Bombed and abandoned
Bombed and abandoned
The following is an extract from ‘Bombed and Abandoned - The experience of the bereaved and maimed of the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings’, by Don Mullan.



Seamus Mallon has famously described the Good Friday Agreement as “Sunningdale for slow learners”. As the summer of 1974 began, Unionist and Loyalist opposition to the Sunningdale Agreement, which included a power-sharing executive and a ministerial Council of Ireland, gathered momentum. On 15 May 1974 a strike organised by a recently established coalition, the Ulster Workers’ Council (UWC) began. The strike had a co-ordinating committee which included paramilitary leaders from the UVF and UDA and Unionist politicians including: Ian Paisley, William Craig and Harry West. Widespread intimidation of workers was reported as the strike tightened its stranglehold across the north. At Westminster on 16 May, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Merlyn Rees, warned Unionist MP’s that ‘their loyalism will lead them to come up against British troops’. However, at no point during the strike did the British Military move to end intimidation or clear the ‘Queen’s Highways’ for the free movement of people and resources. Indeed, it is now known that British Military Intelligence, in particular MI5, supported the Loyalists and that several hard-core paramilitaries were being run by them. At 5.30pm on 17 May, three no-warning bombs exploded within ninety seconds in Dublin and a fourth exploded in Monaghan town, 88 minutes later. A total of 33 people (mostly women) were killed and hundreds maimed. It was to be the biggest loss of life in any single day of the ‘Troubles’.

The rationale behind the bombing of Dublin and Monaghan was part of an uncompromising political strategy aimed at destroying the Sunningdale Agreement, in particular, the Council of Ireland dimension. Both the UDA and UVF denied responsibility. However, the Press Officer of the UWC strike’s co-ordinating committee, Sammy Smith (UDA), gloated, ‘I am very happy about the bombings in Dublin. There is a war with the Free State and now we are laughing at them.’ His committee colleague, the Christian minister, Ian Paisley, neither rebuked Smith for his comments nor condemned the bombings.

Amongst the dead and injured were: Collete Doherty who was nine months pregnant; a young French Jewish woman, Simon Chetrit, who was born in occupied France during the Holocaust; an Italian citizen, Antonio Magliocco, who ran a Fish and Chip shop, and a young family; John and Anne O’Brien and their daughters, Jacqueline (5 months) and Anne Marie (17 months), who were enjoying a walk in the sunshine. The idea of anyone laughing at the unfathomable suffering inflicted by such carnage is beyond comprehension.

The death of the Sunningdale Agreement occurred on 28 May when Brian Falkner and pro-Agreement Unionist politicians resigned under pressure. Anti-Agreement Unionists celebrated throughout the province with dancing and bonfires. The following day, 29 May 1974, the UWC strike ended.


The nature, extent and adequacy of the Garda Investigation into the Dublin/Monaghan bombings is largely unknown in the absence of full public accountability. What we do know is that within weeks of the explosions the Garda Detective Branch and Special Branch had identified eight prime suspects, all from the Portadown/Lurgan area of Co. Armagh. The identities of the suspects were strengthened by a number of key eyewitnesses, one of whom I have spoken with, who had eye to eye contact with the South Leinster Street bomber. All suspects were known members of the mid-Ulster UVF Brigade. These included the now deceased William Hanna, William Fulton, Wesley Sommerville, Harris Boyle and Robin ‘The Jackal’ Jackson. David Alexander Mulholland, now living in England and Samual Whitten were also named suspects. According to Yorkshire Television’s ‘First Tuesday’ documentary: Hidden Hand - The Forgotten Massacre, broadcast in 1993, Mulholland and Whitten were identified in police photographs by three separate eyewitnesses as drivers of two of the four bomb cars.

