Calls for a fresh inquest into the McGurks Bar Bombing in Belfast have been rejected by the Six County Attorney General.
Fifteen Catholic civilians including two children were killed in the UVF blast in December 1971, which was then falsely blamed by the Crown Forces on an IRA ‘own goal’.
Relatives and campaigners discovered a large amount of new evidence not heard at the original inquest, which was held the year after the atrocity. It was confirmed that the British Army bomb squad knew the bomb had been placed at the entrance to the bar and was not inside, as was claimed.
Gerard Keenan, whose parents Sarah and Edward Keenan were both killed in the bombing, said, “This is yet another devastating blow to family members who have campaigned for truth and justice for two generations.
“At no stage up to the present day have our families been able to rely on a just, fair and transparent police investigation. We have had to discover and retrieve new evidence regarding the McGurk’s Bar Massacre ourselves.”
KRW Law, who represent a number of the victims’ families, are expected to seek clarification of the decision.
“The families are unhappy with the decision given the serious difficulties they have faced in establishing the truth concerning the death of their loved ones,” they said.
“There is on-going public law and civil litigation being pursued before the courts in Northern Ireland but the decision of the Attorney-General is unwelcome and his response will be carefully analysed.”
A Police Ombudsman’s report in 2011 said RUC (now PSNI) police had shown an “investigative bias”.
However, the PSNI’s then-chief Matt Baggott refused to accept that finding by the ombudsman and a subsequent probe by the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET) concluded there was no such bias.
Mr Baggott’s successor George Hamilton reversed the police’s position in 2015, admitting there had been bias in the initial RUC investigation. He said the HET report findings had been amended to reflect the change in stance.
Sinn Fein’s North Belfast representative Gerry Kelly expressed “deep disappointment” at the refusal to hold a new inquest.
“These families have been campaigning for truth and justice for 47 years,” he said.
“There are still too many unanswered questions about the involvement of various state agencies in the attack on McGurk’s Bar both before and after the massacre of 15 people.
“A fresh inquest was an opportunity to test in the courts the mounting weight of evidence, painstakingly uncovered by families and campaigners, around the involvement of the state.
“The families have waited over 40 years for a new inquest and Sinn Fein will continue to support the families in their campaign.”