13 May 2004 Edition
Later On - The Monaghan Bombing Memorial Anthology
Complied and edited
by Evelyn Conlon
At 7pm on 17 May 1974, an explosion ripped through Monaghan Town, killing seven people. The bomb was the fourth in a day that had already seen three bombs go off almost simultaneously in Dublin's busy city centre, killing 26 people and an unborn baby.
The people of Monaghan were just tuning into reports of the Dublin atrocity when the final car bomb exploded outside Greacen's Pub in North Road, barely 90 minutes after the first explosions.
In that hour-and-a-half, the people of Monaghan and Dublin experienced the greatest loss of life in a single day of the conflict. Their grief was compounded in the years to come, as successive Dublin Governments ignored their demands for justice.
Some of the frustration felt by the relatives of those killed in the Monaghan bombings is captured in a new book, Later On — The Monaghan Bombing Memorial Anthology, which comes out this week.
Parts of this book are incredibly upsetting. They are written by family members, and when reading them it is easy to feel like you are almost intruding on their personal grief. Rarely will people open up to convey the sort of feelings that are laid down in this book.
But the articles serve a purpose. They put a human face on the tragedy that took place 30 years ago next week. They are written by sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, wives and husbands. They remind us that the names, which have become so familiar with the protracted battle to get justice, are familiar to other people for far more poignant reasons.
Other parts of the book are written by people who either lived in Monaghan, or were passing through on the day. They may not have lost anybody, but their sense of shock and upset is still palpable.
There are also contributions from many writers who were either born or lived in Monaghan, such as Eugene McCabe, Mary O'Donnell, Pat McCabe, Frank McNally and Nell McCafferty (a frequent user of the café that was blown up).
Their essays cover a range of subjects as diverse as geography, sport and Monaghan before the bombings.
If I was to make one criticism of this book it would be that it's a little disjointed. The combination of the short stories about Monaghan and the actual memories of the bombings, make it a little hard to follow, and might sit better in two separate books. But the fact that each one of the chapters makes for a rivetting read, even if some seem a little out of place, fully compensates for this.
The families of those killed and the survivors have had so few outlets for their grief over the years. The atrocities were brushed aside — no one was ever prosecuted, no counselling was ever given, no proper compensation was ever paid.
Someone once said that talking about the past was the only way in which to heal old wounds. If that is so, let's hope there are many more books like this one for the people of Monaghan and Dublin.
BY JOANNE CORCORAN