Newly uncovered British Ministry of Defence files prove how the British Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) lied to British government ministers and Number 10 about the McGurk’s Bar bombing days after the massacre.
15 civilians were killed including 2 children in the McGurk’s Bar attack on 4th December 1971 – at the time, the greatest loss of civilian life in a single bombing in Ireland since the Nazi Blitz of Belfast. 16 other civilians were injured. Today (Wednesday) is the 48th anniversary of the atrocity. The families are still seeking truth and justice from the British Government to this very day.
The report – marked secret and dated 15th December 1971 – is from Defence Secretariat 10 (DS10), an important division within British Ministry of Defence (MOD) that provided information and policy advice to Ministers and British military staff during the conflict in the early 1970s.
Addressed to the Minister of State for Defence, copies were sent to the British Prime Minister’s office (10 Downing Street) and the Assistant Secretary of the Home Office as well as key British military staff and MOD offices.
The report records blatant and deliberate British Army and RUC lies aimed at blaming the innocent victims of the attack for the massacre and undermining an eye-witness to the atrocity.
Serial 4 [PDF 4] records the heinous lies:
“4. RUC forensic experts and Ammunition Technical officers both agree that the blast occurred inside the building, though with the disturbances caused to the site by heavy technical equipment involved in the rescue operation they are not sure quite where. But apart from the pattern of debris, initial examination has shown that 5 of those killed were killed directly by blast, not debris.”
We now know for a fact that the Ammunition Technical Officer at the scene reported within hours to Headquarters Northern Ireland (with RUC HQ privy to the report):
“ATO is convinced bomb was placed in entrance way on ground floor. The area is cratered and clearly was the seat of the explosion.”
Forensics were not completed till February 1972 and in March 1972, the State Pathologist Dr Marshall informed RUC:
“All the injuries to the bodies we examined could be accounted for the collapse of the building and the burning of the rubble. There were no injuries… specifically due to the bomb…”
We now know too for a fact that General Sir Frank Kitson (then Brigadier) and the RUC colluded to push the police “line” within around 4 hrs:
“… that the bomb in the pub was a bomb designed to be used elsewhere, left in the pub to be picked up by the Provisional IRA. Bomb went off and was a mistake”
The police to this day have not been able to substantiate this lie as it was fabricated.
In the meantime, the RUC sought to undermine an eyewitness to the atrocity whose testimony was vindicated when one of the UVF murderers confessed in 1977 [PDF 4]:
“3. The RUC have interviewed two witnesses whose statements support the theory that the bomb was placed outside, or just inside, the bar by a man who got out of a car. The RUC are however unconvinced by these stories. One of them is from a small boy whose account was published in the press: when the RUC saw him his father and solicitor did most of the talking.”
The secret archives were discovered by author Ciarán MacAirt, a grandson of two of the McGurk’s Bar victims and project manager of the charity, Paper Trail. He said:
“These documents prove how the British Army and RUC deliberately misinformed British Ministers and departments including the Prime Minister’s Office using Defence Secretariat 10 as a conduit for their lies. Even after 48 years, we are finding new evidence of the British state’s cover-up but the redaction [Serial 6, PDF 4] shows that even after 48 years, the British state is still withholding evidence of the McGurk’s Bar massacre from our families. I will fight for the release of that information over the coming year.”
Family legal representative Niall Ó Murchú of Kinnear and Co. Solicitors said:
“It is testimony to the dignity and industry of the McGurk’s Bar families and Paper Trail that they continue to discover critical evidence relating to the atrocity and its cover-up nearly half a century later. It is also testimony to the British state’s failure to acknowledge its part in the McGurk’s Bar massacre that it is still withholding evidence from the families, denying them truth and justice to this very day.”