Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Admit to RUC collusion, bomb victim's husband urges police

Scene after the Keady bomb in 1976
Scene after the Keady bomb in 1976

A former bar owner who lost his wife in a loyalist bomb attack more than three decades ago has spoken out for the first time, calling for the police to finally admit the level of RUC involvement in the attack.

Malachy McDonald, whose wife Betty (38) was one of two people killed in the 1976 blast at the Step Inn bar in Keady, Co Armagh, had been out of the building when the bomb went off.

The force of the explosion demolished part of the bar, leaving others buried under rubble.

Residents, police and soldiers had to dig them out, but their efforts were made even harder by nearby cars which had been set on fire by the same bomb. Around 20 people were injured.

A civilian, Gerald McGleenan (22), who lived opposite the bar, was also killed when the UVF exploded its no-warning car bomb.

Speaking for the first time since the bomb, Mr McDonald told Channel 4 News about how he staggered through the rubble of his bar and found his wife's body.

Their young son Laurence clung to her dead body, shouting "mummy".

"There were three steps to the bottom bar, and that's where I found Betty lying, her usually smiling blue eyes staring at me," he said.

"I knew it happened, but somehow pretended to myself that it didn't. I was in a trance."

Mr McDonald said he knows there was collusion, but wants to know how many police officers were involved.

A report by the Historical Enquiries Team into the bomb found that in the days running up to the attack police had reliable intelligence that loyalist paramilitaries were planning a major bombing and that they knew where the bomb was being stored – at a farmhouse owned by a part-time police officer.

The report found that knowing an attack was imminent, police brought in Army surveillance to watch the farm. However, on the day of the bombing, the operation was withdrawn.

It also found that nothing was done to stop the bombing or arrest the people they were watching. The HET said there was "no rationale for this", adding that even if it was done to protest an informant's identity, it was a huge gamble which went badly wrong.

The report said that RUC Special Branch had names and addresses of suspects but did not share these with the detectives investigating the bomb.

Denise Mullan, whose SDLP activist father Denis was shot dead by the UVF on September 1, 1975, said she too wants answers to questions about collusion.

Mr Mullan was shot 17 times at his home close to Moy. Denise, who was four years old at the time, said: "I demand answers. I was deprived of my childhood. We need answers."

The HET report into this murder said RUC and Army officers who were witnesses or linked to the case were never interviewed.

These two families are now taking complaints to the Police Ombudsman while litigation is pending in the High Court against the Chief Constable. A PSNI spokesman said: "As this is the subject of a Police Ombudsman investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further."

The two cases are among the 120 murders carried out by the Glenanne Gang, which included police officers, soldiers and paramilitaries. They are examined in a new book Lethal Allies – British Collusion in Ireland by former BBC journalist Anne Cadwallader to be published tomorrow.

RUC Special Branch 'aware of planned UVF Step Inn car bomb days before attack' 

Police 'colluded with killer gang' 

FACTFILE

Key findings from the HET investigation of the Step Inn bar bomb in Keady:

* Ten days before the bomb, the RUC Commander of Southern Division ordered Army surveillance of a police officer's farmhouse where intelligence indicated the bomb was being stored.

* On the day of the bomb, military surveillance was lifted and the Keady attack went ahead.

* Special Branch knew the names of the four men in the bomb car, the others involved and where the device had been stored – yet made no arrests.

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