McGurk’s Families’ Article on 45th anniversary

As we approach the 45th anniversary this article is offered as a contribution to the debate around National security v disclosure.


Mc Gurks Bar – A Case study in Disinformation, Denial and Delay. By Ciaran Mac Airt.


On 4th December 1971, the Ulster Volunteer Force (U.V.F.), planted a no-warning bomb on the doorstep of family-run McGurk’s Bar in North Belfast. They left 15 innocent men, women and children dead in the single greatest loss of civilian life since the Nazi Blitz of Belfast. 16 others were lucky to escape with their lives.


Within 12 hours the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) created the lie that the McGurk’s Bar bombing was an IRA own-goal. We know this as we have the police documents to prove it.

The “Bomb-In-Transit” Disinformation from RUC

RUC Inspectors Duty Officers’ Report: 8 a.m. 5th December 1971


At 8.45 p.m. on Saturday, 4th December, 1971, an explosion occurred at McGurk’s Licensed Premises, 83 Great George’s Street. The charge was estimated at 50 lbs completely demolished the two storey building. Just before the explosion a man entered the licensed premises and left down a suitcase, presumably to be picked up by a known member of the Provisional I.R.A. The bomb was intended for use on other premises. Before the ‘pick-up’ was made the bomb exploded”.


The RUC criminalised the innocent victims of the massacre rather than investigating the UVF who planted the bomb. This lie was then spread by the British Government and British military information agencies before being churned out by the media and Unionist politicians.Again, we know this as we have the archive proof from Britain’s own secret files. Disturbingly, we had to find this evidence ourselves.


Speech by John Taylor, Minister of State for Home Affairs, at Stormont: 7th December 1971

The premises are at 83 Great George’s Street (sic – as in RUC Duty Officers’ Report above)… The plain fact is that the evidence of the forensic experts supports the theory that the explosion took place within the confines of the walls of the building Document THREE


British Army/MI5 – Head Quarters Northern Ireland Intelligence Summary (HQNI INTSUM): 9th December 1971

Forensic and EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) reports tend to indicate that the explosion was caused accidentally inside the public house by premature detonation amongst a group which contained an identified IRA victim


British MoD: Current Situation Report, 14th December 1971

The forensic evidence now available shows quite clearly that five of the victims were killed by blast – indicating that the explosion must have been inside the bar and raising the very strong presumption that it was caused by the accidental detonation of a bomb being carried by one of the customers – as has seemed likely all along. The Minister of State for Defence is being invited to consider whether to make this point public in a written answer… In the view of Headquarters Northern Ireland it is important to put this point on record, in order to discourage continuing speculation about who was responsible for the explosion.


British Army  Brigade Intelligence Summaries: 8 th – 15 th December 1971

Following the McGurk’s Bar incident, it has been confirmed that it was a bomb that was destined for another target, but exploded prematurely


Media: The Times’ John Chartres, 5th December 1971

Police and Army Intelligence Officers believe that… an explosion in a Belfast bar last night was caused by an IRA plan that went wrong… [The] Army believe bomb was in transit…

Media: Newsletter 6th December 1971

The RUC is of the opinion that the bomb was brought into the bar earlier in the night and that a Provisional IRA man was to have set it off somewhere in the city later… The RUC last night rejected reports put about by Republican sources that the bomb was left outside the bar by the UVF 


Secret British Cabinet papers prove that on Monday 6th December 1971, two days after the atrocity, Brian Faulkner, Northern Ireland Prime Minister at the time, flew to London to meet with Reginald Maudling, British Home Secretary, for crunch talks on security. Faulkner advances the IRA own-goal black propaganda and brazenly admits to political interference in the RUC investigation. The British documents prove that the cover-up went right to the top of the political establishment.


NI Prime Minister, Brian Faulkner, meets the British Home Secretary, Reginald Maudling: 6th December 1971

“Mr Faulkner said that Mr. McGurk, the proprietor of the pub which was blown up at the weekend, had been interviewed by police in hospital and had said that there were no strangers in the bar on the night of the explosion. The army also discovered that the bomb went off on the ground floor. Both point strongly to the likelihood that the bomb was carried by the IRA rather than Protestant extremists. Mr. Faulkner had asked the RUC to find out whether anything was known about the associations of the people who were killed or injured.”


On 16th December the RUC Chief Constable at the time, Graham Shillington, and his head of Special Branch told Prime Minister Brian Faulkner, the Minister of State for Home Affairs, John Taylor, and the General Officer Commanding the British forces, Lt. General Sir Harry Tuzo:

“Circumstantial evidence indicates that this was a premature detonation and two of those killed were known IRA members, at least one of whom had been associated with bombing activities. Intelligence indicates that the bomb was destined for use elsewhere in the city.”


