McGurk’s Bar Bombing: Loss of Innocence

On 4 December 1971, the UVF, a paramilitary group, detonated a bomb at McGurk's Bar in Belfast.

The explosion caused the building to collapse, killing fifteen Catholic civilians — including two children— and wounding seventeen more.

The British security forces asserted that a bomb had exploded prematurely while being handled by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), members of which were inside the pub. This implied that the victims were partly to blame. The victims’ relatives always believed that the security forces  spread disinformation.

In 1977, UVF member Robert Campbell was sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the bombing and served fifteen years.

On 21 February 2011, the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland published a report about the bombing and the RUC’s investigation of it. It found that the RUC investigation was biased in favour of the view that the IRA was responsible. It failed to give enough thought to the possible involvement of loyalists, and this bias hindered the investigation. The report also found that RUC gave ‘selective’ and ‘misleading’ briefings to the government and media, which furthered the idea that it was an IRA bomb. The Ombudsman has not found an explanation why successive Chief Constables have not addressed this mistake.

On July 4th, 2018, the Attorney General decided against ordering a fresh inquest into the deaths. Relatives of victims of the McGurk’s Bar bomb said they are devastated by a decision by the Attorney General not to order a fresh inquest into the deaths. The relatives said they sent him new evidence to support their request.

Relatives of those who were killed and injured in the McGurk’s Bar bombing talk of that night and its aftermath.

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