THE VICTIMS !
- Maria McGurk (14)
- Philomena McGurk (46)
- Francis Bradley (61)
- John Colton (49)
- James Cromie (13)
- Philip Garry (73)
- Kathleen ‘ Kitty ‘ Irvine (45)
- Edward Kane (25)
- Thomas Kane (45)
- Edward Keenan (69) and his wife.
- Sarah Keenan (58)
- Thomas McLaughlin (55)
- David Milligan (52)
- James Smyth (55)
- Robert Charles Spotswood (38)
NEWLY uncovered police statements made by the only man ever brought to justice for the 1971 McGurk’s Bar bombing show he gave detectives the names of two other potential suspects. UVF leader Robert Campbell was convicted in 1978 of the mass murder of 15 innocent people in the North Belfast Bar.
Ford Transit Minibus 1971 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
He was also given a life sentence for the murder of Protestant workman John Morrow, shot in Ligionel two years previously in the mistaken belief he was a Catholic. Mr Morrow (36) was driving a Ford Transit, returning from work at the nearby Hilltown Road, when the UVF riddled the van. Passengers in the van managed to get away on foot but Mr Morrow, the only Protestant among the workmen, was killed almost instantly. The RUC initially claimed the McGurk’s atrocity was as a result of an IRA” own goal ” and the bomb had exploded within the North Queen Street bar, causing years of added anguish for the families.
Ciaran MacAirt, whose grandmother Kitty Irvine was among the victims, has been at the forefront of a campaign to uncover the truth about the bombing. Signed statements based on interviews dated August 1977, uncovered by Mr MacAirt, show that Campbell admitted to being the ‘ officer commanding ‘ of the UVF and gave details of the operation that killed Mr Morrow. While names are redacted in the documents, they show that the North Belfast loyalist named a ‘ sergeant ‘ in the UVF from the Silverstream Road. He also identified a loyalist ‘ volunteer ‘ from Westway in Ballygomartin, who went by the name ” Pretty Boy ” and worked in the shipyard.
” The Irvine family were told in 2008 by a loyalist source that Campbell had given two names and raised this with the HET [ Historical Enquiries Team ] in 2008 who advised us this was not the case and there was no record of any such information,” Mr MacAirt said. ” You have to ask -had the HET detectives seen these vital documents ? Did they even know was Campbell was naming names ? ” Either way it is deeply disconcerting for the families who are still fighting for scraps of truth and justice 40 years after the loss of their loved ones.”
The information uncovered also includes an admission that the car used in the bombing was abandoned less than 400 yards away in Little York Street, although the families were later told that the RUC at the time of the original investigation never recovered it. Mr MacAirt said the documents raised concerns that a fuller confession could have been made by Campbell. ” From these files it is becoming evident that arrests also compromised an exercise in information management and that agent handling may have dictated which cases and individuals the RUC processed,” he said.
NOTES UNCOVERED FROM POLICE INTERVIEW WITH UVF MAN ROBERT CAMPBELL IN 1977 :
Interview at 10.35am 27.7.1977
- Detective : What rank did you reach ?
- Campbell : OC in 1975
- Detective : Did you skip sergeant ?
- Campbell : I went straight from volunteer to OC
- Detective : What rank do you hold now ?
- Campbell : I got busted.
- Detective : Why did you get stood down ?
- Campbell : I tried to slip out of the organisation before I got busted.
- Detective : You don’t get out of the UVF like that.
- Campbell : I know, I was also too soft with the men.
- Detective : Who reduced you ?
- Campbell : I don’t know.
- Detective : That’s nonsense you must know.
- Campbell : I was just told in a roundabout way.
- Detective : Where were you told ?
- Campbell : The meeting at Green’s shop.
- Detective : Well, who told you there ?
- Campbell : I don’t want to say.
- Detective : How many men did you have under your control ?
- Campbell : About 15 in all.
- Detective : Name them.
- Campbell : Sgt ( redacted ), Silverstream Road, Volunteer ( redacted ), Pretty Boy, Westway estate. Works in the shipyard.
- Detective : Come on, let’s have the rest of them.
- Campbell : I don’t want to tell you any more, you know them all anyway, so what’s the use ?
- Detective : When did you attend the last meeting ?
- Campbell : About five months ago.
- Detective : Where was that at ?
- Campbell : The Liverpool Club.
- Detective : How many were there ?
- Campbell : Only six members there.
- Detective : Who were they ?
- Campbell : I’d rather not say.
Interview ended at 10.45pm 27.7.77
Campbell was convicted of 16 murders in 1978 and served 15 years in prison. Previous documents uncovered by Mr MacAirt – who has written a book on the subject due for release next month – contributed to the police ombudsman recalling a report into the McGurk’s massacre which concluded the RUC carried out a ” reasonably thorough investigation “. A second report accepted that the RUC was guilty of ” investigative bias ” which undermined the investigation. The statements obtained by Mr MacAirt also indicate that other ” matters ” were discussed during police interviews, the details of which were not recorded by detectives questioning self-confessed UVF man Campbell. ” We have never believed that the RUC could not get Campbell to talk,” Mr MacAirt said. ” These archives are proof that he did and they point towards a fuller confession. ” The RUC statements tell us cryptically that ‘ other matters ‘ were discussed but we do not learn what these were.” Mr MacAirt’s book will contain a foreword by a former British Army information officer, Colin Wallace, who was on duty on the night of the bombing and has stated that it was known almost immediately that loyalists were responsible. The RUC and senior members of the then Northern Ireland government instead claimed the bombing was the work of republicans. The McGurk’s Bar Bombing : Collusion, Cover-up and a Campaign for Truth will be on sale from August.
WITH MANY THANKS TO : ALLISON MORRIS, IRISH NEWS.