Collusion and Cover-UpCollusion /k’lu:z()n/ noun: Secret agreement or cooperation especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose.
Sir John Stevens, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner who was charged with uncovering collusion between the RUC, British army and loyalists, gave this definition:
“Collusion is evidenced in many ways. This ranges from the wilful failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence and information, through to the extreme of agents being involved in murder”
We shall leave it to you to decide, once you have read our story below, whether the British authorities’ modern-day dirty war has its genesis in the McGurk’s Bar Massacre.
British State collusion with their loyalist death squads has been well documented in several high profile cases from the late eighties such as the murder of the Human Rights lawyer, Mr. Pat Finucane, and the Brian Nelson affair. State collusion, though, has been institutionalized from the start of the conflict when Britain trained, armed and directed their paramilitary gangs for use against the Catholic minority in the north east of Ireland. The McGurk’s Bar Massacre of the 4th December 1971 was to be the first bloody signpost of this collusion on a road that leads directly to Bloody Sunday, the New Lodge Six, the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and beyond.
The McGurk’s Bar Massacre was Britain’s declaration of a dirty war.The War Before
The Provisional IRA had sensed British strategic weakness and launched such a devastating onslaught that it seemed certain that the Orange statelet, under unionist misrule, would crumple. Britain, though, in the spring of 1970 had installed one Frank Kitson (right) as Commander of their armed forces in Belfast. Brigadier Frank Kitson. Such was his perceived skill in so-called counter-insurgency that, even though he was only a Brigadier and was to become the youngest Commander in the British army, he held its most difficult post for two years until April 1972.
During this critical time he had tirelessly prepared the framework for how the British army was to wage its war in the north of Ireland. Indeed, his book, Low Intensity Operations: Subversion, Insurgency and Peacekeeping, which was published in 1971, became the blueprint for the British modus operandi in this theatre of war.
It had been formulated and honed by British paramilitary forces in places as far-flung as Kenya, Malaya, Aden and Cyprus as the empire began to crumble. Nevertheless, Britain, like its blundering generals in the First World War, had not learned from any of these conflicts. Their methodology each and every time had been unsuccessful, resulting in long-term military failure and territorial loss. History will judge whether the North of Ireland is the same.
The bedrock of this counter-insurgency strategy is “the working of the triumvirate: civil, military and police as a joint and integrated organisation from the highest to the lowest level of policy-making, planning and administration” (from Counter-Revolutionary Operations, volume three of Land Operations, the army’s secret training manual, obtained by the Time Out magazine in 1969). Therefore, legislative and judicial powers have to be weighted and local police militia bolstered towards an obdurate support of military strategy. These steps in isolation are not enough, though, if a covert surveillance and intelligence-gathering network is not in place.
Kitson’s subversion of insurgency theory and psychological warfare went even further with its creation of gangs and counter-gangs to off-set revolution within a particular community. Keeni-Meeni black ops in KenyaIn other conflicts British Special Forces would don local garb or blacken their faces to execute illegal operations in the guise of indigenous gangs (see photo right, Keeni Meeni activity in Kenya). They would also fund and instruct native militia, directing them against shared quarry. Their hand need not have been so well-hidden in the north of Ireland as the dress and skin colour was usually their own. In conjunction with these death squads, the British military had also had been training and arming protestant militants for such a juncture in the war. Loyalists, in the two and a half years prior to the McGurk’s Bar Massacre, had been responsible for ten deaths (or thirteen deaths in the five and a half years prior to the pub bombing). Now was the time for the British to unfetter these paramilitary dogs of war and direct them against ordinary, Irish civilians. Their success, in British military terms, is calculated in the death count of innocents that rose sharply from, and began with, the McGurk’s Bar Massacre of the 4th December 1971. A war that lasted for two generations, though, testifies to their abject failure.
In North Belfast, the prison services had been caught napping once more on the day before the McGurk’s Bar Massacre when three high profile Republican prisoners, Martin Meehan, Anthony “Dutch” Doherty and Hugh McCann, simply scaled the wall of Crumlin Road jail and jumped to freedom. As this escape followed on the coattails of the highly embarrassing breakout of nine inmates on the 16th November from the very same jail, it was imperative that these latest escapees were immediately caught. Therefore a ring of steel was thrown around North Belfast so that the potential movements of these men would be hampered until their capture. Press reports speculated that the prisoners were bundled swiftly over the border but the British authorities continued to believe that they had been quick enough to contain them within their cordon area.
