The initial inquests, held in Coroner's Court in Store Street, Dublin 1, were adjourned immediately after the death certificates were issued at the request of the Gardai Commissioner - a decision former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has described as "extraordinary".
With strong suspisions that British agents were behind the bombings, the Troops Out Movement join with Justice for the Forgotten in calling for a full, public, international inquiry into the bombings.
of Dublin bombings rises
The deathtoll from the 1974 Dublin
bombings is being officially increased to 27, to recognise an unborn
child among the victims.
Her unborn baby is being officially recognised as a victim under Article 40 of the constitution, which recognises the right to life of the unborn.
On Friday May 17, 1974, 34 people
were killed in terrorist bombings in Dublin and the borderside town
It was the greatest loss of life in a single day of the Troubles.
The nightmare began at 5.30pm, rush hour, on the busiest day of the week in the Republic's heaving capital.
Three car bombs ripped through the heart of Dublin without warning, killing 27 people including an entire family.
Parnell Street, Talbot Street and South Leinster Street were devastated and within 90 seconds the city resembled a battle field.
Ninety minutes later a fourth car bomb exploded on North Road in the borderside town of Monaghan where a further seven people died.
Around 250 people were injured in the attacks.
That evening Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave said in a television and radio broadcast that he wanted to express "the revulsion and condemnation felt by every decent person in this island at these unforgivable acts".
He said it would help to bring home to the Republic what the people of Northern Ireland had been suffering for five long years.
"Everyone who has practised violence, or preached violence or condoned violence must bear a share of responsibility for (the) outrage," he added.
In Belfast, the UDA and the UVF denied responsibility for the explosions and in Dublin a statement issued by the Provisional IRA called the attacks "vile murder".
The then UDA press officer, Samuel Smyth, said: "I am very happy about the bombings in Dublin. There is a war with the Free State and now we are laughing at them."
Almost 20 years later, in 1993, the UVF admitted that it carried out the attacks, "aided by no outside bodies".
The bombings came at a time of acute instability in Northern Ireland and coincided with the loyalist Ulster Workers' Council strike, which brought down the power-sharing executive at Stormont established by the Sunningdale Agreement.
The arrangement collapsed 11 days after the bombings.
Relatives of the bereaved have campaigned tirelessly for the answers to endless questions about what exactly happened that day.
They believe an attitude of resignation was adopted by the Government that the bombings were inevitable because of the actions of the IRA.
The Justice for the Forgotten group, which represents the families of those killed and injured in the attacks, claims that only in a few instances did politicians visit the families or wounded.
There was no national day of mourning as there had been for Bloody Sunday.
There was no Government initiative to set up a fund for the dependants of those murdered.
There was no consultation with the families and no counselling was provided.
No progress reports on the investigation were given to the families. A memorial was built 17 years later.
The Justice for the Forgotten group says that, while the garda investigation appeared to be making good progress, it ground to a halt within a few weeks of the bombings.
Although gardai had the names of 20 suspects, some on an evidential basis and others from intelligence sources, not one was ever questioned. No-one was charged.
While the inquests in Monaghan were convened and concluded, the inquests into the 27 deaths from the Dublin bombings were adjourned less than two weeks after the tragedy.
All inquests have since been reopened but will not proceed until well into 2004.
Year upon year the relatives have campaigned for all appropriate information surrounding the events of that day to be made available.
They have brought claims before the European Commission of Human Rights, fought for radical reassessments of compensation packages, launched the Britain's Zero Response campaign, written hundreds of letters, met foreign diplomats and displayed adverts in the British and Irish press.
In August 1999, John Wilson, of the Victim's Commission, published a report recommending a private inquiry.
And four months later Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced the launch of an official investigation to be headed by Chief Justice Liam Hamilton. It was warmly welcomed by campaigners who agreed to co-operate.
The inquiry was established to examine a range of issues, including claims of collusion between members of the British security forces and the UVF loyalist paramilitary bombers responsible for the attacks.
In October 2000 Justice Hamilton resigned on grounds of ill health and died a month later. The inquiry was taken over by Justice Henry Barron.
The four-year investigation has relied on witnesses to come forward voluntarily.
Justice Barron did not have the powers of a judge conducting a public inquiry. His remit was to draw conclusions rather than make recommendations.
The sophisticated nature of the devices used in the three Dublin bombings have fuelled suspicions that the British military was involved - accusations which have been hotly denied.
But campaigners believe the co-operation of the British Government in a public inquiry is essential if the truth is to be established.
The Barron report was due to have been published more than a year ago.
Its preparation was frustrated by an alleged lack of co-operation on the part of the British authorities.
It was eventually presented to the Taoiseach in October and handed to a joint Dublin parliamentary justice committee today (10th December 2003).
Justice Barron is also expected to deliver a separate report on the Dublin bombings of December 1972 and January 1973 in coming weeks.
Relatives and victims continue to seek a public judicial tribunal of inquiry from the Irish government into the atrocities and is still fighting, almost 30 years on, for truth, justice and closure.
to Omagh but Reaction was so Different
By Tim Pat Coogan
One of the reasons that I bear a deep affection for my fellow Dubliners, was their behaviour on the night of Friday May 17, 1974. I walked through the stricken city as broken glass was still falling and ambulance sirens wailed, but neither at that moment nor subsequently, did I ever hear one word of anger directed at those responsible for the carnage.
The principle reactions of Dubliners were to do what they could to help the victims, those that were still alive, that is, and to queue in their hundreds to give blood at the various hospitals catering for the injured.
There seemed to be a general mood of "this is what they've been going through in the North" and there was the fact that people were more docile then, the famous "free secondary education" reforms introduced by Donogh O'Malley some six years earlier, had not had time to spread a spirit of confidence and individual worth, which ultimately led to the Celtic Tiger.
But these were not the only reasons for the meekness of the South's response to what is still the worst single day's death toll of the entire Troubles, the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings.
The seemingly incomprehensible difference between the pro-active manner in which decision taking Dublin, Belfast and London reacted in trying to bring to justice those responsible for the Omagh bombing and the inadequate response by the coalition government of the day, and indeed, of successive Dublin administrations since, to the far greater atrocities of May 1974, can be explained, if not condoned, by an examination of the circumstances of the time.
Firstly, it has to be understood that the bombs were no random atrocity, but part of the on-going campaign which loyalism, was conducting against the Power-Sharing Executive in Stormont, with the encouragement of the British Army and MI5, which, at the time, was engaged in a turf war, which it eventually won, with MI6 for control of intelligence gathering in the Six Counties.
The Labour Government in London, led by Harold Wilson, was unpopular with the British Security Services and Wilson was booed by naval cadets while visiting a naval vessel at Portsmouth.
The Unionist Party, led by Brian Faulkner had been weakened by the results of the election the previous February, which had returned Labour to power and placed eleven Protestants in the twelve Ulster seats at Westminster.
The Power-Sharing Executive had been set up as a result of what was known as the Sunningdale Agreement, concluded a few months earlier, which also provided for a Council of Ireland.
Unionism reacted violently against both the Power-Sharing Executive and the Council and at every level of the unionist community, there was support for a strike against the Sunningdale Agreement which broke out in May 1974, just days before the bombings south of the border.
The power workers at the giant generating plant at Ballylumford, refused to provide electricity and all across the Six Counties masked men put up barricades across the roads preventing people either going to work, to school or distributing essential supplies such as food and petrol.
These barricades were manned by masked, cudgel-wielding, and sometimes armed members of the UVF and the UDA. The British Army refused to take any action against these barricades and were frequently photographed and filmed chatting to the strikers, while figures ranging from John Hume to teachers trying to get to their schools, vainly implored the soldiers to take action.
The then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was the weak and faltering Merlyn Rees, who had succeeded the far more forceful James Callaghan who later became Prime Minister. Callaghan himself later told me that he believed that the barricades should have come down and that the Power-Sharing Executive should have been upheld.
However, it was not to be. The unionist minister, who first broke ranks with his Power-Sharing Executive colleagues, was Roy Bradford.He issued a public statement warning that water and sewerage supplies might cease and on the 28th May the day of the statement, the Executive collapsed.
Later, Bradford told me himself that he issued the statement after a visit to his office in Stormont by "two of his constituents". One of them turned out to be Ken Gibson, who just happened to be the Chief of Staff of the UVF. Citizens of this State will regularly understand the impossibility of a Chief of Staff of the Provisional IRA being able to walk into a ministerial office at Leinster House and call for, and get, a far-reaching political change.
However, the reaction from Dublin was one of activity without movement.
The bombings of May 17th had killed whatever little appetite that had existed in a coalition government which included Liam Cosgrave and Dr Conor Cruise O'Brien, for standing up for either Councils of Ireland or nationalists rights within the Six Counties.
The Fianna Fail opposition of the time was demoralised and still somewhat choked by the fumes of sulphur emanating from the Arms Trial which had seen figures like Charlie Haughey and Neil Blaney unsuccessfully prosecuted on charges of illegal arms importation.
