Dáil debates

Tuesday, 14 May 2024

Dublin and Monaghan Bombings: Motion [Private Members]

 

6:40 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Mary Lou McDonald.

Photo of Matt CarthyMatt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Which Minister is taking this?

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Tánaiste is coming. He was here a minute ago. We will wait.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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As we are waiting, I am sure the Ceann Comhairle would like, on behalf of the House, to extend a welcome to the families from Justice for the Forgotten, who are joining us.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Absolutely, they are all most welcome.

Members applauded.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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I move:

That Dáil Éireann: recalling the motion it adopted unanimously on 10th July, 2008 which:
— noted "the interim and final reports of the sub-Committee of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights on the report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin-Monaghan Bombings and the three related Barron Reports, including the Inquiry into the Bombing of Kay's Tavern, Dundalk, and commends the sub-Committee for its work";

— urged "the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to allow access by an independent, international judicial figure to all original documents held by the British Government relating to the atrocities that occurred in this jurisdiction and which were inquired into by Judge Barron, for the purposes of assessing said documents with the aim of assisting in the resolution of these crimes"; and

— directed "the Clerk of the Dáil to communicate the text of this Resolution, together with copies of the aforementioned reports, to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with a request that the matter be considered by the House of Commons";
recalling the motion it adopted unanimously on Wednesday, 18th May, 2011 which:
— noted "that the question of obtaining access to information held by the British Government on the bombings has been pursued for many years";

— requested "the Government to continue to raise the matter with the British Government and to press it to comply with the request of Dáil Éireann and reaffirms the support of Members on all sides of this House"; and

— acknowledged "that the cooperation being sought is taking place in the context of transformed relationships on this island and between Ireland and Britain based on mutual respect, on partnership and on friendship";
recalling the all party motion it adopted unanimously on 25th May, 2016 which:
— noted "that Tuesday, 17th May, 2016 marked the 42nd Anniversary of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings"; and

— called on the Government to pursue the implementation of the 2008 and 2011 all party motions and to urgently raise the matter with the British Government;
notes that:
— the 50th Anniversary of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings will take place on 17th May and, with the passage of such time, the growing need to provide all information necessary to assist families; and

— Operation Denton is tasked with carrying out an overarching, thematic analysis of the Glenanne Gang and the extent of any state collusion, which includes reviewing the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, and other bombings and killings that have been attributed to the Glenanne Gang;
calls on the Government to continue to ensure that all requests for material and assistance from Operation Denton to authorities in this jurisdiction are dealt with as a matter of priority;

further calls on the Government to urge the British Government to ensure that material relevant to the work of Operation Denton is provided to their investigators; and

requests the Government to continue to raise this important matter directly with the British Government, and directs the Ceann Comhairle, the Clerk, and the Cathaoirligh of relevant Committees to do likewise with their respective British counterparts, in order to actively pursue the implementation of the 2008, 2011 and 2016 all party motions.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. Friday, 17 May 1974 remains a date marked deep in the psyche of our nation, etched in unimaginable pain and loss and prolonged by a searing injustice. At 5.30 on that early summer's evening, three no-warning car bombs ripped through the centre of Dublin on Talbot Street, Pearse Street and the junction of Nassau Street and South Leinster Street. At approximately 7 p.m., 84 miles away in Monaghan town, a fourth car bomb exploded, and 33 people and an unborn baby were killed. In August, baby Martha O'Neill was stillborn at full term.

It was the most people killed in any one day of the conflict. Their names were: Patrick Askin, aged 44, County Monaghan; Josie Bradley, aged 21, County Offaly; Marie Butler, 21, County Waterford; Anne Byrne, aged 35, Dublin; Thomas Campbell, aged 52, County Monaghan; Simone Chetrit, aged 30, France; Thomas Croarkin, aged 36, County Monaghan; John Dargle, aged 80, Dublin; Concepta Dempsey, aged 65, County Louth; Colette Doherty, aged 21, Dublin; baby Doherty, full-term unborn, Dublin; Patrick Fay, aged 47, Dublin and County Louth; Elizabeth Fitzgerald, aged 59, Dublin; Breda Bernadette Grace, aged 35, Dublin and County Kerry; Archie Harper, aged 73, County Monaghan; Antonio Magliocco, aged 37, Dublin and Italy; May McKenna, aged 55, County Tyrone; Anne Marren, aged 20, County Sligo; Anna Massey, aged 21, Dublin; Dorothy Morris, aged 57, Dublin; John O'Brien, aged 24, Anna O'Brien, aged 22, Jacqueline O'Brien, 17 months and Anne-Marie O'Brien, five months, Dublin; Christina O'Loughlin, aged 51, Dublin; Edward John O'Neill, aged 39, Dublin; baby Martha O'Neill, stillborn, Dublin; Marie Phelan, aged 20, County Waterford; Siobhán Roice, aged 19, Wexford town; Maureen Shields, aged 46, Dublin; Jack Travers, aged 28, Monaghan town; Breda Turner, aged 21, County Tipperary; John Walshe, aged 27, Dublin; Peggy White, aged 45, Monaghan town; and George Williamson, aged 72, County Monaghan.

These were ordinary people going about the business of their everyday lives in a city and in a town where they had no reason to feel unsafe. Then their precious lives were wiped out. For 50 years, for five decades, for half a century, their heartbroken loved ones have fought courageously for the truth and justice that is still denied. Some of the families and more are in the Public Gallery with us this evening. We salute their bravery and resilience and we stand with them now and always.

The families have always gone toe-to-toe with the British state, which has, at every turn, blocked the truth, withheld evidence and prevented the release of important documents related to the bombings. The British Government has pushed ahead with callous amnesty legislation to shut down transparency, and the agenda is clear. While loyalist paramilitaries planted the bombs, they were aided by dark-hand agents of the British state. Collusion is no illusion, yet the British state continues to deny that the bombings in Dublin and Monaghan were part of its dirty war in Ireland. These inspirational families have also been profoundly failed by this State. The initial Garda investigation as so limited in remit as to render it useless from the get-go. Incredibly, it was wrapped up by the August bank holiday of that same summer.

Over the past five decades, successive taoisigh have openly admitted that they have not raised this travesty with their British counterparts. Understandably, the families and survivors felt abandoned, dismissed and forgotten, and the absence of the truth hangs in the air around them. It casts a long shadow over their lives. Bernie McNally, who survived the blast on Talbot Street, said:

To deny people the truth is just so wrong. And it will never go away until it is righted. It will always be there, it will always be hanging over us all.

This is the weight that the families and survivors carry around with them. The injustice and the contempt they have faced for 50 years is woven through the fabric of their everyday lives. It is now time to do right by the families and survivors. The British state must now provide all relevant information, evidence and documentation it holds regarding the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

The Irish Government must insist and impress upon the British Government that this must happen without any further delay. Fifty years is a lifetime and family members of those who died have passed away without ever knowing the truth. Other family members have been born and have grown up with this injustice hardwired into their lives so now is the time for the light of truth, now is the time for justice for the forgotten.

6:50 pm

Photo of Matt CarthyMatt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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On Friday, 17 May 1974, three car bombs exploded in Dublin city centre. Less than 90 minutes later, outside Greacen's pub on the North Road, a fourth bomb exploded in Monaghan town. Some 34 lives were lost, including that of an unborn child. Nearly 300 were injured. Countless lives remain both physically and mentally scarred to this day.

On Friday, we will mark 50 years since the massacre of Irish citizens by a death squad involving members of British state forces. It was the worst atrocity in this State since the Civil War. Friday's anniversary will be marked by wreath laying by the President and speeches by Ministers, lord mayors and cathaoirligh. In recent years, we have seen the attendance of taoisigh at commemorations. I expect that tonight will be the fourth occasion since 2008 that the Dáil has adopted a resolution supporting the campaign for truth and justice with cross-party support. It would be easy therefore to now get the impression that this State has always stood with the victims and survivors; unequivocally, that was not the case.

All those who lost loved ones or who were injured as a result of the conflict deserve access to the truth. Whether they were victims of British state forces, loyalist paramilitaries or the IRA, the pain is the same. There cannot be a hierarchy of victims. I hope everyone in this House shares that sentiment because throughout those dark days and years there was a hierarchy and different approaches were taken to different events and losses. Almost immediately after the bombs in Dublin and Monaghan detonated, people knew that British state forces were involved. The close sequence of the explosions, the technical features of the bombs, the components that were used that calculated maximum impact and the timing all pointed to a capability and resource that was not available to loyalist gangs without the direct support of British state agents. Any reasonable person would have expected both the Irish and British Governments and An Garda Síochána to move swiftly to apprehend the perpetrators and assert the full facts, but that did not happen. In debates in this House immediately after the bombings, speakers seemed more concerned that those suspicions be deflected rather than addressed. Indeed, several politicians and some elements of the media over the years disgracefully sought to use these murders for their own narrow political agenda.

In his report of a meeting of an engagement with the then foreign Minister, Garrett FitzGerald, the British ambassador at the time reported that the “predictable attempts by the IRA to pin the blame on the British... has made no headway at all”. The truth is that for years neither Dublin or London made any serious attempt to pursue the perpetrators. The British Government knew the identity of the perpetrators and claimed, in fact, to have interned them. They shared this information with the then Taoiseach and Ministers in September 1974 and it seems that nothing was done with this information. It was left to the families and victims to campaign. In the first instance, they had to campaign for recognition. They, alone, and the friends they made along the way, actually investigated what the authorities failed to do. A small number of journalists deserve great credit for lifting the lid on decades-old secrets. In particular, the 1993 Yorkshire Television documentary “Hidden Hand: The Forgotten Massacre” ensured a new generation had the starting basis for a renewed campaign but only a determined campaign by the families, the victims and their friends eventually shifted attitudes in official Ireland. I join Deputy McDonald in welcoming members and supporters of the campaign group, Justice for the Forgotten, here today and I thank them for their relentless work on behalf of the victims and their service to the cause of truth and justice.

