THE families of two men killed in the McGurk’s Bar bombing are seeking High Court intervention to force disclosure of key documents by the PSNI, Secretary of State and Ministry of Defence.
The stepson of Philip Garry and the son of Thomas McLaughlin, two men killed in the atrocity on December 4, 1971, have made an application to the High Court against the Ministry of Defence, the Police Service and Secretary of State concerning their ongoing failure to disclose documents as part of ongoing civil proceedings commenced by the families.
15 people, including two children, were killed - the greatest loss of life of any single incident in Belfast during the conflict.
The official investigation at the time focused on the narrative that the bomb was brought on to the premises by a member of the IRA who intended to transport it from the bar to another destination.
The police, along with the British Army and British Government Ministers, quickly publicised this version of events and attributed the incident as an IRA “own goal”. This narrative contradicted many eyewitness accounts which stated that the bomb was placed outside the front door of the premises and the popular local belief that the explosion was a planned operation by pro-state terrorists.
This local belief was later validated by a Historical Enquiries Team investigation which found that the bombing had in fact been carried out by members of the UVF.
In 2011, a Police Ombudsman investigation showed that detectives had failed to properly probe loyalist paramilitary involvement because they focused on a theory that republicans were responsible. The Ombudsman’s report concluded that RUC officers had shown an "investigative bias" with the original misattribution of blame.
In addition, key evidence was discovered by family researcher Ciarán MacAirt concerning exactly what was known by the British security forces at the time. A British Army HQNI log sheet for the 4th and 5th of December it stated; “ATO [Ammunition Technical Officer] is convinced bomb was placed in entrance way on ground floor. The area is cratered and clearly was the seat of the explosion. Size of bomb likely to be 40/50Ibs.”
A note was made in the action column stating “Not for PR” which meant that crucial evidence from a British bomb disposal expert was not passed to army public relations and given to the media.
Despite this evidence, the RUC and British Army promoted the theory that the bomb was an IRA “own goal” and withheld the evidence of the ATO’s conclusions from the general public, the families of the deceased and the Coroner at the original inquests.
It is on foot of this cumulative evidence that the next of kin have brought civil proceedings against the MoD, the Chief Constable of the PSNI and the Secretary of State. These proceedings are now at an advanced stage, but have been delayed by the defendants' continued failure to disclose documentation to the families’ solicitors.
Eoin Murphy of Ó Muirigh Solicitors said: "There have long been suspicions of security force involvement in this atrocity. This is reinforced by the catalogue of documentation which has been uncovered to date.
"The families know that there are undoubtedly hundreds if not thousands of discoverable documents currently retained by the defendants which are linked to the murders of their loved ones.
"There is an obligation on the defendants to provide these documents at the close of pleadings but thus far they have failed to do so. It is regrettable that the only way to achieve this important and crucial disclosure for families is through the continued intervention of the High Court.”