These details are highly significant given the fact that journalists from Yorkshire Television are the only source to date, outside political and police circles, who have been given limited access to the Garda files into the bombings. The Gardai would not hand over their files to Yorkshire Television but agreed, according to Glyn Middleton, one the producers, ‘to answer any questions related to the bombings as fully and accurately as they could from the files’. Over a number of days in 1992 Yorkshire Television met with assigned members of the Garda which resulted in several hours of audio recordings of information read directly from the Garda files. They starkly challenge the Taoiseach’s assertion to Relative for Justice that he had discovered “...nothing in the files that would have suggested or indicated who was responsible”.

When I put the Taoiseach’s comments recently to Middleton, he answered:

“Direct evidence from those files suggested there were a number of people who had a strong case to answer. At the very least you expect those leads to be followed up and properly investigated on both sides of the border. It is clear to Yorkshire Television that this was not done.”

According to ‘First Tuesday’, the Garda extended their list of suspects with an additional 12 names, derived from intelligence sources in the North. The Garda files name William “Frenchie” Marchant, the leader of the Belfast hijackers, and Billy Fulton, the quarter master who took charge of the explosives used. The files also name three leading Loyalists as the planners of the bombings: Billy Hanna, the leader of the UVF in Portadown; Harris Boyle, second-in-command; and Robin ‘The Jackle’ Jackson. Within weeks, ‘First Tuesday’ asserts, “the Garda had a list of twenty suspects...” ‘First Tuesday’ also state that the Garda enjoyed good co-operation from the RUC in the early stages of their investigations. However, Gardai who travelled from Dublin, expecting to have the suspects arrested and interrogated, found the trail running cold at RUC headquarters. One Garda officer interviewed by ‘First Tuesday’ stated, “... there was definitely a lack of co-operation. Our investigation had to end because we couldn’t get any further in the north. The well just ran dry.” Chief Superintendent John Paul McMahon, who lead the Monaghan murder hunt wrote:

“These investigations were greatly hampered by reason of the fact that no direct enquiries could be made in the area where the crime originated. There was no access to potential witnesses in Northern Ireland and there was also the disadvantage of not having been able to interrogate likely suspects and put them on identification parades.”

Yorkshire’s ‘First Tuesday’ programme also reveals that the RUC did, indeed, conduct their own investigations. Two Special Branch officers, who were tasked with finding out more about the bombings, spoke to programme-makers off-camera. According to ‘First Tuesday’:

“They confirmed they had a list of UVF suspects which tallied with the Garda’s. They reported their information to RUC Headquarters but were never asked to interview or arrest any of the suspects.”

The above, however, is contradicted in a letter sent by the RUC to the solicitors representing the families, dated 28 Auguest 1996. It states:

“... (4a) ... a number of persons were arrested and interviewed in relation to the theft of the vehicles. (4b) A number of persons were arrested and interviewed in relation to these murders. (5) Details arising from the interviews... as well as other material, were passed to An Garda Siochana at various stages of its enquiry.”

This assertion by the RUC is disputed by ‘First Tuesday’ who state that in Garda Chief Superintendent John Joy’s final report he wrote:

“Enquiries in regard to [suspects] are being made by the RUC and results of the investigation will be reported.”

‘First Tuesday’ states catagorically: “There is no record on the Garda file that the RUC ever did report back.”

Within three months of the explosions, the Garda investigation into the biggest mass murder in the history of the State was wound down and detectives working on the case assigned to other duties.

At one level it would appear the Garda had done all in their power to hunt down the killers, only to have their efforts frustrated by a sectarian police force north of the border. But such a conclusion is too simplistic. Something isn’t right. Proper procedures were, in many instances, not followed, and additional avenues of useful pressure appear not to have been explored.


There is a serious and crucial question to be truthfully answered, as yet, by both An Garda Siochana and the Government. It relates to the vexed issued of identified suspects and the RUC’s apparent unwillingness to move against them. The present Garda Commissioner must clarify whether or not his force informed the Cosgrave Government of the names of those suspects and the difficulties his officers were encountering with theRUC. When I put this point recently to a senior Garda officer-in-charge in Dublin at the time, he replied:

“I would be surprised if the Minister for Justice wasn’t informed.”

