Page last updated at 21:59 GMT, Monday, 14 July 2008 22:59 UK

Commons apology over bomb claims

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

Security Minister Paul Goggins has apologised for false claims made by government officials in 1971 over the McGurk's Bar bombing.

Fifteen people, including two children, were killed when the bar in north Belfast was bombed by the UVF.

At the time, the security forces said it was an IRA "own goal".

However, speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Goggins said officials had allowed "perceptions and pre-conceived ideas to cloud the evidence".

"We are deeply sorry, not just for the appalling suffering and loss of life that occurred at McGurk's Bar, but also for the extraordinary additional pain caused to both the immediate families and the wider community by the erroneous suggestions made in the immediate aftermath of the explosion as to who was responsible," he said.

A recent report by the Historical Inquiries Team on the McGurk's bar bombing was raised in the House of Commons by Scottish MP Michael Connarty, whose great-uncle died in the attack.

The report dismissed as "irresponsible and inaccurate" British army claims at the time that the device was an IRA bomb being prepared which exploded prematurely.

A UVF getaway driver received 15 life sentences in 1978.

The group revisiting more than 2,000 unsolved murders during the Troubles found that the authorities' IRA claim, which upset relatives of the victims, "could not be based on facts but instead reflected a desired outcome".


Ahead of Monday's brief Commons debate, Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward wrote to apologise to the Labour MP for Falkirk East.

An apology which he said "reflected his concern for all those who died in the Troubles".

He said: "The tragedy of the Troubles is that any of those people died, and one of the things that politicians have to get much better at is actually taking on their responsibility as a secretary of state and saying, I'm sorry.

"Michael has a relative who was in that bar. I am sorry his relative died.

"I am sorry for the extraordinary additional pain they suffered from the descriptions at the time of who was behind the bomb."

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