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Monday, 3 December, 2001, 16:17 GMT
Daughter recalls bar bomb horror
A UVF man was jailed for the bombing
A UVF man was jailed for the bombing
Exactly 30 years ago, a loyalist bomb exploded in a Belfast bar killing 15 people.

A woman who lost her mother in the McGurks' bar atrocity relives the horror of that day.

"I remember at night after my mummy had died listening to my daddy crying and calling for her."

These are the words of Pat Arthus who was just 14-years-old when a loyalist bomb ripped through a bar in a Catholic area of Belfast and killed her mother.

Fifteen people including men, women and children lost their lives in the explosion at The Tramore Bar - better known as McGurk's - in North Queen Street on 4 December 1971.

It was one of worst atrocities in the history of the Troubles, but one which some families of the bereaved feel is largely forgotten about.

Playing

Pat Arthus remembers her mother, Kathleen Irvine, saying her prayers on the day of the explosion.

Ironically, Mrs Irvine and other local women went to a grotto every day to pray for peace.

Pat was playing out in the street when the bomb went off.

"I remember running down to the scene. It was just completely flattened," she said.

"People just came from everywhere. They were on their hands and knees. They were passing the rubble one by one. They were in a big line.

"You heard them shouting: 'There's one, there's one'.

"It was just total chaos. Soldiers threw their guns down on the ground to help the people from the New Lodge Road dig."

Later, she went home and found her grandmother in the house crying, after learning that Pat's mother and father had been caught up in the bomb.

Her father was seriously injured in the blast.

"After that was like a total blur, because people were coming in and out of the house," she said.

"There were that many different stories being told.

"My granny gave me and my brother wee jobs to do about the house. To go in and make the tea, tidy up, to try and keep us busy.

"But you were hearing people saying things like they were bringing people out in black bags. It was terrible, it really was."

'Own goal'

She also recalled the pain of seeing her father, who has since died, cope with the loss of his wife.

"I remember my granny, she was 80-odd years of age, going into him," she said.

"When I looked into the room she was cradling her son in her arms. 'It's all right Johnny,' she said. 'It's all right'.

"This seemed to go on every night, where he cried and he relived the whole explosion. It was a very sad time."

Some reports at the time suggested the bar was frequented by political activists, that the bomb belonged to an IRA team in transit and was a republican 'own-goal'.

But this was rubbished as "ridiculous" by local residents.

Pat said: "You were saying to yourself: 'Who killed my mummy? Why did my own people kill my mummy?

"At the back of your mind you knew it wasn't our own people that had done it.

"This was a family-run bar and it was people like my mummy and daddy that went to talk with each other and just pass the time of day for a pint or an orange and then come home again."

Seven years after the bomb, a UVF man received 15 life sentences after he was convicted of the bombing.

On Tuesday night a number of events are being held to mark the 30th anniverary of the atrocity.

  • 1900 GMT Mass at St Patrick's Chapel, Donegall Street. Fifteen wreaths will be placed on the altar to remember dead.

  • Candlelit procession for peace from St Patrick's to corner of Great George's Street for blessing of monument

  • Photographic exhibition at the local recreational centre, covering media reports of the event.
  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    Pat Arthus talks to the BBC
    about the bomb which killed her mother
    Links to more Northern Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.


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