The British government has accepted that its deliberately lied when it claimed that the IRA was responsible for a bomb which killed 15 people in December 1971.
British Direct Ruler Shaun Woodward “personally apologised” this week for a propoganda campaign which depicted a horrific no-warning bomb attack on a nationalist bar as an “IRA own goal”.
Two children and three women were among those killed when the bomb exploded in the doorway of McGurk’s Bar on North Queen Street in north Belfast in December 1971.
Within hours of the explosion British army experts were being quoted claiming that a bomb being made inside the bar exploded prematurely.
This was despite the fact that the main eye-witness to the attack reported seeing a Union flag logo on the window of the bomber’s getaway car.
No attempt was made to investigate or pursue the perpetrators of the attack.
The truth was only finally revealed seven years later when self-confessed loyalist Robert Campbell admitted he had been part of the local unionist paramilitary UVF that carried out the bombing.
Campbell, who was jailed for life, refused to name the other members of the gang. Speculation continues as to who the other members may have been.
British government attempts to distort the true facts surrounding the bombing, by deliberately blaming the IRA, were uncovered in official files by the Pat Finucane Centre.
A British Military of Defence report at the time called for its (false) claims that the bomb detonated inside the bar to be promoted by a government minister.
“in the view of the Headquarters Northern Ireland (British army) it is important to put this point on record..in order to discourage continuing speculation about who was responsible for the explosion.”
The British government later successfully appealed against the compensation awarded to some of the victims’ families, which was subsequently reduced.
The attempt to distort the truth surrounding the McGurk’s Bomb was strongly criticised by the PSNI police’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET), which recently reinvestigated the killings.
On Monday Scottish Labour MP Michael Connarty, whose great uncle Philip Garry was killed in the bomb, prompted the apology with a question at the London parliament to ask the British government to formally apologise.
“The families can’t move forward until the government rights this wrong and apologies for the terrible slight on the memories of their loved-ones.
“This was black propaganda of the worst kind.
“It is time for the government to give the McGurk families the solace they deserve by resolving this terrible wrongdoing once and for all.”
In December 2007 bar owner Paddy McGurk, whose wife Philomena and 14-year-old daughter Maria were killed in the attack, died aged 87.