31 August 2006 Edition
Dublin/Monaghan bombings : Governments knew identities of the bombers
Bombings revelation underlines need for summit on collusion
Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said the revelation this week of a British Government memo showing that it had told the Irish Government that men in British custody were responsible for the Dublin and Monaghan bombings underlines the case for a special Ahern/Blair summit on collusion.
A Northern Ireland Office memo was revealed on Monday last relating to a meeting between British and Irish Government members in September 1974 - just four months after the Dublin and Monaghan bombings which killed 33 people. The memo shows that British Secretary of State Merlyn Rees told Irish representatives, including Foreign Affairs Minister Garret FitzGerald, that the British had evidence that men they had recently interned were responsible for the bombings.
Confirming beyond doubt that the British knew the identities of the killers, the memo states: "The Secretary of State [Merlyn Rees] said he was able to inform the Irish ministers, in confidence, that the 25 ICOs [internment orders] he had signed during the UWC [Ulster Workers Council] strike included the persons he believed to be responsible for the Dublin bombing."
Families of the victims of the Dublin/Monaghan bombings have demanded a public apology from the British Government following the latest revelations.
Thirty-three people were murdered and 258 others injured in May 1974 when four no-warning car bombs were detonated in Dublin and Monaghan.
Nobody was ever charged for perpetrating what was the biggest infliction of casualties throughout the duration of three decades of conflict in Ireland.
Despite a widely held belief that elements of the British secret services colluded with unionist paramilitaries in the bombing atrocity, neither the British nor the 26 County Government has established a public inquiry into the bombings. This has long been the central demand of the survivors and bereaved relatives since they were organised as Justice for the Forgotten in the early 1990s.
Thanks to the campaigning of Justice for the Forgotten, a 'private inquiry' headed by Justice Liam Hamilton was finally established by the Irish Government in 2000. Following the death of Hamilton, Justice Henry Barron took over and most of the work of the inquiry has taken place on his watch.
After the judge's initial 'private inquiry' he issued a report which was then published by a special Oireachtas Committee. The Committee then held hearings based on the report. Representatives of the Gardaí and the Irish Government appeared before the Committee. But, unlike a full public inquiry, this format did not allow representatives of Justice for the Forgotten to cross-examine those appearing before the Committee.
All along, the Barron investigations have been hampered by the refusal of the British Government to co-operate.
In a process arising out of the Barron Reports, Senior Counsel Patrick McEntee is currently carrying out a probe of the Garda investigation of the 1974 bombings. This Garda investigation was closed down within four months of the biggest mass murder in the history of the 26 County State and its total inadequacy has now been well exposed. What has also come out is the extent of collaboration between the Gardaí and the RUC at the time. It is clear that both on a political and 'security' level the Fine Gael/Labour Government of the day, led by Liam Cosgrave, did not want to rock the boat with the British Government by exposing the extent of British forces' collusion in the bombings. Cosgrave himself refused to co-operate with the Barron inquiry.
The meeting referred to in the NIO memo was also mentioned in the Barron Report, though neither the document nor its contents were ever made public.
In the wake of the memo's publication this week, Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD pointed out that the Irish Government made no effort to extradite the suspects indicated by the British or to even question them about the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. The information was kept secret and the families of those killed were never informed.
"These revelations raise very serious issues about the conduct of both the British and Irish Governments in the aftermath of the bombings. It is clear that efforts were not made to apprehend those responsible and charge them with the bombings and indeed many will argue that these documents point to a conclusion that this was in fact a policy," said Ó Snodaigh.
"The only way that this injustice can be tackled is by the British Government in the first instance making a belated full disclosure to the Barron Tribunal, and for former members of the Cosgrave administration involved in the discussions with the British Government at that time to do likewise.
"People have a right to the truth about this entire episode and deserve an explanation as to why no effort was made by the Irish Government to arrest, question or charge those responsible and why over thirty years later efforts to get to the truth continue to be frustrated," he said.
Meanwhile, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD asked: "Why did the Irish Government not pursue this matter vigorously at the time? Why did the British Government not place this document before the Barron inquiry?
"The only conclusion can be that the matter was not pursued at the time and for two decades afterwards because both the British and Irish authorities knew that the trail would lead to those in the British crown forces who used loyalist paramilitaries to wage their war for them," he said.
"The Taoiseach should immediately demand of British Prime Minister Tony Blair a special summit meeting dedicated exclusively to the issue of collusion. This must focus on the need for both Governments to reveal their knowledge of the full extent of collusion," said Ó Caoláin.