I commend the motion to the House and I urge the Government to act upon it. I also urge the Government to demand that the British Government releases all information pertaining to this attack and all others perpetrated by the so-called Glenanne gang, and in all instances where the British state or its agents colluded in attacks and murders on this island, North or South; to use every mechanism at its disposal to exert pressure on the British Government, including through multilateral and international fora, to finally do the right thing and come clean on its dirty war in Ireland; and on this 50th anniversary year to also acknowledge the failings of this State in the aftermath of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and in the decades that followed. Thanks to the work of the people here and others, the victims of Dublin and Monaghan are no longer forgotten, but they have yet to secure justice.

Photo of Pearse DohertyPearse Doherty (Donegal, Sinn Fein)
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Friday will mark the 50th anniversary and the 50th year since 34 innocent lives were lost as a result of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. As we heard, hundreds were also injured on that day. The Dublin and Monaghan bombings changed the lives of so many forever, and not just those who were killed or injured. I want to acknowledge the presence, as my colleagues have, of some of the families of the victims. The Justice for the Forgotten group has done so much in its campaign for truth and justice over the years.

It is now undisputed, except by those who have a modus operandi to hide the truth and frustrate justice, that the bombings were carried out by loyalists with the collusion of British security personnel. That tactic was deployed by the British state for decades, and was championed by Frank Kitson, using what he called “counter gangs” to carry out the designs of the British military, intelligence services and government.

To this day, the British Government has refused to disclose the actions of its intelligence services, both in the wider conflict and with respect to the bombings on that fateful and tragic day. In 2005, the committee on justice was unequivocal in its conclusion when it stated, "We are dealing with acts of international terrorism that were colluded in by the British security forces”. The British Government's legacy Act is indicative of its approach to truth and justice and the lengths to which they will go to in order to protect themselves and the British state with little regard to victims and their families. In this matter, these atrocities remain unsolved.

The motion calls on the Government to ensure that all requests made by Operation Denton to authorities in this jurisdiction are acted on as a matter of priority and to urge and directly raise with the British Government the need to provide all relevant materials to investigators. This motion has received cross-party support, similar to previous motions that were tabled and introduced by Sinn Féin in the past years. They were also unanimously adopted. However, what is required is not simply words; we need actions. The families demand actions. Every victim is deserving of truth and justice, and that includes those who lost their lives in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. As we approach the 50th anniversary of these atrocities, it is time to redouble our efforts so that they and their families get what they deserve: truth and justice.

Photo of Mairead FarrellMairead Farrell (Galway West, Sinn Fein)
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I first want to welcome the bereaved families to the Gallery this evening, along with everyone who is involved with Justice for the Forgotten. They have my support, as well as the support of these benches, in their campaign for truth and justice. Their struggle for justice, despite the barriers they have faced, is absolutely inspirational. Truth, as all families who have been impacted by the conflict will know, is incredibly important. Collusion was no illusion, as so many families have had to discover and experience through their own losses.

We have had previous motions in the House on this, the single greatest loss of life in the entirety of the conflict, with 27 victims in Dublin and seven in Monaghan. Yet, now, in this the year and the week of the 50th anniversary of these bombings, the legacy Act facilitates the perpetuation of cover-up and denial of truth and justice for families. It is essential that the interstate case repeals this Act.

In recent weeks we have seen in the cases Seán Brown, Fergal McCusker and others whose inquests were closed with calls by coroners for public inquiries in cases of collusion which again shows we need the interstate case to be successful and the Act to be scrapped.

Even post the Good Friday Agreement the British Government has not delivered for victims' families and has not lived up to its responsibilities. We need to hear from the Irish Government that it is on the side of families and we need to hear from the Tánaiste this week because the silence has been too much. Irish citizens whose lives have been destroyed as they go through the trauma of the enacting of the legacy Act, all families impacted by the Dublin-Monaghan bombings and families impacted by the policy of British state collusion must hear in words and see in actions that this Government is on their side and that I will do everything to secure the repeal of this Act. The Government must do more and must do everything in its power to support these families in their quest for truth and justice.

7:00 pm

Photo of Patricia RyanPatricia Ryan (Kildare South, Sinn Fein)
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I welcome the opportunity to speak on this the 50th anniversary of the awful bombings in Dublin and Monaghan. I also welcome to the Gallery some members of the families of the 27 Dublin victims and the seven who lost their lives in Monaghan along with representatives of Justice for the Forgotten. The impact of the tragic events in Dublin and Monaghan still reverberates through every one of those 50 years. Despite several motions in the House since at least 2008, there is still no resolution. The horrific events of that sunny May day in 1974 and the innocent lives lost in Dublin and Monaghan will never be forgotten by anyone of us who lived through them.

Despite being in the full knowledge that those atrocities were carried out by loyalists, aided and abetted by British security personnel, successive British governments have denied the victims and their families the closure and justice they so richly deserve. Now to add insult to injury, the passing of the callous legacy Bill by UK Parliament has copper-fastened the British Government's unwillingness to be open and transparent.

The 2005 report by Mr. Justice Barron was absolutely clear and unapologetic in concluding that the events of 17 May 1974 were acts of international terrorism that were colluded in by British security forces. Yet after 50 long years neither the innocent victims nor their families have had even a hint of justice being done.

I remember the events of that day as a child with my mother telling me about the O'Brien family - mother, father and two beautiful baby girls - all killed outright by the Parnell Street blast. Innocent lives were lost and we are still waiting for the truth to be told. I implore all in this House to support this motion and call on the Government to leave no stone unturned, no avenue unexplored to ensure that this matter is no longer unresolved and to bring all possible pressure to bear on British Government to provide full disclosure of all requested documentation and material. All victims are equal. They are all innocent and all equally deserving of justice. This Government must do what its predecessors did not. The Tánaiste must raise this with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Sunak. Fifty years is far too long.

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
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I only have a few seconds. I wish the families well. My thoughts are with them and all their loved ones. I thank Justice for the Forgotten, the Pat Finucane Centre and Relatives for Justice for all their hard work over the years. They have been a long time waiting on justice. We are not supposed to have a hierarchy of victims, but clearly in this case I do not think the Irish State has treated them very well. I genuinely believe that they will get justice. I look forward to seeing them all on Friday.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I am pleased to confirm that the Government will support this motion.

There are moments in time when we are confronted with the sharpest of contrasts in human nature - the contrast between decency and depravity, between good and evil, between love and hate. On 17 May 1974, this country faced such a moment. On a Friday evening, bright with the promise of early summer, decent people, including parents, children and pensioners, were going about the ordinary business of work, of care, of living. The familiar and easy rhythm of Dublin and Monaghan settling into a weekend was brutally interrupted by the horror of mass murder. The decency of the everyday was transformed by bombings into a catalogue of carnage with the highest number of casualties in a single incident during the Troubles, a period of murder, mayhem, and terrible and unjustifiable violence. On that day 34 lives were lost and 300 people were injured.

It is right that the House recall the devastation of that evening as we prepare to mark the 50th anniversary on Friday. Each death, each injury, scarred the lives of so many families and individuals. These were people with hopes and dreams, who were part of the social fabric of their communities, and whose loss has been felt acutely ever since. They were people who mattered and who still matter.

For half a century, the Dublin and Monaghan families have been tireless in campaigning in memory of their loved ones, demanding justice, accountability and truth. I acknowledge that we are joined today in the Visitors Gallery by representatives of Justice for the Forgotten, which has worked for decades with those families that suffered loss in the bombings. Others impacted are following these proceedings online.

I extend deepest sympathies on behalf of the Government to all those who suffered as a result of those tragic events. Foremost in our minds today are the victims and the duty that we as public representatives have to them. It is important that we demonstrate to the survivors and to the loved ones of those killed, that in this House we stand united in our support of them as they continue to seek answers.

On three prior occasions all parties in this House have come together to express that united support. In 2008, 2011 and 2016, Dáil Éireann with one voice urged the British Government to allow access by an independent, international judicial figure to all original documents relating to these atrocities. Today we have the opportunity to repeat that call with one voice. This is a demand I have personally made to the British Government in various roles throughout my career in public service, and which I continue to make now in my role as Tánaiste and Minister of Foreign Affairs. In fact, I raised the Dublin-Monaghan bombings with the current Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, just weeks after I took up my current role, at the January 2023 meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. I followed up in writing and at subsequent meetings of the conference in June 2023, November 2023 and April 2024 as well as in our private meetings.

This British Government can have no doubt of the strength of feelings in this House and, more importantly, the salience of the issue for so many families. That half a century on from the atrocities of 17 May 1974, 21 years after the Barron inquiry and 17 years after the final McEntee report we are still asking for co-operation is a matter of profound regret and disappointment. I know from my own engagement with many of those affected that the loss and pain suffered on 17 May 1974 has been compounded by the frustration and hurt of unanswered questions.

The Barron inquiry, whose reports were subsequently considered by the Government and the Oireachtas, and the commission of investigation led by Patrick McEntee SC did important work that should be acknowledged. The Barron report drew well-founded conclusions on a number of key elements, not least that the attacks were carried out by two loyalist paramilitary groups, most of whom were members of the UVF. It also asserted the likelihood that members of the UDR and RUC either participated in or were aware of preparations for the attacks and the likelihood that the farm of James Mitchell at Glenanne played a significant part in the preparation for the attacks.

In both cases, the reports produced were clear that they were hampered in providing a fuller picture, including on long-standing questions on whether a role was played by British security forces before or after the attacks, by the lack of access to original documents held by the British Government. The motion passed today will be sent to the British Parliament. I hope that lawmakers there take to heart the message that the demand for access to these documents by an independent figure is not going away. Our shared determination to pursue this issue, as a government and as an Oireachtas, is undiminished. With the Barron and McEntee reports, we challenged ourselves. I would ask that others do likewise.

As I said, I have been frank in my discussions with British counterparts on their shortcomings in this case. It is important that we, too, are honest about where we as a government and a society have fallen short on what we owe the victims and survivors of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings.

