12 April 2007 Edition
McEntee Report :
Gardaí failed to investigate 1974 bomb attacks
BY ELLA O’DWYER
Sinn Féin last week attempted to have the Dáil recalled during the Easter recess to debate the issue of collusion. Responding last Wednesday, 4 April to the publication of the McEntee report on the Dublin/Monaghan bomb atrocities, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD called on Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to recall the Dáil to allow time for a full and open debate on collusion.
At a press conference last week marking the publication of the McEntee report, solicitor Gerry O’Neill described the 1974 bombings as the single greatest atrocity ever perpetrated on this island.
“Thirty four people including an unborn child lost their lives in the 1974 bombings in Dublin and Monaghan carried out by people from another jurisdiction. It took until 1993 when a television station did a programme on the bombings before official interest was taken in what was the greatest mass murder in the history of the state and the singe greatest atrocity on this island.”
As legal representative for The Justice for the Forgotten Group representing the families of the victims of that atrocity O’Neill made it clear that the group took no comfort from the McEntee report and that it merely reinforced their sense of being forgotten.
In 2005 an Oireactas Committee established a commission of enquiry to look into the Garda investigations conducted at the time. While acknowledging that the report attempted to deal with the issues involved, O’Neill said the commission “has been hampered and compromised by an appalling chronicle of failures and errors on the part of our police force”.
He went on to say that the report exposed “a terrifying catalogue of systematic failures by the Gardaí. The commission was to a large extent unable to discharge its functions because of the absence of documentation. It wasn’t even able to establish why the Garda investigation was wound up prematurely. Neither could it determine what files went missing, when they went missing or who had custody of them. And it wasn’t just files that disappeared but vital forensic materials like fingerprints, photographs of suspects and the like.”
When a Garda Commissioner was appointed to investigate the events in the aftermath of the television programme he went to the relevant garda station and they couldn’t even find a box of files relating to the bombings. This reinforced for the families the fact the victims had been forgotten. The commission found that it was routine at the time for Gardaí to open investigation files, put documents in but not list them so anyone could remove a document and nobody would know.
“The impact of the report is breathtaking and terrifying. If this was revealed about the police fore in France, the Netherlands or any other EU country I would imagine that resignations would already have been handed in”, O'Neill said.
Having just received the report the Justice for the Forgotten group hadn’t yet had time to consider the full implications of its findings but O’Neill said that the minimum the families deserved from the authorities was “the most abject of apologies”.
The commission hasn’t been able to answer the basic questions as to why the investigation was wound down so quickly after the events, or whether documents were taken from the files and destroyed or whether they were lost.
Also addressing last week’s press conference, Cormac Ó Dúlacháin SC, spoke of the “absolute fear to pursue an inquiry into the matter” at Oireachtas level. He said there was a “dark hand” involved in the bombings and “the Oireachtas Commission has a duty to find it”.
“We’ve had two enquiries – the Barron and now this one, but there’s a fear of investigating the issue of collusion”, he said.
Ó Dúlacháin went on to say enquiries conducted through the Pat Finnucane centre in the Six Counties indicated a critical degree of collusion stretching through bombings in the 26 Counties.
“The failings of the 70s are no excuse for the failure to investigate the issue of collusion now”, he said.
A spokesperson for Justice for the Forgotten Paul McGuill speaking to An Phoblacht in the aftermath of the report’s publication said: “The fundamental question everyone wants answered is why was the investigation wound down so quickly and what the report tells us is that McEntee can’t answer that question because there’s no documentary evidence available to say when or why it was wound down.
“There were sloppy Garda procedures involved in terms of keeping and registering files and incompetence in terms of losing files,” he said.
McGuill also raised the issue of possible political intervention in relation to the premature termination of the investigation. While the McEntee report was taken up with the issue of the missing documents , it failed to fully tackle the issue of potential political involvement.
If there was political interference we want to know why and in what context? Was it down to intimidation or pure exasperation at the lack of co-operation from the British authorities?”, McGuill asked.
Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said: “This report exposes a massive failure on the part of the Gardaí to pursue the investigation of the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings. The only logical explanation for what took place is a cover up of collusion. Gross incompetence is not enough to explain the failure to investigate and the apparent destruction of records. The report again exposes the failure of the British authorities to cooperate with the commission established by the Oireachtas.
“The Government must now follow through with their commitment to have a full debate on collusion in the Dáil. This debate must be full and open and on the whole issue of collusion and not limited to Dublin/Monaghan alone.
“To facilitate this I am calling on the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to recall the Dáil during the Easter Holidays. The Dáil is scheduled to rise for two weeks and there is speculation that it will only return for two days before the Taoiseach dissolves this Dáil ahead of the general election. This would not leave enough time for a proper and full debate on collusion and that is why I am calling for a sitting during the Easter Holidays.
“Earlier this month Sinn Féin published a Dáil motion on collusion that was drafted in consultation with groups such as The Pat Finucane Centre, The Justice for Eddie Fullerton Campaign, Justice for the Forgotten and Relatives for Justice. We feel this motion should form the basis for the debate in Leinster House as, if passed, this motion would ensure that follow up actions take place.
“Our motion calls on the Government to demand an inter-governmental conference with the British Government specifically dealing with the issue of collusion and truth recovery and calls for the establishment of full, public, independent, judicial inquiries into murders in this state where collusion is reasonably suspected.
“The bottom line is that citizens in this state have been murdered by British surrogates and that puts responsibilities on this Dáil to have a full and open debate on collusion and on the Taoiseach to demand British cooperation in collusion inquiries. Following this evening’s long awaited publishing of the McEntee report it is now time for all of this to happen.”