Families of those killed in the McGurk’s Bar massacre have succeeded in forcing the British authorities to release an unedited report into the bombing, it has been confirmed.
The High Court heard today [Friday] that barristers for the PSNI Matt Baggott had agreed that the dossier would be handed over as soon as possible.
The confirmation brings an end to legal action mounted in a bid to gain access to the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) review.
Fifteen people were murdered when the north Belfast pub was blown up by the UVF in December 1971. The authorities initially denied loyalists were involved, and claimed the attack was an IRA ‘own goal’.
An examination of the police investigation into the bombing by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) was completed in December 2012, but the findings were withheld.
Judicial review proceedings were issued against the PSNI Chief Matt Baggott claiming he has a public law duty to disclose the report without delay. The legal challenge, brought by Bridget Irvine, whose mother Kitty was among those killed, contended that the failure to hand the dossier over was irrational, unlawful and in breach of their human rights.
Last November, the families were told that a censored version of the report would be given to them, and concerns were raised that the document was being rewritten. However, a breakthrough in the dispute was announced in court today, and the judicial review was dismissed.
Outside the court Ms Irvine’s solicitor, Paul Pierce said: “The family will now receive the original report in an unredacted form subject to a few minor details.”
Mr Pierce said the PSNI should not have attempted to withhold the findings from the families. “The PSNI delayed access to the report which has only served to re-traumatise the families in their campaign for the truth.”
GLENANNE GANG DEMANDS
Meanwhile, the British government is facing legal action from 32 families whose relatives were killed by a loyalist gang containing members of the British Army and police.
It is widely believed the authorities knew about the activities of the gang based at a farm in Glenanne, south Armagh. The ‘Glenanne gang’ has been accused of carrying out 120 targeted murders on both sides of the border during the early 1970s.
High Court writs have now been served in relation to a test civil case involving three deaths.
The families have argued that the HET should have addressed concerns that the RUC, British Army and British government officials had facilitated or sanctioned the collusion.
“The failure of the PSNI to sanction an overarching, thematic Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report linking all of the atrocities together and the recent collapse of the Haass proposals on the past has left many families with little alternative but to take legal action to get justice and closure,” said lawyer Kevin Winters.
Writs have also been served relating to the killings of Patrick Falls, a Catholic murdered during a 1974 attack on a bar in Clonoe in County Tyrone, and the death of Betty McDonald at a bar in Keady, County Armagh.
Mr Winters said the first preliminary hearing of an inquest into Ms McDonald’s death would be held after Easter, when his firm would ask the coroner to consider all Glenanne cases on a linked basis.
“We are supported in this approach by the Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire whose investigation into allegations of misconduct and criminality is already under way,” he said.
“To that end, the pending litigation not only supports the call for a choreographed legal oversight but will also bring long-overdue compensation for the horrendous losses suffered by all families.”