The Barron Report made serious criticisms of the original Garda investigation into the bombings, including the failure to make full use of information obtained and weaknesses in forensic analysis. It remains the case that 50 years on from these terrible attacks, there has not been a single conviction. I know that this is a source of terrible hurt for the families. For many years following the bombings, theirs were lonely voices demanding answers and, frankly, they did not get the support or answers they deserved from the Government of the day, nor indeed from Dáil Éireann. The high level of engagement across our political system on this case today is in stark contrast to the muted response of the first two decades following the bombings. Not a single parliamentary question specific to the case was asked, from any quarter, from 1975 until 1991. I find this truly shocking. Still, the families did not allow their case to fade from view. In 1996, Justice for the Forgotten was formed and it has been campaigning with passion and determination ever since. I have met with it on a number of occasions and my Department continues to fund its important work through the reconciliation fund. That work continues.

I know the Dublin-Monaghan families have been watching closely the work of Operation Denton, an independent police analytical review into the activities of the so-called Glennane gang, as well as a Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland investigation of the same topic. We know how important such investigations are to families. I recently met with the new head of Operation Denton, Sir Iain Livingstone, and underlined the importance we attach to his work. When Operation Denton investigators sought assistance from An Garda Síochána, the Minister for Justice took steps to put in place a bespoke mechanism to allow relevant information to be shared. Survivors and the families of victims have also taken their own civil case in Belfast, which it was decided last month, will proceed to trial. I will not comment on the details of a case that remains sub judice, but Deputies across this House will appreciate how meaningful a development this is. It is particularly meaningful as, tragically for many other families bereaved during the Troubles, the entry into force of the UK’s legacy Act at the start of this month ended their ability to progress their cases through the civil courts, coronial inquests and police ombudsman investigations.

I have explained before to Deputies the fundamental concerns that prompted me to recommend to Government that we take a case at the European Court of Human Rights in respect of this Act, not least in relation to its compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights. I will not repeat those arguments today, which are best left to the court, but it is important to state explicitly that this Government’s policy on legacy issues is a part of and, in fact, central to our efforts to further reconciliation on this island. Without an effective, human-rights compliant framework for dealing with the legacy of the past that commands the confidence of victims and survivors, how can we ask individuals or society to move on? How can we expect to achieve genuine reconciliation? We can do better. The best way forward is one where both Britain and Ireland work together in an agreed way to deal with the complexities and hurt which the violence of the Troubles inflicted on so many - too many. While for some families it is too late, an agreed, comprehensive approach that commands public confidence is the best way to consolidate reconciliation.

In the run-up to this important anniversary, we have heard a lot from those who survived and those who lost loved ones. RTÉ and others have rightly given them a space to tell their stories. These first-hand accounts bring home the scale of the loss for families and for our society. Fifty years ago this Friday, when Clery’s clock struck 5 p.m., Dublin was caught up in the normal Friday evening rush. By the time the clock had struck six, this city had changed, our country had changed and hundreds of lives had changed. Fifty years on from the darkest day in their lives, the Dublin and Monaghan families continue their campaign. There is no expiry date in their desire for truth and justice. Today, we come together across this House to say, once again, you are not alone in this campaign. Today, we mourn with you the great loss suffered by the victims of the bombs of 17 May 1974. We offer our humble acknowledgement of the obstacles you have overcome and the mountain you have climbed to get your campaign to where it is today. We recognise our own past shortcomings as a State and political system. We call on the British Government to look afresh at this request, which has been agreed by this House three times already and this House again makes that call today. We recommit ourselves, in the most solemn terms, to pressing the British Government to respond positively to the demand for answers that the families have sought for so long. The Government hopes that all Deputies will support this motion.

7:10 pm

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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I thank the Tánaiste. Before moving on, I say céad míle fáilte do na cuairteoirí inár gcomhluadar inniu. I extend a very special welcome to the visitors who are with us today in the Gallery. I move back now to the speakers from Sinn Féin.

Photo of Paul DonnellyPaul Donnelly (Dublin West, Sinn Fein)
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I also welcome the families in the Gallery. I was five years old when the bombs were detonated in Dublin and Monaghan and I lived a short distance away, in Sheriff Street. Growing up in the north inner city, the impact of these bombings left a long legacy of fear in the area and the wider city of Dublin. Everyone knows that this attack in Dublin and Monaghan was carried out by a combined group of British army agents and loyalists, with probable direct logistical support from British security services. What we all know is that there has never been a single person brought to justice. What we know is that the British state refused to release its files on who its agents were and what roles its agents and members played in the attacks in Dublin and in Monaghan. It is inconceivable, given that the British state had agents running to the very heart of loyalist groups right up until 1994, that the British state security services did not know the attack was being carried out.

Mr. Justice Barron, as has been mentioned, was very critical of the Garda investigation. His report found the investigation was limited and short in duration and that it was extraordinary that an investigation into an atrocity of this size and scale could, or should, be wound down so soon. Why was this investigation pulled after a number of weeks? Will the Tánaiste help explain that to the victims and their families, and the people of Dublin and Monaghan. Listening to the RTÉ podcast, I was stunned to hear that some witnesses had never been interviewed. Shockingly, one victim of the bombing in Dublin said he was targeted for questioning about the bomb by An Garda Síochána. This man, even now, deserves an apology. I find it inexplicable that successive Governments failed to raise this with the British Government over the years. It is time, 50 years on, that pressure was put on the British state to ensure all material relevant to the work of Operation Denton is provided to investigators. It is time for justice now. It is time for answers for the victims and their families because justice delayed is justice denied.

Photo of Dessie EllisDessie Ellis (Dublin North West, Sinn Fein)
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Next Friday is the 50th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. We remember the victims of one of the worse atrocities of the Troubles, when three bombs exploded in Dublin and a fourth one in Monaghan. This resulted in the deaths of 34 civilians, including baby Martha O'Neill, and the injury of almost 300 people.

I pay tribute to the families and campaigners from Justice for the Forgotten in the Gallery. I acknowledge their long struggle for truth and justice, which is a testament to their commitment and determination to get justice for their loved ones 50 years on. Those who died that awful day were aged between five months and 80 years. Many who survived the bombings, as well as the families of the victims, still bear the physical and emotional scars of that day. Although the bombings were claimed by the UVF, they had all the hallmarks of collusion with the British army and British intelligence. Irish Supreme Court judge, Mr. Justice Henry Barron, in his report on the bombings in 2005, clearly indicated the likely involvement of the British military and intelligence services. This explains why the British Government has been reluctant to release its files on these bombings and has obstructed and frustrated the families' struggle for justice over the years. By continuing to withhold vital documents, it is wilfully denying justice for the bereaved and the injured. It makes the British Government more than just complicit in the denial of justice for the bereaved families and the injured; it retraumatises the survivors and the families of the victims. Various British Governments use the excuse of national security as a reason for not releasing its files. This is not about national security. It is about protecting the guilty. The British Government is not interested in or concerned with the victims of this atrocity. Its only concern is to hide its own involvement and protect its agents and personnel who worked side by side with loyalists such as the Glennane gang. For the families and the survivors, justice delayed is justice denied.

Photo of Pauline TullyPauline Tully (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I join my colleagues in acknowledging the presence of the families of some of the victims as well as members of Justice for the Forgotten who are present in the Gallery. I extend my solidarity and sympathies to them. The 50th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings will be marked on 17 May. Fifty years on, the families are still looking for truth and justice. It is important this Dáil renews the mandates that were established by previous motions on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. It is welcome that it has been indicated that this motion will receive cross-party support today.

It is important that the Government takes action to deliver on the core essence of this and previous motions.

All victims are entitled to truth and justice. The British Government's recently passed legacy Act is aimed at denying truth and justice and covering up the malevolent part it played in fuelling the conflict. We know the bombings were carried out by loyalists and British agents with logistical and technical support from British security personnel, yet no one has ever been brought to justice, while the British Government maintains its denials and refuses to release files and information on the attacks. Previous Irish Governments and institutions of this State do not have a proud record either when it comes to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. "Anatomy of a Massacre", a new documentary to mark the 50th anniversary of the bombings, refers to the silent years between the bombings and the early nineties, when they were never raised by the Government or the Opposition of the day, with the media compliantly ignoring the bombings during this period also. Raising this matter in every meeting with the British Prime Minister should be a priority for any Taoiseach. Too often, previous Taoisigh were content to admit they had not raised the matter. The Irish Government must use every diplomatic tool at its disposal to encourage the British to co-operate and release all relevant files. Truth and justice must be pursued and obtained.

7:20 pm

Photo of Ruairi Ó MurchúRuairi Ó Murchú (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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"We are dealing with acts of international terrorism that were colluded in by the British security forces". That is what the Oireachtas committee on justice said in 2005. That says it all. Bombs ended up on the streets of Dublin and Monaghan. There were 34 victims and a huge number of people were injured. Their families have been impacted all this time. This happened because of British state forces and their agents. It was facilitated. No one has looked into this to the degree it needs, outside of journalists and families, whom I welcome. I welcome all those who fought hard for justice over many years, which has been denied to this day. The British Government was never going to accept its role in the dirty war it executed in Ireland. My parents were getting the train to Dundalk and ten minutes before the bomb went off, they passed Talbot Street. One of their friends, whom they met there, arrived covered in debris from the bombs. That is the sort of good luck they had and the bad luck others had. Loyalists showed a capacity they did not have before or after. Those papers need to be released.

I also mention Seamus Ludlow and the Dundalk bombings. We need to make sure we look after those victims also. I also think of Hugh Waters, Jack Rooney and the victims the Glenanne gang made that night with its attack on Donnelly's bar. It was co-ordinated and controlled. There has been no justice for the families.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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Ba mhaith liom an spotsolas a dhíriú ar chathair agus contae na Gaillimhe inniu. Mar is eol don Taoiseach, is cathair álainn í. Go teoiriciúil, is cathair dhátheangach í agus geata chuig an Ghaeltacht is mó sa tír. Tá an t-ádh dearg orainn go bhfuil lánfhostaíocht sa chathair ach tá fadhbanna tromchúiseacha ó thaobh cúrsaí tithíochta agus go háirid ó thaobh infreastruchtúr de. Tá easpa infreastruchtúr bunúsach ata fite fuaite leis an bhfadhb ó thaobh tithíochta de.