This is damning proof that the police told lies to the Government and the head of the British Army in the North. The Police Ombudsman, the Historical Enquiries Team and the present Chief Constable cannot tell us who the two IRA members were supposed to be as the RUC simply invented them.


The families could never expect a fair investigation.


Following a ruling of the European Court on Human Rights (ECHR), the British Government was forced in 2001 to put in place a Package of Measures to deal with these serious allegations of collusion and cover up.


They established the Historical Enquires Team (HET) which was controlled by the police and the Police Ombudsman’s Office to investigate controversial deaths like the McGurk’s Bar massacre.


The Mc Gurks Bar families engaged in good faith with these bodies but have been failed each and every time.


The Police Ombudsman Report in February 2011 said that there had been an “Investigative Bias” on the part of the RUC.


The Chief Constable of the PSNI refused to accept the findings and instead ordered his HET team to produce a HET Report which tried to discredit the 13 recommendations made by the office of the Police Ombudsman, the statutory body set up to hold the police to account.


However, the latest discovery of a secret British military file proves that a British Army bomb expert and witness at the scene of the McGurk’s Bar Massacre 1971 informed British Army Headquarters that the bar was attacked.


British Army Bomb Expert Informed British Army HQ that McGurk’s Bar Was Attacked.


Headquarters Northern Ireland (HQNI) Log for December 1971 


“ATO [Ammunition Technical Officer] is convinced bomb was placed in entrance way on ground floor. The area is cratered and clearly was the seat of the explosion.”


The following section in the British Army file, which was overseen by a police Liaison Officer, noted in capital letters “NOT FOR PR [Public Relations]” so it was not to be made public. As we buried our loved ones, the British State buried the truth, and the police briefed journalists that the bomb exploded whilst in-transit and that it was an IRA own-goal.


Therefore, the very people who should have defended the basic human rights of our loved ones, instead criminalised them. But the victims’ only crime was their faith.


Only a few pages were released to the families after an appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) was denied. We appealed the ICO decision to the independent First Tier Tribunal (FTT) (Information Rights) in London. The rest of the file remains closed pending a hearing before the FTT the tribunal in December, just after the 45th anniversary of the attack.


This is yet another ground-breaking discovery which casts a cold light upon the lies which the police and state manufactured in the aftermath of the bombing.


It also demolishes any defence that the police today have in attempting to uphold the PSNI Historical Enquiries Team (HET) Review into the explosion which is nothing but another attempt by the police to cover-up the McGurk’s Bar Massacre.


It has taken nearly two years to wrest even this snippet from the British State .


Over a year ago PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton was told to access this file as it was crucial evidence in the mass murder of ordinary civilians but he washed his hands of it.


The email from the Chief Constable’s representative is dated 16th October 2015 and is reproduced below:


Dear Mr. MacAirt


Thank you for your e-mail of 6 October, to which the Chief Constable has asked me to reply on his behalf.


PSNI have exhausted all outstanding lines of inquiry into the McGurk’s bar bombing and there are currently no further investigative steps to be taken.  In the event that further information becomes available in the future which may assist in the investigation of criminal offences related to the bombing, PSNI will ensure that it is investigated fully in accordance with our legal obligations.


I note that you are in the process of seeking release of information held by the National Archives, which appears to relate to attributions of responsibility for the bombing. Legacy Investigation Branch would only be in a position to seek to obtain information from the National Archives within the context of an active criminal investigation, and therefore it is not possible for any steps to be taken to seek to seek access to the information held. I regret that I am unable to offer further assistance at this time.


Is mise le meas (REDACTED By Families) T/Head of Legal Services Branch Human Rights Legal Adviser”


We are now calling upon that same person to do his job, access the evidence which his investigators missed or ignored, and quash the HET Review.


Our families have spent nearly 5 years in the High Court to have the HET Report overturned. Five years of delay, denial and refusal to hand over documents to the Court.


Our families are campaigning for the documents about the McGurk’s Bar bombing and subsequent cover-up to be made public.  Instead the British are hiding behind “National Security”. It is now a weapon to deny us the truth about McGurk’s Bar and scores of other atrocities perpetrated by the state and its agents.


London holds the key. The key to the documents in Whitehall, the Public Records Office and National Archives.  The key to unlock the truth about the McGurk’s Bar attack and cover-up, and acknowledgement of Britain’s nefarious role in the conflict in our country.