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13 May 2004 Edition

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Thirty years seeking justice

BY JOANNE CORCORAN

On Friday 17 May 1974, three no-warning car bombs ripped through the heart of Dublin at 5.30pm, during the city's rush-hour. Twenty-six people and an unborn baby lost their lives. Parnell Street, Talbot Street and South Leinster Street were left devastated. Ninety minutes later, a fourth car bomb exploded in Monaghan town, where a further seven people died.

It became apparent early on that an attitude of resignation had been adopted by the Government that the bombings were inevitable. Speeches by the Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave; the Minister for Justice, Paddy Cooney; the Minister for Posts & Telegraphs, Conor Cruise O'Brien; the Minister for Local Government, Jim Tully; the leader of the Opposition, Jack Lynch and the Attorney General, Declan Costello, all gave this message loud and clear.

The follow-on from this playing down of the atrocity caused further anguish for the families of the victims and the injured. Only in a few instances did politicians visit the families or wounded. There was no 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 provided.

No progress reports on the investigation were provided by the GardaĆ­ to the families. Speculation mounted over the possibility of collusion between the British Government and the UVF (which later claimed responsibility for the bombs). This theory gained credence after it was revealed that the UVF did not have the technology or the sophistication to carry out the bombings at the time.

In the 30 years that followed, successive governments refused to seek justice on behalf of the bereaved and the survivors.

The Barron Report on the bombings last year confirmed that the 26-County authorities had failed in their obligations. The Oireachtas Subcommittee set up following the Report agreed that there was a strong likelihood of collusion in the bombings. However, the committee suggested further investigations by an international judge, and possibly a public inquiry in the Six Counties or Britain. Their recommendations fell short of what many had expected.

At the moment, the inquests into the victims of the bombings are finally underway.

This week, the families will commemorate the 30th anniversary of the bombings. On Sunday, a new memorial for the victims of Monaghan will be unveiled outside the Court House in Monaghan Town by President Mary McAleese at 6pm, who will then meet with all the bereaved and survivors. On Monday 17 May, at 11:30am, a wreath will be laid at the memorial on Talbot Street, followed by Mass in the Pro-Cathedral at 12:45pm.

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