Thursday, 11 July 2019
Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Bill 2019: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Remaining Stages
While I concur with Deputy O'Callaghan, I was struck by Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan's contribution last night. Deputies O'Sullivan, Crowe and I worked with the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, when he was Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade on the terrible atrocities committed in May 1974, including the heinous murders of 34 people between Dublin and Monaghan. Of course, there have been other tragedies for which justice has never been attained and in respect of which families have never got the truth.
When the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, served as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, he continually pursued with the British Government the need for it to respond positively to the request that has been made unanimously by the Oireachtas on three occasions - in 2008, 2011 and 2016 - for an eminent international legal expert to be given access to all the papers pertaining to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. It is absolutely deplorable that the British Government has continued to ignore the request of this sovereign Parliament. Its behaviour in responding to this sovereign Parliament in such a manner is completely intolerable and unacceptable.
The Minister will be familiar with the bombing in Belturbet in December 1972. Two teenagers - young Paddy Stanley from Clara, County Offaly, which is in the Minister's constituency, and Geraldine O'Reilly from Belturbet - were killed that night. Even though people can speculate about who carried out that heinous crime, nobody has ever been brought to justice for it. These cases need to be pursued as vigorously and strongly as possible. Some family members have pointed out to me that as they get older, they are keen to find out the truth about what happened on these occasions. They are worried that they will never get justice and closure. They are continuing to grieve for their family members who died.
Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan mentioned that, last week, a number of us met members of Protestant and Catholic families from Northern Ireland who believe they are not getting a hearing as they seek to highlight their terrible suffering as a result of the murder of their loved ones. As the Minister will be aware, the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement has devoted a considerable amount of time to legacy issues. Many of the families and individuals concerned often think nobody is listening or pushing hard enough to deal with these issues. We have to send a message that every possible avenue will be pursued to try to lessen the terrible grief that these people are going through on a daily basis.
There is another issue with which we need to deal. I have tabled questions on the need to reappoint a victims' commissioner in this State. The former Tánaiste, the late John P. Wilson, who was my constituency colleague and friend, was appointed as the first victims' commissioner in 1998 following the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. As I recall, the equivalent position in Northern Ireland was held by Mr. Bloomfield at that time. The position previously held by Mr. Wilson is currently vacant. Families need to be able to go to a person or office and be confident that the appointee will pursue their interests and work with statutory agencies and the Governments to try to find some way of establishing the truth about all of these tragedies. As time goes by, siblings, parents, children and other family members are getting older without getting closer to the truth. We must continue to highlight this issue. We have to work as assiduously as possible to try to achieve some progress in this area. Overall, I welcome this important legislation.