McGurk’s Bar Massacre: Families Appeal to NI SoS for Release of Collusion File

The campaigning families of the McGurk’s Bar Massacre victims have appealed to Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, to release a 45-year-old British file containing evidence of collusion in the atrocity between British security forces and Loyalist paramilitaries.


Ciarán MacAirt, a grandson of one of the victims of the massacre, which claimed the lives of 15 men, women and children, has appealed a decision to withhold the Commander’s Diary for the month of the bombing, December 1971, taken by the British Ministry of Defence (which owns the file), the National Archives (which stores the file) and the Information Commissioner’s Office (which upheld the exemption to disclose the file). The British MoD has closed the file until at least 2056.


MacAirt appealed the decision at the independent Information Rights Tribunal in London. As reported last month, the Tribunal authorised the release of a crucial piece of evidence from the archive which proves that British Army Headquarters and the RUC were told by a British Army bomb expert that McGurk’s Bar was attacked. At the time, the RUC and British Army reported that it was a Republican “own-goal” caused by a premature explosion inside the bar and among the civilian customers, and not a Loyalist bomb planted in the doorway. The released section of the Commander’s Diary (also known as the Headquarters Northern Ireland Log) records:


“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”


Ciarán MacAirt says:


“James Brokenshire has the power to access and release the rest of this information which is critical evidence in the mass murder of our loved ones. He can end the re-traumatization of our older family members by the police in relentless court battles, and save hundreds of thousands of pounds spent by the British Ministry of Defence in trying to stop us from learning the truth about the McGurk’s Bar Massacre.”


“We have proved collusion and now know that an informant is involved, but further critical evidence is being withheld by the British Ministry of Defence and police. We can only assume that this evidence is even more damning.”


Ciaran MacAirt’s lawyer at the two-day Tribunal, Christopher Stanley, from KRW LAW LLP, stated:


The MoD argued that the protection of the identity of agents and informers and the interests of National Security outweigh the public interest in releasing the evidence relating to the McGurk’s Bar Massacre. Our counsel made strong arguments in rebuttal that continued non-disclosure could not be justified after 45 years and that truth about the Conflict is essential to the process of reconciliation and the maintenance of the peace.”


“The Tribunal held two closed sessions to consider the material which is being withheld and we are assured that it is taking its deliberation seriously before a decision is made in mid-January 2017. Nevertheless, James Brokenshire can order the release of the information now, and he should. It is in the public interest and the McGurk’s Bar families are simply re-traumatized by every court appearance even though they succeed in the end”


Contact family member Robert McClenaghan 07752 500513 for further comment from the family campaign, and Christopher Stanley 079 7051 9831 for an update on the legal issues



Information for Editors

  • The McGurk’s Bar atrocity, 4th December 1971, resulted in the deaths of 15 civilians including two children
  • All of the evidence, including an eye-witness who saw the bomb being planted, proved that the bar had been attacked by Loyalist extremists. The British state and RUC reported, though, that it was a “Republican own-goal” and that it had exploded inside the main bar area and amongst the civilian customers.
  • The section of secret file above proves that the British Army and police were indeed told by a British bomb expert that the bomb was planted in the doorway and the bar attacked. This evidence was never made public at the time or by successive historic investigations. The families are also petitioning the Attorney General for a proper Inquest.
  • The families are in the middle of court proceedings against the police and the British state including a Judicial Review which the families commenced to force the PSNI to quash a report by the Historical Enquiries Team. The report sought to exonerate the original police investigation.
  • The families have since lodged the ground-breaking evidence with the Northern Ireland Policing Board, the Police Ombudsman and the Chief Constable of the Police Service Northern Ireland.
  • Ciarán MacAirt is grandson of McGurk’s Bar victim, Kathleen Irvine. He is also author of the book, The McGurk’s Bar Bombing (Frontline Noir 2012), and manager of the charity, Paper Trail (Legacy Archive Research)