I salute the families and campaigners, especially Margaret Irwin whom I have known for many years, in Justice for the Forgotten. When officialdom discouraged families and those seeking justice and their supporters from delving into this matter, they continued to seek the truth. They fought hard and fast to try to get the media in this State in particular, but also elsewhere, to look at the acts of international terrorism by British forces against civilians on the streets of Dublin and Monaghan on 17 May 1974, and in other attacks in 1972 and 1973. They stood strong. The attacks by British agents on 17 May were tantamount to a declaration of war, aiming to strike terror in the Irish public. They were straight out of Kitson's war manual. People need to go back and look at that. Many questions remain unanswered. I welcome the new docu-film by Fergus Dowd and others, "Anatomy of a Massacre", showing in the IFI at the moment. It highlights the failings of the Garda investigation. Those questions need answers. The British need to once and for all admit their role and the truth of their slaughter on the streets of Dublin and Monaghan.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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I, too, welcome warmly to the House representatives of Justice for the Forgotten. On 17 May 1974, 50 years ago, co-ordinated bombings were carried out by loyalist paramilitaries. Three bombs in Dublin and a fourth in Monaghan shattered the lives of countless families. Thirty-four were killed and almost 300 injured. It happened during the Ulster Workers' Council strike called to oppose the Sunningdale Agreement. One of the bombs exploded in Talbot Street, a route to Connolly Station for Wexford people going home. I was in college in Dublin. More often than not, I would have taken that train. Somebody I knew very well, Siobhán Roice, a girl of my age from Wexford, did walk down that street that night and lost her life. It was timed for 5.30 p.m. to hit passengers heading for that train and others.

Prior to this horrific series of bombs in 1974, there were four previous paramilitary bombings in Dublin city centre. The first was at Burgh Quay on 26 November 1972. It was outside the wall of the Film Centre cinema at O'Connell Bridge House. That bomb injured 40 people, among them my sister Jackie and her husband Paddy. Both had very serious leg injuries, with part of a cinema seat embedded in Paddy's leg. I commend the perseverance and resilience of the Justice for the Forgotten group. My sister refers to the 1972 bombing as "The forgotten forgotten". I recall, as a schoolboy, visiting my sister and her husband in the Mater Hospital. It was surrounded at the time by armed gardaí because also in the hospital at the exact same time was Seán Mac Stíofáin, chief of staff of the Provisional IRA. He was on hunger strike. I remember the terror of trying to get through that phalanx because the night after the bombing, an eight-man IRA unit unsuccessfully tried to free Mac Stíofáin from the Mater and exchanged gunfire with members of An Garda Síochána.

The full truth behind each of these atrocities needs to be fully investigated with, for once, open and complete disclosure from British and Irish Governments and all their various security services. No one, as others said, has ever been arrested or charged with these attacks. The truth remains hidden. Despite our expressions of unanimity, after 50 years, we seem to be no closer to the truth. Today's motion recalls previous all-party motions. On this, the 50th anniversary, we repeat yet again the same basic point made three times previously, that access to the truth requires wholehearted co-operation between governments and security services throughout these islands. That is true not just of these atrocities but of all the killings and maimings that happened during what we call the Troubles. One major change since the Dáil last addressed these issues is the passing of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act 2023. We all know that Act will do little or nothing to achieve its stated objectives. It is instead yet another obstacle to truth and reconciliation. Legacy issues remain the unfinished business of the Good Friday Agreement. It is somehow easier for Northern Ireland parties to devise institutions of government, as difficult as that has been, than to devise ways to address the past and its legacy of horror.

Little progress has been made on this matter. In fact, few real attempts have been made. Neither side was willing to see that the only way forward is compromise. The reason there is a need for compromise is that implicit in the Stormont House agreement is the recognition of a stark reality. Relying on traditional policing and justice approaches to these legacies is bound to fail, and many know that. However, there is no compromise on legacy. The British Government stepped in and unilaterally imposed its defined solution. Its approach is not impartial or even-handed. The British Government has its own constituency of army veterans and their families, and its legislation is designed to meet the needs of that constituency and its political objectives. The Act has no support in Northern Ireland and no support in the rest of Ireland. There is a basic need for people in Northern Ireland to consent to any process that is designed to address the past, that truly has the objective of reconciliation at its heart.

The British legislation, in truth, is not entirely bad. It will set up an independent commission for reconciliation and information recovery to review deaths and injuries caused by conduct forming part of the Troubles. It is encouraging that it does not matter if that event or conduct occurred in Northern Ireland, in another part of the United Kingdom or elsewhere. In theory, at least, while the Dublin and Monaghan bombings could be examined under that Act, the circumstances surrounding the high-handed enactment of this legislation and its imposition mean that it will not work or be worked. The truth is that it is not just the paramilitaries and Northern Ireland parties that have backed away from addressing these issues in a fundamental way. The policing and other security services in Britain and Ireland are also haunted by their own part in all of this. There is deep-seated political and institutional resistance to efforts to ensure that wrongs are fully and completely ventilated and that wrongdoers, from wherever they come, are identified. All the time the clock is ticking, and that has been the objective because delay defeats justice.

I welcome the commitment given to Colum Eastwood by the British Labour Party leader Keir Starmer that the legacy Act will be repealed by any incoming Labour government. Whoever is in government here must keep that new Labour government to that commitment and must work with it to restore the current toxic Anglo-Irish relationship in order that these bombings and other issues can be addressed and resolved. It will be far preferable to have the legacy Act dealt with politically by agreement between governments than by awaiting a judgment of the European court. I believe the Tánaiste would agree with that. Simple repeal of the legislation will be nowhere near enough. A return to the status quowill achieve nothing. In many, if not most, of the historic cases, evidence continues every day to degrade, memories continue to deteriorate and witnesses are dying. Simply leaving open the possibility of future criminal prosecutions is in many ways offering a false hope to the majority of victims, survivors and their families. Bear in mind the sheer number of cases that are still unsolved. Well over 3,500 people died during the Troubles and more than 47,000 people were injured. It has been estimated that one third of the people in Northern Ireland were directly or indirectly affected by political violence. Many others obviously suffered in Britain, in this part of the island and across Europe. Even with a limitless budget there is neither the policing resources nor capacity to carry out all these investigations.

We have a responsibility as political leaders to lead our supporters towards a mechanism that is both workable and principled. That is the only real and substantial hope we can offer the victims and families of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, and to all of their communities, who still grieve in such a real and obvious fashion. Unless we make that commitment, all of our expressions of concern, however often we repeat them, remain mere verbiage.

7:30 pm

Photo of Gary GannonGary Gannon (Dublin Central, Social Democrats)
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I thank Sinn Féin for bringing forward this incredibly important motion. In Dublin everybody has a story about the bombings that took place 50 years ago this week, in 1974, but absolutely nobody feels they have a full understanding of the truth of what happened that day, although everybody suspects they know what happened. We will go into that further.

I have talked to a number of different people who shared their stories about that day in 1974. Earlier today, on my way back here, I had a conversation with my father. I wanted to get the context and place myself in the environment of what happened. He has told me the story a few times. When I think of how the events of that day are told in my house, we always refer to the chopper bike my dad owned as a ten-year-old. He remembers being in Hill Street flat complex cycling around on the chopper bike. Miss O'Reilly looked over the balcony and asked him to go find her son who she said was down in the barber shop. As it was approaching dinner, she wanted him to get her son and bring him back home. My dad, on his chopper bike, left Hill Street and cycled down the hill past Paddy's pet shop. He checked the two or three barbers on Parnell Street and went down towards the Welcome Inn, where he suspected his cousin may be if he could not be found anywhere else. He asked a couple of people, and subsequently cycled back up North Great George's Street to get back into Hill Street. As Miss O'Reilly relayed to him that her son had just come home, he said he heard the most ungodly boom, a boom he remembers to this day, and which did not so much knock him off his bike but made the ground shudder underneath him. As a ten-year-old, curiosity got the better of my father and he got back on his bike and cycled down to Parnell Street. He says the thing he remembers most about the scene of devastation and glass he witnessed that day was the silence. He says that following the loudest boom he could imagine was a silence that was deafening, as the people on Parnell Street came to terms with what was happening. My dad still did not really know what had taken place. He just saw devastation and cycled back up the road to his own accommodation in a tenement off Gardiner Street to find his mother sobbing and crying with joy when he went in. He said just as they were about to embrace, they heard the second boom from Talbot Street. For me, that is the luckiness and good fortune. I am conscious we are gathered in the Chamber with so many people in the Public Gallery who were not as lucky as my family and my father. Their stories are more harrowing, but the memory and trauma ingrained in people the length and breadth of Dublin and Monaghan of that day 50 years ago lives on in the stories that are shared across the board. My father also told me that a couple of years ago in the warfarin clinic he bumped into a friend of his, Derek Byrne, who passed away not too long ago. When they asked each other why there were there, Derek relayed that he still had shrapnel throughout his entire body because of what took place 48 years before that meeting. My dad's story is one of fortune and luck, but the stories of so many other people are not.

Today we gather to reflect on the darkest chapter in the history of Ireland, the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 17 May 1974. It was the single deadliest attack during the tumultuous period known as the Troubles. As we approach the 50th anniversary of that day, it is our duty to remember the 33 innocent lives lost and the hundreds more that were irrevocably changed due to this heinous act. The bombings, executed with ruthless precision, saw three car bombs explode in Dublin during rush hour, followed by a fourth in Monaghan less than 90 minutes later. The magnitude of the devastation was unprecedented. The shock and grief were profound and far reaching. Families were torn apart. The sense of security within these bustling communities was shattered in an instant.

As we delve deeper, the further we get away from this history, it is imperative to discuss the serious allegations we know to be true, but which have surfaced more in the decades that have followed and point towards collusion by elements within the British state, or indeed the British state itself. Reports and investigations have demonstrated a shadowy interface between the bombers in the Glenanne gang and the British security forces.

