Double attack on Whiterock pub wrecked so many lives

Families want answers about pub bombing

By Ciara Quinn

SURVIVORS and relatives of those who lost loved ones during a loyalist car-bomb and gun attack in West Belfast 40 years ago have called for an independent investigation into the events of the day and are considering civil proceedings against the Chief Constable Matt Baggot.

The bomb, which exploded without warning outside the packed Kelly’s public house on the Whiterock Road on May 13, 1972, claimed the lives of 20-year-old barman John Moran, who died ten days later from his injuries, and Gerard Clarke, an apprentice barman who was seriously injured and died from his injuries on September 6, 1989. As survivors were being pulled  from the rubble, UVF gunmen opened fire from the loyalist Springmartin estate, killing 50-year-old Tommy McIlroy, who was also employed as a barman in Kelly’s. 66 people were also injured in the explosion.

In the immediate aftermath of the bombing, the British Army claimed that the device was an IRA bomb that had exploded prematurely. Secretary of State William Whitelaw told the House of Commons on May 18, 1972 that all indications were that this was an IRA device which had gone off early. He added that the facts did not support the theory that it had been placed by Protestant extremists. But it later emerged that the device was in fact a loyalist bomb.

Lisa McNally, daughter of Gerard Clarke and niece of John Moran, told the Andersonstown News that the families are now calling for an independent investigation into the circumstances of the murderous attack on Kelly’s.

 

Compounded

“We want to know why the British security services deliberately withheld information in relation to the facts surrounding these attacks and whether the politicians who compounded the lies were aware of the loyalist involvement in the death of our loved ones,” she said. “In correspondence with our family in April 2010 the Historical Enquiries Team [HET] concluded that there was no evidence or intelligence to confirm that the loyalists planted the car bomb. Yet on that day there was a Lance Corporal saying that the people who were caught up in this were, in fact, the people who carried it out, so they were basically saying that my father and uncle were the ones that carried out this attack.

“The suggestion that our loved ones who were killed or those who were injured were responsible for the bomb is reprehensible and shameful and to this day is a source of distress to the families and survivors of the attack.

“There was never a proper investigation carried out. We’re calling on the British Government to issue a statement of innocence for the victims and survivors of the attack on Kelly’s Bar and to apologise for the actions of their security services,” she said.

Sliabh Dubh man Gerry McGlade had been bar manager at Kelly’s for 12 years on the day of the attack. He was organising a staff break rota when the bomb exploded just after 5.15pm. Gerry told the Andersonstown News how that day was just like any other Saturday on the road.

“We were a busy bar, the only one in the area, and we took in trade from Turf Lodge, Ballymurphy, Moyard and Whiterock. I remember that day as clear, as England were playing West Germany on the television and we had a good crowd in the bar. Protestants and Catholics all drank in the bar and there was never any trouble.

“I remember John Moran in the hallway and we were arranging what time he should take his break at. Gerard Clarke was an apprentice barman and he was really excited that day as his brother was coming home from England. He kept asking me could he go outside and see his brother coming up the road. I said he could have the rest of the night off to go for a drink with him when he got in.

“John was just about to leave, he had just got his coat and was heading home to Turf Lodge. I wanted to see what the final score in the match was and I remember a customer calling me from the top to the end of the bar to order a drink – that was what saved me. The bomb went off and then everything happened in slow motion,” he said.

“The lights went out, the plate glass windows came in. John got caught in the blast and Gerard got a massive force of it as well. Tommy McIlroy, who lived in Andersonstown, was meant to start at 7pm that night. He came running up to see if we were all okay, he started giving us a hand, trying to clean up. I told him to set up a drink for all the people who were helping us, he went behind the bar and then one single bullet came through the windows, it hit Tommy in the back and killed him.”

 

Flashbacks

Gerry said the horrific events at Kelly’s Bar are with him constantly.

“I have flashbacks every day to what happened. I can’t believe that 40 years have passed. I’ll never forget May 13, 1972 for the rest of my life. I am totally behind the families’ campaign, 100 per cent. We were the people in the bar, we worked in the bar, and if any information we have will prove helpful to them then I’m more than happy to co-operate however I can.

“There was only a small report in the Sunday press  the next day about what happened, which really wasn’t good enough. Regarding all atrocies, for Protestants and Catholics during the Troubles, the truth must be told.

“I hope the families get the answers they desperately want and that the truth about Kelly’s Bar comes out.”

Dermott Hill resident Tony Heaney was a young dad at the time of the Kelly’s attack. The Kennedy’s Dairy employee was a big sports fan and a well-known boxing judge and timekeeper. He explained how he had left his home that day to find out the latest horse racing results at the local bookmakers when he was caught up in the blast.

“I wanted to find out the last results of that day’s racing,” he recalled. “The bookies was closed at this stage so I went into Kelly’s Bar to see if the racing was on TV, but the football was on. I left the bar and stood at a car that was parked outside. Moments later the bomb exploded and I was thrown across to the other side of the road.”

Tony only vaguely remembers being rushed to hospital. Visibly upset at the memories, he continued: “All I know is that a car came up the Springfield Road and lifted me into the back and brought me to the Royal Victoria Hospital. I lost part of my leg and had to get 300 stitches under my hairline – it was a long road to recovery. What happened that day is certainly a painful memory, it feels like yesterday to me and it affects me to this day.”

 

Hospital

“It was very difficult for us,” said Tony’s wife Ann. “Our oldest daughter Angela was just going on five at the time and she was aware of what happened to her daddy. When he came home from the hospital she wouldn’t go near him for a long time, she was afraid. She developed alopecia, from one ear to the other she was absolutely bald. She thought his leg would grow back and I had to explain to her that it wouldn’t.

“I ran to the bookies after the bomb went off, from our house you could see the smoke billowing. I was running frantically into the shops asking had anybody seen my husband? It was just pure panic.

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