Ideologically, the climate was one in which Dr O'Brien theorised about cleansing the culture of nationalist infections and a determined effort was made to extend the influence of Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act into the print media.
Dr O'Brien is on record as having told Bud Nossiter of the Washington Post that he objected to the sort of letters which were appearing in the Irish Press and saw the Act as being used against its editor (myself).
Dublin wound up the investigations into the bombings a matter of months after they occurred and took some extraordinary steps, such as, sending the forensic evidence to the RUC to be tested.
My understanding, at the time, was that Irish military intelligence had obtained information which strongly indicated collusion between elements of the Security Forces in Northern Ireland and the loyalist bombers who struck Dublin and Monaghan.
However, I was informed that the government had taken a view that it was unlikely to get any co-operation in following up the affair from the RUC and that the net effect of making noise about the bombings would be to give aid and comfort to the IRA, thus the matter was shelved.
Certainly, the part of Mr Justice Barron's report which refers to the Irish Army having been informed by its British Army contacts within days of the atrocities occurring, that it knew who the culprits were and had two of them in custody, would appear to bear this out.
It would appear to be axiomatic that the first duty of a government is the care and protection of its citizens, but this principle would appear to have been breached in the Republic of Ireland from 1974 onward.
The impetus towards opening the files and eventually setting up the Barron Inquiry, (first begun by the late former Chief Justice Liam Hamilton), came not from Dublin, but from a Yorkshire television programme in the early 90s.
Along with the many other initiatives which he was undertaking in connection with the Peace Process, Albert Reynolds ordered that the issues raised and the allegations made of British agents' collusion in the bombings be investigated. They were, and so the road to Barron began.
It would appear that nationalist claims of collusion, dirty tricks, and downright murder even murder committed within this State's boundaries, always require an extra dimension of justification to those made by unionist spokespersons for assaults directed at their communities.
Tim Pat Coogan's latest book Ireland In The 20th Century is published by Hutchinson.
Dublin & Monaghan Bombings - Personal Accounts
The following account of the story behind the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the case for a public inquiry was presented at the 2004 European Social Forum by Bernie McNally and Margaret Urwin, two victims of the 1974 attacks.
"On Friday, 17 May 1974, at 5.30pm, three no-warning car bombs exploded in Dublin City Centre - in Parnell Street, Talbot Street and South Leinster Street. An hour and a half later, at 6.58pm a fourth no-warning car bomb exploded at North Road, Monaghan town.
As a result of the bombings, 34 people (19 women, 2 baby girls, 1 unborn full term baby and 12 men) lost their lives and hundreds more were injured. I was counted among the injured and remained in hospital for six weeks afterwards.
To put the bombings into the political context of the time -- they were planted on the third day of the UWC (Ulster Workers Council) strike against the power-sharing Executive, which had been established as a result of the Sunningdale Agreement. The bombings were almost certainly aimed at preventing a greater role for the Irish government in the administration of Northern Ireland.
There was a precedent for bombing Dublin at politically strategic times. The first car bombing of Dublin occurred on 1st December 1972 when the Amendment to the Offences against the State Act was due to be voted on in Dail Eireann. The Amendment looked set for defeat but, in the immediate aftermath of the bombings, the Fine Gael party changed their mind and the legislation was rushed through both Houses of the Oireachtas during the following day. The legislation was designed to give the Gardai more powers against the IRA.
From the viewpoint of the bombers the Dublin and Monaghan bombings were equally successful. After the fall of the power-sharing Executive on 28th May 1974, the Irish government did not involve itself in the affairs of Northern Ireland for several years.
The attack itself was cold-blooded and premeditated murder, aimed at the civilian population, designed to claim the maximum number of lives. These were no-warning car bombs set to explode at the busiest hour of the busiest day of the week - 5.30pm on a Friday evening. This was not a case of failed or inaccurate warnings and it is likely that many more would have died but for the fact that a bus strike prevented many shoppers from getting into the city.
In the immediate aftermath of the bombings, the Irish government appeared to adopt a fatalistic attitude. The Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, made an extraordinary speech to the nation on the evening of the bombings in which he suggested that "any person who ever practised violence or preached violence or condoned violence must bear a share of responsibility for today's outrage".
Speeches by the minister for justice, Paddy Cooney, the minister for posts and telegraphs, Conor Cruise O'Brien and the attorney general, Declan Costello, endorsed this view that the victims, that is, the citizens of the Republic of Ireland, were to blame.
The attorney general went so far as to state that any Irish citizen who had even entertained the thought of supporting the IRA's campaign, was every bit as guilty of the slaughter of the victims of Dublin and Monaghan as those who had planned and carried out the atrocity.
The bombings disappeared very quickly from all organs of the media and from public consciousness. A long and deafening silence prevailed. There was no national day of mourning, as there had been after Bloody Sunday, no government initiative to set up a fund for the dependants of those murdered, no progress reports were provided to the families by the Garda Siochana, there were no questions from the Opposition in the Houses of the Oireachtas, there were no questions raised by any section of the media, there was collective amnesia among the citizens of the capital city and the country at large. No head was raised above the parapet to call for justice for the victims; the bereaved families and survivors were not just abandoned but were cast aside by the Irish authorities.
When I returned to work on Talbot Street, it was as if the bombings had never happened. Although the owner of the shop where I was employed, like me, had been seriously injured, we never spoke about the atrocity and tried to get on with our lives.
The great silence lasted for 16 years - until 1990. In that year, there were small stirrings. A retired Irish army officer wrote articles in an Irish language newspaper, detailing his analysis of the bombings; a journalist put forward similar views in a magazine and a trade unionist was finally successful in persuading Dublin City Council to erect a very modest memorial to the victims. The unveiling of that memorial in 1991 led to families and survivors coming together for the first time.
Yorkshire Television (YTV) were contacted and became interested in the issue. Their investigative journalism resulted in the screening of the documentary ‘Hidden Hand, The Forgotten Massacre’ as part of Channel 4's First Tuesday series.
The main findings of the programme were that, at least some of the suspects were members of the UVF; the UVF acting alone, did not have the capacity to carry out these bombings; the bombings bore the hallmark of a sophisticated and technical operation and the Garda investigation was wound down after three months.
‘Hidden Hand’ was the catalyst for the campaign that has continued since that July evening in 1993. I would like to pay tribute to the producers of that programme who had the courage to do what Irish journalists and Irish television failed to do.
During the six years following the screening of the programme, many doors were slammed in the faces of the relatives. The government refused to set up a public inquiry into the allegations made on the programme.
In 1996, the two lawyers who still comprise our legal team came on board the campaign. They took a case against the United Kingdom government to the European Court of Human Rights because of the failure of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to initiate a murder inquiry into the bombings. To assist the case they sought disclosure of the Garda investigation files. The High Court denied access to the Garda files and that decision was upheld by the Supreme Court.
Then the ECHR judged that the complaint against the RUC was time barred. The RUC failed to set up a murder inquiry even though the men who planned and executed the Dublin and Monaghan bombings did so in their jurisdiction, the no-warning bombs that caused the death of 34 civilian men, woman and babies were assembled in their jurisdiction, the cars used to carry the deadly cargo, as well as the getaway cars, were procured in their jurisdiction and the perpetrators, when their terrible deed was done, escaped back safely to their jurisdiction.
Eventually, in December 1999, we negotiated with the Irish government and agreed to accept the Independent Commission of Inquiry, originally under the chairmanship of Judge Liam Hamilton and later under Judge Henry Barron.
The Barron Report
After four long years, the Barron report was finally published last December. The British government failed to co-operate with the Inquiry in any meaningful way. Not one single original document (or copy of such a document) was furnished to Judge Barron - all he received after months of prevarication was a ten-page letter on 26th February 2002. Barron concluded that the material assessed by the Inquiry was insufficient to suggest that senior members of the security forces in Northern Ireland were in any way involved in the bombings.
From January to March of this year (2004), public hearings into the Barron report were held before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence & Women's Rights. This gave an opportunity for the bereaved families and survivors to have their voices heard in the Irish parliament and I, along with many others, welcomed the opportunity to tell my story.
At the end of the hearings, the Committee recommended that, internally, the Irish government should establish an Inquiry into the reason for the premature winding down of the Garda investigation, the failure to follow up specific leads and the missing files. They recommended that the Inquiry should be set up under the new Commission of Investigations Act. The government has announced that it will establish such an inquiry. However, we are unhappy with this type of Inquiry as it is, effectively, a private Inquiry.
Barron was devastating in his criticism of the Garda investigation and the response of the Irish government of the day and also of the fact that, currently, important files are missing in the Department of Justice and Garda Siochana.
We learned a lot of new information about the collapse and apparent ineptitude of the Garda investigation - its failure to use the information it had obtained; failure to pursue leads; bungling and delay in sending forensic samples to the laboratory, etc.
However, in relation to the collusion aspect, while acknowledging the paucity of the information received from the British government, we believe that Judge Barron could have attached greater significance to material he did receive, in particular, from Fred Holroyd, from Colin Wallace and from John Weir.
