“When will the most recent report of the investigation into the McGurk’s Bar bombing be made public?”
This was a simple question tabled for the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland today by Michael Connarty, Labour MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk.
Michael is the nephew of the oldest victim of the McGurk’s Bar bombing, Philip Garry, who was 73 when he was murdered on 4th December 1971.
Well… *sighs* it seems that the British government thought that he was talking about the Police Ombudsman report which was published in February 2011 and which was refused by the Chief constable of Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in the hours following its publication.
This is despite the fact that the Police Ombudsman’s office is a statutory body that has been set up to hold the police – past and present – to account. It is in place as members of our community are still learning to trust the police due to the actions of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. If we consider the likes of Operation Ballast, the investigation into the murder of Gerard Lawlor, parades, the flag debacle and the political policing of PSNI, it may seem to some that little has changed, of course.
Somehow this simple question got lost in translation as Michael Connarty MP was referring to the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report which has yet to be published. After intervention by the MP in December 2012 again on the floor of the House of Commons, the HET told the families hours later that they had now finished their report after all even though it had taken them nearly seven years to complete by that stage. The report also followed two very incomplete, unprofessional reports before it which had to be re-written by HET.
Through The Looking Glass… AGAIN
Nevertheless, the families were not to be given any sight of the HET report even though they have waited of 41 years for even a scrap of truth and justice. Instead, HET passed their report BACK to the Police Ombudsman due to the interference of the Chief Constable of PSNI. Through our solicitor, Kevin Winters, we have had to track the journey of this report over the past couple of months as if it was a hot potato getting thrown from office to office.
We then received a response from the office of the Police Ombudsman to say that it has since passed this HET report back to… wait for it… the Chief Constable of PSNI!
It now sits on Matt Baggott’s table and the families STILL have not had sight of it. This is what the British government should have answered for in the British House of Commons. So STILL our families are left in limbo.
I will post the transcript of the proceedings soon as it is a measure of the absurdity which we continue to face. Like clockwork, the debate ended with the usual Unionist whataboutery, this time from the son of Ian Paisley, regarding the actions of the Irish Republican Army even though these had little to do with our individual report. At least we can depend on certain Unionists for consistency, although for once it may have been a welcome change if they had supported the families of ordinary civilians who were killed… regardless of their faith… or in spite of their faith.
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.