Relatives of those who died in the McGurk’s Bar attack have gathered in their dozens to help restore a memorial in north Belfast which was damaged in a paint attack.
The mural is dedicated to those killed in the 1971 bombing in North Queen Street. The attack was blamed on UVF paramilitaries although it was initially alleged by the Crown forces to have been an accidental IRA ‘own goal’.
The memorial is where 15 people were killed and 17 others injured when a bomb left on the bar’s doorstep exploded, causing the building to collapse.
Robert McClenaghan, whose 73-year-old grandfather Philip Garry was the oldest person killed in the December 1971 no-warning bomb, described the paint attack as “mindless”.
“This is a mindless, senseless and thoughtless act by people who don’t understand that this is a memorial to 15 people who were murdered just because of their faith,” the 58-year-old from west Belfast said.
“Why now almost 40 years after the murders do people think it necessary to deface what is a very personal and intimate space for the families? I just feel terribly sad that people can feel the need to do this. These types of hate crimes shouldn’t happen.”
He said he was almost in tears when he heard that the memorial had been desecrated.
“It is something that is symbolic of our campaign.
“Our loved ones lost their lives and within hours they lost their reputation after being falsely accused of making the bomb. That’s an injustice we are trying to rectify through the media, through the courts and through the public imagery such as the memorial.
“We are just trying to get the truth for them and part of that is the memorial.
Ciarán MacAirt, whose grandmother Kathleen Irvine died in the bomb attack, also expressed his disgust, and suggested criminal elements were behind it.
“It is a despicable act and the hoods who did it have shamed their families,” he wrote.
Sinn Féin councillor JJ Magee also condemned the memorial vandalism and urged anyone with information to bring it to the PSNI.
“This is an insult to all those who were killed and injured in the in McGurk’s Bar bombing,” he said.
“All memorials should be treated with dignity and respect and should not be targeted in this way.”