Information Watchdog Investigates Police Refusal to Hand Over Massacre Fingerprint Evidence


The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is investigating Police Service Northen Ireland’s refusal to hand over basic information relating to fingerprint evidence police gathered in the aftermath of the McGurk’s Bar Massacre. The families believe the police have either destroyed the evidence or it relates to named Loyalist agents on its books.

15 civilians including 2 children were murdered in the no-warning Loyalist bomb attack on McGurk’s Bar on 4th December 1971. Despite forensic and witness evidence – and before the families had even identified all of their loved ones – the police and British Army blamed the victims for the atrocity.
Ciarán MacAirt, a grandson of two of the McGurk’s Bar Massacre victims, raised a simple request for information relating to a fingerprint ledger that proved that the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) retrieved a number of prints from articles of evidence including 2 prints from the “car used in explosion Gt. George Street”.
The police did not provide the evidence relating to the discovery of the car and the fingerprints to the Coroner at the original inquest and hid the crucial information from the families for decades.

To compound this police failure, the Office of the Police Ombudsman then deliberately withheld the fingerprint evidence from the families and did not include it in its 2011 report into the Massacre.

MacAirt asked PSNI three simple Yes/No questions (2nd November 2023):

“1. Are these fingerprints in PSNI records today (yes or no)?
2. If not, do we know when they were lost (yes or no)?
3. Were they ever linked to named suspects (yes or no)?”

On January 30th 2024, PSNI replied that it will “neither confirm nor deny” this basic information. It upheld its decision following MacAirt’s request for an Internal Review on 27th February 2024.

PSNI doubled down and informed the families it will “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” (NCND) this basic information due to potential Health and Safety concerns of any living individuals that may be subject to the release of the information.
The Information Commissioner’s Office has informed MacAirt that it is now investigating PSNI “Refusal Decision” following his complaint to ICO.
MacAirt said:

“I only requested basic information and asked whether RUC or PSNI had linked these prints to the named Loyalists in police files. I did not ask for the personal information of anyone and a simple yes or no may have sufficed. Either RUC/PSNI linked the prints to the perpetrators, or it did not. Either it still has this crucial evidence or it has destroyed it”

“Our families believe PSNI refuses to hand over this basic information in order to protect police agents that perpetrated the Massacre and bury evidence of a deliberate police cover-up over the last 52 years. Yet again PSNI proves it does not ‘Protect and Serve’ victims in legacy cases but perverts the course of justice to protect its own criminal interests.”

“It is now up to the new Chief Constable Jon Boutcher to ensure that PSNI does not defend a sectarian police force in the past when it is demonstrably wrong as this poisons our community’s view of policing in the present.”

(1) Ciarán MacAirt via email firstly; telephone 02895818575