Issue 4-2022 small

18 May 2006 Edition

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Focus on Collusion: Range of attacks in 26 Counties

British hand behind atrocities

This week marks the 32nd anniversary of the Dublin/ Monaghan bombings. While relatives of those killed or injured in 1974 are still forced to campaign for the truth about what happened, the atrocity is but the worst example of a range of incidents involving British state collusion with unionist paramilitaries or direct operations by British forces in which civilians were killed in the 26 Counties. There is a wide range of such incidents but they include:

  • The bombing of Belturbet, County Cavan in December 1972 in which two teenage civilians were killed.
  • The Dublin bombings of December 1972 and January 1973 in which three bus workers were killed.
  • The Dublin and Monaghan bombings of May 1974 in which 33 people died - 26 in Dublin and 7 in Monaghan.
  • The killing of IRA Volunteer John Francis Green in County Monaghan in January 1975.
  • The Dundalk bombing of December 1975 in which two civilians were killed.
  • The Castleblayney bombing of March 1976 in which one civilian, Patrick Mone, was killed.
  • The murder of Seamus Ludlow by the UDR in County Louth in May 1976.
  • The murder of Sinn Féin Councillor Eddie Fullerton, in Buncrana, County Donegal in 1991.
  • The shooting dead of IRA Vol Martin Doherty in May 1994, having foiled an attempted bombing of the Widow Scallan's pub in Dublin.

Barron process falls short of public inquiry demand


On 8 March the Dáil unanimously passed an all-party motion calling for the establishment of a "full, independent, public judicial inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane". That a parliament should pass a resolution calling on a supposedly friendly neighbouring state to establish such an inquiry was highly unusual. That it received little media coverage relative to its importance was not unusual. Nor was the immediate rejection of that call by the British government. Before the Dáil debate began the Northern Ireland Office issued a statement headlined: "Dáil inquiry debate flawed and misleading."

And this was not the first Dáil call for an inquiry into collusion to be rejected by the British government. The same call was made to the British government in relation to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of May 1974. The question arises as to why the British government can feel so secure in flatly rejecting such calls from the Dáil and the Irish Government. Part of the answer is that the Fianna Fáil/ Progressive Democrats government has itself failed to establish in its own jurisdiction the public inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings which has been demanded by the survivors and bereaved relatives of that atrocity since they were organized as Justice for the Forgotten in the early 1990s.

It took nearly 20 years for the families shattered by the May '74 bombings to come together as a group. The name Justice for the Forgotten conveys the predominant feelings of those families; they had been abandoned by successive Irish governments, their tragedy turned into a footnote of history. 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 Garda´í 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.

As well as his inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974, cases Barron has examined, to a greater or lesser degree, include the bombing of Belturbet, County Cavan in December 1972 in which two teenage civilians were killed, the Dublin bombings of December 1972 and January 1973 in which three bus workers were killed, the killing of IRA Volunteer John Francis Green in County Monaghan in January 1975, the Dundalk bombing of December 1975 in which two civilians were killed, the Castleblayney bombing of March 1976 in which one civilian was killed and the killing of civilian Séamus Ludlow in County Louth in May 1976.

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 case of Séamus Ludlow

The 1976 murder of Dundalk man Séamus Ludlow is a notorious example of collusion and cover-up involving British state forces and the 26-County political and security establishment. An Phoblacht's ARAN FOLEY spoke to Jimmy Fox, a nephew of Seamus Ludlow, about the case.

Séamus Ludlow's family became concerned when he had not returned home. Phone calls had been made to relatives to see had he stayed over but all to no avail. His father and Seamus's brother were out searching for him when they came across a checkpoint at Ballymascalon. They were told there was a body up the road. The Gardaí identified it as that of Seamus.

"Almost immediately the Guards were putting it about that the IRA was responsible for Seamus's death and that Seamus was an informer", said Jimmy Fox. "I was 16 at the time and I remember the Guards questioning me and that was clearly what they were saying. That's what they told the family and it caused a terrible rift. The family was divided about 50/50. The Gardaí even went as far as to try and implicate family members in the killing. This was particularly true of the Special Branch.

"Interestingly this approach dovetailed with what the Brits were saying. Around that time the British army lifted a relative of mine and told him the exact same story", Fox said.

Putting things in the context of the times, he outlined how a group of heavily armed SAS men in civilian clothes were detained in nearby Omeath four days after the killing. They were armed with shotguns and other weapons not associated with the British army. There had been other killings along the border and there was a strong suspicion of British involvement.

Former Taoiseach Garrett Fitzgerald, when questioned on the Government's inaction on the Dublin Monaghan bombings, stated that he could not intervene in a Gardaí investigation because of the separation of powers. But recently released British papers show that he did just that in relation to the SAS men in Omeath.

Fox sees his uncle's murder as yet another example of the 26 County state colluding with British state sponsored killings of it's own citizens. "There is evidence that Gardaí knew the identity of the killers by 1978. The investigation wound down after just a few weeks", he said.

"They held that information for 20 years and continued to slander my uncle. The family believe that this was done in order to hide the true identity of the killers, two of whom were members of the British Army. Local politician Brendan McGahon constantly repeated the slur that my uncle was an informer, claiming Gardaí had told him this", Fox said.

Fox believes the conspiracy involved someone high up in the Government and certainly the Garda special Branch actively colluding in a cover up. "It's the only way it could have happened. One of the killers actually confessed in 1978 and that was covered up also."

