In what has been described as a “sinister attack on the freedom of information and personal attack on me by the Police Service of Northern Ireland”, a McGurk’s Bar family member has described how the police have closed down every single one of his requests for information in one refusal.
Ciarán MacAirt is the grandson of Kathleen Irvine, one of 15 innocent civilians murdered in the attack which also claimed the lives of two children. He is author of the book, The McGurk’s Bar Bombing: Collusion Cover-Up and a Campaign for Truth which details his research of the police cover-up. He now manages the charity, Paper Trail, which helps other families and their legal teams with specialised research of legacy archives.
I made these specific and clear requests for information over the last few months but Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) fulfilled none. They included simple requests such as:
- Police “confirmation or denial that my grandmother, Kathleen Irvine, was one of the ‘known IRA members’ which the Chief Constable of the RUC in 1971 told the Northern Ireland Prime Minister were guilty of the bombing
- The provenance of an undated and unsubstantiated police record which the RUC used as a basis for their Republican own-goal theory even though it supported no such pretext
We know of course that the RUC lied at the time and had no evidence whatsoever which would point the finger of blame at the innocent civilians in the bar.
I knew other specific requests would be problematic for the PSNI although they were precise and lodged correctly. These included:
- A copy of the minutes of a heated meeting regarding the bombing between former Chief Constable of the PSNI and the former Police Ombudsman a few days before the release of the Police Ombudsman’s McGurk’s Bar report
- A copy of a report ordered by the Chief Constable of the RUC in 1972 after the police’s release of UVF leader and sectarian killer, Gusty Spence, one of the most wanted men in the country at the time
My work has provided a mountain of archive evidence for the authorities and affidavits running to hundreds of pages, but these requests for information have obviously caused the PSNI serious problems.
The closure of each and every one of my requests comes at a time when we are fighting the Chief Constable in the High Court to accept the truth and our family members are in London lobbying politicians for the release of information.
I am also fighting for targeted information from the National Archives at Kew, London, and the Information Commissioner’s Office.
It also comes at a time when secret archives I discovered and released via Paper Trail are causing the British state and its police force here serious embarrassment. These include archives which lead murder investigators to a clandestine unit of the British Army called the Military Reaction Force which was killing civilians on the streets of Belfast at the time of my grandmother’s murder.
The refusal of the requests also coincide with a High Court case this very Friday regarding one of those MRF killings – the murder of Jean Smyth-Campbell and the cover-up by RUC and PSNI (link to Jean’s story).
So I have written to the PSNI to register my disgust at what I consider to be a personal attack from a biased police force which is attempting to pervert the course of justice. I have asserted that PSNI should have nothing to do with legacy cases as it is more interested in defending the reputation of the RUC than defending the basic human rights of civilians killed during the conflict or their families.
This is a sinister attempt by the PSNI/RUC to silence me and the work I do. The police will not succeed.
PSNI wrote that it was refusing the requests together due to “Aggregation of requests” which requires that they are:
(i) Made by one person, or by different persons who appear to the public authority to be acting in concert or in pursuance of a campaign;
(ii) Made for the same or similar information; and
(iii) Received by a public authority within any period of 60 consecutive working days.
Niall Ó Murchú of Ó Muirigh Solicitors who represents some of the families says:
This decision appears to be nothing more than a further attempt by the PSNI to frustrate our clients’ search for truth.
Mr MacAirt’s work with his grandmother’s case and with Paper Trail has greatly assisted the McGurk’s Bar campaign and this refusal by the PSNI will seen by family members as a tactic to delay and obstruct their ongoing litigation against the Chief Constable and application to re-open the inquests into the circumstances of, and in particular, the role of the state in the deaths of their loved ones.”
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.