Teen barman bomb victim never got to meet his son

A coroner has been told he will hear evidence that an explosion which caused the death of a teenager in Belfast 50 years ago was the result of a co-ordinated UVF attack, rather than an “IRA own goal”.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 25th May 2022, 7:47 am

John Moran was 19 when he was seriously injured in a bomb attack at Kelly’s Bar on the Springfield Road on May 13 1972, and died of his injuries 10 days later.

At the opening of a fresh inquest being heard by coroner Joe McCrisken at Banbridge Courthouse, it was stated that Mr Moran’s girlfriend was pregnant at the time of his death and he never met his son.

The pub was packed with people watching a televised football match between England and West Germany when the car bomb exploded.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

John Moran

Opening the inquest, senior counsel for the coroner Declan Quinn said Mr Moran was a part-time barman was who on a shift break on the night of the explosion.

He said: “You will hear witnesses say that shortly after 5pm in the evening he was preparing to head to his nearby home when he stopped to chat with persons at the door to the bar.

“You will hear evidence about a car which was parked facing country-ward on the Springfield Road adjacent to the bar.

“In this car was a bomb which exploded, injuring John, others nearby including children, passing motorists, staff and customers in the bar.

“Numbers vary as to how many people were injured directly in the bombing. However, it seems that at least 50 people were treated in hospital as a result.

“John Moran was a young man who lived with his parents, John and his mother, who went by Maureen or Mary. John’s father died in 1984 and his mother died in 1992.

“John was the eldest of seven children. He had a girlfriend, Kathleen, who at the time of his bombing and his death was pregnant with the son he would never know.

“You will hear evidence from a soldier who was positioned on Black’s Mountain who claims to have witnessed through binoculars the arrival of the bomb car and subsequent explosion.

“You will hear that, based on his account, the British Army and the RUC quickly concluded this was a bomb likely to have been brought to the scene by the Provisional IRA en route to another location and that it prematurely exploded. In short that this was an IRA own goal.

“This came to be the official account of what happened at Kelly’s Bar.

“The next of kin have since campaigned to challenge this official version of events.

“You will hear from witnesses at the scene who have provided accounts contrary to the account of the Army and RUC.

“The evidence effectively asserts, rather than the bombing being a Provisional IRA own goal, it was part of a co-ordinated attack by the UVF and that in the aftermath of the explosion there was gunfire from a loyalist or Protestant area which targeted those gathered at Kelly’s Bar after the bombing.

“The broad issue surrounds the central question as to who planted the bomb.”

Annie Clarke, a younger sister of Mr Moran, entered the witness box while her statement was read to the court.

The statement said: “John’s death destroyed us, it wrecked our family. After he died it was as if he did not exist. As a family we could not bring ourselves to talk about John’s death, it was just too painful. Our parents never got over it.

“All of us, John’s siblings, have lived in and around the same community in the 50 years since his death.

“It is a small and close-knit community. In the 50 years since John was killed no member of our family has ever heard anything, not even a hint or a rumour from anyone in our community, to suggest the explosion in which John received his injuries was caused by an IRA bomb that exploded prematurely.”

Another man, Thomas McIlroy, died in a shooting after the bombing, while a third victim, Gerard Clarke, died of his injuries 17 years later.