WHILE THE British government is holding a judicial inquiry into the Real IRA’s bombing of Omagh – death toll 29 – the McGurk’s bar bomb of 1971, which claimed 15 lives, is being studiously ignored, despite an ongoing campaign by surviving relatives.
The official line on McGurk’s – a bar on Queen St at the corner of Gt George St in Belfast – was that it was an IRA haunt and an IRA bomb, in transit to another target, detonated prematurely. In reality, a UVF gang was responsible for the explosion. The bar catered to both Protestants and Catholics, and was not an IRA lair.
In 2011 the Police Ombudsman NI reported: “Records show that [the] police examined a vehicle described as the ‘car used in [the] explosion [on] Gt George St’,” but that there was “no other information about this vehicle in police records”. It has only now emerged – after 51 years – that one of these “records” consisted of a fingerprint ledger documenting two prints from the UVF vehicle, as well as prints from other pieces of evidence.
In 1977 the UVF’s Robert Campbell confessed to his part in the atrocity. The prints on the ledger should have been examined to see if they matched Campbell or any of his UVF associates. Instead, their existence was suppressed.
British army files labelled the Gem Bar, also on North Queen St, as the HQ of the local Official IRA and they had it under surveillance. It is possible to make sense of the McGurk’s deception if the UVF gang was a proxy unit of British intelligence originally deployed to strike the Gem, with a PR strategy in place to blame the IRA. In that way, the UVF gang would be able to walk away with impunity.
In his statement, Campbell revealed that McGurk’s pub was not the original target, rather one on North Queen St, the name of which he had forgotten – obviously the Gem. On the night, the UVF abandoned the Gem because security guards were protecting it and switched to McGurk’s.
The army knew all along that the bomb was dropped outside – not inside – McGurk’s but lied about that. Campaigners for the truth have published scripts prepared for MPs to ask questions in the Commons, all of which chimed with the contrived IRA ‘own goal’ narrative with the bomb carried inside McGurk’s by the IRA. The devious spin appeared four hours after the explosion with the connivance of the British army’s top brass in the north – including Lt General Sir Harold Tuzo, general officer commanding NI – and its PR black propagandists. All the latter had to do was use their red pens to replace the ‘Gem’ with ‘McGurk’s’ on the existing script.