The family of Seamus Ludlow has information that the man who killed him is the same man who murdered Sinn Féin Vice President Maire Drumm, another case of suspected collusion.

It was a reporter that eventually told the family what happened. "The inquest was another cover up with no one from the family being informed it was on", says Fox. The bullets used to murder Seámus Ludlow were apparently sent across the border and "lost".

The Barron inquiry into Ludlow's murder, while not resulting in a full public inquiry, has put the situation in the public domain. A fresh inquest demanded by the family has led to certain Gardaí revealing that they knew the identity of the killers all along and that there was something wrong with the investigation. "They say that there was interference from much higher up", Fox said.

"I think the state's attitude has been sickening in relation to the protection of it's own citizens. My uncle is one of at least 50 people murdered in this state with suspected British involvement. Not one person has been held accountable for any of this", he said.

Pointing to Garrett Fitzgerald's autobiography, which never mentions the murder of Seamus Ludlow but does mention the detention of the SAS men four days later, Fox is incensed by the tone Fitzgerald adopts which is of embarrassment at having to explain to his counterpart why the soldiers were detained. "It was absolutely grovelling" says Fox.

Jimmy Fox says that the family are not naive enough to think that there will be prosecutions at this stage. "We just want the truth to come out and the best way to achieve that is through a full public inquiry. We want to know who took the decision to cover this up, how far up the ladder it went and why was the decision taken to protect the killers. My mother has a right to know what happened to her Brother."

The bombing of Dublin and Monaghan


A blue Ford Escort was parked in Dublin's Talbot Street on Friday 17 May 1974. In nearby Parnell Street a green Avenger was parked.

At 5.27pm, both cars exploded, transforming a typical Friday afternoon city centre into a killing ground. There was no warning.

In Parnell Street, almost at the same time another blast killed five people outright.

Across the Liffey, a few minutes later, at 5.33 pm, an estimated 20 pounds of high explosive detonated in a green Austin 1800 parked in South Leinster Street. A man and a young woman were killed instantly.

In Monaghan town, 90 minutes after the Dublin bombs the last act of the tragedy occurred. At 6.42 pm a green Hillman Minx exploded. Altogether five people were dead, one not immediately identified, and 28 injured.

The fatalities would ultimately reach 33 with over 300 injured. The attack was cold blooded, premeditated murder, aimed at the civilian population, and designed to claim the maximum number of lives.

The no warning bombs were set to explode at the busiest hour of the busiest day of the week. It was not a case of failed warnings and it is likely that many more would have died but for the fact that a bus strike prevented many shoppers from getting into Dublin city.

In the immediate aftermath, the Irish government appeared to adopt a quiescent attitude. Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, made an extraordinary speech to the nation on the evening of the bombings. The speech was interpreted as trying to lay as much blame on nationalists, republicans or indeed the population of the 26 Counties, for the bombings as much as the loyalists and British operatives who planned and carried them out. Speeches by the Minister for Justice, Paddy Cooney, the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, Conor Cruise-O'Brien and the Attorney general, Declan Costello, endorsed this view.

In a very short space of time, the bombings disappeared from the media and were not mentioned by establishment politicians. A long and deafening silence prevailed. To date those responable for the 1974 bombings have yet to be brought to justice.

Bill limits potential to uncover truth

Despite the ongoing struggle for truth and justice by relatives of the victims of British and unionist attacks in the 26 Counties, the Irish Government has recently moved to introduce legislation aimed at limiting the scope of further inquiries into these matters.

The hypocrisy of this move is stark, coming just two months after the passing of the All Party Dáil motion in calling on the British to hold a full public Inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane.

The Dublin Government's new Tribunal of Inquiry Bill also replicates some of the more objectionable aspects of the British Bill which has been condemned not just by the Dáil but also by Canadian Judge Peter Cory, the international Bar Association, the Pat Finucane Centre and the Law Society of England and Wales.

Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has highlighted concerns about the bill in Leinster House and in communication with anti-collusion campaigners and human rights groups.

Key concerns about Tribunal of Inquiry Bill:

  • Government monopoly on power to initiate a Tribunal.
  • Power of Government to set terms of reference and absence of provisions for victims or their families to have an input into these.
  • Absolute Ministerial discretion in appointing members to a Tribunal.
  • Absence of provisions allowing for an international dimension to an inquiry where this would be advisable, e.g. in cases where there is a possibility of collusion in serious human rights abuses.
  • Broad powers for the Government to suspend or dissolve a Tribunal.
  • Broad powers for the Government to prevent the publication of a Tribunal report.

In short the Bill gives the Government almost complete control over the direction of any tribunal and severely limits the potential for such inquiries to discover the full truth about the extent of British state collusion with unionist paramilitaries in the 26 Counties.

One of the provisions of the Bill allows the Government to prevent the publication of a Tribunal's report if it believes that to continue might damage the Irish State's relations with another State. One need only guess about the state those in Michael McDowell's Department had in mind when they drafted this provision.

The failure of the Irish Government of the time to launch any credible investigation into the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the worst atrocity in the history of the 26 County state, has already been exposed through the work of the Barron Inquiry and groups such as the Justice for the Forgotten. However the fact that after all these years an Irish Government is still putting its cozy relationship with the British Government ahead of the rights of its own citizens to justice is contemptible.

Vol Martin 'Doco' Doherty

12th Anniversary Commemoration

1.30pm Sunday 21 May

Assemble: Dick McKee Memorial, Finglas Village, Dublin

March to Glasnevin Cemetery


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1