During the course of the four years' inquiry, the lawyers for Justice for the Forgotten, with myself as researcher, carried out almost a parallel investigation, albeit with no access to official files. However, we met with anyone with any information anywhere. We travelled many times to Britain and to Northern Ireland, as well as further afield, to interview people.
One of those who came forward to give information was a concerned Dublin citizen called Roger Keane who reported suspicious activity in Dublin on the afternoon of the bombings involving a British army officer and a van.
Roger was in the company of two Gardai when they searched the van at Dublin port on the evening of the bombings where they found a British army officer's uniform.
Judge Barron had confirmation of this from an Irish army intelligence report, which stated that a British army officer was taken off the boat by Gardai and weapons were found in his bag.
However, he found no reference to this episode in Garda records.
A man who gave us detailed information over several meetings was Colin Wallace. Between 1973 and 1975 Wallace served as senior information officer (psy-ops officer) in British army HQ in Lisburn. However, we believe his most important evidence rests in the primary sources of his contemporary letters to his former superior, written in August and September of 1975, 15-16 months after the bombings.
These letters are evidence that British army HQ had knowledge of several named loyalist paramilitaries in the bombings - at least one of these, Robert McConnell, was a serving corporal in the UDR. The letters are evidence that British army HQ were aware that these persons were working closely with RUC Special Branch and with the intelligence services.
The letters appear to corroborate John Weir's claims of a gang of security force members and loyalists working together as a pseudo-gang. Weir's description of the network in which his group operated is identical to the group Wallace refers to as the 'Protestant Action Force'.
The letters suggest that this gang was linked to a special duties team at British army HQ, Lisburn.
The letters confirm that the British army was privy to information that "the Dublin and Monaghan bombings were a reprisal for the Irish government's role in bringing about the Executive".
The Wallace letters are based on knowledge acquired by him in 1974 when he was at the heart of military command in Northern Ireland.
Capt. Fred Holroyd was military intelligence officer with responsibility for RUC J Division, which included Portadown and large parts of mid-Ulster. He was under the command of Three Brigade, whose HQ was in Lurgan. He was also working for MI6.
He, likewise, confirms that many of the loyalist suspects for the bombings were working for RUC Special Branch. He refers to Four Field Survey Troop, whose senior officers were Tony Ball and Robert Nairac and mentions that they reported to a special duties team at Lisburn.
We commissioned Nigel Wylde, Lt. Col., retired, an acknowledged expert on explosives with a long record of service in the British Army in NI. He served as EOD officer in Belfast from June to October 1974. He is also an expert photographic interpreter. He was briefed by us with the forensic reports of Dr Hall of the Northern Ireland Forensic Science Laboratory and Dr. Donovan of the Irish State Laboratory and also with photographs of the bomb scenes.
Mr. Wylde made a number of findings:
Having received many written submissions and heard orally from Nigel Wylde, Colin Wallace, the Pat Finucane Centre, the Irish National Congress, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and many other persons and organisations during the course of their examination of the Barron report, the Joint Oireachtas Committee reached stronger conclusions that Judge Barron on the collusion aspect.
It is their stated view that the suspicion that collusion existed in Northern Ireland between members of the security forces and loyalist paramilitary groups in relation to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, far from being dispelled, has been reinforced by this further information.
They recommended that a Public Tribunal of Inquiry be established in Northern Ireland or Great Britain to investigate this issue, but before such an inquiry should proceed, an investigation based on the Weston Park proposals should be set up.
We understand that the Taoiseach (Bertie Ahern) has already discussed this with the British Prime Minister and is awaiting a response. However, we feel this a further delaying tactic.
What we require, after 30 years, is the immediate establishment of a Joint Public Tribunal of Inquiry to be established by the Irish and United Kingdom governments to examine all aspects of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings."
Barron Report - Conclusions
The following is an extract
from the interim report of Justice Barron into the 1974 Dublin and
THE FACTS, CIRCUMSTANCES,
The Dublin and Monaghan bombings
were carried out by two groups of loyalist paramilitaries, one based
in Belfast and the other in the area around Portadown / Lurgan. Most,
though not all of those involved were members of the UVF. It is likely
that the bombings were conceived and planned in Belfast, with the
mid-Ulster element providing operational assistance.
The Garda investigation failed
to make full use of the information it obtained. Certain lines of
inquiry that could have been made pursued further in this jurisdiction
were not pursued. There were other matters, including the questioning
of suspects, in which the assistance of the RUCshould have been requested,
but was not.
THE REASONS WHY NO PROSECUTION
TOOK PLACE, INCLUDING WHETHER AND
A number of those suspected for
the bombings were reliably said to have had relationships with British
Intelligence and / or RUC Special Branch officers.
There is no evidence that any
branch of the security forces knew in advance that the bombings were
about to take place. This has been reiterated by the current Secretary
of State for Northern Ireland and is accepted by the Inquiry. If they
did know, it is unlikely that there would be any official records.
Such knowledge would not have been written down; or if it was, would
not have been in any files made available to the Secretary of State.
There is evidence that the Secretary of State of the day was not fully
informed on matters of which he should have been made aware. On that
basis, it is equally probable that similarly sensitive information
might be withheld from the present holder of that office.
report identifies at least nine men who may have been involved in
Jackson was mentioned in the report as being one of those named by former RUC officer John Weir as being involved in planning the bombings.
Christened 'the Jackal' by an imaginative journalist, Jackson is believed to have carried out his first killing in 1973.
The former member of the UDR was linked to the murder of Banbridge trade unionist Patrick Campbell in October of that year, although charges were later dropped.
Jackson was linked to more than 50 more killings before his death from cancer in June 1998, but was never again charged with murder.
There were persistent claims that Jackson had connections with military intelligence and thus had virtual immunity from prosecution.
Republicans have alleged he was actually provided with weapons and information to carry out many of the sectarian killings.
In 1993 journalist Paul Foot claimed in satirical magazine Private Eye that Jackson had been in charge of the Dublin bombings and “has continued murdering people ever since, to the profound indifference of the authorities”.
Jackson was named as the gunman in the 1977 so-called 'Good Samaritan killing' of William Strathearn, a Catholic shopkeeper who was shot after he went to the aid of late night callers claiming to need medicine for a sick child.
Two policemen were convicted of the murder and one of them named Jackson as the gunman.
When asked by the judge why he had not been brought before the court, the officer referred to “reasons of operational strategy”.
He served just one jail term – three years for possessing guns.
Hanna, who was also identified by John Weir as planning the bombings, was a well-known member of the UVF and had been identified as the leader of the organisation in Portadown, Co Armagh. He also had a long military record – receiving an award for gallantry for his service in Korea – including two years as a member of the UDR, where he was promoted to sergeant and made an instructor.
It had been claimed that Hanna had been used as an agent by British military intelligence agents. He was shot dead in his car as he arrived at his Lurgan home in July 1975.
While no group claimed responsibility for the murder, it was commonly believed he was killed by the UVF following an internal dispute.
It had been claimed that Hanna was shot dead by his former ally Jackson in an attempt by the latter to take over a cache of weapons.
Known as 'Frenchie', Marchant is said in the report to “almost certainly” be the UVF 'officer' named by journalist Robert Fisk as being overall UVF 'commander' and interned by Merlyn Rees, partly on suspicion of having planned “the Irish bombings”.
Marchant was shot dead on the Shankill Road by the IRA while standing outside the PUP offices in 1987.
Young was said by former RUC officer John Weir to have admitted his involvement in the Monaghan bombing to him.
Payne is noted by the inquiry as having been a key figure in the Belfast UDA and named by John Weir as having been involved in the Dublin operation.
He was a former north Belfast UDA 'brigadier' and was one of the most senior loyalists during the troubles and died as a result of heart problems earlier this year.
He was questioned over the brutal murder of SDLP senator Paddy Wilson and Protestant friend Irene Andrews who were killed by UDA men in June 1973.
The pair were shot and then stabbed to death in what a judge later described as “a frenzied attack, a psychotic outburst”. Then UDA leader John White was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1977 for the killings.
Payne was one of the first loyalists to be interned in the early 1970's at the height of one of the bloodiest periods of the troubles.
In 1978, he escaped a loyalist murder bid after a fall-out with a UDA leader in west Belfast.
In 1987 the UDA brigadier came to prominence after he was arrested in a convoy of cars in Portadown. When searched, two of the vehicles were found to contain 61 AK47 assault rifles, 30 hand guns, 150 grenades and 11,500 rounds of ammunition.
Payne, who had been driving a scout car for the two vehicles, denied any involvement but a personal organiser was found to contain the home numbers of the two other drivers.
Fibres from Payne's clothing were also found on the weapons and his name had been used as a reference for hiring the cars.
It later transpired that the weapons were the UDA's share of a huge consignment of arms smuggled into Northern Ireland from South Africa.
Payne was sentenced to 19 years in jail for his part in the weapons smuggling.