These allegations suggest that rogue elements in the British military or intelligence may have had prior knowledge of, or directly assisted in, the planning and execution of these attacks. Such accusations deepen the scars and compound the pain with a profound sense of betrayal. The weight of these allegations call for thorough scrutiny and transparency. For too long, the families of the victims and survivors have carried the burden of the unknown. They have lived with unanswered questions and unresolved grief. The path to healing must include the pursuit of truth. This pursuit has been championed by the tireless campaign groups such as Justice for the Forgotten, which have been instrumental in pushing for further investigation and accountability. Their quest for justice has seen some progress in the establishment of various inquiries and the release of reports that have shed light on potential oversights and failures which may have masked collusion. However, much remains to be done. Campaign groups have repeatedly called for full access to all relevant documents and records, some of which remain classified by the British Government under the pretext of national security. The reluctance to release these files only fuels suspicion and hinders reconciliation efforts. As we approach this solemn anniversary, our call to action is clear. We must support the demand for transparency and full disclosure. Every piece of information that can be unearthed must be brought to light to bring some measure of peace to the victims’ families. We owe it to them to ensure that their decades’ long struggle for answers and justice is not in vain.

The Governments involved should take proactive steps to acknowledge and address the past. Only then can we foster an environment where truth can pave the way for genuine reconciliation. Only by confronting these uncomfortable truths that we can hope to prevent any tragedies of the future.

Let us remember not only the lives lost and the families broken but also our duty to uphold the principles of justice and truth. The Dublin and Monaghan bombings remain a stark reminder of the fragility of peace and the destructive power of hatred. As we reflect, we must commit ourselves to a future where history cannot be allowed repeat itself. Reconciliation can only be brought by truth and then justice.

The enormity of what happened can never be lost on us as it was in the first decades by the State architecture here and in the UK, that is, a terrorist attack inflicted on the people of Dublin and Monaghan was carried out by forces of the British state. Until that is acknowledged and until that truth is revealed, reconciliation for the families that have been torn apart and among a populace which still demands answers can never be fully achieved. Fifty years on, families are in the Gallery demanding that we, as their representatives stand true, and hold the British state to account. I am very conscious of other acts of collusion, such as the tragedy of what was inflicted on the Miami Showband. That truth cannot be allowed to lie. It is incumbent on us in this Chamber – and no one has a monopoly on this role – to seek and demand answers and accountability from those who were complicit in that most heinous crime of terror – the state-aided terror – which was inflicted on the people of Dublin and Monaghan and throughout communities in the North.

7:40 pm

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I thank Sinn Féin for brining forward this important motion. I welcome Justice for the Forgotten and the families of those who were murdered 50 years ago this month in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the survivors. I also welcome Fergus Dowd, who is the producer of the film that was mentioned earlier and which premiered last Friday. “May-17-74: The Anatomy of a Massacre” was produced by Fergus and Joe Lee, the director, in conjunction with the families and Justice for the Forgotten, to once again shine a light on this horrific act of mass murder. It was the greatest single atrocity that took place during the period of the Troubles. Incredibly, 50 years on, those families are still looking for the truth about and justice for what happened to their loved ones or, in the case of survivors, what happened to them. No words any of us can say here can possibly convey or do justice to the pain, loss, tragedy, the impact and trauma of this horrific act of mass murder which was carried out by loyalist paramilitaries with the collusion and involvement of the British state. It is simply outrageous that they are still fighting for justice. I am not an expert in this area. I want to thank the families I have talked to, and Fergus and others, for helping me to understand some of what I hope are the important questions they are looking to get answered.

One of the relatives of victims of that day, Cathy Doyle, asked me to show the Tánaiste and the House these shoes, which are the shoes of one the victims, Jacqueline, who was 16 months old. Jacqueline O'Brien was murdered on that day along with her sister, Anna Marie who was four months, and her mother and father, Anna O’Brien and Johnny. Anna was 22. I hope Cathy will not mind me saying that her life has been indelibly scarred by the loss – how could it not be – of her nieces, of her sister and her sister’s husband. She remains traumatised. I asked her how she felt about the film the other night and she said that to be honest, she was thoroughly shaken by all those memories being brought back. Talking to some of the other relatives outside, I asked about their expectations for today. I think it is fair to say it was pessimistic, really, as to whether anything was going to change and whether they are actually going to get the truth and justice that they deserve.

It does not surprise me greatly that Britain wants to hide its involvement in this massacre. It is an absolute disgrace and it tells you something not very pleasant – something quite dark – about the British state that it will not give the people the information and the truth about what happened and the involvement of the British State in this act of mass murder, in this act of terrorism. But the questions I want to ask are about what this State owes to the families and the victims. How could it be – the State surely has some information about this – that the investigations here were closed down after ten weeks? Why are the Garda files missing? These have never been seen and are generally believed to have been destroyed. Why was the forensic evidence of the bombing sent North and the person, Dr. James Donovan, the Garda forensic technical expert, who did get some of the material, did not know until 25 years later that this had happened? Therefore, of course, there was no co-operation on the examination of that forensic material, which would have shown something about who carried it out, about the collusion and so on. How could it possibly be that not one survivor or bereaved family member was interviewed by the Garda after the atrocity or to date? It was only in the context of Operation Denton that Jon Boutcher knocked on the doors of some of those affected. How could it be that the investigative material presented to the McEntee report has been blocked from being given to the families’ legal teams by the use of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004, by which it can be blocked for 50 years? How could it be that even now, the Irish State is not willing to give those affected and the survivors the information to which they surely are entitled? How could it be that 29 justice Ministers have refused to give over information, evidential files and so on that has been sought by the families?

These to me are absolutely incredible. It is not just about what the British state refuses to disclose about its complicity with this atrocity but the questions the Irish State has to ask about this. Indeed it is about the circumstances, as the film well dramatised the other day, in which the sort of muted response of the Irish State to this atrocity seemed more concerned about scoring political points in the context of a wider political debate than to actually pursue the justice deserved by the families and victims of those horrific bombings. I hope that some of those questions can now be answered by the Irish Government in the context of the 50th anniversary.

7:50 pm

Photo of Mick BarryMick Barry (Cork North Central, Solidarity)
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The Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 17 May 1974 were the single most bloody event of the Troubles. Thirty-four people were killed, 27 in Dublin and seven in Monaghan, and 300 people were injured. Car bombs in Dublin were placed strategically near to train stations during rush hour in the middle of a bus strike. Many of the victims were young women workers. The Monaghan bomb was very probably deliberately timed to distract security and facilitate the safe passage of the bombing team back across the Border.

I express my solidarity and the solidarity of the Socialist Party with the families of those who died and with the survivors. I also salute the Justice for the Forgotten campaign in keeping this issue alive because 50 years on, there are still very many unanswered questions here. Why has no one ever been charged with the bombings? The UVF admitted responsibility in the early 1990s but did higher-ups in the UDR and RUC turn a blind eye to the attack and cover up after it? Why does the British state continue to this day to refuse to publish key documents related to the case? The Barron report, an Irish Government inquiry, found that British security force personnel, or MI5 intelligence, was likely involved. Would the publication of documents prove this to be the case? I believe that very clearly they would and that there was involvement there.

The Barron report criticised the Garda investigation and said the investigators stopped their work prematurely. Why was this the case? Why have all of the files not been handed over? Why did the Irish political establishment not want to know about this case for so many years?

The Dublin and Monaghan killings are a justice issue and a working-class issue. It is an issue that needs to be taken up by the working-class movement. The working-class movement has nothing to hide when it comes to investigating the legacy of the Troubles. Sectarian forces on both sides will want to see investigation of the atrocities that were carried out by the opposite sectarian side. The British state will try to whitewash its role, as shown by the Tories' legacy Act and the refusal to release documents relating to this case.

The working-class movement has clean hands and has an interest in seeing justice for all working-class people who lost loved ones during the Troubles. No to cover ups. Justice for the forgotten.

Photo of Peadar TóibínPeadar Tóibín (Meath West, Aontú)
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I too welcome members of the campaign group to the Gallery tonight. I thank them for all the work they have over the years on this. The fact they have had to do it shows that this building and the people who have been in this building for the past five decades have simply not done their jobs. It is the responsibility of the political establishment. It is the responsibility of the Department of Justice and the Minister for Justice to make sure the citizens of this country are projected, are kept safe and if there is an injustice done to them that there is a proper investigation and the truth is achieved about that. I also thank Fergus Dowd, who worked on the film about this issue, and I look forward to seeing the film and to gaining a better understanding of the events of the day.

It goes without saying that the Dublin and Monaghan bombings were the worst single atrocity that happened during the Troubles. They were unique in their severity. That is in no way to take away from the pain and suffering that was experienced by anybody else who lost a loved one during the Troubles. The Dublin and Monaghan bombings destroyed the lives of so many people and radically damaged the survivors and families left in their wake.

The emotional damage that was created cannot be quantified in any way but it is also important to recognise that many of these families were left destitute as a result of what happened to them and that families lost their homes in some circumstances. They were made homeless. Other families lost their fathers, who were the breadwinners in their homes at the time. It is incredible to think many of these families received absolutely no compensation whatsoever from the State for what happened to them and that people in the North of Ireland who have suffered significantly from the horrors of the Troubles have been offered compensation. This State has not seen fit yet to provide similar compensation for families who have lost so much over the last while.

These bombs killed 34 civilians and injured almost 300 people. There has been no justice. I think there are two reasons there has been no justice. The first is that the British state is responsible for the killings of these 34 individuals. The British state murdered these Irish people on the streets of our capital and the British state does not want the truth to ever come out about that. The British state used the Glenanne gang as a vehicle for the perpetration of these murders.

The Glenanne gang killed 120 people in Ireland during the 1970s and 1980s. I also want to mention Barney O'Dowd, a neighbour of mine who recently passed away. He survived an attack on his family in 1976. It was an attack that murdered his 24 year old son Barry, his 19 year old son Declan and which also killed his brother Joe. That attack was carried out by the UVF in tandem with the Glenanne gang on that day and Barney died just a month ago at the age of 100. He never received justice or truth for what happened to his family.

