Press Release: Kitson-Cop Collusion - Information Watchdog Rules Against the Cops
The Information Commissioner’s Office has upheld a family complaint against Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI) and its failure to provide information regarding a secret agreement between the infamous British Army chief, General Sir Frank Kitson (retired), and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) to blame the victims of the McGurk’s Bar Massacre for the bombing.
15 civilians including 2 children were murdered in the no-warning Loyalist bomb attack on 4th December 1971. The British state and its armed forces blamed the atrocity on an Irish Republican Army (IRA) “own-goal” despite evidence that pro-state extremists bombed the pub and family home.
Ciarán MacAirt’s grandmother, Kathleen Irvine, was among those murdered. He discovered a high-level British Military 39 Brigade Operations Log that recorded an order from the Brigade Commander just over 4 hours after the explosion which stated (Serial 12):
“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”.
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The Kitson Experiment
The Brigade Commander of 39 Infantry Brigade at the time was General Sir Frank Kitson (retired), or Brigadier Kitson as he was then, a noted author of British military counter-insurgency policies.
MacAirt asked PSNI for the background and minutes of the secret agreement between Kitson and the RUC as no previous historic investigation by RUC, Office of the Police Ombudsman, Historical Enquiries Team and PSNI had told the families about it.
Nevertheless, PSNI issued a refusal notice, citing Section 12(2) of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and stating that it would exceed the “appropriate cost limits” to determine whether or not it held the requested information.
MacAirt requested an immediate internal review of that decision and PSNI upheld it after a prolonged period of 10 months. MacAirt then complained to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
The Information Commissioner’s Office ruled on Wednesday 19th April 2023 that “PSNI was not entitled to refuse the request under section 12 of FOIA. The Commissioner is not satisfied that PSNI has demonstrated that confirming or denying that the requested information is held would exceed the appropriate limit.”
ICO also recorded that 10 months for an internal review was excessive.
Ciarán MacAirt said:
“During his tenure in the North of Ireland, Kitson oversaw Britain’s deployment of internment without trial, in-depth interrogation techniques including torture, psychological operations, pseudo-gangs and covert Special Force units like the Military Reaction Force (MRF) that murdered civilians with impunity.
We now know too that he colluded with the RUC to blame the McGurk’s Bar Massacre on the innocent victims in the pub. All the heinous lies about our loved ones flowed from this secret agreement between the head of the British Army in Belfast and RUC. So, before we buried our loved ones, the British state buried the truth.
This small victory in our battle for truth and justice proves yet again that PSNI is actively involved in the cover-up of the McGurk’s Bar Massacre over half a century later. It is defending a sectarian police force in the past and protecting General Sir Frank Kitson.”
Christopher Stanley, Litigation Consultant, KRW LAW LLP, said:
“Information retrieval and truth recovery are central to the process of dealing with the Legacy of the Conflict in Northern Ireland. Exposing the truth, no matter how painful or compromising for the parties concerned, is fundamental to establishing justice and accountability for the relatives of victims.”
“If Britain’s Legacy Bill becomes law, Freedom of Information requests such as this will become increasingly important to relatives of victims and campaigners. The PSNI cannot simply rely upon a stock response to such requests - including ‘Neither Confirm, Nor Deny’ - without further explanation or context. Neither can the PSNI rely upon exemptions within the legislation without proper examination of the application and justification for the deployment of those exemptions.”
“The ICO, the statutory authority charged with regulating Freedom of Information, has, in this instance, ‘flushed out’ the PSNI which spends public money refusing and defending the vast majority of requests for information relating to the activities of the RUC during the Conflict. If the Legacy Bill becomes law – despite significant public and political opposition – then the protection of the Freedom of Information regime by the ICO on behalf of those who rely upon it for truth will become even more important.”
Article: General Sir Frank Kitson Implicated in the Cover-Up of the McGurk's Bar Massacre
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