Belfast Telegraph

McGurk families may sue Baggott

PSNI chief threatened with legal action over stance on pub bomb probe

By David Young

Families left bereaved by a Belfast pub bombing 40 years ago have threatened to take legal action against the PSNI chief constable over his refusal to accept that police officers who investigated the blast were biased.

A probe by the independent Police Ombudsman into the 1971 McGurk's Bar atrocity in the New Lodge area found detectives adopted an "investigative bias" by claiming the attack was committed by republicans when in fact loyalists were to blame.

Chief Constable Matt Baggott was criticised by relatives of the 15 dead when he stopped short of supporting that finding earlier this year, pointing out that other reviews had provided different interpretations of the officers' motivation.

The families had urged him to rethink his position but at yesterday's monthly meeting of the Policing Board he made clear he was not going to change his mind, insisting there was no evidence to definitively prove bias.

His stance provoked an angry response from the relatives in the public gallery at the board's headquarters in Belfast, who indicated their next move would be to the courtroom.

"We certainly will be talking to our legal counsel on this matter and taking it further," said Pat Irvine, whose mother Kitty was one of the victims.

"I am extremely angry. This has been going on for 40 years, the truth has to be told. It is the truth that will set us free and build a better future for our loved ones."

She added: "We intend to take Matt Baggott to court."

It is understood any challenge would come in the shape of a judicial review on whether Mr Baggott has the legal right not to accept the findings of the ombudsman's office.

The bereaved families, who said they had lived with that stigma ever since, welcomed the ombudsman's report as delivering the vindication they demanded.

However, they claimed Mr Baggott's response had only added to their grief.

Background

The McGurk's Bar bombing on December 4, 1971, was carried out by members of the Ulster Volunteer Force, but had initially been presented by RUC investigators as an accidental "own goal" by the IRA, prompting speculation that the dead may have included IRA members who were carrying the device. The bar was situated in a predominantly nationalist area of north Belfast and would have been visited primarily by Catholic patrons.

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