18 November 2005

McGurk’s - witness breaks 30-year silence


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• He saw bomb fizz and bombers run away
• As a child was brought to Long Kesh in RUC attempt to make him ID innocent Catholic
• Received death threats
• Was never told woman witness also saw bombers

A key eyewitness who was just eight-years-old when a massive loyalist bomb ripped through McGurk’s bar has talked about his ordeal for the first time in decades.
The successful search for Joseph McClory is part of a drive by relatives of the December 1971 explosion to get to the truth about security force collusion into the bombing.
In an exclusive interview the New Lodge man tells how he was the victim of RUC and British army harassment and his evidence dismissed at the time.
In a dramatic twist the former paperboy was until now believed to have been the only person who saw the men plant the bomb at the North Queen Street bar.
But the North Belfast News can now reveal that another eyewitness – a woman – came forward at the time to tell the RUC she had also saw the bombers.
However Pat Irvine, whose mother Kathleen was killed in the no-warning slaughter that claimed the lives of 15 people including two children, claims this witness was “swept under the carpet”.
“I have an RUC memo that says a woman named Mary or Marie McGurk – nothing to do with the bar owners – came into the station to say she saw the men plant the bomb. She was listed as 28, a housewife and from Upper Meadow Street. How did her evidence never come to light when it could’ve corroborated young Joseph’s? We are appealing for that lady to come forward now so we can get to the truth about the collusion.”
Joseph McClory met Pat Irvine for the first time this week. In an emotional meeting, he revealed how he received loyalist death threats to his home that he believes came from the British army who had got access to his address from the RUC. He was also asked to identify a Catholic man from Carrickhill as one of the bombers.
The 42-year-old said a short time after the bombing he was brought with his parents to a court in Long Kesh where he was asked if a man in the dock was one of the bombers. But the little boy told the truth and said no.
A delegation of victims will travel to Dublin to meet the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, in December in a high-profile meeting in which the bombing will be discussed.
From the highest levels of the Stormont government at the time, misinformation was fed to the public with the bombing immediately blamed on IRA members making a bomb in McGurk’s. That, says the families, branded their loved ones as bombers also.
New Lodge man Joseph McClory, who is now a father-of-four, recalled the night of November 4 when he saw McGurk’s explode in front of his young eyes.
“I was delivering papers in and around three or four bars and was going into the last one before going home,” he said.
“I saw men standing in the hallway of McGurk’s and I looked to see what they were doing. I saw them get into what was an old fashioned looking car to me and it had a wee Union Jack sticker on the back.”
The child walked over to the package the men had placed at the bar door.
“I could see it was a bomb. It was just this lump with see-through plastic. I could see the fuse fizzing and I clicked on it was a bomb.
“I went round the corner into North Queen Street and saw a man I knew who was going in and I told him there was a bomb. I got 20 yards away across the street and it just blew up.”
Joseph McClory described the moment he saw the blast rip through the family bar where the McGurk children and their friends were in the upstairs living quarters. It was the biggest loss of life until the Omagh bomb.
“It fell right down to the ground. Only part of a wall was left and a statue of Our Lady where it had been upstairs. I ran home. The neighbour’s wife who I told about the bomb called at the door and I went down to tell the police what I saw. They just kept asking me were the men carrying guns. Then I went to the police station and gave a statement. Then I got threatening letters supposedly from loyalists saying to my parents if I was seen in the town selling papers again I would be killed.”
But a more sinister twist was to come for Joseph McClory when the RUC brought him to a court in Long Kesh.
“I remember going up with my parents. There was a judge and a court and I was swivelling on the chair and the judge told me ‘stop it’. They brought a man in and asked me was he one of the men I saw in the bombing. I said no. The man left Long Kesh free with me and my parents that day.”
Joseph McClory said the childhood horror at seeing the loyalist bombing in which one man later confessed to his part after being questioned about another murder, had affected his life.
“I was in and out of jail until I was 20, I don’t think I’ve ever got over it.”
Pat Irvine who is leading the hunt for all the testimonies of witnesses and victims in an effort to get to the truth appealed for the missing witness to come forward.
“It must have been so frightening for a boy so young whose evidence the RUC tried to distort.
“It brings out the whole truth about the collusion in the bombing of McGurk’s,” she said.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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