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McGurk bar bombing relatives in legal boost over report

By Alan Erwin

Published 18/06/2015

McGurk's Bar in North Queen Street, Belfast, was destroyed in a bomb blast
McGurk's Bar in North Queen Street, Belfast, was destroyed in a bomb blast

Relatives of those killed in the McGurk's bar atrocity have won High Court permission to seek to have a report into the bombing quashed.

The families of victims are challenging a review by the now-defunct Historicial Enquiries Team (HET), which found no evidence of bias in the original RUC investigation.

A judge ruled yesterday that they have established an arguable case that the conclusions are irrational.

Mr Justice Treacy granted leave to seek a judicial review, and the case is now set to proceed to a full hearing later this year.

Fifteen people were murdered when the north Belfast pub was blown up by loyalist paramilitaries in December 1971.

Four years ago a Police Ombudsman probe identified investigative bias in how the RUC handled the case.

It concluded that police failed to properly probe loyalist responsibility for the bombing because they were so focused on the idea that the IRA was to blame.

At the time of the bombing it was suggested that it might have been an accidental "own goal".

But in a subsequent review the HET reached a different conclusion - claiming no evidence of any bias on the part of the RUC investigators.

Those findings are being challenged in proceedings brought by Brigid Irvine, whose mother Kathleen was among those killed in the attack.

In court her barrister detailed new material provided to HET investigators by the victims' families.

Frank O'Donoghue QC also set out how the authorities allegedly embarked on a policy of deliberate disinformation in the aftermath of the attack.

He asked: "How, with all this body of information, the conclusion could be reached rationally that there was no investigative bias at play on the part of the RUC?

"In our submission it's a question which beggars belief."

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