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Families mark 50th anniversary of McGurk’s Bar atrocity

RELATIVES of those killed in the McGurk’s Bar bombing gathered on Saturday night to mark the “terrible milestone” of the 50th anniversary of the atrocity.

The UVF killed 15 people when it left a bomb in the doorway of the public house on North Queen Street in Belfast on December 4, 1971.

Only one man, Robert James Campbell, was convicted of taking part in the attack, though it’s believed three others were also involved in delivering the device.

He was jailed in 1978 and was released in 1993 after serving 15 years and died in 2013.

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Relatives leaving the Mass for the commemoration

Relatives leaving the Mass for the commemoration

Relatives laid flowers at the scene of the UVF atrocity

Relatives laid flowers at the scene of the UVF atrocity

The scene of the McGurk's Bar bombing in north Belfast after the explosion in 1971

The scene of the McGurk's Bar bombing in north Belfast after the explosion in 1971

Robert Campbell who was convicted over the attack

Robert Campbell who was convicted over the attack

Relatives of those killed in the McGurk's bar bomb attend the 50th anniversary commemoration at the site of the blast on North Queen Street

Relatives of those killed in the McGurk's bar bomb attend the 50th anniversary commemoration at the site of the blast on North Queen Street

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Relatives leaving the Mass for the commemoration

When confronted in 2011 by Sunday Life reporter John McGurk, who lost his mother and sister in the blast, he declined to name the other men involved.

Allegations of collusion have been made by the families of the victims, who have renewed their calls for the government to conduct a full inquiry into the incident.

In 2011 the Police Ombudsman found the original RUC investigation was biased in favour of the belief it had been an IRA bomb which had gone off prematurely and said the PSNI should re-examine the massacre.

On Saturday night a memorial mass was held at St Patrick’s Church on Donegall Street before relatives walked the short distance to the site of the bombing for a commemoration at the memorial there.

Ciaran MacAirt, whose grandmother was killed in the blast, told Sunday Life: “Half a century is another terrible milestone as it not only marks the loss of our loved ones, but also the beginning of the cover-up of the McGurk’s Bar massacre.

“Whilst tonight offers space to commemorate those we lost, and we will remember them fondly, we will also remind the public that our campaign for truth continues to this day.

“We now know from its own secret papers that the British Army and RUC colluded to blame the atrocity on the innocent victims.

“All of the victims had not been even identified by then so before we buried our loved ones, the British State buried the truth.”

Mr MacAirt has been one of the leading campaigners for a reinvestigation of the bombing and last week protested with others outside the Policing Board headquarters in Belfast.

“I challenged the chief constable to hand over the evidence for these police lies or hold his hand up and admit that the RUC and British Army colluded to fabricate them,” he said.

“As it stands today on the 50th anniversary of the atrocity, PSNI is withholding evidence relating to the murder of 15 innocent civilians and perverting the course of justice.

“We well know, though, that this denial and delay of PSNI suits a British State that wants to bury its war crimes and human rights abuses by legislating for a pernicious legacy bill.”


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