14 May 2009 Edition
Remembering the Past: The Dublin and Monaghan bombings
By Mícheál Mac Donncha
IN May 1974, an Executive in the Six Counties comprising a section of the Unionist Party under Brian Faulkner, the SDLP and the Alliance Party was under siege from unionist politicians and loyalist paramilitaries who were determined to bring it down.
The Westminster elections of February 1974 had seen the Faulknerites heavily defeated by anti-Executive unionists. A body made up mainly of loyalist paramilitaries, the Ulster Workers’ Council, was established and on 15 May it called a general strike against the Executive. There was support for the strike across the unionist population but also much intimidation of workers, with armed members of the UVF and UDA enforcing the stoppage.
At this time the paramilitary UDA was not banned by the British Government and operated openly. There was no interference from the RUC and the British Army as loyalist paramilitaries ensured that the North was brought to a standstill. Behind the scenes far more dangerous collusion was going on between British crown forces and the armed loyalist gangs.
17 May was a Friday and in Dublin City and Monaghan Town the streets were busy with shoppers and people finishing work for the week. At around 5.30pm a no-warning car-bomb exploded on Parnell Street. Almost simultaneously, car-bombs exploded on Talbot Street and on South Leinster Street. People in Monaghan just had time to hear of the Dublin bombs on the news before a bomb exploded outside Greacen’s pub in Church Square.
When the extent of the carnage became clear it was found that 10 people had been killed on Parnell Street, 14 on Talbot Street, two on South Leinster Street and seven in Monaghan. One of the 33 dead was a pregnant woman and two were from overseas (France and Italy).
Both the UDA and UVF denied responsibility. However, Sammy Smyth, a spokesperson for the UDA and UWC, said:
“I am very happy about the bombings. There is a war with the Free State and now we are laughing at them.”
SPECTRE OF COLLUSION
From the beginning there were clear indications that agents of the British crown forces, in some shape or form, were responsible for the explosions. The sophistication of the bombs and the exact timing and co-ordination of the four explosions was one indication. Over the years further evidence has emerged and much remains yet to be revealed as the bereaved and the survivors continue their quest for truth and justice.
The British Government refused to co-operate with a series of Oireachtas investigations on the Dublin/Monaghan bombings and other fatal attacks in the 26 Counties, investigations which collated the evidence of collusion and concluded:
“The spectre of collusion was raised in our first report and we now have enough information to be fully satisfied, not only that it occurred, but that it was widespread.”
In July 2008, the Dáil unanimously passed a resolution calling on the British Government to “allow access by an independent, international judicial figure to all original documents held by the British Government relating to the atrocities that occurred in this jurisdiction”. That request continues to be denied by the British Government.
The Fine Gael/Labour Party Coalition was in government since the year before the bombings and their reaction was to blame the IRA for ‘provoking’ the attacks. Conor Cruise O’Brien was Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and two of his department’s employees were killed by the bombs, but when he spoke at a union conference shortly afterwards his target was people who ‘condoned violence’ whether by “a facial expression, an inflection of the voice, by a smile or even by silence”.
The Fine Gael/Labour Government and the Garda Síochána failed to pursue the case. Another report commissioned by the Oireachtas confirmed that the Garda investigation had been wound down after less than three months and that a huge amount of documentation relating to it has gone missing. The Taoiseach of the day, Liam Cosgrave, has, to this day, refused to co-operate with any of the Oireachtas investigations.
Four bombs exploded in Dublin and Monaghan on 17 May 1974, 35 years ago this week.
UNIONIST STRIKE: Unionist politicians, paramilitaries and communities united to blockade Stormont during the 1974 Ulster Workers’ Council strike