Northern Ireland

Campaigners say British army logs show MRF was in north Belfast days before McGurk's Bar atrocity

The scene of the McGurk's Bar explosion in Belfast in December1971
The scene of the McGurk's Bar explosion in Belfast in December1971 The scene of the McGurk's Bar explosion in Belfast in December1971

AN undercover British army unit believed by some to have been involved in the murder of Catholics was present in north Belfast before the McGurk’s Bar atrocity was carried out.

Recently discovered records reveal the Military Reaction Force (MRF) was active in north Belfast the day before 15 innocent Catholics were killed in the UVF bomb attack at North Queen Street on December 4, 1971.

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

Ciarán MacAirt, who runs the Paper Trail charity and whose grandmother Kitty Irvine was killed in the blast, says a recently discovered British army operations log shows that the MRF was in the area.

Mr MacAirt says the log shows that the unit was involved in a covert operation around the Mater Hospital linked to the escape of republican prisoners from nearby Crumlin Road jail days earlier.

However, no mention is made of the MRF on the day of the attack.

Relatives now want to know where the unit was deployed at the time.

Mr MacAirt says relatives have never been officially told of the unit's presence in north Belfast.

“Successive police and Police Ombudsman investigations have either failed to discover that the MRF was operating in the vicinity of McGurk’s Bar in December 1971 or they deliberately chose to omit this crucial evidence from their botched reports,” Mr MacAirt said.

Niall Ó Murchú of Kinnear and Co Solicitors said: "It is time that the British state faced up to its legal obligations.”

A spokeswoman for the Police Ombudsman said it ”examined all relevant police material and found nothing to suggest that military activity was pertinent to our inquiries.”

Assistant Chief Constable George Clarke appealed to “anyone in possession of information or evidence which would help bring more people to justice to come forward”.