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McGurk's Bar massacre: Bid to quash police report delayed as challenge is adjourned

Published 14/04/2016

McGurk's Bar massacre: 15 people were killed after the Ulster Volunteer Force detonated a bomb at McGurk's Bar in Belfast in December 1971
McGurk's Bar massacre: 15 people were killed after the Ulster Volunteer Force detonated a bomb at McGurk's Bar in Belfast in December 1971

Relatives of those killed in one of Northern Ireland's worst terrorist atrocities are facing further delay in their legal battle to have a controversial police report into the bombing quashed.

A challenge taken by the families of victims of the McGurk's Bar massacre was adjourned today amid ongoing alleged resistance to having the dossier fully rescinded.

Counsel for Chief Constable George Hamilton has already confirmed he will not be contesting a finding of bias in the original RUC investigation into the attack.

Fifteen people were murdered when the north Belfast pub was blown up by the Ulster Volunteer Force in December 1971.

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

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

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

But a separate review carried out by the police's now defunct Historicial Enquiries Team (HET) reached a different verdict.

It claimed there was no evidence of any bias on the part of the RUC investigators.

Those findings have been challenged by Brigid Irvine, whose mother Kathleen was among those killed in the attack.

Her legal team sought a judicial review in a bid to have the HET report quashed, claiming its conclusions were irrational.

With the Chief Constable no longer contesting the conclusion reached by the Police Ombudsman, Ms Irvine's lawyer have continued to press for the entire HET report to be quashed.

However, a hearing at the High Court in Belfast was adjourned today following discussion between counsel.

Listing the case for a further mention next month, Mr Justice Maguire told relatives who attended: "The court cannot avoid being anything other than concerned that justice be done in respect of such egregious events as occurred at that time in respect of the bombing of McGurk's Bar.

"It's one of the most notorious incidents of the Troubles... I can appreciate there's no doubt concern about delay, but the court can see from the papers that there's been a considerable effort made in this case to reach agreement about a way forward."

Following the hearing Ms Irvine's solicitor said the Chief Constable is seeking to stand over what remains of the HET report.

Paul Pierce of KRW Law added: "The families welcome the opportunity to have the court examine all these issues, that will include the original RUC investigation, the Police Ombudsman findings of investigative bias and how the HET failed to consider the evidence provided to them by the families."

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