The report says of Ronald 'Nikko' Jackson: “In June 1974 (he) was described by gardai as a UDA major and military commander of a UDA splinter group in the Portadown area. In December 1975, he was said to be a member of the UVF. According to RUC and UVF sources with whom the inquiry has spoken, Nikko Jackson was not a member of either group but was employed by both for his skill in car-stealing and bomb-making”.
Identified in the report as having been named by journalist Joe Tieran as the 'quartermaster' for the bombings appointed by Billy Hanna.
The report does not appear convinced of this, however.
The Baron report said: “It is likely that the farm of James Mitchell at Glenanne played a significant part in the preparation for the attacks. It is also likely that members of the UDR and RUC either participated in or were aware of these preparations.”
Mitchell, believed to be now in his early 80s, was an RUC reserve constable. Weir claimed to have seen him making home-made explosives on the farm.
The report also claims that he was first asked by Billy Hanna to store weapons and explosives at the farm.
The report said a description of one of the bombers was said to match the description of UVF member David Mulholland. Although it was also said the man spoke with an English accent.
Making it public
Ireland's taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, was questioned in the Dail last week about the Barron Report into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of almost 30 years ago. Two main issues have emerged and both still have to be addressed.
The first is the nature of the state's response to what was the worst mass murder in Irish history. The second is the role that the British security forces may have played in the attacks, which claimed the lives of 33 people, including French and Italian citizens.
The taoiseach was pressed on both issues and had no satisfactory answers to either. He had no explanation for the fact that important files relating to the bombings have vanished seemingly without trace, and he admitted that the British, while helpful, were not helpful enough for Barron to dispel or confirm allegations about collusion. Nor was he at all reassuring on the demand, which has been made consistently over the last decade by the relatives of those who were murdered, for a public enquiry. It seems that the Barron Report, with all its limitations, is the best that the Irish people can expect.
That would be a great disservice to the state.
Critics have said that a public enquiry would be no more successful at accessing the British intelligence documents that were denied to Barron. That may well be the case, though Ahern has said that he is confident that the British prime minister and peace process partner, Tony Blair, would give whatever assistance was requested. But a public enquiry could also examine the equally important question of how it was the state made such a mess of the investigation. Perhaps the two issues are in fact linked. Was it sheer incompetence that has led the investigators to lose files, bungle the forensics, and keep some of the most important players in the investigation in the dark as to what the others were doing? It is not enough for a chief justice to report these as facts and for a taoiseach to acknowledge them in the Dail. They must have a consequence.
A public enquiry would allow those who were involved in the investigation to explain their role and the actions that they took or give reasons why they -- more often than not -- did not take action. It would allow others to question them and, most important, it would provide the Irish people with the opportunity to make up their own mind as to whether the greatest crime ever committed against them remains unsolved because of either incompetence or a more sinister reason -- or perhaps, a combination of both.
signals and flawed findings
Relief, cautious welcome, and in many cases, disappointment - these were some of the reactions to the report from the Oireachtas sub-committee investigating the Barron Report into the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, published last week.
Most people had presumed the committee would either advise a public inquiry into the bombings, or conclude that there was no need for further action. Nobody was prepared for last Wednesday's report, which, while sympathising with victims' relatives and survivors of the bomb, and acknowledging the arguments made by family campaign group Justice for the Forgotten, at the same time managed to pass the buck on bringing closure to the tragedy.
After pages of testimony extracts, sometimes harrowing (in the case of the victims' contributions), sometimes laughable (in the case of former members of the 1974 coalition government) and often mind-blowing (when credible experts from both Ireland and Britain put forward firm evidence which suggested collusion), the recommendations at the end of the Committee's report were very much an anti-climax.
An investigation into some of the specific points made about the Garda inquiry - such as the missing files from the Department of Justice and Garda Headquarters - is recommended in the 26 Counties. Other than that, the Committee believes that an international investigation based on the Weston Park proposals (in simple terms a Cory-style investigation) should precede any public inquiries, which should then take place in the Six Counties or Britain. Its reasons for this lie in its presumption that most or all of the relevant information and witnesses to the bombing, can be found in these jurisdictions.
Not so, according to Committee member and Independent TD Finian McGrath.
"I firmly believe the families have been shafted by this report," McGrath told An Phoblacht this week. "There are more than enough reasons to hold a public inquiry here and to demand full cooperation from the British. The bombings were an attack on a sovereign state, and the government of this state did not deal with them. The Garda role, the state role, the action, or inaction in the years that followed, they are all reasons why this has to be investigated through a public inquiry in this state."
The Independent TD has publicly distanced himself from the recommendations of the Committee and is pushing for a fully independent public tribunal. His tone when speaking about the findings, and his feelings for the families, reveals how deeply upset he is by the whole debacle.
"I always suspected that collusion played a part in these bombings, but when I saw some of the submissions, it was actually worse than I thought it would be," he said. "When I saw the facts of where the bombs were made, the links that were there with the RUC, the evidence from the British officials, I mean, their own people were saying that they were up to their eyes in it.
"I didn't go along with the consensus that there were just a few mavericks involved. Mavericks are not allowed go on like that, not in a colonial conflict."
McGrath is incredibly angry with his fellow committee members.
"Some members of the committee seemed very solid at the beginning and I thought they would support a public inquiry, but they rolled back on that position. I think their final response was half-baked," he says. "Perhaps they were told by their party leaders not to push for an inquiry. There really were times when I wanted to walk away from the whole thing, because I thought that it wasn't worth it if there were other forces, outside the committee, working against a tribunal."
Finian believes that the report is an abdication of the state from its responsibilities and is also designed to cause further delays,
"I don't want to see the families dragged through any more of this," he said. "Already they are looking at delays. The legislation that will allow the Gardaí to be investigated (Commission of Investigations Bill) hasn't even come before the Dáil yet."
Forgotten not forgiving
Margaret Urwin from the Justice for the Forgotten Group, representing most of the survivors and relatives of the victims, says the group is not planning on letting the matter rest. The group has welcomed many aspects of the committee's findings, particularly those centering on collusion, but is angry that even now the government doesn't see the need for a public inquiry.
"We want to see a full inquiry into the Garda role, but we also want to see an inquiry into the role of this state in general," Margaret says. "There is no point in just looking at certain aspects of the bombings; the whole thing has to be opened up."
The group feels that the committee's findings completely exonerate the '74 coalition and successive governments. Both Urwin and McGrath point out one of the first paragraphs, which says: "We acknowledge the sense of isolation that the victims and families have experienced due to the perceived inactivity on the part of successive governments.
"There was nothing 'perceived' about it," Margeret says angrily. "Some of the people involved with us are in their eighties now, and nothing, absolutely nothing, has been done for them since '74."
There is also a shared feeling that members of the committee were not allowed to ask any of the 1974 coalition government members 'hard' questions. According to Finian, he was pulled off former Minister for Justice Paddy Cooney, when he tried to get to the bottom of his anti-republicanism.
"We weren't allowed to be 'hostile'," he says. "Much of that was to do with not ending up in the High Court, but I felt we were prevented from challenging ex-members of the government on anything."
Justice for the Forgotten says that it is now planning to lobby on the legislation that will permit an investigation into the Garda role, and is hoping to make the inquiry more extensive.
"The good thing about the legislation is that it allows witnesses to be subpoenaed. Under section 10, evidence can be taken from witnesses in public. It's not a public inquiry, but there's room for manoeuvre," Margaret adds.
"We are not going to let this rest. If we have to, we'll take this Europe, to America, wherever we can, to get Britain to admit its role in those bombings and this state to admit that it neglected the people affected by them."
No more delays
Others have taken a harder line than the victims' group to the report. Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin was scathing in his response to the committee's findings.
"The Dublin and Monaghan bombings were an attack on the people of this state by agents of a foreign government," he said last week.
"The Barron Report itself exposes how the Fine Gael/Labour Government of the time showed little interest in investigating the bombings. They preferred to turn a blind eye to British involvement lest they damage their relationship with London. They failed to protect their own citizens and to stand by the survivors and the bereaved of Dublin and Monaghan.
Ó Caoláin added: "The Taoiseach should proceed to establish a full international public inquiry without further delay. That was the outcome the survivors and the bereaved of Dublin and Monaghan had a right to expect. They must not be disappointed again."
For now, however, many of the survivors' and relatives' hopes are pinned onto any independent inquiry that may take place, even if it is another Barron/Cory investigation.
"It's not what we wanted," Margeret concludes, "but it could be worthwhile. That's if it is allowed to take place. And if it is, I hope this time that any documentation that's needed will be forthcoming from the British."
McGrath is less hopeful. "I don't want to be cynical, but I feel that the only process that will bring these families justice is an inquiry with full statutory powers. It will be less time-consuming and legal fees can be capped. Until that's put in place, I can't see these people getting the justice they deserve."
is not enough - Public Inquiry Now
This week saw the 30th anniversary of the Dublin & Monaghan Bombings. In Monaghan thousands turned up to see the unveiling of a new monument in the town centre. In Dublin, families gathered at the memorial stone on Talbot Street.
