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Kelly’s Bar Cover-Up Exposed After 45 Years

The 45th anniversary of the Kelly’s Bar attack and cover-up just passed.

A startling archive find from British military archives proves that a member of the Parachute Regiment alerted his superiors to the names of two Loyalist suspects involved in the bombing of Kelly’s Bar.

At the time, the British Security Forces and government blamed the attack on a Republican own-goal.

In 2010, a Lead Senior Investigating Officer of the Historical Enquiries Team told families that the authorities never had intelligence that it was a Loyalist attack. These archives prove this to be completely false.

Kelly’s Bar bombing, 13th May 1972, resulted in the death of two and the injury of 63 civilians and, set off a series of gun attacks resulting in multiple deaths, including a 13-year-old girl.

On the day of the Kelly’s Bar bombing, the named Para was on home leave and drinking in Paisley Park Pub which was situated in a nearby Loyalist area. A named man “announced that Kelly’s Bar would go up in two hours” which it did. The British soldier reported this to his superiors and it is recorded in a Headquarters log the following day (14th May 1972). He also named a relative of the man as being directly involved in the bombing and gave this man’s address in nearby Highcairn.

Kelly's Bar intelligence from British soldier


Paper Trail has redacted the names and addresses of those involved to protect the integrity of a proper investigation and the security of those named.

This is followed with a supplementary log which redacts the soldiers name but not the suspects (which we have done as well).

Kelly's Bar intelligence from a British soldier

The HQNI logs state:

1750 14th May 1972: “Info from [named British soldier] on leave from 3 Para… said to Bty SM [Battery Sergeant Major] if he went to [address], would find a Mr [named] who knows rather more about Kellys Bar than he should. Especially who is [relation]”

1006 15th May 1972: “Kelly’s Bar Expl[osion]… [redacted] On the night of the expl[osion] [British soldier named] was in the Paisley Park Pub when a Mr [named] announced that Kelly’s Bar would go up in 2 hours. [British soldier] (this did happen) convinced that [named person] [relative] of [named person] was involved in expl[osion].”

The files also direct us to intelligence that the bombers planned to bomb Starry Plough pub in New Lodge.

HET Failure or Cover-Up

This highly significant intelligence from a member of the British Security Forces completely undermines the most recent review by the Historical Enquiries Team. In a letter to a family solicitor in April 2010, the Lead Senior Investigating Officer wrote:

“while acknowledging there was a lot of conflicting speculation and conjecture as to who was responsible for the attack, the HET found no evidence or intelligence to confirm the assertion… that this was a loyalist car bomb.”

Ciarán MacAirt is a McGurk’s Bar family campaigner and manager of Paper Trail:

“These archives prove that the Security Forces had intelligence from one of their own that Kelly’s Bar was a Loyalist attack. These also tie in with previous archives which I found which prove that the British Army were told to keep a look-out for a particular stolen car at Kelly’s Bar a couple of hours before the attack. This vehicle was then used as the car bomb but the innocent victims in the bar were blamed by the British state and RUC.”

“These archives yet again highlight the failures of Historical Enquiries Team. I am particularly fearful of the role of this Leading Senior Investigating Officer as he is the same man who led failed HET investigations into the murders of McGurk’s Bar, Kelly’s Bar and Jean Smyth-Campbell – three of the worst state cover-ups from the period.”

“Incompetence is the most benign reason to explain why this Leading Senior Investigating Officer and his team failed to find crucial evidence in all 3 cases which Paper Trail then discovered in public records and placed in the public domain. I believe though that the High Court should examine whether systemic organisational bias and deliberate omission are at the root of these failures and not incompetence because the three horrific cases stink of an on-going cover-up by the police.”

Become Involved

Paper Trail is helping families and former combatants to access information in archives for themselves.

A new project funded by Peace IV and the Victims and Survivors Service will train people across the north of Ireland how to dig through archives and what to look for.

There will also be group trips to archives in Belfast so participants can handle documents and learn how to track information.

Paper Trail will also be facilitating Story-Telling training for those who wish to share their experiences and the stories of those they know. They can learn how to do so professionally and ethically.

The project is open to anyone impacted by the conflict. Classes will run throughout the year beginning in the summer.

Email for further information or to book a place.

Related Article

Kelly’s Bar: Foreknowledge and Preventability


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