The British Government does not want to see the truth and has created the legacy Act to cover up the truth. It is important to say that the legacy Act seeks to allow people to get away with murder. That is exactly what it seeks to do. It is the son and heir of the cover-up and the collusion that happened between the British army, the RUC and a host of loyalist terrorist groups in the North of Ireland. It is a unilateral Act that undermines the rule of law and the human right to justice and makes the British Government an outlier internationally. It makes the British Government a rogue state internationally and this Act is heaping pain and suffering on those who have suffered so significantly at the hands of the British state for so long. The British try to distance themselves from the murders that happened in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s but the legacy Act locates that cover-up right at the heart of the British establishment. It puts the cover-up into Downing Street because now it is directly responsible for that cover-up in everybody's view at the moment.

I also think there is a second barrier to the search for truth about this issue. I believe the Irish State has been a barrier to the search for truth and justice about the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. I still cannot believe, this being the worse atrocity of the Troubles and which happened in this State - in our capital and in Monaghan - that the State's reactions to it were so feeble, so small and so reduced that there was no effort really in the State to try to get to the truth and justice in this regard. Incredibly, we had a situation where the Garda investigation was closed down after ten weeks. I am told that many of the survivors and the people who were there on the day never received a knock on the door from the Garda at the time or were never interviewed about what happened. For some people, the first knock on the door about this from any policemen was from Jon Boutcher four decades after the event had happened, that is, an English policeman was the first person to knock on the door of some of the families who lost so much at the time.

That is a scandal that points directly to this Government and I believe the Government needs to account for that. Incredibly, Garda files went missing. Forensics were not dealt with in the time they needed to be dealt with. Forensics were sent 11 days afterwards to the North of Ireland, which is an incredible situation and it is a scandal that the existence and whereabouts of those forensics were unknown to people who were meant to be in charge of the investigations.

I understand that when Bertie Ahern became Taoiseach, he block-booked a whole day to read the Garda files on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and it took him one hour to look at the files that exist. That files had gone missing and there were so few files on this is an absolute scandal. That the authorities North and South did not work together is a scandal. I cannot believe that happened.

Looking back at this State's understanding of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the fact that they do not appear in the schoolbooks of this generation is also a scandal. It is as if the Dublin and Monaghan bombings are buried in the consciousness of official Ireland at the moment. Nearly 30 years of Ministers have gone by - Ministers for Justice have existed since the bombings. When the families went to meet some of those Ministers, their response was that if the families found any more information, they should come back to them. Those Ministers should have been the engine to seek information for those families and should have provided the energy to search for justice. The fact that we have words here tonight and many motions have been passed in the House without action speaks volumes to the people of Ireland and survivors of that horrendous day.

I believe there has been an airbrushing of this issue by official Ireland. I do not believe that official Ireland has pushed this issue with the British Government with the level of energy necessary to achieve justice. I ask the Government to focus on that. On funding, I mentioned that some families were left destitute by the bombings. Previous Governments pulled funding from the campaign group. Today, funding is achieved through the Pat Finucane Centre. The money must go North first and then come back South to the families, which shows a complete lack of logic.

I ask the Government to start to focus on this issue with the level of sincerity, effort and realism that it demands. This is a unique issue. It is a shocking human tragedy, where one state murdered the citizens of another. The responsibility of this State is to defend and protect its citizens and make sure justice is achieved. I ask the Government to provide not just words and go through the motions but to set itself a task of forcing the British Government to seek justice. I would go further than that. Given the fact that we have never properly investigated this, that the Government did not do its duty and that many families were left on their own to deal with this, I ask the Government to apologise to the families here tonight for not doing its job and supporting the families historically, not investigating what happened properly and leaving families to do all of this work by themselves.

8:00 pm

Photo of Michael CollinsMichael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
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We welcome and support this motion, which acknowledges the work done by the sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, the report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings and the three related Barron reports. This recognition of past efforts sets a precedent for continued investigation and resolution. We support the call in the motion urging the British Government to allow access to all original documents relating to the atrocities for an independent international judicial figure. This is a call for transparency and co-operation in resolving these crimes. The quest for obtaining access to information held by the British Government on the bombings has been pursued for many years. This persistence underscores the importance of obtaining the truth and resolving these crimes and providing closures to the families of the victims.

This week, Friday, 17 May, marks the 50th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. This serves as a reminder of the passage of time and the growing need to provide all necessary information to assist families. We strongly support any efforts to seek justice for the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. It is one of Ireland's worst atrocities. A trio of no-warning car bombs exploded in Dublin city centre within the space of three minutes, killing 27 and injuring 215. Barely 90 minutes later, another car bomb was detonated in Monaghan town, killing seven more people, with a total of 34 lives lost.

That day, 17 May 1974, was the deadliest single day of the entire Troubles. Despite the evidence implicating known loyalist paramilitaries, no one was ever brought to justice for these attacks. Persistent allegations of collusion between the killers and the British security and intelligence services have been made over the years. However, previous investigations have been stifled by the British Government's refusal to release key intelligence documents. The Garda investigation into the bombings was mysteriously disbanded just seven weeks after the attacks, with crucial evidence sent North to the RUC being subsequently lost or destroyed, while the official inquest into the 34 deaths was never completed.

It was truly extraordinary that Garda files could end up in the hands of the RUC in this way, especially when it transpired that RUC personnel were involved with a County Armagh-based UVF outfit. The Glenanne gang, which included UDR and RUC personnel, went on to carry out a number of other notorious Troubles killings, including the Miami Showband massacre.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Ba mhaith liom ar an gcéad dul síos fíorfháilte a chur roimh na daoine agus na clanna go léir a fuair bás in the Monaghan and Dublin bombings. I want to welcome the families here and empathise with them. My welcome is not much good to them; they need justice. Unfortunately, they are not going to get it.

I compliment Sinn Féin on bringing forward the motion. It will probably be in the next Government and I hope when it is in government, it will have motions like this and will bring justice, because there is none. We inherited a system in the Free State from the British Government which left a lot to be desired. We kept so much of the old British system. During the time of the Troubles, there was the very same modus operandi, including cover-up and denial.

I was in second year in St. Joseph's College, Cahir, when about 50 of my fellow pupils and I were in Dublin on that fatal day on a school tour. It was a traumatic and frightening scene. We were very close to it and panic set in. People ran in different directions. We met poor unfortunate people who were seriously injured. We did not know what to do. I want to sympathise with everyone who lost their lives. It was a traumatic scene and there was huge carnage.

My wife of nearly 40 years was putting in the cows at home in Tedavnet, in County Monaghan, when she heard the explosion seven miles away in Monaghan town. That is how ferocious those blasts were. There were no mobile phones at the time. Our parents did not know what had happened until we got home to Cahir at nearly midnight, instead of being home at 7 p.m. or whatever. We can imagine the angst, loss, trauma and devastation of the families involved.

Last Sunday morning, I heard on the radio an account of a woman pushing her two children in a pram, who was injured. She ran to a house and then collapsed in the yard, where neighbours and others helped her. Bombings and things like that - we know what happened in Northern Ireland - are not simple. The worst part is the collusion, lack of investigation and the failure of as many Ministers for Justice as the number of victims since the bombings. The same system goes on and continues to perpetrate the cover-up, which is worse. There was no effort whatsoever. I am sure the gang concerned was involved in other incidents.

Last week, I met Stephen Travers, a survivor from Tipperary who was in the Miami Showband. Those murders did not happen in our jurisdiction. I know plenty about the Omagh bomb and the man who took the bomb. That could have been stopped and all of those lives could have been saved. I met him numerous times. I will not say anything else because I do not want to identify the man concerned. He is dead now. That was collusion North and South, which could have been avoided.

There was no investigation into the Whiddy Island disaster. There was a cover-up. I am not in any way making little of the plight of the families of those affected by the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the fight for justice.

Fr. Niall Molloy was murdered at a wedding in Offaly. He had connections in Tipperary. John O'Brien and Patrick Esmonde were killed off the coast at Helvick Head about 13 years ago. Fighting for justice for them is a waste of time. They were killed. Their deaths were not accidental but there was a cover up. I have been hugely involved in that case but to no avail. Shane O'Farrell from Monaghan is another case. His mother has been in here for debates and Sinn Féin tabled motions on it. Again, what happened there was a disgrace. The man who killed him was involved in criminal activities and had been stopped at a checkpoint an hour beforehand. There was a cover-up there. He was wanted in two jurisdictions. The cover-up continues. There was also Aidan McAnespie. I did not know him but my family knew him well. He was shot by British soldiers. They go on and there are many more, up and down the country, and they are still happening. Grievous and serious wrongs are being perpetrated and there are cover-ups. There is not a shred of wanting to have a fair, decent, and respectful Ireland that the men of 1916, 1921, 1922 and 1923 fought for. It is not there because we inherited that old system, but by God did we make it better and make it better for the system. To hell with na daoine na tíre, to hell with the people of Ireland. We had a young man killed in a Garda station in Clonmel, Brian Rossiter, almost 25 years ago. Fight for justice? You cannot fight the city hall or the system. The system crawls in around you and it stops justice being served.

I compliment Sinn Féin on its motion and I am glad the Government has not rejected it but this is no good. Sinn Féin may be in government in less than a year and we will see then if we get justice. Whoever is Minister for Justice will be called in and told "You can't touch this. You can't touch that. You can't look at this. This is closed.". This is what is going on, in the name of our democracy, in 2024. I wonder why men sacrificed themselves for our freedom because we do not have it. We do not have it, unfortunately. We have the name of democracy, freedom and justice but we will see, within a week, across the river - trasna na habhann - in the other institution, that justice is not being served. It is being delayed, denied, and restricted for ordinary people and ordinary families. The families here tonight want justice. We saw how long it took the Stardust victims. We saw what happened here two or three weeks ago, on their awful anniversary. I was in Dublin that night also. I was hardly in Dublin ten times in my life before I got married but I just happened to be in Dublin both times. It is just so sad that in a democracy, so-called, that we cannot have the truth. The fact is that there is ample evidence there. The authorities knew who did it but files got lost or were destroyed. That is happening to this day. Files are being lost or destroyed. It happened with the Geoghegan family in Limerick when they had serious issues with a plant there and were very sick but their blood samples got lost. It is happening today, as we speak. There is cover-up after cover-up. I did not think I would be saying this, having spent 17 years in this House. We have the name of being a democracy. We hear of countries that are not democracies and of what goes on there. We have the name of a democracy but what goes on here is nearly worse than what goes on in some of those juntas. That is a sad thing for me to say but I say it honestly, from my heart. I have only mentioned a fraction of the cases. The Government comes across them, deals with them but just passes them on because nobody wants to know.

