Northern Ireland news

British army 'on look-out' for UVF car before Kelly's Bar explosion

Edward Heath viewed secret files showing that the British army were watching for the car used in the Kelly's Bar attack in 1972
Connla Young

FORMER British Prime Minister Edward Heath was aware that a car used in a loyalist bomb attack more than 40 years ago had been under surveillance, recently discovered papers reveal.

Student John Moran (19) died 10 days after the UVF detonated a car bomb outside Kelly’s Bar in west Belfast in May 1972.

Gunmen then sprayed survivors with bullets after the explosion at the junction of Springfield Road and Whiterock Road.

In the days after the attack then Secretary of State William Whitelaw claimed the bomb was left at the bar by the IRA.

It is believed the device was planted by the same UVF team that carried out the McGurk’s Bar atrocity six months earlier which killed 15 people in north Belfast.

The Kelly’s Bar attack sparked a series of gun battles involving the IRA, loyalists and the British army which resulted in the deaths of four people.

British army documents uncovered by researcher Ciarán MacAirt, whose grandmother Kitty Irvine was killed at McGurk’s Bar, reveal that troops who were manning an observation post overlooking Kelly's Bar were warned to look out for the car two and a half hours before the explosion.

Mr MacAirt, who works for the charity Paper Trail, has also discovered that days after the explosion former British Prime Minister Edward Heath viewed secret files confirming that the British army were watching for the car.

The secret report, which Mr MacAirt says is initialled by Mr Heath, said: “The NCO [Non-Commissioned Officer] who observed the incident had been informed at 1430 hrs that day to look out for a stolen blue BMC 1100.

“The BMC 1100 which stopped outside Kelly’s Bar fitted this description and the movements of its occupants were carefully noted.”

Mr MacAirt, who gives details in his book The McGurk’s Bar Bombing: Collusion, Cover-up and a Campaign for Truth, has investigated links between the Kelly’s Bar attack and the McGurk’s Bar blast.

“The same death squad was guilty of the attack and the British state covered it up in exactly the same way, even blaming the innocent customers in both bars,” he said.

"Police past and present, from the RUC to the PSNI and HET, have failed in their catastrophic investigations of each case too.”

Mr MacAirt said Paper Trail has been working with families and legal representatives to establish the truth.

Solicitor Padraig Ó Muirigh said “evidence which could substantiate the families’ version of events was ignored”.

“There was no proper investigation by the RUC into the circumstances surrounding the attack on Kelly’s Bar.”

A spokesman for the British army said: “As this incident is likely to be the subject of an inquest it would be inappropriate to comment on any aspect.

“Anyone with any information should contact the police.”

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