Among the crowd in Dublin, stood Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
It is not enough to turn up at a commemoration once a year.
On Tuesday, Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin attempted to have the Dáil adjourned, to hold a debate on the need for a public inquiry into the bombings. The Government wouldn't allow it. Yet the day before, Ahern had stood with the bereaved and survivors of the bombings, offering sympathy. Did the fact that there is an election in less than four weeks play a part in his decision to appear on Talbot Street?
At the same time that the Government decided against discussing a public inquiry, the families of those killed were sitting in a room listening to the Dublin City Coroner describe the horrendous wounds that killed their 34 loved ones.
Dr Brian Farrell spoke about how the Parnell Street blast had claimed four members of one family. Anne O'Brien, a 22-year-old mother, died at the scene from extensive multiple injuries, including the loss of both legs from the knees down. Her two children, Jacqueline, aged 17 months, and Ann-Marie, 5 and a half months, died with her. Anne's husband John, died later in hospital from shock and haemorraging.
The bombings took place 30 years ago, but the inquests are only taking place now.
The British Government has yet to admit any responsibility. It continues to withhold information on the role its forces played in the atrocity. It treated the inquiry of Justice Barron with contempt.
The surviving members of the Fine Gael/Labour coalition Government of 1974 have yet to give an explanation to the Irish people on why they turned a blind eye to the involvement of a foreign government in the worst bombings of the conflict. Members of successive governments also need to answer that question.
Those who suffered as a result of the forgotten massacre don't need platitudes and sympathy, Bertie. They need and deserve a public inquiry, now.
Monaghan inquests conclude
Relatives of the victims of the 1974 Dublin & Monaghan bombings have demanded that the Irish Government hold a full public inquiry into the blasts. The inquests into the deaths of the 34 people, including an unborn baby, killed by the four bombs, concluded last night.
The 10-member jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing by person or persons unknown.
No-one was ever brought to justice over the bombings, the first of which exploded at around 5.30pm on a busy Friday afternoon of May 17, 1974.
Those explosions killed and injured people in Dublin`s Parnell Street, Talbot Street and South Leinster Street. Another followed at 7pm in Monaghan.
During the inquest the jury said that evidence pointed to the bombers being members of a loyalist paramilitary organisation.
Dublin City Coroner Dr Brian Farrell read out the jury statement which called for the verdicts to be sent to Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, to inform the Government.
The jury also said the Irish Government should consider sending it to the NIO Secretary Paul Murphy.
Bernie McNally, the chairperson of Justice for the Forgotten, speaking for the relatives, said "These are issues for another forum. Many questions have been answered and the loss of each life was solemnly acknowledged here.
"This issue now goes back to the Dail and the Government finally for action. It has taken 30 long years and the Government must act now," she added.
The Irish Government reopened the inquest into the bombings just three weeks ago to formally acknowledge how the 34 people died, as it was originally closed within two weeks of the bombings.
After hearing evidence from 123 witnesses, including survivors, gardai, technical and forensic workers, the jury returned its verdict late yesterday evening.
Dr Farrell said: "It was savage cruelty for the bombs to have gone off without warning as people went about their business in Dublin and Monaghan that day."
As the verdict was returned on the 34 victims, the coroner said the jury found that Colette Doherty's unborn baby was also unlawfully killed.
He said the baby was unable to sustain life due to the death of the mother from the car bomb.
Dr Farrell called the people who planted the four car bombs callous and cowardly.
The car bomb on Dublin's Parnell Street, which killed 11 people, was planted in a green Hillman Avenger.
The Talbot Street device, which killed 14, was planted in a blue Ford Escort, and the South Leinster Street bomb was carried in a blue Austin Maxi.
All three cars, plus the one left in Monaghan, were stolen in the Six Counties that day and driven to Dublin.
Dr Farrell said it was a mass killing of international importance, and as well as the 34 killed another 300 people were injured.
"There was an unconscionable delay completing the inquest," Dr Farrell said, as he apologised to the families for the 30-year-wait for the inquest verdict.
He thanked the jury, the Justice For the Forgotten solicitor Greg O'Neill and counsel representing the families for their efforts in seeking justice.
"Your quest for the truth in relation to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings has reached heroic proportions," he told the families.
As the inquest was held in Dublin it had no power to demand witnesses from the North or Britain give evidence.
After the verdict, Ms McNally said: "Throughout the inquest witnesses were willing to attend and give evidence of collusion. They were not called to give that evidence because of the legal scope of the inquest.
"The Northern Ireland authority went into hiding.
"They refused to attend the inquest even to confirm the basic facts about the bomb vehicles or the investigation they conducted in 1974," she added.
"I think it is outrageous that they didn't take part in this - we are in a time of peace and reconciliation now.
"It is Bertie Ahern's place to put pressure on them to take part."
Michelle O'Brien, whose mother Anne Byrne was killed by the Talbot Street bomb, said she was glad the inquest had taken pace.
She added: "I'm very emotional. I'm glad they have taken place but it shouldn't have taken thirty years for it to have been done.
"It has raised an awful lot more questions than it has actually answered so I'd like to call on the Government for a full public inquiry."
Monaghan families demand a proper inquiry
The Irish government should take the British government to the European Court of Human Rights because London has “refused to set up a Cory-style inquiry” into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, a campaigner said yesterday.
Margaret Urwin of the Justice for the Forgotten group, which represents the families of victims of the 1974 bombings, made the call last night.
She was speaking to Daily Ireland in the wake of an Irish government announcement that a new commission of investigation was being set up to probe missing Garda files.
The Justice for the Forgotten group is up in arms at the British government’s lack of co-operation and failure to hand over intelligence files relating to the bombings.
The group has already said it has no confidence in the new commission of investigation.
“The fact that the commission is being held behind closed doors means that our legal team will not be able to cross-examine those who have the answers,” said Ms Unwin.
“At the two sets of public hearings into the bombings before the joint Oireachtas committee hearings were held, it was very frustrating for us not to be able to ask particular questions.
“We’ve had all these inquiries when we just need a full investigation into the bombings.”
Barrister Paddy McEntee will chair the commission. He will have powers to demand documents and compel witnesses to attend.
He is expected to report to the government within six months.
The probe will investigate why the original Garda inquiry was wound down in 1974, why it failed to follow up significant leads, and how Garda documents went missing.
The Justice for the Forgotten group is angry that the state will not pay the legal costs of bereaved families and survivors, who will thus be excluded from the inquiry.
Ms Urwin said: “It was on July 29 last year that we registered our disapproval with this type of an inquiry.
“We feel that this is not a suitable type of inquiry, and the human rights commission agree.
“On November 25, we had a meeting with the Taoiseach and on November 27 we submitted a memo saying how the terms of reference should be expanded.”
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern yesterday rejected Ms Urwin’s criticism that the terms of reference of the commission were too narrow.
In reply to a question from Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, Mr Ahern told the Dáil that the commission of investigation had been set up to get a quick report on why the Garda investigation into the bombings had failed.
“We’re trying to identify the areas put forward and not open up an enormous investigation going back 30 years that would go on forever,” Mr Ahern said.
Ms Urwin said: “We believe that the hearing should be held in public and we will be seeking a meeting with Justice McEntee to discuss this.”
debt to massacre families
By Patricia McKenna
Today is the 31st anniversary of Ireland’s biggest massacre, the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
Although this was the single worst atrocity of the Troubles it has, until recent years, been ignored by the media, politicians, Gardaí and successive governments.
It was Friday, Dublin’s busiest day. At the peak rush hour time of 5.30pm three massive no-warning bombs went off in the centre of Dublin all within 90 seconds of each other.
Parnell Street was first then Talbot Street less than 60 seconds later and South Leinster Street 30 seconds after that.
Clearly the bombs, their positioning, sequence and timing were designed to cause maximum human carnage. One and a half hours later another bomb went off in the Border town of Monaghan.
Thirty-four people were brutally murdered that day and hundreds of others left scarred for life.
The pain and suffering felt by the families and friends of the dead and injured has been compounded over the years by the callous and disinterested attitude of the government of the day and adopted by the governments that followed.
The Garda’s failure to properly investigate the atrocity has added further to the grief and suffering of the victims.
Last week’s media exposure of the tragic Robert McCartney case in the European Parliament brought home to me once again the unequal way victims of violence have been treated by our own political establishment and by our media.
During my years in the European Parliament I tried, without success, to get the Dublin Monaghan bombings on the agenda.
While the death of Robert McCartney was tragic and wrong (and it’s great the family are getting so much support) so too were the deaths of the 34 people who died in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
Why can’t they get the same level of political support and media exposure?
How must the relatives feel when they see so much political and media effort going into this one case while theirs has been covered up and ignored for so many years.
Many of the victims of that terrible day were young people with their whole lives in front of them.
One victim, 20-year-old Collette Doherty, was nine months pregnant when she was killed in the Talbot Street bomb. Her full-term baby was the 34th victim – although this death was only very recently recognised.