In a massive clamp-down operation, hundreds of troops today saturated Belfast’s city centre… in an effort to prevent a repetition of last Saturday’s IRA terror campaign… More than 4000 men in nine regiments are stationed in and around Belfast, and today each regiment was told to keep a lookout for trouble in its own area… All this was in addition to the massive search which has been mounted for the three IRA jail breakers. Road blocks on all roads leading into and out of the city are being manned round the clock.
The McGurk’s family pub was on North Queen Street, one of North Belfast’s main thoroughfares, five minute’s walk away from both the commercial hub of the statelet and the jail in question.
Witnesses recall that there were cordons and searches at every turn and yet it was in this area that a loyalist death squad felt confident to linger and act. The military on this one major road had somehow vanished to allow a carload of men with a 30-50lb bomb on the backseat into their target zone.
As we know from the testimony of the one convicted bomber, Robert James Campbell, the gang even waited a long time to have clear access at their original target, the Gem bar, which had perceived allegiances to the Official Republican movement. The British war machine planned to stir up internecine strife between the two Republican wings with the no-warning and devastating bomb at this pub. As one wing blamed the other, both would be deflected from their war against the Crown forces and their community support networks rent asunder by recrimination and infighting – the classic formula for divide and conquer that the British military and its agents had perfected over centuries. As it happened, though, the Gem Bar had men outside it, so, after waiting and with no apparent concern for being accosted by security forces, the loyalists decided that any Catholic pub would suffice. What mattered was that it was a softer target to hit – the loss of innocent civilian life was irrelevant. The McGurk’s family pub was their fateful choice.
Afterwards, as the death squad raced towards the nearby Half Bap area (today’s Cathedral Quarter) where they had arranged to dump their car and get picked up, the bomb they had left behind ripped through the small pub and the innocents within. A couple of minutes later they abandoned their car as all around Belfast sounded to the squeals of the emergency services speeding towards the carnage. At this moment, in an apparent act of cowardice, one of their pick-ups fled the area and abandoned his cronies (no loyalist was punished for this treachery, as would be expected, which leads us to assume that the gang member was attached directly to British Intelligence). Instead they all had to make their way to their second pick-up point. Yet still, the three men were not stopped, questioned or arrested as they skulked suspiciously in the shadow of St. Anne’s Cathedral and the ring of steel closed once more with thousands of troops flooding into the area. Eventually they were picked up and driven the couple of miles back to their drinking dens, through roadblocks and past army posts. Indeed, the British authorities did not even recover the original transport they abandoned a few hundred yards away from McGurk’s.
The original plan was to have their loyalist death squad hit an establishment frequented by Official IRA members to fan the flames of the split with the Provisional movement. This feud would spill onto the streets of their own community and sap the very support that each needed to survive. When McGurk’s family pub, the softest of innocent targets, was hit instead, the British machinations for misinformation were firmly in place. The recently formed Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) section in Palace Barracks and GHQ Lisburn, known as the Information Research Department, within minutes had begun to propagate the lie that the bomb was an IRA own-goal in order that the objective of their original plan was realised and the local power-base of the IRA drained. This heinous and groundless lie was lodged in an RUC Duty Officer’s Report and released to the ministry of Home Affairs before being leaked to John Chartres of the Times. As ordinary people emptied onto North Queen Street to claw at rubble and debris, British officers were debriefing journalists with the lie spun by their Intelligence superiors: bombers were being trained in the bar or the bomb was waiting to be transported to its intended target. The IRA were to blame and the people in the bar were guilty by association if not legally culpable through complicity.
The impact of this lie was dependent upon its longevity and its life span upon the synchronicity between the administrative powers, the police and the media. The British military, therefore, swung the full weight of each behind their deception. As neighbours dug feverishly for survivors, police and army personnel descended upon the New Lodge community and began an intensive house-to-house search operation. Ignoring the highly accurate testimony of young Joseph McClory, they used the McGurk’s Bar Massacre as a thinly-veiled excuse to turn whole streets upside-down in a hunt for intelligence, prison escapees or arms. They even swooped on the family home of Edward Kane in the vain hope that they might upturn some incriminating evidence that they could use to back their spurious claims concerning the victims. Mrs. Kane, a young mother to young children, watched as her home was ransacked and her neighbours were dragged onto the street. She recounts how a local informant, hidden from view behind a screen in an army vehicle, could be heard telling his paymasters whether his neighbours were connected to the Republican movement. She had not been told at this moment in time that her partner, the father of her babies, had been murdered.
