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McGurk's bombing

(Andrea McKernon, Irelandclick.com)

  • Police Ombudsman meets families with view to probing RUC investigation
  • Taoiseach to send Foreign Affairs representative to meet with relatives
  • Murders to come under historical inquiries team on conflict-related deaths "Unionists in North Belfast are having to deal with the same old Republican movement – petrol-bombing homes and Orange Halls".

Relatives of those killed in the McGurk's bombing have met with the Police Ombudsman with a view to probing the original RUC investigation into what was the worst atrocity of the conflict before the Omagh bomb.

The Ombudsman has confirmed a meeting took place recently with some relatives with a view to looking into the circumstances surrounding the bombing 34 years ago. It is one of a number of possible developments in relation to the atrocity that have been gathering pace recently, the North Belfast News has learned.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will next week send a representative from the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin to the Victims and Survivors Trust in West Belfast to meet with some of the relatives about the continuing controversy over the outrage.

And it is believed the multiple murders will come under the new PSNI historical inquiries team looking into conflict-related deaths.

Some 15 people – including two children were butchered in the loyalist attack on McGurk's Bar on December 4, 1971.

Relatives have been fighting to uncover the truth about the bombing after only one man was ever convicted for his part in the slaughter.

The North Belfast News understands the man convicted, Robert James Campbell, may form part of any possible Police Ombudsman probe into the identities of the other bombers.

Officers acting on behalf of Nuala O'Loan's office will also wish to establish if Campbell told the RUC the names of his accomplices in his confession statements at the time.

Until recently the PSNI said that an investigation had taken place and that a man had been convicted of the McGurk's outrage.

But yesterday a spokeswoman from the PSNI said its new historical inquiries team, with funding of £30 million announced by Paul Murphy earlier this year would "review all deaths" attributed to the conflict "between 1968 and 1998".

Before Campbell's conviction, the bombing had been blamed as an IRA own goal by British officials and a Stormont unionist minister maintaining the IRA was making a bomb on the premises when it went off.

Explosive experts from official British sources announced in the immediate aftermath of the explosion that the bomb had gone off inside the bar despite first reports from eyewitnesses who said it had gone off in the doorway and had been left there by a man.

Relatives say statements insisting the bomb was the work of IRA bomb makers branded their innocent relatives culpable.

Alex McLaughlin, whose father Thomas was killed in the explosion in North Queen Street, said he was encouraged by the new developments and a possible probe of the conduct of the RUC investigation at the time.

"For years when we mentioned the bombing it was always thrown back at us that it was an IRA own goal.

That stuck even after Campbell was convicted. We have never received an acknowledgement from the British government that its statements were wrong and we've never received an apology," he said.

"We don't want to be dragging this up all the time, but we want to know if Campbell told the RUC who his accomplices were and if so why they weren't brought to justice. Then I can let my father rest in peace."

A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman's office said: "We met with relatives of some of some of the victims of the McGurk's Bar bombing.

"They expressed concerns about the circumstances of the bombing and the subsequent investigation. We are now looking at those concerns and carrying out some initial research into the issues raised."

October 15, 2005

This article appeared first on the Irelandclick.com web site on October 14, 2005.