Despite new evidence that the massacre was the subject of disinformation by the British state, families of fifteen people killed in a Belfast bomb attack have begun a legal challenge against a decision not to order an independent investigation.
The bombing at McGurk’s Bar in December 1971 was carried out by the unionist paramilitary UVF. At the time the Crown Forces blamed the IRA for reasons which remain unclear.
The families’ decision to begin judicial review proceedings comes after they and campaigners presented new evidence, which drew no response from the PSNI police. In a statement, the families said they are taking legal action against outgoing PSNI chief George Hamilton over his failure to order a fresh investigation, including the questioning of former senior British Army officer Frank Kitson.
The former commander-in-chief of Britain’s Land Forces was the brigadier in charge of the British military in Belfast at time of the bombing. Important new evidence uncovered from official archives has confirmed claims that Kitson, an expert on “counter-insurgency”, colluded with the RUC to mount a cover-up within hours of the attack.
The families are demanding an immediate, independent investigation to question Kitson.
Ciarán MacAirt, a grandson of two of the McGurk’s Bar victims, personally discovered an entry in a high-level British military Operations Log which stated that: “RUC have a line that the bomb in the pub was a bomb designed to be used elsewhere, left in the pub to be picked up by Provisional IRA. Bomb went off and was a mistake. RUC press office have a line on it – NI should deal with them”.
The order is attributed to “Bde Comd” -- an abbreviation for then Brigade Commander Kitson.
Kitson is synonymous with the ‘Dirty War’ in the north of Ireland. He was responsible for “in-depth interrogation” techniques, psychological operations, pseudo-gangs and covert Special Force units such as the Military Reaction Force which murdered civilians with impunity. He also redeveloped the British Army’s information units which managed British information policy, propaganda and disinformation across the Six Counties.
Mr MacAirt said: “The police continue to cover up the McGurk’s Bar Massacre and we now have a better understanding why. Secret British military documents lead us to believe that General Sir Frank Kitson and the RUC colluded to frame my grandmother and the other victims for the atrocity. We have the evidence in black and white but Chief Constable George Hamilton has failed to act upon it.”
“Successive Chief Constables up to this very day have denied and delayed our basic human right to an independent investigation and a number of our family members have gone to their graves without truth or justice. Chief Constable George Hamilton might have his coat on to leave the Police Service of Northern Ireland but we are calling him out before he goes for the human right abuses our families suffer at the hands of RUC/PSNI. That will be his legacy to our families and hundreds of others like ours.”
Lawyer Niall Ó Murchú, who represents some of the victims, stated: “The PSNI under the Chief Constable is perpetuating a police cover-up that has spanned two generations. We now know why.
“This new evidence shows that Frank Kitson, the British Armed Forces’ most infamous commander, colluded with the RUC and ordered the dissemination of the McGurk’s Bar lies.
“Like his predecessors, the Chief Constable is denying the McGurk’s Bar families an independent, Article 2-compliant investigation which examines the involvement of British Armed Forces and RUC in the atrocity, so we have initiated Judicial Review proceedings to ensure the families can access this basic right.”