Nothing could be found or planted by the British military to connect any family member to illegal activity but still the lies of the state grew. A black propaganda leaflet (view here), given to the families by local historian, Joe Baker, shows how Britain’s Information Research Department (IRD) peddled its lies and psychological operations on the ground. It was popped through the letterboxes of houses in the New Lodge area, including the victims’ families, two days before Christmas 1971 by British foot patrols of the 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (2RRF). It was signed by their Commanding Officer, Jeremy Reilly, and spoke of his hopes for a time that the people of the area would “not lose [their] friends in a repetition of the Provos’ accident in the McGurk’s Bar”. Most were ripped up and binned straight away but this one survived to show how the British army were putting their printing presses to use as the families grieved for their loved ones.
“Police and army intelligence officers believe that Ulster’s worst outrage, the killing of 15 people, including two children and three women… was caused by an IRA plan that went wrong.”
It should be noted that Chartres was the only so-called non-military witness to nail bombs being found on the body of one of the victims of the Bloody Sunday murders. In fact, we know this to be a fabrication. Chartres was actually a Territorial Army Colonel at this time and was a good friend of Hugh Mooney, Information Adviser to the General Officer Commanding, Tuzo. When this author asked a well-placed British military source why Chartres would publish such lies, he simply said “Sure, he was one of ours”.
BBC Radio 4 News reported the afternoon after the blast that RUC sources had confirmed that forensic scientists believed that the bomb exploded inside the building.
The BBC’s “Scene Around Six” programme later that night reported that police were remaining non-committal as to who planted the bomb. Nevertheless, John Taylor, minister of state for home affairs in the Stormont government, is quoted as saying that it was unlikely to have been the work of loyalists.
An article by Mervyn Pauley examines Taylor’s speech in Stormont on the 7th December more vigorously. The minister felt assured to tell the world from the statelet’s parliament that “forensic evidence supports the theory that the explosion… took place inside the building”. He went on to say that the Provisional IRA was on the defensive and in retreat. If nationalist opinion was enflamed against the Protestant community, then nothing would aid them more. Portentously, Taylor went on to warn the Catholic community to think again before believing any of the Republican propaganda that would be fed to them regarding this incident particularly and others to follow.
The families would obviously like to know whether Taylor, with security as his remit, was an instrument of British Intelligence or duped by them. To date, even though he is supposed to be a servant of the public, he has not made this information available either to the bereaved family members, the ombudsman’s investigation or the belated police inquiry. The minutes of a secret military briefing (ref. MG/71/1338 55/20/6) on the 14th December 1971, buried in archives, discussed how the lie was to be further propagated at governmental level:
“Findings which indicated that that the explosion in the McGurk’s Bar had been the result of a bomb in the bar should be publicized, possibly by means of a written parliamentary question.”
It was left to the Guardian to produce the most profligate and dissolute article on the 24th December, a piece that used the MI5 black propaganda in the HQNI INTSUM as its template:
“Security men and forensic scientists have finished the grisly investigation of the explosion in Paddy McGurk’s Bar, which killed at least 15 Belfast Catholics earlier this month. If they are to be believed – and in this case they probably are – this figure will have to be revised upwards. They claim to have established that five men were standing round the bomb when it went off inside the crowded bar in North Queen Street. All five were blown to pieces.
The scientists have been able to identify one of them as a senior IRA man who was an expert on explosives and was on the government’s wanted list.
Of all the conflicting theories about the explosion, the security men are now convinced that the bar was a transfer point in the IRA chain between the makers and the planters of the bomb. Something went wrong and the bomb exploded.”
Dr. Robert Alan Hall was the Forensic Scientist in charge of the case and he could not produce a definitive report until 11th February 1972 due to the scale of the atrocity. He concluded that the combined findings, including the pathology reports, did not support the theory that a group of men were standing over or near the bomb. Tests for shrapnel or parts of the detonating device upon the victims’ clothing proved negative. No debris at all from an explosive device was found upon any of the victims’ clothing. In fact those nearest to the seat of the blast had splinter injuries which indicated that furniture, probably a door, was in between them and the bomb when it exploded.
