Families of victims of the Dublin/Monaghan bombings have demanded a public apology after it emerged that the British government has always known the bombers’ identities but failed to bring them to justice.
Thirty-three people were killed and 258 others injured in May 1974 when the UVF planted four no-warning car bombs in Dublin and Monaghan.
It was the single biggest loss of life on one day during the conflict, though no-one was ever charged with the murders. Members of the British Crown forces are known to have been involved and high-level collusion in the attacks has long been suspected.
However, a British government memo has been uncovered which confirms that it knew the identities of the killers. The secret government papers, marked confidential, relate to a meeting between British and Irish government officials in September 1974.
British prime minister Harold Wilson, Direct Ruler Merlyn Rees and 26-County ministers Garret FitzGerald and Jim Tully were all present.
In what is thought to be the first official admission that the British knew the identities of the killers, the memo of the meeting states that the Dublin government were informed “in confidence” that 25 people listed for internment included those responsible for the attacks.
The memo adds that this could not be stated in public “because of the nature of the evidence.”
The comments were clearly intended to reassure a frightened Dublin ministers that the conflict would not again cross the border and lead to upheaval for their fragile coalition government.
Margaret Urwin, a spokeswoman for the Dublin/Monaghan victims’ families, called on the British government to explain why the bombers escaped justice.
“The outgoing British ambassador in Ireland, Stewart Eldon, recently claimed his government had failed to cooperate with the Dublin/Monaghan inquiries be-cause of national security issues. We have now asked the Taoiseach to raise this issue with Tony Blair,” she said.
Sinn Féin TD Aengus O Snodaigh demanded full disclosure from the British government.
“These revelations raise very serious issues about the conduct of both the British and Irish governments in the aftermath of the bombings,” he said.
SDLP assembly member Alban Maginness said the families of the victims should receive an apology from the British government.
“The Dublin and Monaghan bombings brought the largest death toll of any atrocity of the Troubles,” he said.
“The SDLP backs the families’ call for an apology from the British government but it is not just an apology that is needed - it’s the truth.
“We need to know the full truth about why the people who perpetrated this atrocity got away with it.
“We need to know what links they had to British military intelligence.
“The families of the victims deserve these answers and the country demand these questions be answered.”
Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghin O Caolain said the revelations underlined the need for a summit between the Dublin and London governments on collusion.
“This memorandum confirms in stark terms that not only did the British authorities know who was responsible for the bombings but they also informed Irish government ministers of this directly and the exchange was placed on the official record,” he said.
“Why did the Irish government not pursue this matter vigorously at the time?
“Why did the British government not place this document before the Barron inquiry?”