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McGurk's Bar relatives urge PSNI chief to attend anniversary

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton
Connla Young

RELATIVES of people killed in McGurk’s Bar have called on the PSNI chief constable to attend a lecture to mark the 45th anniversary of the McGurk’s Bar atrocity.

Author Ciarán MacAirt said it is “vitally important” that George Hamilton and members of the PSNI’s Legacy Investigations Branch attend the lecture by Michael Mansfield QC.

Fifteen Catholic men, women and children died when a loyalist bomb exploded at the North Queen Street bar in December 1971.

In the hours after the attack the security forces blamed the IRA, a claim that later proved to be untrue.

The call comes just weeks after Mr MacAirt, who runs the Paper Trail charity, reveals that the British Army knew the bomb was placed at the entrance of the bar as opposed to inside it, as was originally claimed.

The information is also listed as “Not for PR”, which is believed to mean it was not to be made public.

Mr MacAirt, whose grandmother Kathleen Irvine was one of those killed, said the chief constable should be present to hear the evidence presented at the lecture which has been billed as a 'Case Study in Disinformation, Denial and Delay’.

"As successive police teams, including Mr Hamilton's, have only offered failed investigations, it has been left to the families to target and uncover critical items of evidence which prove a cover-up by the state and its police,” he said.

"To commemorate the 45th anniversary of the massacre, we are presenting this historic evidence which the police in the past and today either failed to discover, ignored or buried."

In 2011 a Police Ombudsman report found there had been “investigative bias” in how the RUC handled the original case.

It found that police failed to properly investigate loyalist involvement in the attack because they focused on the IRA.

However, the PSNI's Historical Enquiries Team later produced a report saying there was no evidence of bias on the part of the RUC.

Angry relatives have since gone to the courts to have this report quashed.

Robert McClenaghan, whose grandfather Philip Garry (73) was the oldest McGurk's victim, believes the chief constable should call off the legal action.

“If he says he doesn’t want to defend the indefensible, why is he still fighting us?” he said.

Relatives of those killed are due to meet Sinn Féin and the SDLP later today and the UUP later in the week.

They also hope to attend a meeting of the Policing Board this week.

A spokesman for the PSNI said: “It would not be appropriate to comment at this time as legal proceedings are currently ongoing by way of a judicial review.”

The memorial lecture will be held on Tuesday, December 6 at 7pm at St Mary's College, Falls Road, Belfast.

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