No PSNI investigation into IRA bomber’s claims

Robert McClenaghan (centre) with McGurk's Bar bombing victims and MLAs, campaigning for investigations into police officers at the Police Ombudsman's Office in Belfast
Robert McClenaghan (centre) with McGurk's Bar bombing victims and MLAs, campaigning for investigations into police officers at the Police Ombudsman's Office in Belfast

The PSNI refusal to pursue a self-confessed prolific IRA bomber will leave victims with little confidence of justice under proposed legacy mechanisms, it has been claimed.

The News Letter recently revealed that 60-year-old Robert McClenaghan, a member of the Victims and Survivors Forum, had boasted in a documentary that he “felt immensely proud” to join the IRA and that it had been his daily job to plant bombs in Belfast.

Speaking in the 2011 documentary ‘When The War Ends’ by director Thijs Schreuder, he said: “We went on to place the bombs in Belfast city centre. Some of the bombs would be small or some would have been very big. That just became part of your job or part of your day after a while.”

Mr McClenaghan joined the IRA in 1974 and was arrested in 1976.

His past came to light in March when 79-year-old Jackie Nichol resigned from the Victims and Survivors Forum and went public at how “gutted” he was to find out that the man he had befriended on it – McClenaghan – had been a prolific bomber.

Mr Nichol’s 17-month-old son Colin had been killed in a no-warning IRA bomb in 1971. Mr McClenaghan’s grandfather was killed in the UVF McGurk’s Bar bombing the same year.

Mr Nichol took his case to TUV leader Jim Allister, who then wrote to the Chief Constable George Hamilton pressing him to investigate McClenaghan’s boasts.

Detective Superintendent Ian Harrison responded to him that they have now reviewed the documentary.

The senior officer reminded Mr Allister that McClenaghan was sentenced to 20 years in 1978 for explosives and firearms offences, of which it is understood he served 12 years in jail.

Mr Harrison added: “It is the police assessment at this time that the statements of Mr McClenaghan within the documentary do not provide further scope for investigative action.”

But Mr Allister questioned the significance of the PSNI response.

“The attitude of the PSNI to this matter when there is video evidence of a terrorist boasting of daily bombing missions would suggest that victims of IRA terrorists can have little confidence in the police’s willingness to pursue wrongdoers under the proposed legacy mechanisms,” he said.

“One suspects it is because the PIRA are a protected species. I have written again to the PSNI requesting a further explanation of the police attitude.”

SDLP policing and legacy spokeswoman Dolores Kelly queried whether the PSNI adequately investigated Mr McClenaghan’s bombing claims.

She previously defended the Victims Commission in the case, saying its processes could not have picked up his past.

“But for those people affected by these bombs [claimed by McClenaghan] I am sure they would say the police could do more ... the very least you would expect would be for people to be questioned.”

Police must “pursue all lines of inquiry” and elaborate on decisions they take, she added.

The PSNI and Mr McClenaghan both declined to comment.