Another victim, Anna Massey, had just celebrated her 21st birthday with her twin sister the weekend before and was looking forward to getting married in a few months time.
Thirty-nine-year-old Edward O’Neill was taking two of his sons to a nearby barber when he was killed and one of his sons very badly injured. He left behind a young family and a pregnant wife who later lost her baby because of the trauma.
The bodies of two little girls, Jacqueline aged 16 months and Anne Marie O’Brien aged four months, lay in the morgue for many hours before anyone came to identify them. Their parents Anna (22) and John (24) couldn’t come to claim their babies’ bodies because they too lay dead in the same morgue. An entire young family wiped out in an instant.
While these are just a few examples of the human tragedy of that day they give an indication of the grief and suffering that day brought for so many people.
It was only in 1999, 25 years after the bombings that the Barron Inquiry was set up. Although the Barron report still leaves many questions unanswered the issues that have been raised in it demonstrate the need for a full public enquiry into these bombings.
A matter of particular concern exposed by the inquiry is the loss of all the files relating to the bombings.
This was the biggest mass murder in the history of the state. It’s inconceivable that the files relating to these events have vanished without trace.
The government has announced the establishment of a Commission of Investigations Inquiry into matters relating to the Garda investigation into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and missing Garda and Department of Justice files.
The campaign group, Justice for the Forgotten, has expressed concern about the process of the investigation being embarked upon. The group believes that the bereaved families and survivors must be involved in the inquiry.
They have also expressed, serious concerns to the government about the terms of reference of the inquiry which do not contain any reference to the victims as persons who have rights and interests in the matters to be investigated.
The families and their advisers are concerned that they may have no role in the inquiry. There has also been no undertaking by the state to meet the families’ legal costs. This will put them at a distinct disadvantage compared to the organs of the state.
For example, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and An Garda Síochána will be fully represented in the inquiry process, courtesy of the taxpayer, while those directly affected by the state’s failures will be effectively excluded from the inquiry.
Why are most politicians, particularly those associated with the 1974 government reluctant to accept that British intelligence could have been involved in these atrocities?
Even former intelligence officers themselves have confirmed involvement. If there was no British intelligence involvement why then did the British government privately consider using the defence of “sovereign immunity”, the legal doctrine which protects states from being prosecuted for criminal acts, to prevent relatives of the people killed in the 1974 bombings from suing it in the Dublin courts?
There is also the thorny issue of possible breaches of Irish law by Gardaí at the time.
Some years ago a serving Garda officer admitted in an interview with the Evening Herald that there had been meetings prior to the bombings between Gardaí and British Army intelligence, which would have been against Irish law at the time. Former British intelligence officers themselves also confirm these meetings.
The then Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave and the then Minister for Justice Paddy Cooney, must take responsibility for the state’s failure to ensure that the bombings were properly investigated at the time and to ensure that those responsible were brought to justice.
They have a moral responsibility to clear the air on this very grave matter. They owe it to those who died and their families who have suffered for 31 years, and to the hundreds of innocent people who have carried the physical and emotional scars of this atrocity with them every day.
The former Taoiseach, Mr Cosgrave, doesn’t see it this way and even refused to attend the Oireachtas sub-committee on the issue, saying that he had retired from public life in 1981.
What kind of a signal does that send out to the British authorities and others if the Taoiseach of the day refuses to help.
It is his public duty to answer questions about his time in office. In his report into the bombings Judge Barron said the government of the day “showed little interest” in pursuing those responsible for the attacks.
Mr Cosgrave’s attitude to this issue is a national disgrace and hurtful to the victims.
He is still in receipt of a very generous state pension (paid for by the relatives of the victims through their taxes) and even if he has retired he must still, like Charlie Haughey and other retired politicians, be held accountable for his time in office.
Patricia McKenna is a former Green Party MEP for Dublin. She is an active campaigner on a range of issues from justice to human rights to the environment and food safety.
government refused to share identities of Dublin bombing suspects
The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) decided in April 1975 not to tell the Irish government the identities of those it believed were responsible for the previous year's Dublin bombings, despite a request from the then Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave to do so.
The British ambassador in Dublin asked Sir Frank Cooper of the NIO whether “the suspected Dublin car bombers'‘ could be named in meetings with Irish officials scheduled for early May.
Cooper responded: “However sincere the Irish may be in their undertakings to safeguard the security of this information, there is always the possibility of it emerging in circumstances of the greatest embarrassment to the Crown.”
Cooper said in his letter that the information could “lead to cases in the courts, where in the absence of evidence of the quality required by the law, the outcome of the case, both legally and in terms of publicity, might be detrimental to government policy'‘.
He also said that the information would be “on files'‘ available to “a less friendly government'‘ in the future and could be “deliberately'‘ used against the British government.
Cooper said that Cosgrave's government was “friendly'‘, but expressed concern that “this sort of information, falling short, as it does, of the degree of certainty which is required for criminal proceedings is of a kind better not passed to other governments because it would set us a precedent for the passage of information about individual citizens'‘.
Dermot Nally of the Department of the Taoiseach discussed the matter with John Hickman, a British diplomat, on May 7. Nally, according to Hickman's report of the meeting, accepted the reasons for the British government's reticence, and said “that the Taoiseach had never intended that the names should be passed from government to government'‘.
Nally asked whether the information could be passed from the RUC to the Gardai and Hickman replied that “it would be in no way surprising if the Gardai asked the RUC [about it]” and undertook to report the suggestion to Cooper in Belfast. The 2003 Barron Report on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings was severely critical of the handling of the case by the Garda.
Ambassador Attemps to Defend Stance on 1974 Bombings Inquiry
The British Ambassador to Ireland has defended his country's level of co-operation with the Irish government's inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
Thirty-four people were killed when unionist paramilitaries detonated three car bombs in Dublin and one in Monaghan on 17th May 1974, the worst single loss of life on any day during the most recent conflict in Ireland.
Nobody has ever been brought to justice and there have long been claims that the British security services colluded in the attacks.
The Barron Inquiry set up by the Irish government to investigate the atrocities has repeatedly accused Britain of frustrating its work by failing to hand over relevant documents.
The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has also been highly critical of the British attitude towards the inquiry.
However, Ambassador Stewart Eldon has claimed that Britain is not engaging in a cover-up.
"One does have to be very cognisant, in conducting inquiries into this sort of area, of the legitimate requirements of national security," he said yesterday.
"That's not a cover-up. That is partly to protect the lives of people who were involved at the time, who could conceivably be endangered if full details of what went on were to come out."
Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin today described Mr Eldon's comments as "utterly false".
The Cavan/Monaghan Deputy said: "Successive reports by Justice Henry Barron have been highly critical of the failure of the British authorities to co-operate with the investigations into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and other bombings and shootings where there are strong indications of collusion between British crown forces and unionist paramilitaries.
"For the British Ambassador to claim that there is no cover-up and to attempt to portray his government as co-operative with the inquiries initiated by the Oireachtas is utterly false. It has no credibility.
"The British Ambassador states that his government's purpose is to 'protect the lives of people who were involved at the time, who could conceivably be endangered if full details of what went on were to come out'. Does this mean that Mr Eldon is aware of people who were involved with the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and that he is also aware of 'full details' that have yet to come out?
"Earlier this year the Dáil unanimously passed a motion calling on the British government to hold an independent international inquiry into the murder of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane. The British government has steadfastly refused to do so.
"The British government has been involved in a decades-long cover-up of its use of collusion with unionist paramilitaries in its war in Ireland. Ambassador Eldon's pathetic plea of innocence will convince no-one."
of collusion in Dublin and Monaghan bombings
A former UVF man claims to have fresh evidence that the British army colluded in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
The McEntee Inquiry wants to interview the man, who could shed new light on the bombing that killed 33 people in May 1974.
The convicted UVF man claims that he worked for the Military Reconnaissance Force (MRF), a clandestine British army intelligence unit, in the 1970s, and that his MRF contact told him ‘‘something big was going down’’ in Dublin shortly before the bombs exploded.
The man, who uses the pseudonym ‘John Black’, claims that he and 30 other loyalist paramilitaries were given military training by the MRF at Palace Barracks, outside Belfast, from 1971 until the mid-1970s.
Black told The Sunday Business Post that, during the 1974 loyalist Ulster Workers Council strike, called to prevent power-sharing, his MRF contact gave him advance warning of ‘‘something big’’ happening in Dublin.
‘‘He told me that something big would be happening in Dublin and it would help the strike,’’ Black said.
‘‘They were his words to me, and at the time it was good news as far as I was concerned,” the former UVF man said. ‘‘A short while later, the bombings happened and it was obvious that this was what he had meant.
‘‘I was a bit shocked at the scale of it, but at the time it was seen as a strike against the enemy.”
If accurate, Black’s claims would significantly strengthen the view that the bombs were the result of British collusion with loyalists.
This week Paddy McEntee government to investigate the bombings, was trying to contact the former UVF man, who said he would co-operate with McEntee’s inquiry, which will be presented to the government on February 14.
