Irish Republican News · December 10, 2003
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]

Govt was `disinterested' in 1974 bombings

A report report by former Irish Supreme Court judge Mr Justice Henry Barron on the 1974 Dublin-Monaghan bombings has raised more questions than it has answered.

Distributed to journalists this evening in print form, the report criticises the Dublin government of the day for their handling of the killings.

Three car bombs killed 26 people and injured hundreds more during rush-hour in Dublin on May 17 1974. An hour later a stolen car exploded outside a pub in the border town of Monaghan, killing seven people.

The long-delayed report is highly critical of the investigation into the bombings by the 26-County Garda police.

Justice Barron's report found some evidence of collusion between members of the RUC police and unionist paramilitaries, but would not infer that the collusion involved the higher levels of the British government of the time.

The judge, operating with minimal powers of investigation in the South and frequently rebuffed by the British authorities in the North, largely failed to add to existing information uncovered by media investigations.

Earlier this year, the Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, admitted that it would be ``over-optimistic'' to say that the judge had received all the information he wanted.


In his conclusions, Judge Barron writes that the Irish government of the day ``failed to show the concern expected of it'' in relation to the bombings.

``The Government of the day showed little interest in the bombings,'' he said.

``When information was given to them suggesting that the British authorities had intelligence naming the bombers, this was not followed up. Any follow-up was limited to complaints by the Minister for Foreign Affairs that those involved had been released from internment.''

But it appeared that there had been no input from Liam Cosgrave, the then Taoiseach, or his former Justice Minister, Mr Cooney.

The report was also critical of the Garda investigation into the bombings saying it ``failed to make full use of the information it obtained''.

On the issue of collusion between the bombers and the North's security forces, the report said: ``The involvement of individual members in such an activity does not in itself mean the bombings were either officially or unofficially state-sanctioned''.

``If one accepts that some people were involved, they may well have been acting on their own initiative. Ultimately, a finding that there was collusion between the perpetrators and the authorities in Northern Ireland is a matter of inference.

``On some occasions an inference is irresistible or can be drawn as a matter of probability. Here, it is the view of the inquiry that this inference is not sufficiently strong. It does not follow even as a matter of probability. Unless further information comes to hand, such involvement must remain a suspicion. It is not proven.''

Barron's imprecise conclusions, and his legalistic expression angered some of the relatives, who walked out of the press conference at which his report was first presented to the families and the media this evening.

Mr Des Doherty, solicitor for the family of Edward O'Neill and John O'Brien said there was nothing new in the report that the families had not previously known. ``It's obscene,'' he said. ``The report has been a complete and utter waste of time and expense and my clients are severely disappointed.''

He dismissed the report as ``a re-hash of what is already in the public domain''.

``What we need is the co-operation of both governments because a report from one side of the equation is no good,'' said Des Docherty.

``What we need is for the situation to move forward and that means to move forward in terms of truth and state accountability, that is the key.''

Michelle O'Brien, whose mother was one of those killed, has said she will fight on.

``I have been at this since the 17th anniversary and I have no intentions of walking away.

``I want to know why my mother was killed in cold blood on the streets of Dublin when she went shopping.

``She was 35 years of age with two children, she went shopping and never came home and I want to know the answer.

The O'Brien and O'Neill families are not with the larger `Justice for the Forgotten' group, which has not yet given its reaction to the report.


Responding to the report, Mr Ahern described the incidents as ``unspeakable outrages and despicable and cowardly acts of inhumanity.''

But he resisted demands to call an immediate public inquiry, insteading passing the report to a parliamentary committee -- a step widely seen as a further delay in the process.

He said the parliamentary Committee on Justice would now study the Barron findings and report back within three months ahead of any decision being taken about a public inquiry.

The chairman of the committee indicated this evening that the former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, would be ``invited'' to make a submission to the committee during its hearings early in the New Year.

Sinn Fein's Mr Caoimhghin O Caolain said the Barron report was an indictment of successive Irish and British governments.

He claimed: ``The publication of the report is firstly a tribute to the dedication of the survivors and the bereaved of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

``But for their persistence there would never have been such an investigation and the victims would indeed have been largely forgotten by Irish society.

``For almost 30 years the victims and their families have been seeking truth and justice. Our sympathy and solidarity is with them on this day as they relive the terrible events of May 17th 1974.''

He stressed that the British had thwarted any proper investigation of the bombings. ``They failed to co-operate properly with Judge Barron,'' he said.

``Equally serious is the Report's scathing criticism of the role of the authorities in this State. The Garda investigation was totally inadequate and was compromised by the close links between the gardai and elements of British intelligence, including British agents within the gardai.

``Successive governments were content to preside over a conspiracy of silence on all of this. It is appalling that when evidence was shown to the Irish Government that the British knew the identity of the bombers they showed little interest.''

Labour's Joe Costello said the principal conclusion to be drawn was that the victims and survivors of the bombings were very badly let down by the institutions of the state.

He added: ``What is very clear is that the Garda investigation into what was the greatest mass murder in the history of the state was totally inadequate and that there did not appear to have been any real determination on the part of the authorities to see those responsible brought to justice.

``Even allowing for the very difficult conditions in which the Gardai were operating at the time, the account of the investigation is a sorry chapter of shortcomings and failure.

``The conclusion of the report that it is likely that there was collusion between those responsible for the bombing and members of the RUC and UDR is truly shocking, if not altogether surprising in view of the evidence suggesting this produced by the media over the years.''

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