Belfast Telegraph

McGurk's probe 'bid to damage RUC'

Criticism of the police investigation into the McGurk's bar bombing is part of a Nazi-style propaganda bid to damage the reputation of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, a Policing Board member has claimed.

The DUP's Jonathan Bell made the claim at a heated public board meeting in Belfast during which Sinn Fein accused Chief Constable Matt Baggott of undermining confidence in the nationalist community with his remarks about the 1971 atrocity last week.

Mr Baggott has come under fire after failing to unequivocally endorse the findings of a Police Ombudsman's probe into the north Belfast bombing, which claimed the RUC had an "investigative bias" that misled people into wrongly thinking the IRA was responsible, when in fact the bomb was planted by loyalists.

The chief constable's assertion that other reports had found no such bias angered relatives of the 15 dead.

The bombing was carried out by the UVF, but had initially been presented by the RUC as an accidental 'own goal' by the IRA, prompting speculation that the dead may have included IRA members who were carrying the device.

Prior to the public meeting, there were fiery exchanges over the issue at a closed session of the board attended by members and the chief constable.

Mr Bell likened the criticism of the RUC's role to something that would have happened in war-time Germany and accused some of attempting to re-write history by focusing on alleged security force failings while ignoring the wrongdoings of terrorists.

He said: "It's important that single issues are not used in some sort of Nazi propaganda way to besmirch an entire force."

But Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey said Mr Baggott's refusal to accept ombudsman Al Hutchinson's findings had seriously set back progress in policing and said his remarks had delivered a "slap in the face" to the families.

Mr Baggott said he had to judge all cases on the facts before him but assured members he would look at further issues raised by the families.

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