McEntee told The Sunday Business Post that a number of fresh sources had emerged in recent weeks, but none was prepared to stand over their evidence. Black said: ‘‘If Paddy McEntee gets in touch with me, I am prepared to tell him what I know I have no problem with that.” Black claims that his contact with the MRF began in November 1971, when he was approached by an MRF member in a loyalist bar in north Belfast. He was later taken to Palace Barracks, Co Down, along with other loyalist paramilitaries and given weapons training.
He said his MRF handlers were aware of loyalist ‘‘romper rooms’’ in Belfast, where Catholics were tortured before being murdered. ‘‘They wanted us to hit Catholics, to put pressure on the IRA to stop. They encouraged the romper rooms and sectarian killings in general,” he said.
‘‘When ‘jobs’ were going down, we would sit in with the MRF guys and listen in on the radio as they put in ‘out of bounds’ calls to the local military and police. That meant the UVF could get in and out of Catholic areas and be assured they wouldn’t be stopped. I was really part of a militia.”
The MRF was wound down after the IRA attacked and killed an undercover MRF operative in west Belfast, in October 1972. However, it continued to operate in various guises until the mid-1970s. Margaret Urwin, spokeswoman for Justice for the Forgotten, a campaigning group for victims of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, said that, if the claims were true, they were extremely significant.
‘‘If what this man is saying is true, then clearly it is of huge importance and it needs to be investigated,” she said. ‘‘There is already a hugely substantial body of evidence, which strongly points to collusion between the British and the bombers.”
McEntee was asked to investigate the bombings after many years of campaigning and the 2003 publication of a report into the bombings by a Supreme Court judge, Mr Justice Henry Barron.
Barron found that allegations of a cover-up involving security forces in the North and the gardai and government in the Republic had not been proved, but could not be ruled out.
- Question of collusion still exists
The long-awaited report of the McEntee Commission into the 1974 Dublin and Monahan bombings was released yesterday.
A function of the inquiry was to clear up as much as possible confusion about the role of the Garda Síochána in relation to allegations of possible collusion between some gardaí and individual members of security forces in the North who were suspected of colluding with the actual perpetrators of the worst atrocity in this jurisdiction since the foundation of the State.
The inquiry was established after Mr Justice Henry Barron had concluded that there was no proof of collusion between the bombers and the authorities in the North, but there were grounds for suspecting links to individual members of those forces. He also found that the Irish “Government of the day showed little interest in the bombings”, and demonstrated no inclination to follow up suggestions that the British authorities had intelligence identifying those responsible.
The Barron Report was highly critical of the garda investigation into the bombings. Mr Justice Barron concluded that the investigation “was wound down very quickly and failed to follow up a number of leads”. In addition, a number of important documents had disappeared.
The Garda Commissioner stated that the investigation was wound down because nothing further could be done at the time. Barrister Patrick McEntee found “no evidence” of the alleged collusion in relation to “the winding down of the investigation”. But his conclusion is hardly going to satisfy anybody, because it was not the same thing as saying there was no evidence of such collusion.
Many vital documents were missing. At least 10 highly sensitive security files had disappeared. If those were files about some second-rate burglary, it would be bad enough, but they related to the murders of 33 people — cases that supposedly remain open indefinitely until somebody is convicted of the crime.
Mr McEntee added that it would be “unfair and unjust” to suggest that the gardaí were “solely responsible” for the shortcomings. Of course, that is a very long way from saying that they were not responsible for them.
To suggest that garda record-keeping in this case was sloppy and unprofessional would be about the nicest thing one could say about this whole sorry affair, because it amounts to a blistering indictment of garda procedures, regardless of the involvement, or lack of involvement, of other elements of the State’s apparatus.
Questions must also be asked about the way this report was published at five o’clock in the late afternoon. The report itself was not rushed, as Mr McEntee was given nine different extensions, so why was it released at five o’clock in the afternoon? The whole thing smacked of a blatant attempt to stampede the media into instant analysis. If the report was worth doing, it was worth doing well and should have been released in a matter that would afford reporters an opportunity to analyse it properly.
of 1974 bombing victims seek McEntee files
Relatives of victims of the Dublin/Monaghan bombings have asked the High Court to order the Taoiseach to release documents from the McEntee Inquiry into the atrocity.
The relatives want the documents so that a full and proper criminal investigation can be carried out into the bombings in which 34 people were killed in 1974.
Martha O’Neill, Elizabeth O’Brien, and Frank Massey are seeking the order of discovery against the Taoiseach, Ireland and the Attorney General.
They say the documents should be made available because the State is obliged to vindicate their rights under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.
The State says such discovery is not relevant to the relatives’ main action that a full investigation and/or public inquiry should be carried out.
The State says confidentiality agreements were reached with the British government who provided the documents. It also says there is a public interest privilege as disclosure could present risk to the lives of people and damage the relationship the State has with external agencies who co-operated with the inquiry.
The court heard yesterday that despite a Garda investigation which was wound up, two inquiries and an inquest in the last ten years, the people who planned and executed the bombings have never been made amenable to the criminal courts.
Eoin McGonigal, counsel for the relatives, said the recent inquiry by senior counsel Paddy McEntee, published in April 2007, obtained new material which the relatives want access to.
The material was significant and the families believe it contains answers to questions as to who the perpetrators were.
That material, Mr McGonigal said, was handed over to the office of the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in apparently sealed boxes.
It had been made available by British authorities subject to a confidentiality clause.
However, from Dáil statements, it appeared the permission of those authorities had been given to Mr Ahern who released some of that material to the gardaí and the DPP, counsel said.
The families demand for disclosure met with the criteria for relevance and necessity required for discovery orders, he said.
Brian Murray, counsel for the State, said the court would first have to decide what the nature of the case seeking a new investigation is before it can decide on the relevance of any documents.
Mr Justice Roderick Murphy said he would give his decision after Christmas.
victims' relatives refused inquiry files
Relatives of victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974 are not entitled to the release of documents from the 2007 MacEntee inquiry into the atrocities, a High Court judge has ruled.
Mr Justice Roderick Murphy said the relatives had failed to establish disclosure of the inquiry’s archive was “either relevant or necessary” in the context of their legal action aimed at securing a sworn public inquiry into the bombings.
The judge said he was satisfied the archive is covered by statutory privilege prohibiting its disclosure to the relatives.
The case arose from a decision last May by the Master of the High Court, who deals with a range of pre-trial and other matters, to order the Taoiseach, Ireland and the Attorney General to release the MacEntee documents.
Master Edmund Honohan granted the order to relatives Martha O’Neill, Elizabeth O’Brien and Frank Massey, saying they may “just” have a case (for a sworn inquiry) where the possibility of success could not altogether be ruled out. In their action seeking a full criminal investigation into the bombings in which 34 people were killed, the relatives have claimed their rights under Article 40.3 of the Constitution and Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights entitle them to a sworn public inquiry.
The State had appealed the master’s disclosure order to the High Court and after a hearing last December, Mr Justice Murphy reserved his decision.
Yesterday, the judge said the relatives had not focused their claim for disclosure on a narrow number of documents relating to the precise legal issues in their main proceedings, but had simply sought the entirety of the MacEntee commission archive.
He said the court could not accede to the relatives’ submission the State should be required, at the very least, list the documents in the archive and specifically identify any claim of privilege being made. This would constitute a dilution of the confidentiality promised by Mr MacEntee to those who provided the information, the judge said. That confidentiality was essential to the discharge of the functions of a private statutory inquiry, and statutory privilege prevented discovery of the MacEntee commission’s archive.
The court also could not direct the State to disclose any evidence given or the contents of any documents produced by witnesses to the McEntee inquiry.
for restoration of funding to Justice for the Forgotten
The restoration of funding for the survivors of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings was called for yesterday at a commemoration in Dublin.
Speaking at the 36th anniversary commemoration of the atrocities, Sinn Féin Mayor of Monaghan town, Seán Conlon, called on the twenty-six county government to restore funding to Justice for the Forgotten, which it ended last year.
Mr Conlon said:
“On my own behalf, on behalf of Monaghan Town Council, and on behalf of all the people of the town and the county of Monaghan, I extend our sincerest sympathy and solidarity to the survivors and the bereaved on this, the 36th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
On 17th May 1974 and in the harrowing days that followed, the people of Dublin and of Monaghan were united in grief after the terrible tragedy which visited our communities.
Here in Dublin 26 (sic 27!) people were killed in Talbot Street, Parnell Street and South Leinster Street, while in my home town of Monaghan seven people were killed.
No-one who has not experienced such tragedy and grief can fully realise the pain and loss of the survivors and the bereaved. We can only continue to sympathise with them and support them and do all in our power to help establish justice and truth. Today’s ceremony is both in remembrance of those who died and also in solidarity with the living whose quest for justice and truth continues.
I commend Justice for the Forgotten for your great work over the years in highlighting the plight of those who died and those left behind by the tragedy of 17th May 1974. For years, until the founding of Justice for the Forgotten, this was indeed a largely forgotten tragedy, except of course by the families and by those who looked behind the veil of censorship and ignorance that existed in Ireland at that time.
