McGurk’s Bar bombing: Families concerned following loyalist supergrass claims

Posted By: December 16, 2017

 Connla Young. Irish News. Belfast. Saturday, December 16, 2017

RELATIVES of the McGurk’s Bar victims have asked Chief Constable George Hamilton and Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire what their organizations did with any information provided by Gary Haggarty about the 1971 attack.

Lawyers for the families said they have written to both men following claims that the UVF “Supergrass'” provided information to the PSNI in relation to identifying those responsible for the atrocity.

They said no information has been passed on to victims’ relatives.

Fifteen people were killed when the UVF detonated a bomb in McGurk’s Bar in North Queen Street in north Belfast in December 1971.

At the time, security forces blamed the IRA but this was later shown not to be true.

While one man, Robert Campbell, was convicted for his part of the attack in 1978, others believed to be responsible have never been held to account.

As well as providing information about the attack to his handlers, it is claimed the McGurk’s bomb was also mentioned during Haggarty’s PSNI debriefing sessions.

It is not known if former Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson was aware of any information when his office published a report into the bombing in 2011.

Gerard Keenan, whose parents Sarah and Edward Keenan were both killed, said: “This revelation that the PSNI recently had new and potentially important information about the McGurks Bar bombing is a shock.

“The Police Ombudsman had oversight of Gary Haggarty’s debrief interviews and should have known about this as well.”

Ciarán MacAirt, whose grandmother Kitty Irvine died in the blast, also raised concerns about the revelations.

Niall Ó’Murchú, of Madden and Finucane Solicitors, said: “Given the serious implications that this is likely to have, we can confirm that we have today written to both the chief constable of the PSNI and the Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire, to obtain clarity about what their respective offices did, and didn’t do, in relation to these revelations.

“This is a matter of the utmost seriousness, and both OPONI and the PSNI have questions to answer.”

At a press conference yesterday, Mr. Hamilton said details of the Haggarty case are “not easy listening for us.”

A sentencing hearing was told this week that the long-time informer – who has admitted a litany of paramilitary offenses – provided police with detailed information before and after a wide range of UVF incidents, including murders.

However, Mr. Hamilton said since the case was still at hearing he did not want to do or say anything that would “compromise the integrity of that process.”

He added: “If on legacy cases or current day issues police officers or the police organization had acted inappropriately or outside the law we should be held to account for that.

“I’m not looking for different treatment, I’m not looking to hide anything in relation to any of these cases but actually all of this reinforces the need for the creation of the historical investigations unit that can deal with both potential misconduct or criminality by police officers, other state actors… or the terrorists.”