8:10 pm

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, Independents 4 Change)
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I thank Sinn Féin for tabling this motion. I wish to warmly welcome the survivors, relatives and members of the Justice for the Forgotten group who are in the Public Gallery this evening. I had the privilege of meeting them today for the first time. I have to say that I am disappointed in myself and I apologise to them for not playing more of a role and linking in with them as a civilian and public representative. I hope I will be able to assist them in the future.

This was one of Ireland's worst atrocities. Three no-warning car bombs exploded in our city centre within the space of three minutes, injuring 258 people, killing 27 and impacting thousands. Barely 90 minutes later another car bomb detonated in Monaghan town, killing seven more people. This was the deadliest single day of the entire Troubles and yet despite evidence implicating known loyalist paramilitaries, no one was ever brought to justice for the attacks.

Now, almost 50 years later, a new documentary, "May-17-74: Anatomy of a Massacre", revisits the bombing, hearing from eyewitnesses, survivors and relatives of those killed in the blasts about their continuing campaign to get answers. I attended a screening of the documentary last Friday with my brother. He was 17 at the time and was coming home having worked his shift in An Post. He got caught between the Parnell Street and Talbot Street bombs but made it home okay. My mother was also in town that evening. She had passed Guineys and was going under Amiens Street bridge when the bomb went off. There was a bus strike that day and many people were walking towards Connolly Station to get trains home. I remember waiting at the window of my house to see if my mam would return home, not knowing if she would. Fortunately she did but many others did not.

I would like to thank the families, survivors and relatives as well as Joe Lee, the director, and Fergus Dowd, the producer of the documentary. Anybody who was born after 1970 should go and see that documentary. I was struck by the amount of people who knew people affected, who heard the bombs and whose families were affected and yet we forgot it. We absolutely forgot it over the last 50 years in many ways. The families and the Justice for the Forgotten group have been leading a long campaign. The film explains how the Garda investigation was mysteriously disbanded just seven weeks after the attacks, with crucial evidence sent North to the RUC being subsequently lost or destroyed or both, while the official inquest into the 34 deaths was never completed. It also examines the accusations of collusion between British intelligence and loyalists believed to be involved in perpetrating the attacks, including the notorious County Armagh-based UVF outfit, the Glenanne Gang, which included UDR and RUC personnel who went on to carry out other notorious Troubles-era killings including the Miami Showband massacre.

The documentary also focuses on the work of Justice for the Forgotten, a victims' group formed in 1996 by bereaved families and survivors to campaign for the truth. I was going to speak about some of the victims and family members who were in the documentary but the main point I want to make relates to the questions that Deputy Boyd Barrett raised, which the film makers also asked me to raise. In the Government's response to the motion the Tánaiste said that we mourn "the great loss suffered by the victims of the bombs on 17 May 1974", which is both good and welcome. He added:

We offer our humble acknowledgement of the obstacles you have overcome and the mountain you have climbed to get your campaign to where it is today. We recognise our own past shortcomings as a State and political system.

Our shortcomings should be dealt with now, so that we can go to the British state with our heads held high and demonstrate that we are transparent and doing what we can to find truth and justice. Why were the investigations in the Irish State closed after ten weeks? Garda files went missing. Forensic evidence was sent North after 11 days instead of 24 hours and it also went missing. Not one survivor or member of the bereaved families was interviewed by the Irish police in Dublin or Monaghan after the atrocity or to date. Jon Boutcher, who initially headed up Operation Denton, was the first policeman to knock on people's doors as part of his report, four decades later. The investigative material presented to the McEntee report has been blocked to the families' legal team under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004, which stops family members and legal teams from seeing this material for 50 years. Why? Who made that decision? Why can the Government not intervene and say that this material should be released? At a minimum, this information should be released. Garda forensic technical expert Dr. James Donovan, who was sent some material to test by gardaí was not aware for 25 years that the material went North. A total of 29 Ministers for Justice were not willing to release Garda files to the families. Two particular Ministers, Nora Owen and Máire Geoghegan-Quinn , told the families at meetings to find information and if they found it, to come back to them. If we got our own house in order, we could then go and argue with the British Government and try to compel them to respond to our requests for answers.

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal, Independent)
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I thank the Cathaoirleach for the opportunity to speak on this motion on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. I would like to welcome the survivors, relatives and the Justice for the Forgotten campaigners to the House today. I fully support this motion which calls on the Government to urgently address the matter of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings directly with the British Government in order to actively pursue the implementation of the 2008, 2011 and 2016 all-party motions to seek out information regarding these tragic events. I thank Sinn Féin for tabling this motion.

As has been mentioned, the 50th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings will take place this Friday. The fact that the victims and their families still do not have a full picture of what happened that day is a disgrace. Over the years Irish Governments have been very quick to point out failures by the British Government to investigate such instances, while simultaneously failing to acknowledge its own appalling failures.

The Irish Government failed the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and their families 50 years ago and successive governments have continued to do so ever since.

Stories from victims of the atrocity and their families all seem to have one thing in common, namely, that nobody was given any information about what happened or communicated with in any way. Most were left in the dark with no answers and many were forced to deal with the trauma of the day without any support or information. Shockingly, not one survivor or bereaved family member was interviewed by the Garda in Dublin or Monaghan after the atrocity or to date. Jon Boutcher, who initially headed up Operation Denton, was the first policeman to knock on people's doors as part of his investigation, and that was four decades after the bombings. The Garda completely failed to properly or thoroughly investigate the bombings. Gardaí closed their investigations after just ten weeks and did not pursue anything further. That must have been devastating for the victims and their families.

There are some discrepancies as to when Garda files and forensic evidence were sent to police in the North. Those files subsequently went missing. It is clear there was little to no co-operation between the police forces North and South. There have been many examples of incompetence and failure to act by both forces following the bombings. In one instance, a Garda forensic technical expert was sent material to test by the Garda but was not made aware that it had been kept in the North of Ireland for 25 years. It would have made sense for the forensics team in Dublin to work with its counterparts in Belfast. An explanation for why this was not the case has not been provided.

The investigative material presented to the McEntee inquiry was requested by the families' legal team. It has been blocked by the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004. The family members and their legal teams have been prevented from seeing this material for 50 years. There have been 29 Ministers for Justice since the atrocity. None of them has been willing to release Garda files to the families' legal teams. It has been reported that two Ministers told the families to "go and find your information and if you find something come back to us". That is a disgraceful way to treat families who have lost loved ones or whose loved ones were severely impacted by the bombings. To suggest it is the responsibility of families to seek out and gather information is unreasonably cruel. It has caused a lot of pain and disenfranchisement with the system. Families are already having to deal, without support, with the devastating consequences of this devastating tragedy. The very least the Government could have done was ensure they had access to all available information.

It is now time for the Government to put an end to this cover-up and act decisively. The soft approach we have been taking with the British Government has not worked. We need to put as much pressure as possible on it to co-operate. The Government also needs to stop pointing fingers and start taking accountability. This State, too, has played a role in this cover-up and in the hurt and pain caused to victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, and their loved ones, over the past five decades. If needs be, an inquiry should be held without Britain. It would not give us the full picture but it would at least get us some of the way there. We should be doing everything in our power to give the families of the victims of this atrocity the answers and justice they deserve.

The citizens of this island have been forced to endure secrecy, suffering and cover-ups at the hands of the British Government for decades. We have to ask what role, if any, Irish Governments have played in the inaction over the years. Surely there must be some responsibility on us in the South as well. We have allowed the Brits to get away with what happened and what has continued to happen. If we do not do everything in our power to uncover the truth, we are no better than them. If we do not seek out truth and justice, we will be doomed to repeat the mistakes of our former colonisers and the current situation will continue into the future.

8:20 pm

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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I welcome our visitors to the Public Gallery. I commend the work of Justice for the Forgotten. On many occasions, I have attended events associated with anniversaries of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. I am always struck by the great grace and dignity of the families as they remember their lost loved ones and continue their campaign for truth and justice. I fully appreciate that the process of trying to get justice for the families of the bereaved has been absolutely frustrating, painful and, indeed, totally unacceptable.

There were many dark days on this island during the era commonly referred to as the Troubles. The darkest of all was 17 May 1974, with the murder of 34 innocent people in Monaghan and Dublin and injuries caused to more than 300 people. Those atrocities resulted in the highest number of casualties on any one day during that very difficult time. The UVF, a loyalist paramilitary group, claimed responsibility for them, but there are clearly credible allegations that elements of the British security forces colluded with the UVF in the bombings. By passing this motion, we, as a sovereign Parliament, are again sending a clear message to our counterparts in Westminster and to the British Government. We are also showing strong and enduring cross-party support for the victims and survivors in their quest for truth and justice.

It is totally unacceptable that the British Government continues to ignore the requests of successive Irish Governments and the unanimous motions passed by this House in 2008, 2011 and 2016. The Barron and McEntee reports referred to their work being limited by a lack of access to original intelligence and security documents in the possession of the British Government. There cannot be any justification, after the passing of five decades, for the British Government denying access to all files and papers pertaining to those atrocities to an eminent, independent, international judicial figure. Obtaining that access was a core request in the motions passed unanimously in this House. A number of us in the Dáil have raised with British Ministers at the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly the need for the British Government to respond. We did so again as recently as last week when members of the Oireachtas Good Friday Agreement committee met with members of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of the House of Commons.

