The families of the 15 victims killed in the McGurk’s Bar Massacre have challenged Chief Constable Simon Byrne to prove police lies in an RUC Special Branch briefing to Stormont officials.
Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) Chief Constable Graham Shillington and Assistant Chief Constable David Johnston, the Head of RUC Special Branch briefed the Northern Ireland Government days after the bomb that “two of those killed were known IRA members”.
Among the 15 civilians murdered in the bar and family home on 4th December 1971 were two children, James Cromie (13) and Maria McGurk (14).
The families recently secured unredacted copies of:
(1) Conclusions of a Joint Security Committee Meeting at Stormont Castle held on 16th December 1971;
(2) The RUC Special Branch Assessment which was Agenda 1 at this high-level meeting.
The Joint Security Committee meeting included the Northern Ireland Prime Minister, Brian Faulkner, and his Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs, John Taylor – now Lord Kilcooney – who has upset the families on numerous occasions with his false allegations about the explosion.
Also present: the General Officer Commanding, Lt General Sir Harry Tuzo, who was in charge of the British Army in the north of Ireland; Chief Constable Graham Shillington of the Royal Ulster Constabulary; and Assistant Chief Constable David Johnston, Head of Special Branch.
Incidentally, the Security Liaison Officer there too was a member of Britain’s Security Service, MI5.
Serial 5 of the Special Branch Assessment of Agenda 1 regards the McGurk’s Bar Massacre:
“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.”
Serial 2 of the RUC Special Branch Assessment records the police brief that the IRA operations:
“… have been mounted with a reckless disregard for human life and with the apparent aims of capturing newspaper headlines and of provoking a Protestant backlash which could be used to justify their actions. In the latter aim they failed.”
The RUC’s lies had just helped to protect the perpetrators of a mass-murder which at the time accounted for the single greatest loss of civilian life in any murderous attack in Ireland since the Nazi Blitz of Belfast a generation before.
Ciarán MacAirt, a grandson of two of the McGurk’s Bar victims, discovered reference to this high-level meeting in Public Records Office Northern Ireland (PRONI) nearly a decade ago and it featured in the Police Ombudsman’s report of 2011 as proof that the police briefed the Northern Ireland Prime Minister and the General Officer Commanding.
Nevertheless, this is the first time that the families have secured the unredacted files as previously MacAirt was denied access to the contents due to “National Security”.
MacAirt has now raised a Freedom of Information request with the police for the provenance of the Security Branch Assessment and challenged Chief Constable Simon Byrne to prove that two of the victims were members of the Irish Republican Army and the RUC had credible intelligence that it was an IRA bomb for another target.
“The Chief Constable of the RUC and the head of RUC Special Branch lied to Government about our loved ones and we want to know why. I had to find this critical evidence as neither RUC nor PSNI released it to historical investigations. None of the previous historical or police investigations were able to tell our families the source or provenance of these heinous RUC lies which criminalized each and every one of our loved ones.”
“We have since discovered that the ‘line’ that the McGurk’s Bar Massacre was a result of an IRA ‘own-goal’, had its origins in a secret agreement between Brigadier Frank Kitson and the RUC hours after the attack.”
Brigadier Frank Kitson informed British Army 39 Brigade around 4 hours after the attack:
“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.”
“So, on the 49th anniversary of the murder of our loved ones and the subsequent police cover-up, we challenge Chief Constable Byrne to prove the provenance of his predecessor’s lies and provide evidence that the police simply did not create the McGurk’s Bar lie to suit its own sick political agenda. Chief Constable Byrne can access that information immediately as it is buried in Police Service of Northern Ireland archives.”