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4 March 2004 Edition

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Dublin & Monaghan relatives almost walked

BY MARTIN SPAIN

Dublin & Monaghan relatives almost walked

On Wednesday evening, the Justice for the Forgotten group, representing the families of the deceased and those injured in the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, threatened to withdraw from the Oireachtas Committee hearings into the Barron Report.

The dramatic move came after the committee heard on Wednesday from two independent legal representatives, called to weigh up the evidence and help the committee in its deliberations. But it soon became apparent that the lawyers had not been briefed on the arguments made by the legal representatives of Justice for the Forgotten, which represents 30 families and 25 survivors, but only on a point of Constitutional law raised by lawyers representing two families who are separately represented.

"The whole thing today was a sham," said solicitor Greg O'Neill. Angry that their case was ignored in the supposedly even-handed summation of the evidence and arguments heard by the Oireachtas committee, the group demanded that the committee recall the lawyers, properly brief them and give Justice for the Forgotten's legal representatives the right to reply.

Within an hour, the committee came back and agreed to their conditions.

Wednesday's developments shook the confidence of the group, which only the day before had issued a statement saying they were increasingly confident that the Oireachtas Committee would recommend a public Tribunal of Inquiry.

According to Justice for the Forgotten, the presentations made at the hearings over the past six weeks have intensified concerns as to what occurred in Dublin and Monaghan on 17 May 1974.

Issues highlighted by the Barron Report have not been addressed, clarification has not been forthcoming and no explanation or elaboration has come from the Garda Commissioner. The end result is a scandal that has intensified and given rise to alarming concerns.

Wednesday's developments left the families to fear that their contention that an effective public inquiry can be held, even given the continued refusal of the British authorities to cooperate, was being undermined.

A remarkable woman

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness combined to ambush Mary Nelis at the podium during last weekend's Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Dublin. Nelis has decided to stand down as an MLA for family reasons, so they were paying tribute to the popular Derry woman's trojan work over many years as a member and as an elected representative of Sinn Féin. Mary was a founding member of the Relatives Action Committees, set up to support the blanket prisoners during the prison struggle and travelled the world to lobby on behalf of the prisoners.

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