If this senior officer is correct, it means that at Cabinet level the Irish Government of the day knew the names of the prime suspects shortly after the bombings. However, three surviving members of the Cabinet’s five-man security committee; Patrick Cooney (Minister for Justice), Conor Cruise O’Brien (Minister for Posts & Telegraphs) and Patrick Donegan (Minister for Defence), have denied knowledge of any Garda list of suspects. When the question was put to former Taoiseach Cosgrave by Yorkshire Television he declined to answer any questions about the bombings.

A member of Cosgrave’s Cabinet, Justin Keating (Minister for Industry & Commerce), quoted in The Irish Independent (11 July 1993) lends weight to the senior Garda officer’s comment:

“It is perfectly possible that it [the list of suspects] went to the Cabinet Security Committee. It might have been a political decision of theirs not to inform their Cabinet colleagues.”

There are very serious implications in this for An Garda Siochana. Either they did or they didn’t inform the Government of the names of the suspects. If they did, then at least one member of Cosgrave’s Cabinet may be lying to the nation and, in so doing, leaving An Garda Siochana open to justifiable accusations of incompetence. If they did not inform the Government of the list of suspects and their difficulties with the RUC, then they certainly do have a case to answer as to why they didn’t.

When interviewed by Yorkshire Television in 1993, Merlyn Rees, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, expressed astonishment that there was detailed information about those suspected of involvement in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. He said he was not notified. He continued:

“If names were given and the names were in the north, it would be my job, without ever interfering in the day to day security matters, to make clear that something’s got to be done within the rule of Law - that these people should be questioned and if needs be, dealt with by the full process of law.”

Arising out of this scenario, additional questions require answers. If the Government had the names of the suspects, what did they do with this information, then and since? Did the Government seek the co-operation of the British Government in apprehending the suspects? If not, why not?

These questions alone warrant the establishment of a Tribunal of Inquiry. But they are not the only ones.


The Garda conducted its own internal investigation, following the broadcast of the ‘First Tuesday’ programme. This culminated in a statement issued on the 21st anniversary of the bombings by the Department of Justice in 1995. The statement dismisses with near nonchalance the ‘First Tuesday’ documentary which Yorkshire Television, to their credit, invested #400,000stg on making and, again to their credit, spent over two years longer in researching, than the original Garda investigation. Indicative of the general lack of interest in rigorously pursuing this case by the Irish media is the fact that no one seemed curious enough in 1995 to call Yorkshire Television to invite their response. Thus, the Department of Justice’s statement, which included, amongst others, a conclusion by the Garda Commissioner that ‘there was no lack of co-operation between the police forces involved’, went unchallenged.

Whether or not the RUC did co-operate, and to what extent, can only be verified by a detailed examination of the files of An Garda Siochana. Requests by the families of the deceased to see the Garda Files have been continuously refused and indeed, legal efforts to gain access to the Garda files have been vigorously fought by the Gardai in the Irish High Court (1997) and the Supreme Court (1998). The question is why?

When one juxtaposes the Dublin/Monaghan bombings alongside the Landsdown Road soccer riot in 1995 - which was the subject of a Tribunal of Inquiry - suspicions again are raised about official resistance, given the gulf of magnitude between the two cases.

Furthermore, An Garda Siochana have failed to visit each of the families who lost their loved ones to discuss their ongoing investigations with them, as is normal procedure in an open murder case. For several years, victims support has been a core value in Garda training and practice, but not with the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. Why?

What hurts most for the families and the wounded is the awful sense of abandonment by their politicians and police who have consistently failed to deal openly and honestly with their right to truth. Frank Massey, whose 21 year old twin daughter Anna was murdered in South Leinster Street, speaks with consummate anger and bitterness when he say, “We’ve been treated like lepers. Instead of being innocent victims, we’ve been treated as though we are the guilty”.

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