Call for HET to be dismantled

The campaigning family of a woman killed in the McGurk’s Bar bombing have called for a cold-case PSNI police team investigating the killings to be “dismantled”.

The Historical Enquiries Team (HET) was set-up in 2005 with a budget of 34 million pounds over six years to investigate murders during the conflict, including allegations of police collusion. The unit has been criticised for seeking to ‘spin’ investigations rather than bring prosecutions and achieve convictions.

This week sees the 37th anniversary of the no-warning bombing of McGurk’s bar that claimed the lives of 15 people including three women and two children.

Only one person, UVF man Robert Campbell, was ever convicted in connection with the atrocity after admitting to being the getaway driver for the loyalist gang who set off the bomb.

Earlier this year British Direct Ruler haun Woodward issued an apology from the floor of the House of Commons to the families of the 15 innocent victims.

The apology came following the uncovering of government papers which revealed British Army efforts to distort the true facts surrounding the atrocity.

Despite eyewitness evidence pointing to loyalist involvement, British army officials implied the IRA had been making a bomb on the premises at the time which had exploded prematurely.

The bombing, which led to one of the largest losses of lives of the Troubles, is currently subject to reinvestigation by the HET.

However, Ciaran Mac Airt, grandson of Kitty Irvine (53) who died under the rubble of the destroyed bar, said the cold-case team has proved to be a “futile, costly exercise”.

He also said that victims’ families should not have high hopes of convictions arising from current HET investigations.

One aspect of the HET investigation that the Irvine family are unhappy with is the failure to question surviving members of the British military who were involved with the original McGurk investigation.

They have also asked for getaway driver Robert Campbell’s background prior to bombing to be made public including any known details regarding his criminal and military background.

“At best the HET investigation was nothing more than a powerless, desktop review - at worst another cynical attempt by the British government to suppress or manage information,” Mr Mac Airt said.

“Its slickness and professionalism is seen in nothing except marketing and PR.

“Other victims’ families should beware -- central to this approach is for individuals within the HET to gain the confidence of vulnerable families who then dare to hope,” he said.

“In my opinion the HET will fail to deliver.

“Families risk being left with less than nothing, their original loss and sense of injustice simply exacerbated.”

It was announced this week that the HET is to make 75 staff redundant because of a funding shortage.

“The Historical Enquiries Team should be dismantled straight away,” said Mac Airt.

“Disregarding any attempt to bury the past and all memories of our loved ones with it, as the family of Kathleen Irvine we demand a truly international, independent and transparent investigation with powers of subpoena.”

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© 2008 Irish Republican News