A former British army information officer has said that a loyalist massacre was blamed on the IRA in 1971 in order to justify the internment of Catholics without trial.
Colin Wallace, who was on duty on the night of the bombing, said evidence gathered shortly after the McGurk’s bar bombing showed clearly that it was the work of unionist paramilitaries.
Wallace said that within hours “all evidence” showed loyalists had planted the device that killed 15 people and injured another 17 people in the north Belfast pub.
At the time the RUC and some politicians claimed the 1971 bombing by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) was an IRA ‘own goal’.
In a report released last year, the police ombudsman found there had been “investigative bias” by the RUC in the original investigation into the atrocity.
Sinn Fein North Belfast assembly member Gerry Kelly said Mr Wallace’s revelations echoed what the victims’ families had known for decades.
“This vindicates the families’ position where they have been certain for 40 years that this was a loyalist bomb,” he said.
“[PSNI Chief] Matt Baggott should now be making a statement on this as he is the one who dismissed the ombudsman’s report into this bombing.
“Here we now have evidence that within hours of this attack it was known that this was a loyalist bomb.”
Mr Wallace was a British army information officer between 1968 and 1975. He agreed to break his silence in a book about the bombing.
He described both the atrocity and its handling by the authorities as “shameful”.
Mr Wallace said the attribution of the bombing to the IRA was used to justify internment.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the original information we received from security forces personnel at the scene indicated that the bomb had been planted outside the pub,” he said.
The British army explosive ordinance disposal team that went to the site of the explosion were also of the opinion that the bomb detonated outside the bar.
“By the time I went off duty that night, all the evidence indicated that the attack had been carried out by loyalists.”
He said the bombing created “a major public relations problem” for the British government.
“If the attack had been at tributed to the UVF, serious questions would have been asked as to why loyalists weren’t being interned,” Mr Wallace said.