Northern Ireland news

Michael Mansfield calls for McGurk's Bar apology from police

Michael Mansfield QC will speak at the lecture to mark the 45th anniversary of the McGurk's Bar atrocity in Belfast next week
Connla Young

A leading barrister has said it is “a matter of conscience” for PSNI chief constable George Hamilton to consider apologising for police actions following the McGurk’s Bar massacre.

Michael Mansfield was speaking ahead of a memorial lecture to mark the 45th anniversary of the UVF bomb attack that claimed the lives of 15 innocent Catholic men, women and children.

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

Last month campaigner Ciarán MacAirt, who runs the Paper Trail charity, revealed that the British army knew the bomb was placed at the entrance of the bar as opposed to inside it.

A Police Ombudsman's report in 2011 said RUC officers had shown an "investigative bias" towards the erroneous 'own goal' theory, although then chief constable Matt Baggott refused to accept the finding and a subsequent probe by Historical Enquiries Team (HET) concluded there was no such bias.

Mr Hamilton told a meeting of the Policing Board yesterday that he had reviewed the case and changed the PSNI's official position to accept the ombudsman report.

The chief constable said he made the decision last year but the move may have been "missed in some quarters".

He said: "If a false line of enquiry equates to investigative bias, on that basis I am accepting the language that the ombudsman chose to use to present that (initial RUC) hypothesis that turned out to be incorrect."

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Hamilton was also handed a copy of the military log showing the bomb was planted in the doorway.

He said he would examine the document and also assess a request to gain sight of redacted information about the bombing.

Relatives of those killed have also urged Mr Hamilton to attend next week’s memorial lecture.

Mr Mansfield said he should attend and apologise on behalf of police.

“I think it would be a really gracious and sympathetic act by the chief constable to turn up because I think there is an obligation on him whether he turns up or he doesn’t," the QC said.

“It's better if he turns up and that he confronts the two possibilities of advising disclosure and secondly contemplating, considering a fulsome apology to the families.

“It’s not going to cost him anything other than conscience, it’s a matter of conscience.”

The barrister, who has represented Bloody Sunday families and acted in miscarriage of justice cases including the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, believes there is clear evidence of state cover-up over McGurk’s Bar.

“In this case it couldn’t be clearer, could it,” he said.

Tuesday’s lecture will be chaired by west Belfast based solicitor Padraig Ó Muirigh, who represents the families.

Campaigner Robert McClenaghan said it will be the last opportunity for many relatives to have the “evidence presented in a public forum”.

A spokesman for the PSNI said Mr Hamilton had received an invitation "and it is being considered".

"If the chief constable does not attend he will be represented by a senior officer".

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

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