“No Stone Unturned,” the latest documentary from Oscar-winner Alex Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side”), opens like an episode of “NCIS.”
On June 18, 1994, in a pub in rustic Loughlinisland, Northern Ireland, men drink pints while watching the World Cup soccer match between Ireland and Italy. A cut is made to a sedan speeding down a desolate country lane in the darkness. Back at the pub, the customers cheer as Ireland scores the winning goal. Then the car pulls up, masked men with assault rifles burst in and open fire. They laugh as they run out to the getaway car.
Gibney’s reenactment captures the horror of the atrocity, as do the actual crime scene stills of the blood-pooled pub strewn with six dead men, locals from town, all Catholics. None had any involvement in the decades-long “Troubles” — the ongoing conflict that pits elements of the Irish Republican Army against Loyalist paramilitaries, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and the British Army. “You could not find anyone more innocent,” says Aiden O’Toole, the barman that night who was seriously wounded.
The victims were innocent, but who was guilty? The government at first seemed determined to hunt down the gunmen. “You are going to be caught, sooner or later. The RUC never give up,” Sir Patrick Mayhew, secretary of state for Northern Ireland, said in a message to the assailants immediately after the killings. Another police spokesperson assured the community that they would “leave no stone unturned.”
They quickly identified that the attack was ordered by the Loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force. But the search soon sputtered and then stalled altogether when, six weeks later, the IRA and the Loyalists declared a cease-fire. The Loughlinisland massacre, which had initially made international headlines, faded from the public consciousness. Even in Northern Ireland interest waned — the hope of peace made a weary people eager to forget the past and move on to a better future.
Not so in Loughlinisland, where survivors and the family and friends of victims wanted truth and justice. Despite their tireless campaign and an inconclusive official reassessment of the crime, the government has answered few of their questions and apprehended none of the culprits.
That’s when Gibney picks up the story, more than 20 years later, as a new commission has reopened the case. Gibney does his own investigation also, methodically tracking down clues and witnesses, unearthing lost reports and documents and zeroing in on likely suspects shown with the suspenseful clarity of a well-made detective thriller. His quest expands beyond a carload of murderous gunman and a ruthless group of paramilitary criminals to the highest levels of power.
His findings are shocking, but equally powerful is the lingering image of Aiden O’Toole. Just a youth when the attack occurred, he recovered physically from his injury but remains psychically shattered. “What happened that night changed my whole life,” he says. “Quit football. Quit darts. Just finished everything. I don’t want to go out anymore.
“It impacted everybody’s life. Just left them with a sense of fear and injustice.”
Perhaps no revelation of truth or naming of the guilty will heal such wounds.
“No Stone Unturned” is available on VOD. For more information go to www.jigsawprods.com/no-stone-