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McGurk's Bar memorial vandals condemned

PSNI treating the incident as a hate crime

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 11/06/2015

McGurk's Bar in North Queen Street, Belfast, was destroyed in a UVF bomb blast
McGurk's Bar in North Queen Street, Belfast, was destroyed in a UVF bomb blast
A soldier stands guard over the shattered remains of McGurk's bar in Belfast, where 15 people died in the 1971 bomb blast
Rescuers, soldiers and civilians dig with bare hands in the still-smoking rubble of McGurk’s bar in North Queen Street following the bombing in 1971

Vandals who attacked a memorial for the victims of Belfast's deadliest bomb attack have been branded mindless.

Paint was thrown over the plaque remembering 15 innocent civilians who were killed when the blast ripped through McGurk's Bar in December 1971.

Police are treating the incident as a hate crime.

The bombing at North Queen Street was carried out by the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), but had initially been presented by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) as an accidental ''own goal'' by the IRA.

Robert McClenaghan, whose 73-year-old grandfather Phillip Garry was the oldest person killed, said: "I am almost in tears to hear that our memorial has been desecrated.

"It is something that is symbolic of our campaign.

"Our loved ones lost their lives and within hours they lost their reputation after being falsely accused of making the bomb. That's an injustice we are trying to rectify through the media, through the courts and through the public imagery such as the memorial.

"We are just trying to get the truth for them and part of that is the memorial.

"I just don't understand the politics of throwing paint on it. It is just mindless and senseless that somebody would do that."

Ciaran MacAirt whose grandmother Kathleen Irvine also died in the bomb attack used Twitter to express his disgust at the attack.

He said: "If word that the #McGurks Bar memorial has been attacked is true, it is a despicable act and the hoods who did it have shamed their families."

Sinn Fein councillor JJ Magee also condemned the vandalism.

He said: "This is an insult to all those who were killed and injured in the in McGurk's Bar bombing.

"All memorials should be treated with dignity and respect and should not be targeted in this way."

The Ulster Unionist Party's North Belfast spokesperson said: "I unreservedly condemn this attack as I would condemn any attack. I am very clear that there is no justification for targeting of any memorial.

"Those responsible for this attack really need to consider their actions, their impact on North Belfast and to desist from such activities immediately.

"I would appeal to anyone with information on this attack to bring it forward to the PSNI."

The PSNI said the incident was being treated as a hate crime.

Inspector Roy Watton said: "Police received a report that paint had been thrown on a memorial in the area. Enquiries are continuing.

"Police are treating this as a hate crime and I would ask anyone with information about the incident to contact Tennent Street Police Station on the non-emergency number 101."

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