of volunteers, produced over four years with crew members working for free, including myself.
My production company financed more than 75pc of the film's budget over this term, with the remainder from small donors, including the victims' families themselves. No political party donated to the production.
Unfavourable analysis and comment is part and parcel of the deal when publishing any work. This time, however, the levels of wild speculation, defensive commentary and irate reactions from some have been delivered with new levels of insensitivity to the grief of the many victims of the Glenanne gang.
Finally, in focusing on "bigoted Mr Weir's fantasy" which advanced a "Sinn Féin narrative" it might well be remembered that this fantasy has led to (i) the largest ever investigation by the NI Police Ombudsman into the Glenanne murders; (ii) the PSNI appointing the former chief constable of Bedfordshire to conduct an extensive investigation considering the links between all these murders for the first time. PSNI resistance to this led to a High Court order to carry it out.