Northern Ireland

Ombudsman's report due on McGurk's bar bomb

The devastation left at McGurk's bar
Image caption The devastation left at McGurk's bar

The Police Ombudsman's report on the circumstances surrounding the bombing of a Belfast bar in 1971 is due to be published later on Monday.

Fifteen people died when a UVF bomb exploded at McGurk's bar near the New Lodge area of north Belfast.

Al Hutchinson will meet with victims' families and their representatives to discuss the report.

Mr Hutchinson's 2010 report was withdrawn after relatives raised concerns with its findings.

BBC Northern Ireland Home Affairs correspondent Vincent Kearney said that Mr Hutchinson's original report was a "public relations disaster".

"There were mistakes in the names of the 15 people who were killed and relatives of those who died also complained because the report cleared the RUC of failing to investigate the attack properly," our correspondent added.

Mr Hutchinson said he decided not to publish the 2010 report until he heard relatives' concerns in detail.

'Own goal' theory

The bomb, which was initially blamed on the IRA, resulted in the single biggest loss of life during the Troubles until the Omagh bombing in 1998.

Paul O'Connor from the Pat Finucane Human Rights Centre said that both police and the army had briefed the media with the "own goal" theory in the hours after the bombing.

He added that he believed this prevented police properly investigating loyalist involvement.

"What the police did at the time was investigate what they claimed was an IRA bomb. The question is - did they think it was an IRA bomb?

"What role did British Army HQ play at the time and what was the context for this?"

He said the "own goal" theory was repeated shortly afterwards by then Stormont Minister for Home Affairs, John Taylor.

"It is very difficult to imagine how much hurt this caused to the families and to the local community in north Belfast because people were absolutely clear on the ground that it was in fact a loyalist attack," Mr O'Connor said.

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