Belfast Telegraph

New evidence proof of cover-up that went to very top at Stormont, claim McGurk's Bar families

By Allan Preston

The families of victims of the McGurk's Bar bombing - one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles - are to present new evidence to the Police Ombudsman this morning.

Robert McClenaghan's grandfather Philip Garry was one of 15 who died in the UVF massacre on December 4, 1971.

Mr McClenaghan said a military log from the original investigation, obtained by the families in October, shows a deliberate cover-up and a campaign of disinformation.

He claims the new evidence implicates not only the RUC and Army, but then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland Brian Faulkner.

Initially the bomb had been blamed on an "own goal" by the IRA, with the RUC stating that it had detonated inside the bar. This led to speculation that some of those killed could have been IRA members transporting the device.

It was later proven that the bomb was planted in the doorway by four UVF terrorists. One, Robert Campbell, served 15 years in prison for the crime, but refused to give up his accomplices. He died in 2013.

Mr McClenaghan says the new information shows "categorically in black and white" the authorities knew the truth from the beginning.

An Army report obtained by the families dated December 5, 1971 states: "ATO (Ammunition Technical Officer) is convinced bomb placed in entrance way on ground floor. The area is cratered and clearly was the seat of the explosion. Size of bomb likely to be 40/50lbs. NOT FOR PR."

The remaining text on the page has been blacked out, and restricted for a further 84 years.

Mr McClenaghan called it "the first big lie" of many.

"As we were getting ready to bury our families they were getting ready to bury the truth along with it," he said. On December 6, Faulkner travelled to London to meet Home Secretary Reginald Maudling.

He is reported to have told Maudling he directed the RUC to look into the backgrounds of those in the bar, rather than for those responsible.

"There's one of two possibilities," said Mr McClenaghan.

"That he was a patsy being led by the nose by the RUC Chief Constable George Shilliday and his Inspectors, or he knew exactly what he was doing in leading the RUC investigation away from the perpetrators and to look at the background of the dead and the injured."

A 2011 report by the Police Ombudsman stated that there was a bias in the original RUC investigation. This was later reversed by a report from the Historical Enquiries Team (HET). Last week Chief Constable George Hamilton changed the official PSNI position, stating he accepted there was bias.

"If a false line of enquiry equates to investigative bias, on that basis I am accepting the language that the Ombudsman chose to use to present that (initial RUC) hypothesis that turned out to be incorrect," he said.

Mr McClenaghan has called for him to go further and do the "honourable thing" by completely quashing the HET report. The families are also demanding new inquests.

On Tuesday evening at an event to mark 45 years since the atrocity, high-profile human rights lawyer Michael Mansfield - who represented families of the Hillsborough disaster - told a packed crowd at St Mary's College on the Falls Road the new evidence was a "golden bullet" and urged the families to push for more answers as "truth comes to those who persist".

But this was criticised by victim Jude Whyte, whose mother Peggy was killed by a UVF bomb in 1984.

He said Mr Mansfield was only giving the families "false hope".

"I think his view is delusional and it gives victims a sense they will get their day in court and all will be rosy," he said.

"All we need to get to the bottom of this information from the State is a taxi fare over to Holywood (MI5 headquarters) and open up the files there.

"This simply will not happen. The main reason is that it would destabilise the whole peace process."

He added: "I would love the people of McGurk's to get their day, but they won't while this society remains totally divided on what this war, or conflict to others, was about."

But Mr McClenaghan said: "We say he's right. But this is a real life, real time campaigning issue.

"It's not just something that happened 45 years ago.

"So we need the Jude Whytes of this world, along with others in the Victims Forum, to listen to our arguments and to support the families of McGurk's."

Mr McClenaghan added: "We're not asking for new prosecutions but we say you need truth, justice and acknowledgement first before we can talk about reconciliation."

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