Dr. Hall concluded that the explosion “had occurred at or about the entrance door from the porch leading off Great Georges Street”.
On the 6th December 1971, Northern Ireland’s Prime Minister, Brian Faulkner, raced to London to meet with the British Home Secretary, Reginald Maudling, for what would have been crunch talks on the security situation in the north of Ireland. Faulkner could not allow blame to rest with loyalists, though, as their complicity would completely undermine his policy of directing Interim Custody Orders (Internment without Trial) against the Roman Catholic population alone.
When Internment was introduced in August 1971 the British authorities had urged Faulkner to include alleged Protestant extremists in the trawl so that it could be argued that the special orders were not designed to be directed solely against the Catholic community. Faulkner refused as he knew that he would not have the support of his party or the RUC. Instead, an “Arrest Policy for Protestants” was raised and meant that no loyalists were interned until 1973 even though they had killed well over a hundred people by then. Therefore, if it was admitted that loyalists had perpetrated mass murder on the 4th December 1971, the Northern Ireland government’s assertion to Whitehall that they were “no serious threat” would be completely untenable. Together with the tumultuous rise in violence since August 1971, Whitehall would have viewed Internment without Trial an unmitigated failure. The British Prime Minister, Edward Heath, would have had to step in and take direct control just as he was forced to do a few months later in March 1972.
The notes of Faulkner’s meeting with the British Home Secretary were discovered by the Pat Finucane Centre at the National Archives at Kew and are of especial importance to the family campaigners today. Not only do the records prove them completely correct for asserting that the McGurk’s Bar cover-up went straight to the top of the political establishment but they also again raise some serious questions regarding the so-called professionalism of the present British investigations (Historical Enquiries Team and Police Ombudsman Northern Ireland). Yet again it is the families and their friends in Human Rights activism who are uncovering such salient evidence and placing it in the public domain.
These archives prove that the Northern Irish Prime Minister:
• Deceived Whitehall that the massacre was the result of an IRA own goal
• Dramatically directed the RUC to check the associations of the innocent victims, dead and injured
• Was indeed briefed by the RUC
History is a cold judge so Faulkner’s deception is as stark as Maudling’s supposed gullibility. Faulkner further avowed:
• His surprise if the IRA were able to keep up their campaign beyond February 1972
• His belief that he had “substantial Catholic support” which could not be vocal because of intimidation
• That the “political initiatives which had been taken had not yet had the opportunity to work”
A war that lasted a generation and led to well over 3000 deaths is the legacy of this cover-up. If only Brian Faulkner had upheld the basic Human Rights of our loved ones then, history may read differently now.
A startling archive discovered by the families themselves in October 2010 not only proved that black propaganda was being disseminated throughout the British army and RUC, but also that it was being created by MI5. This Head Quarters Northern Ireland Intelligence Summary (HQNI INTSUM), dated the 9th December 1971, records how the British Security Service sought to criminalize the victims of the massacre:
Forensic and EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) reports tend to indicate that the explosion was caused accidentally inside the public house by premature detonation amongst a group which contained an identified IRA victim
HQNI INTSUMs were prepared in Lisburn Headquarters by a team under the Director of Intelligence. Other archive evidence from the Bloody Sunday Inquiry archives relates that this man was a Security Service officer, an MI5 operative. For his role in the north of Ireland in 1971 he assumed the equivalent military rank of Major General. Furthermore, we learn he ran a department made up of other MI5 operatives and military officers. He liaised daily with the RUC, especially its Special Branch, “to co-ordinate the intelligence gathering efforts of the various elements of the security forces operating… at the time” (statement to Saville Inquiry). Black propaganda was drip-fed through intelligence information streams such as these HQNI INTSUMs, disseminated not only throughout the intelligence community but also lofty Whitehall. MI5 were seeking to dupe their own paymasters in 10 Downing Street so they could wage their war in Ireland as they saw fit and without their political interference. This insinuation that the innocent customers were being schooled in bomb-making skills further bolstered Faulkner’s claims to the British Home Secretary three days previously. The lie was maintained that the victims were guilty by association, if not complicit in an act of terrorism that led to their own deaths. As Loyalists did not commit the atrocity, Internment’s discrimination against Roman Catholics could continue unabated. That was, of course, unless the RUC investigation discovered the truth.
