McGurk’s Bar Families hear for the first time that a high-level British agent gave intelligence about the atrocity to his police handlers.
Yesterday – and only in open court – victims and survivors of the McGurk’s Bar atrocity learned that British agent and Ulster Volunteer Force commander, Gary Haggarty, gave information to his police handlers about the massacre. The Police Ombudsman’s office was privy to this information too during its investigation of police handling of the state agent.
Neither the Police Service of Northern Ireland nor the Police Ombudsman’s office informed the families of this revelation; and neither organisation highlighted this revelation in any of its so-called investigations into the McGurk’s Bar Massacre even though this information could have been significant and should have been included in their investigations.
Our families, therefore, demand an immediate response from the Chief Constable of Police Service Northern Ireland and Police Ombudsman why we were not informed like other families impacted by information Haggarty gave; and why this information was not investigated and recorded in various “investigations” carried out by their organisations.
The revelation, though, is but the latest example of police cover-up of information regarding the mass murder of our loved ones in McGurk’s Bar on 4th December 1971.
Burying the Truth
Just last year, in December 2016 at an Information Tribunal in London, our families fought for the release of key evidence relating to the McGurk’s Bar Massacre contained in a high level Headquarters Northern Ireland Commander’s Diary. We secured evidence that British Military Headquarters and the police were informed by a bomb disposal expert the following morning that the bar was attacked and our loved ones were innocent victims. This expert opinion supported all of the evidence including an eye witness who saw the bombers plant the bomb and flee; but the evidence was suppressed in the aftermath of the atrocity as it contradicted the lies which the police created and published in the media.
Nevertheless, other key evidence was withheld from us during closed sessions of the Information Tribunal. A barrister for the British Ministry of Defence was forced to admit that the department was withholding information to protect the identity of an agent/informer.
This admission regarding an agent/informer highlighted why we have had to scrape and fight for two generations to unravel the lies of the police and the state.
Over the last decade, we have had to discover and publish key archival evidence from British files that proved that the British police, army and state in 1971 covered up the evidence and created the lie that our loved ones blew themselves up. None of our evidence was considered by successive Chief Constable’s of today’s police force.
In fact, we have had to fight each police investigation which sought to continue that cover-up and exonerate a sectarian police force in the past. We have been successful in court each time and yet these battles have taken many years and have done little except re-traumatize our families and diminish the faith our community has in fair and equitable policing. At this time, our families and many other families in legacy cases have absolutely no faith whatsoever in PSNI investigating the past.
Today we learned about the police suppression of key information from another British state agent relating to the massacre in McGurk’s Bar. This is yet more evidence of police cover-up except the perpetrators are members of today’s Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Police Complaint Ignored
Over two years ago, we raised a complaint with the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland regarding the PSNI’s chronic mishandling of our case.
First and foremost, we complained that senior police officers in PSNI deliberately misled our families and the public about the massacre in order to protect the reputation of RUC officers who led the cover-up and the identity of British agents in the Loyalist death squad. In a fair and just society, police officers would be hauled before the courts on charges of perverting the course of justice.
In our complaint, we particularly highlighted the culpability of Chief Constable Hamilton and Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris. Today their mask has slipped and we have been vindicated. They should resign immediately and hold their heads in shame. They should be investigated and held to account for any misconduct – criminal or otherwise.
Nevertheless, this week the Office of the Police Ombudsman has been forced to admit that it has done absolutely nothing with respect to investigating the serious complaint we raised over two years ago. As Dr Maguire’s office was privy to the information Heggarty gave to police regarding McGurk’s Bar, but did not include it in the office’s report and did not investigate our complaint, he has serious questions to answer regarding his suitability for such an important post.
In the Frame
Statement by Madden and Finucane Solicitors who represent some of our families.
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 charity and social enterprise which offers legacy archive research services and helps families unearth the truth hidden in public records.