Irish Republican News · July 9, 2010
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Ombudsman suspends report publication

A report into one of the worst attacks of the conflict was put on hold today after bereaved relatives condemned its findings.

Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson said he had shelved his review of the bombing of a north Belfast bar in December 1971 that claimed 15 lives after criticism of his decision to exonerate police handling of the case.

The then RUC police helped maintain false claims by military and political leaders that the IRA was responsible for the bombing, when it was known that loyalists planted the device in the nationalist New Lodge area.

Today Mr Hutchinson said: “I am aware the relatives have concerns about some aspects of the report and for that reason I have decided not to publish it until I hear those concerns in detail.”

Children and pensioners were killed in the north Belfast bar in December 1971. Although the IRA was initially blamed, seven years later an Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) man received 15 life sentences after he was convicted of the bombing.

The allegation that the explosion in the Catholic pub was an IRA “own goal” added to the pain felt by the bereaved since it falsely implied that some of those who died may have been IRA members.

The Ombudsman’s office had seen documents that pointed to an official policy to portray the attack as being the work of republicans.

This was despite the fact that a retired military information officer interviewed by the Ombudsman said that, within a day of the attack, the military were aware the loyalist paramilitary UVF was involved.

Sinn Fein Assembly member for North Belfast Gerry Kelly said: “The report given to the relatives of those killed in the UVF attack on McGurk’s bar yesterday was so inaccurate that it couldn’t even get the year the attack happened and the names of those killed correct.

“It has caused justifiable anger and it is only right that the Ombudsman bins this deeply flawed report. What needs to happen now is not for a rehash of what was given to the families yesterday but a new report which accurately deals with the facts in the case.

“These include the reality that the RUC wrongly and deliberately blamed the IRA for the bombing and that this was backed by the political establishment of the time.”

He added: “The way in which the office of the Police Ombudsman has conducted this report reflects badly on them. There is now a job to rebuild public confidence in their work,” Mr Kelly said.

Alex McLaughlin, whose father Thomas died, said the review should be returned to the Ombudsman and looked at again. “He needs to give us a serious report we can get closure on. It took four years to get this . . . it does not cut any ice with me at all,” he said.

“All we want is closure on this here. If we can get a public inquiry that would be great. If not I would like an international body to have a look at it.”

Gerard Keenan, whose parents Edward and Sarah died, said it was a slap in the face to victims. Robert McClenaghan, whose grandfather Phillip was one of those victims, criticised how the report was delivered to the families yesterday.

The Police Ombudsman’s office was created as part of the wider reform of the police service in Northern Ireland. It is tasked to provide independent oversight of police activities, but also examines some cases from the conflict.

Ombudsman Hutchison, a former Asssistant Commissioner in the Canadian police, replaced Nuala O’Loan in 2007.

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