McGurk’s Bar families were proud to walk shoulder-to-shoulder with friends and families – Time For Truth!
McGurk’s Bar activist, Ciarán MacAirt, addressed the Time For Truth March on Sunday 25th February 2018.
My name is Ciarán MacAirt and I am the grandson of John and Kathleen Irvine. Kathleen was one of 15 innocent civilians murdered in the McGurk’s Bar Massacre of 4th December 1971. Two children lay among the dead. More than another dozen civilians, including my own grandfather, were lucky to escape with their lives.
On behalf of all of our families, thank you for your great support today. We are much stronger together than alone, fighting for truth and justice.
The McGurk’s Bar Massacre at that time was the single greatest loss of civilian life in any murderous attack since the Nazi blitz of Belfast a generation before. But the people in the bar that night became the forgotten victims of a dirty war and we have had to fight for their story to be told.
The bomb attack was carried out by pro-state extremists of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and the British state and its police force covered it up.
Despite all of the forensic evidence, including a witness who saw the attackers plant the bomb and escape, the police and the state blamed the bombing on the innocent civilians in the bar that night. To use their heinous language, they said that the McGurk’s Bar atrocity was “an own-goal”.
Therefore, the very people and organisations who should have defended the basic human rights of our loved ones, instead criminalised each and every single one of the innocent civilians who lost their lives and survived that night in McGurk’s Bar.
As we buried our loved ones, the police and the British state, buried the truth.
And successive administrations up to this very day have withheld that truth from us. Our families have had to campaign relentlessly, constitutionally and with great dignity for over forty-six years to clear the names of our loved ones. We have had to discover and publish the archival evidence ourselves.. It is a fight that continues to this very day.
The reason for this is very simple. The cover-up of the McGurk’s Bar massacre and the protection of the state agents involved in the atrocity continues to this very day. And the only service the police have offered us are lies, denial, delay and obfuscation.
Chief Constable George Hamilton and his so-called reformed Police Service of Northern Ireland has not only failed in its investigations but has been down-right obstructive in its attempts to stop us from accessing even a semblance of truth and justice. So much so, that the last 5 years of our campaign have been spent fighting against police intransigence and lies in court.
Now we will prevail – and I can guarantee George Hamilton that – but in the meantime our families grow older and some have become frail. In the last 5 years we have lost some of our campaigners who have fought tirelessly for 2 generations. This is, of course, what the police and the British state hopes. And it is why we stand with you today to demand that the basic human rights of victims and survivors are upheld.
For our families are no different than all of the families who have lost loved ones or who have been injured as a result of the conflict. We all deserve truth, justice and acknowledgement regardless of our background or creed. The fight for what we deserve as a right is a matter for all of society too and that is why we are calling on the British and the Irish governments to honour the agreements already reached:
- Implement the Stormont House Agreement and properly resource its mechanisms for dealing with the legacy of the past, especially the proposed Historical Inquiries Unit, as many of our families have never received a proper investigation or have had no platform to have our story heard.
- Properly resource the inquest system as laid out by LCJ Declan Morgan as many of our families have had no proper inquest into the death of our loved ones even after 46 years; and
- properly resource the Police Ombudsman’s Office as this may be the only avenue available for many of our families to hold the police – past and present – to account.
Now our campaigning families reserve the right to critically appraise these proposed and existing organisations to ensure that they are fulfilling their duties and are compliant with human rights legislation. But, unfortunately, we have no faith in the police investigating legacy cases so these strictures and structures may be the last hope for our families on this side of the grave.
That is why today is so important for us. That is why is is so important that you walked with us.
Thank you once again.
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.