Yet another PSNI U-turn should be a warning to families.
Following the discovery of new evidence in British military files - and prior to a hearing of a seven-year-long Judicial Review beginning tomorrow - the Police Service Northern Ireland has admitted it is “not aware of holding details of a secret agreement… between the RUC and Ministry of Defence in regard to the bombing of McGurk’s Bar”.
In 2018 - following a protracted information battle - I discovered proof of a secret agreement between the Brigadier in charge of the British Army in Belfast – General Sir Frank Kitson (Retired) – and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) to blame the victims of the McGurk’s Bar Massacre for the explosion.
The 39 Brigade Commander’s Diary recorded an order from the Brigade Commander (Kitson) just over 4 hours after the McGurk’s Bar explosion which claimed the lives of 15 civilians including 2 children:
“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”.
I sought the provenance of these police lies from PSNI but previously PSNI “neither confirmed nor denied” it had the information.
I also followed up similar requests for information from the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Office of the Police Ombudsman (OPONI) targeting this secret agreement between Kitson and the RUC as all of the heinous McGurk's Bar disinformation and failed investigations flowed from it.
Kitson Arrest Denied
Following a protest at the Northern Ireland Policing Board to highlight the PSNI’s withholding of the collusion evidence and the 50th anniversary of the massacre, the Chief Constable denied us a meeting to either substantiate the police lies or admit that the police fabricated them.
PSNI has also denied the families’ requests that PSNI question Kitson under caution despite the proof of his secret agreement with the RUC.
I was forced to raise complaints against the PSNI’s withholding of the critical evidence with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). I was forced to raise similar requests against OPONI and MoD.
The PSNI has subsequently changed its position from “neither confirm nor deny” prior to a separate Judicial Review hearing tomorrow (Thursday 19th May) and admitted that PSNI was:
“… not aware of holding details of a secret agreement between the RUC and Ministry of Defence in regard to the bombing of McGurk’s Bar”
So, of course, if the PSNI is unaware of holding the critical evidence, this is new information which does not feature in the HET or OPONI reports. Nevertheless, OPONI informed us it has it but will not give us it - but how can it if the PSNI does not. This is the service journey families face with these organisations - where collusion ends and incompetence begins is anyone's guess.
The Judicial Review was taken by the families against PSNI 7 years ago to quash a botched Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report into the atrocity which had failed to find and consider critical evidence of the police cover-up. Our legal action followed a successful Judicial Review by the families to access the report as PSNI/HET actually withheld it from them for years.
The PSNI’s U-turn, and admission that it is not aware of the details of the secret agreement between the British Army Commander and RUC, goes to the heart of PSNI/HET’s failure to provide the McGurk’s Bar families with an independent and Article 2-compliant investigation.
This also coincides with the British government’s introduction of its pernicious Legacy Bill which family campaigners contend is designed to allow Britain to bury its war crimes in Ireland and protect its killers.
This is an open admission by PSNI that it has failed to find and consider critical evidence in the police and British Army cover-up of the McGurk’s Bar Massacre.
Even the strictest definition of collusion – a secret agreement to deceive others – can be pinned on the underhanded, dirty deal between General Sir Frank Kitson, former British Army Commander of Belfast, and the RUC. Kitson and RUC colluded to blame our loved ones for the McGurk’s Bar Massacre within hours of the explosion and before all the victims – including my grandmother – had been formally identified.
The RUC and PSNI's involvement in the McGurk's Bar collusion, of course, also includes the willful failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence and evidence along with the control of state agents.
Before we buried our loved ones, the British state buried the truth and PSNI is complicit in this cover-up today.
What is clear is that the failed HET’s report into the bombing should be quashed immediately - PSNI’s belated admission that it is unaware of the details of the British Army and RUC collusion in the cover-up is but only one grave mistake of many in its failed historic investigation.
The day after Brandon Lewis and the British government unilaterally introduced its pernicious Legacy Bill against the consensus of the vast majority of victims and survivors, let this be a stark warning to families who dare to hope that Britain will offer a semblance of truth and justice.
The perfidious British government only wants to bury its war crimes and protect its killers and cover-up merchants – it cares as little for victims and survivors as it does for basic human rights and the rule of law.
Media should contact Paul Pierce at KRW Law regarding the Judicial Review Proceedings on 19th-20th May 2022.
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Support the work of the charity, Paper Trail.
The author Ciarán MacAirt is donating all of the profits of his book, Trope: Essays and Articles, to Paper Trail and its work with victims and survivors of the conflict, including the families of the McGurk's Bar Massacre.
Trope features some of his ground-breaking discoveries and represents a personal journey as he trudges across the killing ﬁelds of World War 1 to the back-streets of Belfast where death-squads roamed. In it, he asks whether General Sir Frank Kitson who helped cover up the McGurk's Bar Massacre was a British military hero or director of terrorism. Foreword by Father Sean McManus, international human rights activist, author, and President of the Irish National Caucus.