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McGurk's Bar families to mark 50th anniversary of bombing with Mass

The scene of the explosion at McGurk's bar in Belfast in 1972. Picture by Pacemaker

FAMILIES of the 15 civilians killed in the McGurk's Bar bombing will gather for a Mass this evening to mark the 50th anniversary of the attack on December 4 1971.

After the 6pm service at St Patrick's Church on Donegall Street, there will be a procession to the nearby memorial for a short commemoration.

The bombing was carried out by the UVF, but at the time security forces blamed the IRA, prompting speculation the dead might have included IRA members who were carrying the device.

Thirty years after the bombing, the Police Ombudsman found that the original Royal Ulster Constabulary investigation into the bombing had been biased and urged a re-examination.

A candle light procession leaves St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast, to mark the 30th anniversary of the bomb which killed 15 people in McGurk's Bar

On Thursday, victims' relatives protested at the Policing Board over the PSNI's refusal to hand over files they believe will show evidence of collusion in the 1971 attack.

Among the protestors who met Policing Board chief executive Sinead Simpson was Ciarán MacAirt, a grandson of two of the victims.

"The families are very disappointed that Chief Constable did not wish to engage with us at the Policing Board two days before the 50th anniversary of the McGurk’s Bar massacre and its cover-up by the RUC and British Army.

"Whilst we believe he offered a meeting at a later date, my challenge to him will be the same - stop withholding critical evidence or hold your hand up and admit that the RUC and British Army colluded to fabricate lies about our loved ones."

He accused the PSNI of "perpetuating the cover-up of the McGurk’s Bar massacre".

Mr MacAirt has lodged a complaint with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) after the PSNI rejected a request to hand over information relating to what he believes was agreement between the RUC and then Brigadier Frank Kitson to blame the victims for the bombing.

One document found in state archives reveals Mr Kitson informed British Army Brigade Headquarters at 1am December 5 1971: `RUC have a line that the bomb in the pub was a bomb designed to be used elsewhere, left in the pub to be picked up by Provisional IRA. Bomb went off and was a mistake. RUC press office have a line on it - NI should deal with them.'

Mr MacAirt says this happened "before all of the victims had even been identified. So, before we buried our loved ones, the British state buried the truth".

A second document reveals a former RUC Chief Constable and head of Special Branch briefing to the north's Prime Minister and British Army's commanding officer at Stormont on December 16 1971.

It states: `Circumstantial evidence indicates that this was a premature detonation and two of those killed were known IRA members at least one of whom had been associated with bombing activities. Intelligence indicates that the bomb was destined for use elsewhere in the city.'

The researcher's request earlier this year "for the provenance, dates and source of the disinformation" was met with a PSNI Refusal Notice, recording it "can neither confirm nor deny [NCND] that it holds the information".

"Either the PSNI has this evidence and should hand it over to our families, or it does not have it as the RUC and British Army made it up

A PSNI spokeswoman said "it would be inappropriate to comment on this case as legal proceedings are ongoing".

Robert McClenaghan (centre), whose grandfather was killed in the McGurks Bar bombing, along with members of the families of the victims of the with Nichola Mallon MLA and Gerry Kelly MLA outside the Police Ombudsman Office in Belfast. Picture Mal McCann.

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