Chief Constable Snubs Massacre Families and Withholds Evidence

Press Release: The Chief Constable of Police Service Northern Ireland has yet again snubbed the families of the McGurk’s Bar Massacre and withholds evidence regarding the atrocity.

Despite a protest at the Policing Board to mark the 50th anniversary of the McGurk's Bar Massacre and an official request to meet with him, a police representative of the Chief Constable has informed the families that Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI) is withholding critical evidence of the police and British Army cover-up of the massacre.

On 2nd December 2021, families of those killed and injured in the McGurk’s Bar Massacre were left out in the cold at the Policing Board when Chief Constable Simon Byrne refused to meet with them to discuss the PSNI’s withholding of critical evidence regarding the police and British Army cover-up of the McGurk’s Bar Massacre.

The families then submitted a formal request for a meeting with the Chief Constable as promised by the Chief Executive of the Policing Board.

The families’ asked Chief Constable Simon Byrne to either substantiate the police lies about their loved ones or admit that the police fabricated them.

On 16th December 1971, Chief Constable Graham Shillington of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and his head of Special Branch lied directly to the Northern Ireland Prime Minister and General Officer Commanding of the British Army at a Joint Security Committee meeting in Stormont:

“Circumstantial evidence indicates that this was a premature detonation and two of those killed were known IRA members at least one of whom had been associated with bombing activities. Intelligence indicates that the bomb was destined for use elsewhere in the city.”

RUC Special Branch Assessment McGurk's Lies 15 Dec 1971 Serial 5

The families tracked this disinformation back to a secret agreement between the British Army’s Brigade Commander of Belfast, then Brigadier Frank Kitson, and the RUC just over 4 hours after the explosion which claimed the lives of 15 civilians including 2 children. Kitson ordered Brigade staff:

“RUC have a line that the bomb in the pub was a bomb designed to be used elsewhere, left in the pub to be picked up by Provisional IRA. Bomb went off and was a mistake. RUC press office have a line on it – NI should deal with them”.


General Sir Frank Kitson colludes with RUC Police to disseminate McGurk's Bar lies
Archive proves that the Brigade Commander (Bde Comd) General Sir Frank Kitson colluded with RUC to disseminate the heinous disinformation about the McGurk's Bar victims just hours after the attack.

There was no response from the Chief Constable, so the families contacted his office in late February to request the promised meeting again. His representative only replied at the end of April 2022.

The Chief Constable ignored the request for a meeting and failed to substantiate the police lies or admit the police fabricated them.

Instead, the Chief Constable’s representative affirmed that PSNI is exempting itself from providing the provenance of the RUC’s lies.

Previously, PSNI “neither confirmed nor denied” it had this evidence but now tells the families that it has the evidence, but they are not getting it.

A subsequent response informed the families that PSNI was withholding this critical evidence of the mass murder due to:

1.      National Security

2.      Information supplied by or concerning certain security bodies

3.      Investigations

4.      Law Enforcement

5.      Personal Information

Ciarán MacAirt is a grandson of two of the McGurk’s Bar victims. He said:

“This is a simple request to the Chief Constable: substantiate the police lies about our loved ones or admit that the police fabricated them.”

“Instead, Chief Constable Simon Byrne chose the damaging route of his predecessors: bury the evidence and perpetuate the police cover-up of the McGurk’s Bar Massacre.”

“I have traced the police lies back to a secret agreement between General Sir Frank Kitson, British Army Commander, and the RUC hours after the bombing which claimed the lives of fifteen civilians, including two children. Kitson is a living witness to the British Army and RUC cover-up, but the PSNI has failed to question him under caution despite our urgent requests.”

“Half a century after the McGurk’s Bar Massacre and police cover-up, it is shameful that Chief Constable Simon Byrne chose to withhold critical evidence rather than meet with us and offer our families a modicum of truth. Many of our family members are old and infirm, but we will have to battle even longer as yet another Chief Constable chooses to protect a sectarian police force in the past rather than upholding the basic human rights of our families for truth, justice and acknowledgement today.”


The cover of the new book by Ciarán MacAirt called Trope


Support the work of the charity, Paper Trail.

The author Ciarán MacAirt is donating all of the profits of his book, Trope: Essays and Articles, to Paper Trail and its work with victims and survivors of the conflict, including the families of the McGurk's Bar Massacre.

Trope features some of his ground-breaking discoveries and represents a personal journey as he trudges across the killing fields of World War 1 to the back-streets of Belfast where death-squads roamed. In it, he asks whether General Sir Frank Kitson who helped cover up the McGurk's Bar Massacre was a British military hero or director of terrorism. Foreword by Father Sean McManus, international human rights activist, author, and President of the Irish National Caucus.

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