The families were shamefully neglected by the State as represented by successive governments. Nothing was done to pursue the investigation which was closed down within weeks of the atrocity. Nothing was done to challenge the British government which, through collusion, bore ultimate responsibility for these deaths. Nothing was done to assist the families in their great need.
Nothing was done until the establishment of Justice for the Forgotten. You maintained the pressure and ensured that the tragedy was finally recognised for what it was by the government and by the Oireachtas. Your primary demand for a public inquiry was not acceded to, as it should have been. But the investigations commissioned by the Oireachtas were significant and served to keep the spotlight on the tragedy and its consequences for families.
It is with great regret therefore, that we note the decision of the current government to end funding for Justice for the Forgotten. This is a totally unacceptable decision. I take this opportunity to call on the Taoiseach Brian Cowen and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Dermot Ahern to immediately restore funding so that Justice for the Forgotten can continue to work with and on behalf of the families in the search for truth and justice.
I make this call on behalf of Monaghan Town Council which passed a motion urging the restoration of funding at its April meeting.
It seems that An Taoiseach Brian Cowen in particular has demonstrated little interest and less activity in this key legacy issue of the conflict.
He needs to consider the facts:
My colleague Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has repeatedly called on the Taoiseach Brian Cowen in the Dáil to take a pro-active approach with the British government.
In particular, we have called for the Taoiseach to press the British government on the all-party motion passed by the Dáil in July 2008 which called on the British government to allow access by an independent, international judicial figure to all original documents held by the British government relating to the atrocities that occurred in this jurisdiction and which were inquired into by Judge Barron.
I again call on the Taoiseach to take a pro-active approach with the new British government and I emphasise the importance of restoring funding to Justice for the Forgotten.
In conclusion I thank you for the invitation to participate in this ceremony and I offer my continuing solidarity and sympathy.”
Councillor Conlon was speaking at the wreath-laying ceremony in Talbot Street marking the deaths of 34 people in Dublin and Monaghan on 17th May 1974 in the bombing.
The British army, in collusion with loyalist paramilitaries, is widely believed to have carried out the terrorist attack.
over Justice for the Forgotten's future
Justice for the Forgotten, which represents victims of the Troubles, has said it will cease to exist by the end of this month if it does not secure funding.
Last year the Department of Justice announced it would not be funding the group's work anymore and efforts to secure alternative funding have so far failed.
In a letter sent to the Minister for Justice last week Margaret Urwin of Justice for the Forgotten appealed for funding for a period of two years to allow the group to conclude its work.
Justice for the Forgotten is the main liaison between victims and their families and the Historical Enquiries Team in Northern Ireland.
The group also acts as a contact point for families when dealing with gardaí reviewing various investigations.
The group has also campaigned to have memorials commemorating the dead in locations where bombings have occurred, such as Monaghan, Dublin and Belturbet in Co Cavan.
Survivors and the families of victims who died have said their voices will be silenced by the disappearance of Justice for the Forgotten.
They have appealed for the Government to fund the group until 2012 so that work on various bombings can be completed.
Victims and their families have said the failure of the State to fund the support group flies in the face of the Good Friday Agreement, which they say states that it is essential to acknowledge and address the suffering of the victims of violence as a necessary element of reconciliation.
for the Forgotten funding should be re-instated
Sinn Féin spokesperson on victims issues, Francie Molloy, has said that it is important that money is found in order to keep the ‘Justice for the Forgotten’ group operational.
The group comprises of victims families and survivors of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
Mr Molloy said: “The ‘Justice for the Forgotten’ group have had their funding from the Irish government removed and face being wound down by the end of the month. In the context of the Irish government bail out for the banks the sum of 145,000 euro is miniscule.
“Also the legislation in the north recognises victims and survivors regardless of which jurisdiction in which they reside. This group provides a valuable service to those victims and survivors of conflict who now live in the south. Victims regardless of were they reside are entitled to support.
“Sinn Féin have been in regular contact with the group and they have met with the Deputy First Minister as we sought to ensure the support to all victims and survivors.
“To date, the First Minister has refused to even meet with the group.
“Efforts to secure money from victims funding streams in the six counties were blocked by the DUP.
“This was disgraceful and
the DUP need to explain publicly why they are so opposed to a group
set up to campaign for the truth around UVF bombings; a group that
provides support to those injured or bereaved from throughout Ireland.
“Time is now short to keep the Dublin office up and running. What is required now is for the Irish government and the DUP to recognise the work being undertaken by this group and urgently re-assess the decision to block funding.”
Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin called on Taoiseach Brian Cowen to intervene immediately to have funding restored.
He said: “People have heard with sadness and anger the announcement today by Justice for the Forgotten and by Miami Showband massacre survivor Stephen Travers that all efforts by Justice for the Forgotten to secure either the restoration of Irish government funding or new funding have so far failed and that the work of the group will have to be wound up.
“The Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, must now intervene directly and restore funding to this group, the only representative body for the survivors and bereaved of the conflict in the twenty-six counties.
“It is shameful that their funding was terminated in the first place, especially given the fact that similar groups continue to be funded in the six counties.
“I have repeatedly raised with the Taoiseach in the Dáil the need for the restoration of funding to Justice for the Forgotten.
“I have also raised the need for him to fulfil his all-party mandate from the Dáil of 10 July 2008 to demand from the British government that they disclose all information in their possession to an international inquiry on collusion.
“The work of Justice for the Forgotten must be allowed to continue and it is up to the Taoiseach to ensure that it does.”
families write to Queen
Bereaved families and survivors of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings have written an open letter to the British Queen to mark her arrival in Ireland on the 37th anniversary of the atrocities.
A total of 34 men, women and children – including an unborn baby – were killed in the no-warning explosions on May 17, 1974.
It was the greatest loss of life in a single day of the Troubles.
Justice For The Forgotten has appealed to the monarch to urge British Prime Minister David Cameron to open secret files which were withheld during an inquiry.
“Without this move, deeply troublesome questions remain unanswered,” it wrote.
The campaign group believes the blasts were carried out by loyalist paramilitaries with British state collusion.
It wrote that while the Queen’s visit is a sign of improving relations between the two islands and peoples, it wants the occasion marked by “a genuinely significant gesture of reconciliation”.
Justice For The Forgotten said the sky did not fall in after Mr Cameron’s historic apology for Bloody Sunday last June.
“Rather, it led to an unprecedented act of reconciliation by the Protestant churches in Derry,” it continued.
“So on this momentous occasion, our plea to Prime Minister Cameron is: Pursue the truth with vigour – make us all stronger – open up the files.”
Victims of the bombings will be honoured at a wreath-laying ceremony at the Dublin memorial in Talbot Street on Tuesday morning, as the Queen begins her controversial visit.
Organisers have called on members of the public to attend the annual memorial for the dead, but asked that no flags, banners or emblems are displayed.
Margaret Urwin, spokeswoman for Justice For The Forgotten, said Mr Cameron - who will be in Dublin with the Queen on Wednesday – has a moral obligation to release the files.
“The extraordinary coincidence of the British monarch arriving on the actual anniversary of the worst atrocity in the history of the Troubles gives the British Government and British Prime Minister a wonderful opportunity to make a genuine, significant gesture of reconciliation,” she said.
“We are hoping that good will come from this.”
Meanwhile cross-party politicians in the Dáil will this week debate and vote on whether the government should press Mr Cameron to release all files relating to the bombings.
The private members motion, put forward by Sinn Féin, reiterates a previous all-party motion which was passed in July 2008.
Sinn Féin TD Aengus O Snodaigh said: “It is widely believed that this attack, involving the greatest loss of life of any incident in the conflict, was carried out with the involvement of British intelligence.
“To date no action has been taken despite the motion receiving unanimous backing from all parties and it is for this reason that we are taking the opportunity to restate that call and are urging An Taoiseach Enda Kenny to press this matter directly with British Prime Minister David Cameron.”
refusal to release files on Dublin Monaghan bombs “wholly unacceptable”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has described the refusal of the British government to release all of the files in its possession on the Dublin Monaghan bombs as “wholly unacceptable”.
He also raised with the Taoiseach the withdrawal of funding from Justice for the Forgotten.
Speaking after Taoiseach’s questions during which the Sinn Féin leader pressed the Taoiseach on this issue Mr. Adams said:
“It is claimed by the British that they have already released those files they thought appropriate and do not intend to release any other files on the bombings they have in their possession.
“Why then does the British government refuse to allow an independent judicial figure to examine files which it did not give to the Barron Inquiry? Why not?
“Much was said last week by both governments, following the visit of the Queen of England, that the political relationship between this state and Britain had been transformed. If that is true then the British Prime Minister, as a good neighbour, should respond positively to the request by all of the parties in the Dáil to that information being made available so that victims and families can have closure.
“It is also a matter of deep frustration that the necessary funding for the Justice for the Forgotten group was withdrawn. This funding should be restored as a matter of urgency.”