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Bombed bar 'symbol of savagery'

18 December 07 14:22 GMT
by Nuala McCann
BBC News

There was much more to Patsy McGurk than his media label as the owner of a bar bombed by the UVF, a priest has told mourners at his funeral Mass.

Fifteen people, including three women and two children, died in the 1971 explosion in north Belfast.

"It became a symbol of the savagery and an icon of the suffering in our community," Monsignor Tom Toner said.

"It was a life changing event for Patsy. He lost his wife, daughter, business and home in one fell swoop."

"All he had left was his three fine sons, his indomitable spirit and his faith.

"But he lived the gospel, no recrimination, no anger against those who wrecked his life."

Monsignor Toner told several hundred mourners at St Teresa's Church, west Belfast, on Tuesday that Mr McGurk, who died at the age of 86, was a "true gentleman and dedicated family man, kind and generous and known for his outstanding compassion and forgiveness."

Among those at the funeral was Irish President Mary McAleese's aide de camp.

The false allegation that the explosion in the Catholic bar was caused by the IRA added to the pain felt by the bereaved. In 1977, a UVF man confessed to it.

The driver of the getaway car admitted his part in the attack and it became clear that it was carried out by loyalist paramilitaries, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

The driver received 15 life sentences and remains the only person ever to have been convicted in relation to the explosion.

Mr McGurk and his three sons, Patrick, Gerard and John, were also injured in the blast.

A memorial was unveiled on the Queen Street site of the bar in 2001 to mark the 30th anniversary of the bombing.

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