Under the misdirection of Detective Chief Inspector Abbott, a team of twenty so-called professionals doggedly chased a line of enquiry that laid the blame for the blast on the PIRA for two tenuous reasons alone:
1. An Alleged “Crossed-Line” – during which a mother and daughter who were never traced were overheard discussing several of the victims as bombers. A number the “mother” gave was not even listed or issued to the north of Ireland.
2. An Alleged Statement Made By An Ambulance Driver To A Warrant Officer – that “the man taken to the hospital on Saturday 4th December 1971 from McGurk’s explosion was heard to say whilst semi-conscious ‘I told him not to plant it there'”. This insinuates that the PIRA deliberately bombed McGurk’s. Of course, no ambulance driver’s statement has ever surfaced.
Dozens of witness statements that corroborated the victims’ innocence were either ignored or lost. No lines of inquiry were ever followed, other than those that misdirected the focus of the investigation towards the Republican “own-goal” theory. Nobody was ever arrested or questioned, until U.V.F. gang-member, Robert James Campbell, confessed to his part in the massacre on the 28th July 1977. He also admitted his role in the murder of Mr. John Morrow on the 22nd January 1976. Mr. Morrow, who happened to be a Protestant, heroically saved the life of five Catholic colleagues, thwarting what would have been another sectarian mass murder (this was an attempted loyalist replay of the Kingsmill atrocity of the 5th January 1976). Readers may wonder why the RUC, renowned for their brutality during interviews of Republican suspects, were content to accept the flimsiest of confessions in this instance (we are still waiting for the transcripts of the tame questioning in totality). Less than a page and a half was deemed sufficient to shelve the murder of fifteen innocent men, women and children and the attempted murder of sixteen more (see his confession here).
Nevertheless, the families and society in general were lucky that this career criminal and mass murderer, active from July 1971 to July 1977, was ever brought before the courts at all…
In March 1976, sixteen months before his eventual arrest, an RUC intelligence source named Campbell and four others as being the McGurk’s bombers. The police review of the case would not divulge the source and could not reason why there was such a delay in arrest. In fact, it has been noted by the review that it is strange that there is no record of why there were no arrests. Furthermore, they cannot explain why the other four were not arrested, especially after Campbell’s confession proved the intelligence correct.
The families have obviously asked the police how many of these men were run by Special Branch or the army. We are still waiting for a response.
On the 14th July 2008, thirty six and a half years after the McGurk’s Bar Massacre, the British government was forced to apologize for their black propaganda that perverted the course of justice and abased the human rights of innocent civilians. A weak apology, though, for “such perceptions and pre-conceived ideas” (Video: Michael Connarty MP and N. Ireland minister Paul Goggins in the British House of Commons, 14th July 2008) is not enough.
We, the families of the innocent victims killed and injured in McGurk’s Bar, will not rest until the British government confesses before the world that the Massacre was their operation, their bomb and their war crime. To that end, we have called for two leading members of the MRF to be questioned regarding British black ops at this time.
Their names are James (Hamish) Alastair McGregor and Clive Graham Williams. Hamish McGregor took over from Arthur H. Watchus after the McGurk’s Bar Massacre in early 1972. As a commander of 22 SAS, Watchus’ parent regiment was also the Paras. Of the two, only his successor survives.
Read how we tracked Brigadier McGregor down and tried to engage with him.
Furthermore, we have called for a member of the Information Research Department to be questioned about the management of disinformation and military black propaganda as Maurice Tugwell and Bernard Renouf Johnston of the Information Policy Unit are deceased.
His name is Hugh Mooney.
Finally, we once more call for John Taylor, Baron Kilclooney, to come clean about his very public role in this psychological operation. He need answer one question alone: Are you a patsy or a liar?
- The McGurk’s Bar Massacre and the Role of British Agents December 15, 2017
- Behind the Mask and the McGurk’s Bar Massacre July 14, 2017
- McGurk’s Bar Families Meet With Fianna Fáil Justice and Equality Spokesperson March 21, 2017