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McGurk's bar bomb relatives told 'truth comes to those who persist'

By Allan Preston

A leading human rights lawyer has urged relatives of the 1971 McGurk's Bar bombing not to give up in their search for justice.

Barrister Michael Mansfield - who in the past has represented families of the Hillsborough football disaster - was the guest speaker at a packed event last night at St Mary's College on the Falls Road.

The memorial lecture marked 45 years since the Belfast atrocity claimed the lives of 15 people and seriously injured 16 others.

Mr Mansfield opened his lecture by insisting that the Chief Constable George Hamilton, who was invited to attend, should have been there.

"McGurk relatives are facing the same challenges as the Hillsborough relatives. Truth comes to those who persist," he told the crowd.

During the event the audience was shown a slide purporting to show a restricted document from the original police investigation. Much of the text was blacked out. The families have insisted the missing information could be crucial to revealing more about what happened.

Last week Mr Hamilton was handed a copy of a military log uncovered by a grandson of one of the victims that indicated the bomb was planted in the doorway of the pub. Relatives claim the document shows the authorities knew from early in the investigation that the bomb had been left at the doorway, rather than detonating in the possession of someone inside.

Mr Mansfield told the crowd the families had uncovered a "golden bullet" and that "this document should result in an inquiry into what lies behind the black".

SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan attended the event and said later the new evidence presented last night "shows a distantly different version of events than those reported by the authorities on December 4, 1971 and thereafter".

"It is shocking that this new evidence was revealed by the McGurk families and that it has gone unnoticed in all public inquiries and legal cases to date, which raises considerable questions and a need for immediate answers," he said.

"It is now important that the continued calls of the McGurk families is heard loud and clear, that due process is followed and truth recovered at the very least.

"My party colleagues and I will also be calling for the original HET reports surrounding this case to be scrapped and that a fresh and full public inquiry is launched as a matter of urgency. The SDLP stand fully with the McGurk families in their continued quest for truth and justice."

The bombing was carried out by the UVF, but was first blamed on the IRA as an accidental "own goal". This led to speculation that some of the deceased could have been IRA members carrying the bomb.

A Police Ombudsman's report in 2011 said the misattribution showed an "investigative bias". This was later denied by former Chief Constable Matt Baggott, and a probe by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) concluded no bias existed.

Last week Mr Hamilton clarified the PSNI's position on the bombing, stating he now accepted there had been bias in the original investigation.

"I want to make clear the Ombudsman's report in its entirety is accepted," he said at the monthly meeting of the Policing board.

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