In the coming days the Chief Constable will be forced by the court to hand over a report by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) which was “completed” nearly a year ago.

 

Protesting Baggott's IntransigenceWe were forced to take Matt Baggott to court as we considered that his unprecedented suppression of the HET report was irrational, unlawful and a breach of our families’ basic human rights.

It seems we were completely correct.

Nevertheless, I expect little from the HET and its report and not only because the organisation is a failed entity.

Then again, as far as its investigation or review of the McGurk’s Bar bombing is concerned, I have been consistent in my thoughts of the organisation’s failings and it has consistently proved me correct.

It has been left to me and our representatives in the Pat Finucane Centre and Rights Watch UK to source the most salient pieces of archive evidence to facilitate all of the recent investigations. This in itself is an horrific indictment of the organisation. It is also an infringement of basic human rights (1).

I will make it easy for the HET and the Chief Constable again and publish a checklist of what I will be looking for in this, their third report. These are simple questions. They are distilled from years of extensive and intensive personal research but they are simple questions nonetheless. If – or when, no doubt – the HET fail to answer them in a report which is reputed to be over 500 pages long, I will consider that they have failed us once more.

I only hope that my peers – many of whom are aged now – have not dared to hope or place their trust in the HET or this Chief Constable.

The questions are:

  • Why were witnesses caught up in the atrocity, especially Joseph McClory who saw the bomb being planted and who saved the life of a passerby, completely disregarded even though all the evidence supported them?
  • Why was forensic evidence and pathology reports ignored?
  • Can you explain why the British Army’s General Officer Commanding was informed by an expert Ammunition Technical Officer at the scene that the bomb was “planted outside” the bar but this information was never made available to investigators or made public?
  • Why did this information then change despite evidence?
  • Why was it reported as an attack on the bar at HQNI?
  • Why did this information then change despite the evidence?
  • Why were lines of inquiry which pointed the finger of blame at Loyalists not followed (especially significant intelligence given by a sister police force)?
  • Why were many other bombings including the Fiddlers House, the bombing of Colin youth club, The Star and even Kelly’s Bar in May 1972 not linked?
  • Why was black propaganda in police reports created by the RUC even though there was no evidence to support it?
  • Why was the black propaganda created by RUC used for Government briefings, media reports and then its own weak investigation even though there was no evidence to support it? (2)
  • Why was evidence, such as the bombers’ car which was abandoned close by and examined by the RUC or a note found in a telephone box, not used as evidence instead of buried or “lost”?
  • Why were Loyalist suspects, especially when one admitted culpability and others were in custody for unrelated crimes, not questioned? (3)
  • Why is there a significant variance between police notes and these confessions?
  • Why did the RUC, without evidence, try to frame two Catholics for the bombing and intern them without trial?

This catalogue of denial, error and missed opportunity can never be explained away by the unprofessionalism or gross negligence of a police force, no matter what personal or organizational strains they were under at the time. It cannot excuse the RUC nearly 42 years ago.

Nor will it excuse the Chief Constable or HET today as they will have to account for the failings of their own investigations… and for their treatment of our families.

References

(1) The Committee for the Administration of Justice, in its scathing report on the Office of the Police Ombudsman in 2011 (CAJ, 2011, p. 22) referenced Jordan v UK 2001, ECHR 327: “Article 2 requirements expressed by the European Court to the effect that ‘the authorities must have taken the reasonable steps available to them to secure the evidence concerning the incident’ and ‘they cannot leave it to the initiative of the next of kin… to take responsibility for the conduct of any investigative procedures’ ”.

(2) Reference: Director of Operations Brief 5th December 1971, RUC Duty Officers’ Report 5th Dec 1971 and Joint Security Committee Meeting 16th Dec 1971

(3) I refer especially to specific UVF arrests of Feb/March 1976 and April to August 1977

Ciarán MacAirt is an Irish writer and author of The McGurk’s Bar Bombing: Collusion, Cover-Up and a Campaign for Truth.

He also manages Paper Trail, an innovative social enterprise which offers legacy archive research services and helps families unearth the truth hidden in public records.

Ciarán – who has written posts on The McGurk's Bar Bombing: Collusion, Cover-Up and a Campaign for Truth.


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