Survivors and the bereaved of the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings have vowed to continue their battle for justice after a report by criminal lawyer Patrick MacEntee failed to provide significant new information.
The report was commissioned by the 26-County government into the half-hearted and abandoned Garda police investigations into the attacks that killed 33 people, including a pregnant woman.
The attacks were committed by the death-sqauds of the unionist paramilitary UVF, with the apparent support of elements within the British Crown forces. It has been alleged that the attacks, which undermined support for the IRA in the 26 Counties, may have been orchestrated by British forces in tandem with a nervous administration in Dublin.
While MacEntee criticised the disappearance of key files from Garda records, it said there was “no evidence” of Garda collusion in a cover-up.
The report described the “loss or destruction of an unquantifiable amount of Garda documentation relevant to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings investigations and assembled for the purposes of those investigations”.
While all defence forces files from the time remained intact, Garda and government department records were “scrappy”.
Mr MacEntee, who had sought nine extensions to the deadline for completing the report, was unable to ascertain the full extent of communication and cooperation between Garda investigators and the RUC.
Justice for the Forgotten last night refused to rule out seeking a further inquiry.
The group’s solicitor, Greg O’Neill, said the commission had failed to answer the key question of why the Garda inquiry was wound down and provided no explanation for the lost documents.
Mr MacEntee pointed out that he had been refused access to original security and intelligence documents in the possession of the British government.
He also said that because many of the senior Garda personnel, in both the Dublin and Monaghan investigations, were now dead the precise details of how these investigations proceeded could not be ascertained.
“It is not possible to establish the number of reports, if any, that are missing,” he said.
“In the absence of a comprehensive indexing system for documents sent and received by the Garda Siochana in the course of the investigation it is not possible to establish whether such reports were in fact ever created.
“No evidence of such an indexing system has been disclosed to the commission.”
Mr MacEntee received an affidavit by a man who claimed he had been approached by gardai and told to “keep your f****** mouth shut”, after he had contacted them to warn that he had seen a British army corporal in Dublin at the time of the bombings.
As part of his research Mr McEntee spoke to a former soldier with the same name as the corporal who insisted that he had no involvement in the attacks.
Mr MacEntee found out that gardai failed to keep a record of information received from former British army captain Fred Holroyd, who reported collusion between British Crown forces and unionist paramilitaries.
Gardai also did act on allegations by former RUC sergeant John Weir arranging for police in the north to arrest and question a number of persons in 2000.
The results of the interviews were reported to gardai but “did not further the investigation into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings’’.
From the outset, survivors and the bereaved had concerns about the Garda investigation.
No photographs of suspects were released to the media while the Dublin inquest was adjourned at the request of gardai but never resumed and the garda probe was wound up within weeks.
The Dublin government’s reaction has also been criticised.
There was no national day of mourning despite the horrific death toll and it would be 25 years before a 26 County government would respond to the demand for a proper investigation.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the shortcomings and omissions highlighted in the report were of “serious concern”.
He said he had ordered a full review of the relevant departments and agencies.
Last night families of the victims said serving garda officers who were responsible for the botched probe should quit the force.
The Justice for the Forgotten group said the MacEntee report had been blocked blocked by lost files or flawed police records.
Legal advisor Greg O’Neill told a news conference in Dublin: “Those who had responsibility in this area and failed, know who they are.”