HET Shunts McGurk’s Bar Investigation BACK at the Police Ombudsman

The Historical Enquiries Team (HET) has finally completed the McGurk’s Bar Report… and referred it BACK to the Police Ombudsman. (Post on behalf of the McGurk’s Bar Commemoration Committee)

On Thursday 6th December, Labour MP, Michael Connarty, urged the British Prime Minister to apologise to the families of the McGurk’s Bar victims and order a “proper investigation”. A few hours later, the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) finally said that they had completed their report after more than 6 years. The HET has informed the families, though, that it has to refer it back to the Police Ombudsman’s Office for it to review before they have sight of it.

Tuesday 4th December was the 41st anniversary of the McGurk’s Bar atrocity which resulted in the death of 15 civilians – men, women and children – 3 weeks before Christmas, 1971. To commemorate their loved ones, the families of the McGurk’s Bar Commemoration Committee organised two events on two consecutive days to engage politicians of two parliaments and the public. At Stormont on the anniversary and Westminster on the 5th December, the families launched the hard-hitting book, The McGurk’s Bar Bombing: Collusion, Cover-Up and a Campaign for Truth, written by Ciarán MacAirt, a grandson of one of the victims.

Michael onnarty, nephew of Philip Garry, the eldest victim of the McGurk's Bar bombing.Both events proved highly successful. Westminster was notable, especially for the personal recollections that Michael Connarty (right), Labour MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk, had of his “Uncle Philly”, 73 year-old Philip Garry, the eldest person who was killed in the bombing.

Ciarán MacAirt, grandson of Kathleen Irvine who was murdered in the attack said “Mr Connarty heard that the families are waiting for the HET to report six years after it began investigating, and almost two years after PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott unilaterally announced there were no more investigative opportunities. Mr Connarty promised those who attended the event that he would do everything in his power to raise awareness of the families’ ongoing campaign although few could have hoped he would act so swiftly and forcibly.”

The following morning in the House of Commons, Mr Connarty asserted: “There was collusion and it was clearly the British government, possibly up to the then prime minister Edward Heath, who colluded” before urging the British Prime Minister to apologise to the families and order a proper investigation.

Later that day, the Senior Investigating Officer of the HET review team contacted the families to say that their “report has gone through the editorial process and has now been completed” but that “particular circumstances” meant that it had to be referred back to the Police Ombudsman. This was because [quote]:

  • The Chief Constable, Mr Matt Baggott, has direct line of Command for the HET
  • He was involved personally in the response to the PONI findings and recommendations and directed the HET to consider matters raised with him by PONI
  • He is obliged to let PONI consider what the HET has found to assess if it has any implications for their conclusions.

Ciarán MacAirt commented:

“We assumed that the HET were waiting for the book to be published and it may be coincidental that they are telling us they have completed on the day that a Labour MP who is also a family member of one of the victims has been applying so much political pressure in Westminster.”

“Obviously we are dismayed at further delay since it has had to be referred back to the new Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire. Nevertheless, we are hopeful that we will not suffer the same horrific journey that we experienced with the previous Police Ombudsman, Al Hutchinson. The McGurk’s Bar Commemoration Committee have instructed me, though, to send a copy of our book to Dr Maguire to remind him just how long we have waited for the truth and how badly the families have been let down by those in authority”.

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