Britain Lied to the European Commission about the McGurk’s Bar Massacre

As late as 1976, the British state and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) lied to the Irish Government and European Commission on Human Rights about the McGurk’s Bar Massacre, and claimed that the explosion was the result of “an IRA bomb which had exploded prematurely whilst in transit to its intended target… a hotel nearby”.

Margaret Urwin of Justice for the Forgotten and author of the critically acclaimed, A State in Denial: British Collaboration with Loyalist Paramilitaries, discovered the egregious reference to the atrocity in the 1976 report of the European Commission. She alerted the families before they are due to present evidence of the on-going police cover-up of McGurk’s Bar to the Irish Justice Committee, Senators and elected representatives of Dáil Éireann in Leinster House, Dublin (on Wednesday 22nd February 2017).

British Loyalists murdered 15 Irish civilians including 2 children in McGurk’s Bar on 4th December 1971. The British state and Royal Ulster Constabulary framed the innocent victims of the bomb. Just a few days before, the Irish Government announced that it intended to take a case against Britain in the European Commission of Human Rights for Britain’s breaches of the European Convention which uphold fundamental freedoms and protect against state torture.

The Irish Government argued that if Britain interned alleged Irish Republicans for violence in 1971, it had to intern British Loyalists who murdered over 100 civilians by the time they were subject to the same provisions and interned (albeit in comparatively small numbers).

Supported by testimony from the RUC Chief Constable Graham Shillington*, Britain denied the true extent of Loyalist violence at this time. Ireland submitted a Schedule of Loyalist Acts of Terrorism to refute this and this Schedule included the murder of 15 civilians in McGurk’s Bar. The European Commission reported in 1976, though, that the RUC:

“… received information to the effect that the explosion had been caused by an IRA bomb which exploded prematurely whilst in transit to its intended target… a hotel nearby.”

Read the other lies here:

Britain lied to the European Commission about the McGurk's Bar Massacre


Ciarán MacAirt’s grandmother was murdered in the attack and he said:  

“This important discovery is not only proof that the police and British state lied to the Irish Government and European Commission about the murder of our loved ones, but also that they embellished their lie to suit their narrative. Just as the RUC created a fictitious IRA bomber in 1971, the RUC created a fictitious hotel target in 1976. This is yet another heinous lie and is the only incidence that a hotel target is recorded. None of the failed historic investigations by the likes of the Historical Enquiries Team or Police Service Northern Ireland have ever uncovered this lie, or they chose to bury it.”

“It is also timely for the families as we are due to present evidence in Dublin to the Irish Committee for Justice and Equality and other members of Oireachtas. We are due too in High Court in Belfast on the 27th February against Chief Constable of Police Service Northern Ireland who continues to defend the indefensible.”

Author, Margaret Urwin says:

“It is likely that the disinformation campaign that emerged in the aftermath of the McGurk’s Bar bombing was intended to justify the failure of the British authorities to intern Loyalists”

Information for Editors

–          The McGurk’s Bar atrocity, 4th December 1971, resulted in the deaths of 15 civilians including two children

–          All of the evidence, including an eye-witness who saw the bomb being planted, proved that the bar had been attacked by Loyalist extremists. The British state and RUC reported, though, that it was a “Republican own-goal” and that it had exploded inside the main bar area and amongst the civilian customers.

–          The Irish Government took the case to the European Commission on 16 December 1971 and referred it to the European Court in March 1976 after the Commission reported in January 1976. You can download the report here. The relevant section is on page 189 of the report (page 208 of pdf)

–          Oral testimony was given to the European Commission on 20 February 1975 by the General Officer Commanding at the time, Harry Tuzo; RUC Chief Constable at the time, Graham Shillington and leading Civil Servant, Philip Woodfield. Their testimony was accompanied by a memorandum from the Northern Ireland Office

–          Out of a total of 1,981 persons interned between 1971 and 1975, only 107, or 5.4% were alleged Protestant extremists.

–          A recent file discovery also proves that the British Army and police were indeed told by a British bomb expert that the bomb was planted in the doorway and the bar attacked – click here to read the file. This evidence was never made public at the time or by successive historic investigations. The families are also petitioning the Attorney General for a proper Inquest.

–          The families are in the middle of court proceedings against the police and the British state including a Judicial Review which the families commenced to force the PSNI to quash a report by the Historical Enquiries Team. The report sought to exonerate the original police investigation.

–          The families have lodged the new evidence with the Northern Ireland Policing Board, the Police Ombudsman and the Chief Constable of the Police Service Northern Ireland.

–          Ciarán MacAirt is grandson of McGurk’s Bar victim, Kathleen Irvine. He is also author of the book, The McGurk’s Bar Bombing (Frontline Noir 2012), and manager of the charity, Paper Trail (Legacy Archive Research)

* RUC Chief Constable Shillington misinformed the Northern Ireland Government and the head of the British Army in Northern Ireland at a Joint Security Committee meeting on 16th December 1971 when he said that two of the McGurk’s Bar victims were IRA, one of whom a known bomber. These were lies, yet again.

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