McGurk’s Bar Massacre Families Lodge Police Ombudsman Maladministration Complaint
Families who lost loved ones in the 1971 McGurk’s Bar Massacre have lodged a complaint of maladministration with the Police Ombudsman that includes discrimination and her Office’s withholding of evidence from the families.
The complaint of maladministration follows the discovery of new evidence relating to the McGurk’s Bar Massacre and the withholding of information relating to it by the Office of the Police Ombudsman.
15 civilians including 2 children were murdered in McGurk’s Bar Massacre of 4th December 1971 when a bomb planted its doorway by pro-state Loyalists exploded. Within hours and despite all evidence, the British Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary briefed the media with lies that the bomb was the result of an Irish Republican “own-goal”.
Specifically, the families found evidence that the RUC and the head of the British Army in Belfast - then Brigadier Frank Kitson - colluded just hours after the Massacre to blame the victims for the bombing. Kitson ordered his Brigade staff (1:00 am, 5th December 1971):
“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 the Provisional IRA. Bomb went off and was a mistake. RUC press office have a line on it – NI should deal with them.”
The same files proved that the British Armed Forces knew that witness evidence of a Loyalist attack on McGurk’s Bar was correct, but they still disseminated the lies that the Massacre was the result of a Republican “own-goal”.
The Police Ombudsman did not include proof of this secret agreement between the British Army and RUC to blame the innocent victims in its 2011 Public Statement and has refused to provide a supplementary report to reflect the significance of the new evidence.
In the 2011 report, the Police Ombudsman referred to RUC lies in a Duty Officers’ Report seven hours later (at 8:00 am, 5th December 1971):
“The Police Ombudsman’s investigation has been unable to establish the precise source of the information on which the author of the Duty Officers’ Report relied.” (p. 62, 8.20)
“There are no records fully explaining the police rationale for linking the IRA ‘own-goal’ theory to the seat of the explosion being inside the bar.” (p. 62, 8.23)
In November 2022, the Information Commissioner’s Office upheld a decision by the Office of the Police Ombudsman to “neither confirm, nor deny” that it had discovered or considered the evidence of RUC-Kitson collusion and other discoveries relating to the RUC and British Army cover-up of the McGurk’s Bar Massacre.
The families allege that OPONI’s recent withholding of critical evidence from the families and its failure to account for other new evidence are the latest in a long line of failures by the Office. The cumulative maladministration includes:
- Failure to discover and/or provide information
- Misleading and inaccurate publications and statements
- Dissatisfaction with the investigation and complaints processes
- Failure to investigate, re-investigate and/or provide a supplementary report
- Actions/inactions causing injustice
To support their complaint of maladministration against the Office of the Police Ombudsman and to highlight the Office’s failures, the families lodged an 87-page book of new evidence, comparative analyses, and research with Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson on 22nd February 2023.
As remedy for the complaint of maladministration, the families requested:
(1) An internal review of OPONI’s failures including explanations for either missing or not publishing the new evidence;
(2) A supplementary report by OPONI into the McGurk’s Bar Massacre that accounts for all the new evidence including new information that is being withheld from the families today.
Bias against the McGurk's Bar families has been evident from the first failed Police Ombudsman's report in 2010 when Al Hutchinson and his team could not even get the names of the victims right. Read on BBC: Ombudsman Pulls Report into 1971 Bar Bomb.
Rather than remedying its failures in 2010, OPONI discriminated against our families again in its 2011 published report as it deliberately used a different definition for the meaning of “collusion” than it did in other reports.
In The McGurk’s Bar Bombing: Post-Script (p. 6), we outlined OPONI’s deliberate use/misuse in comparison with OPONI’s report into the terrible Claudy atrocity which was published a few months before. In its Claudy Bombings report, OPONI judged:
“The definition of conniving may be particularly relevant, meaning to deliberately ignore; overlook; condone; disregard; to look the other way; to be indulgent, tolerant, secretly in favour or sympathetic; co-operate secretly; or fail to take action against a known wrongdoing or misbehaviour, usually the violation of the law”
“In the absence of explanation, the actions of senior RUC officers, in seeking and accepting the Government assistance in dealing with the problem of Father Chesney’s alleged wrong-doing, was by definition a collusive act.”
[Claudy Report, Serials 6: 16 -17]
Nevertheless, a few months later in its 2011 report into the McGurk’s Bar Massacre, OPONI changed its definition of collusion despite the mountain of evidence we provided regarding omission, commission, lies and disinformation of the British Armed Forces and government and civil service officials:
“The essence of collusion requires that a number of elements be present. Usually, but not always, it involves an agreement between two or more parties. There is an additional requirement that a sufficiency of evidence exists to establish, on balance, that the act or omission complained of was deliberate and not merely negligent or inadvertent.” [McGurk’s Bar Report 8: 66]
“In this instance, there is no evidence, which indicates that any of the investigative failures by the police, including the release of assessments of the circumstances of the bombing, which entered the public domain, resulted from agreements entered into with others.” [McGurk’s Bar Report 8:69]
OPONI somehow then decided that “conniving” was not important as it left this whole serial out and we were deliberately denied a similar ruling to the Claudy report.
This was a deliberate omission by OPONI that discriminated against our families and led to a grave injustice.
This discrimination has underpinned the Office's failures since then. That injustice is compounded by the fact that we have produced new evidence up until the present day that (1) not only demolishes OPONI’s findings in 2011, (2) but also fulfills the stricter criteria for the definition of collusion that OPONI used when it discriminated against our families in its published report - firstly, a secret agreement by Kitson, the British Army, and the RUC to blame our loved ones for the atrocity.
Failure to Find Evidence
As you can read in our research, OPONI either failed to find a raft of new evidence or it found it and buried it again as none of it was made public or available to the families. When I discovered these critical files and submitted them to OPONI, OPONI then failed to regard their significance and denied us a supplementary report as its 2011 report was then redundant.
For ease of reference in our publications, I have grouped the new evidence and serious concerns into the following:
- Seat of the Explosion
- The Original Target – the Gem Bar
- Operation Closed Door – Vehicle Check Points
- British Army Security Forces in the Area
- A Covert British Military Operation in the Area and a Potential New British Army Witness
- The Presence of the Military Reaction Force
- Suspect Cars, Fingerprint Evidence and a New Witness
- A Secret Agreement Between the Police and the British Army to Blame the Innocent Civilians
- General Sir Frank Kitson
- A High-Level, Coordinated and Sustained Plot to Deceive Two Parliaments
- The suspects as agents of the state
- OPONI’s Discrimination of Our Families
You can watch me discuss some of this new evidence in this Féile an Phobail webinar.
So, up until the present day, OPONI has denied us justice by: (1) failing to find evidence; (2) finding evidence but not publishing it; (3) failing to consider the new evidence we discovered; (4) publishing false information and/or failing to correct false information such as its 2011 report; (5) delaying answers to our concerns; (6) failing to investigate, re-investigate and/or produce a supplementary report.
We now know too from our recent information battles that (7) OPONI is willfully withholding evidence from our families and hiding behind the Freedom of Information Act to protect the source of the McGurk's Bar lies: General Sir Frank Kitson, the British Army, and the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
As I wrote in my book as early as 2012, we also want to know what part the covert Information Research Department played in the McGurk's Bar black ops as it worked directly under the UK Representative in Stormont and would have had to pass the disinformation. As it stands, Kitson's Brigade and the RUC are in the frame for the McGurk's Bar cover-up.
We believe these grave failures amount to maladministration and an abuse of power.
Today, the Office of the Police Ombudsman is perpetuating the cover-up of the McGurk’s Bar Massacre that Kitson, the British Army, and RUC concocted over 51 years ago. A fair and just internal review of this maladministration should help us discover where collusion ends, and incompetence begins. Whether Marie Anderson can offer such an objective review of her Office’s failures is yet to be proved.
- This follows a number of family protests at the Office of the Police Ombudsman for the release of the critical evidence. See here >>
Families Slam Information Watchdog's Support of Police Ombudsman Withholding Collusion Evidence
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