Unfortunately, there have been many instances in which nobody has been brought to justice for horrific crimes. I think of the bombing in Belturbet, in my home area, which resulted in the deaths of two teenagers, Geraldine O'Reilly and Patrick Stanley. That bomb was brought across the Border from Fermanagh in another act of collusion. We should always remind ourselves of the important work of Anne Cadwallader in her publication, Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland, and the work of Professor Edward Burke in his time at the University of Nottingham.

The British Government's recent legacy Act is absolutely reprehensible. It is a charter for murderers, whether they were members of the British state forces or members of paramilitary organisations, to absolve themselves of the most heinous of crimes. The Bill says clearly to families that they should forget their dignified campaigns and the information that has accrued form that work. It is a shameful message and one that should not come from a government in a parliamentary democracy.

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick County, Fianna Fail)
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I thank all Deputies for their contributions on this important and timely motion. A show of unity on an issue such as this sends a strong message to victims' families and survivors and, I hope, to the British Government. The events of 17 May 1974 mark the greatest loss of life in any single day of the Troubles. This Friday will mark 50 years since that callous and brutal act of violence. Our discussion today is a timely and essential reminder of the deep and lasting effects of these terrible attacks and of the failure to secure any prosecutions or hold anyone accountable for the lives lost and injuries sustained. On behalf of the Government, I express my deep and sincere condolences, including to the family members who join us in the House today, for the terrible loss suffered. No words can heal the pain and grief they have experienced. Despite the passage of time, they continue to feel the loss of their loved ones deeply.

Today's motion is an opportunity for this House to again call upon the British Government to allow access by an independent, international judicial figure to all original documents relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. It is 16 years since the first all-party motion was agreed in 2008. The British Government has still not responded in any meaningful way. Many people have listened to the RTÉ podcast, "The Forgotten", or seen the documentary "May-17-74: Anatomy of a Massacre", both released over the past week and to which many family members and victims contributed. Their deeply moving first-hand testimony brings home the painful reality they have all lived with for 50 years, driving home the long impact the lack of answers has had on their lives and their ability to move on. These stories must continue to be told to keep memories alive. They must be told as a reminder to our society that this happened not that long ago. They must be told to keep pressure on all for access to the information that might allow some measure of resolution.

In addition to the family members who are with us today, I also welcome the representatives of Justice for the Forgotten, who have campaigned tirelessly since 1996 to see justice delivered for the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. That this House is gathered here today to agree a fourth motion on the bombings is a testament to the relentless courage and determination of those who campaigned for answers for years. As the Tánaiste noted in his opening remarks, we should not shy away from the fact the lack of action by the authorities in this jurisdiction in the first decades after the bombings exacerbated and prolonged the distress of victims.

Despite these challenges, the campaigning of victims and families has made this a priority for all parties and progress has been made. There have been a number of inquiries and investigations into the bombings in this jurisdiction, including the Barron inquiry and the commission of investigation under Patrick McEntee. Each progressed our understanding of what happened and brought us to the important point where there is now strong all-party consensus on what needs to be done to establish the full record.

In 2016, 2011, and 2008, this House called on the British Government to allow access by an independent, international judicial figure to all original documents relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, as well as the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973, the bombing of Kay's Tavern in Dundalk and the murder of Seamus Ludlow. Today is the fourth occasion on which we reiterate this call.

Successive Governments have raised this issue with the British Government at every possible opportunity. We will continue to do so. An unwillingness to engage has characterised the British Government's approach to the Dublin-Monaghan bombings for decades. Both Mr. Justice Barron and Patrick McEntee SC publicly regretted the lack of co-operation received from the British Government in the course of their investigations. As a result, their reports were limited in scope.

While our track record in this jurisdiction is imperfect, this Government has taken specific, unilateral measures to ensure that we can co-operate with historical investigations in Northern Ireland to the fullest extent possible, including Operation Kenova and Operation Denton, which includes the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. On our small, shared island, any attempt to adequately address the past requires strong co-operation between the British and Irish Governments. Regrettably, the failure of the British Government to engage on the bombings in Dublin and Monaghan is not an isolated incident, but forms part of wider pattern of engagement on legacy issues more broadly. The most clear expression of this is the UK legacy Act, which shuts down all inquests, PSNI and Police Ombudsman investigations, and civil cases concerned with events that occurred during the Troubles.

I know that all Members in this Chamber share the Government's fundamental concerns about this legislation's impact on victims and its compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Good Friday Agreement speaks of the necessity of acknowledging the suffering of victims. Addressing the legacy of the past has been stop-start, difficult and incomplete. Without an agreed path, we cannot move forward. The ones to pay the cost for this failure are victims and survivors, in both jurisdictions, from all communities.

In the absence of verifiable information, theories will rush in to fill the vacuum. I believe we are better trying to face the legacy of the past, as difficult as that sometimes might be, on the basis of facts, not supposition or worse. We in this Chamber have responsibilities to the victims of the Troubles, North and South, to do everything possible to ensure their access to justice and to information. We must never lose sight of the individuals at the heart of this atrocity. It is essential that we keep this issue alive, and continue to press the British Government to respond to our collective calls. Its ongoing refusal to release the relevant documents related to the Dublin-Monaghan bombings remains a fundamental barrier to achieving justice. The date of 17 May 1974 was one of the darkest days of the Troubles, yet for half a century, families have been left without answers, perpetuating the pain of their loss. They deserve better. The Government is pleased to support this motion.

8:30 pm

Photo of Réada CroninRéada Cronin (Kildare North, Sinn Fein)
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I also welcome the families and Justice for the Forgotten to the Dáil this evening. We need to shine a bright light on these dark and dirty days on our island. They were days when the dogs in the street knew the collusion between the British state forces and loyalist paramilitaries. They were days when that reality, through which some lived and often died, would not be spoken of in here, in particular by those who brandished a very large political brush and a very large political carpet. Some 50 years on, that carpet is shrunk and threadbare. There is no more brushing, no more airbrushing. Every file and every document must be released, with no ifs or buts. Now, 50 years on from the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the need-to-know basis is that everything must be known and everybody has a right to know it, especially the families themselves. It would be a grave disservice to the families if we were to subject them to a superficial treatment of their loss; if we were to continue to subject them to fake emoting and professional empathy while, at the same time, continuing to turn a political blind eye to the perpetrators, the colluders, and those who knew or suspected and said nothing or did nothing. Even now, I sense a political rush to divert, supposedly to the pain of the families, instead of turning laser political and police attention to exposing the cause of that pain. Because they live that pain, they want the truth. The Government should give it to them.

I listened to the Tánaiste's speech. He has "raised". He has "written" to the British Government. He has "been frank" with the British Government. He is "pressing" the British Government. However, in 50 years this State has never conducted a public grilling of any key British political or security figure. They have been green-roomed and red-carpeted. Successive Irish Governments could do with a public grilling too.

On the evening of the bombings, I was a child waiting for my father to come home. I remember he was on duty in Dublin that day. He did come home, but for all those who did not, we should bring them truth and justice and bring it home to them now.

Photo of Martin KennyMartin Kenny (Sligo-Leitrim, Sinn Fein)
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They say that peace is more than the absence of war. Some 50 years ago this country was in terrible turmoil and there was terrible death across the entire island. All the lives that were lost in that conflict are a terrible loss and a terrible tragedy to all of those families. Thankfully, we had the Good Friday Agreement 25 years ago. The promise of that agreement was that we would look at the causes of war. The cause of war is the absence of justice. Now, here we are 25 years after the Good Friday Agreement and we are still not dealing with the problems of that conflict.

The real issue here is that the Irish State has simply not done enough to put pressure on the British State, but also within this State, to provide the documents to the families and their legal representatives. We have action to take here in this State. The people involved have been mentioned. We all know the UVF was involved. There were members of the RUC and members of the UDR, both full time and part time, involved, but there were also members of British military intelligence forces, who have a direct line back to Whitehall. That is the reason the British Government does not want to expose this. It is because it was British Government policy in Ireland to support loyalists to carry out these atrocities. That is why it refuses to engage. It is because it goes right to the heart of the British Government's policy. That is something this Government must recognise and acknowledge. If the British military intelligence services had such influence on loyalists at that time, when we look at what happened with the Garda investigation and the actions in this State, we must wonder whether they also had influence here, and if that is part of the reasons for all of this.

The families and their representatives are present. I know Margaret Irwin, whom I met several times. She is one of the key contacts with the families in respect of all of this. She has worked tirelessly for the last 25 years with every Government and done everything, including putting on every pressure to try and ensure that we would get a solution. That has not happened. That is the reality the families face. Others here have said that justice does not exist, but we must remain relentless. We cannot accept that. We cannot accept that there will not be a day when these families will get the truth. The truth can be hidden but the truth does not change. The truth is the truth. These people deserve it. This Government must step up to the mark and ensure that it delivers for them.

Photo of Rose Conway-WalshRose Conway-Walsh (Mayo, Sinn Fein)
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On the way up from Mayo this morning I listened to the sister of Anne Marren from Sligo talk about the horror of 17 May 1974 when her family waited for her at the train station in Sligo, as many do when people are returning from Dublin to rural Ireland. She described what the other families had gone through as well. I welcome the families here to be with us this evening, and also the relatives, and Justice for the Forgotten. I commend the Relatives for Justice and the Pat Finucane Centre. As I stand here, I wonder where we would be without them. We certainly owe them a debt of gratitude for the truth they have laid bare in recent years.

They have had 50 years of waiting for the truth of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, 50 years of cover-up, 50 years of denial, 50 years of having doors shut in their grieving faces, and 50 years of files shut tight. Those files must now be released. The British Government must be upfront and honest about the role its intelligence services played in the conflict and in the collusion. The Irish Government must answer on the failings of this State, the cover-ups, the unexplained actions and the lack of action that was taken. Raising this matter must be the priority for any Taoiseach in every meeting with his or her counterpart in Britain.

This is the final point I will make because I am out of time.

To add insult to injury, the British Government now presenting an independent public history of the Troubles is an insult to everybody across this island.

8:40 pm

Photo of Matt CarthyMatt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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There are not too many issues that would secure all-party support for a motion on four occasions, namely those tabled in 2008, 2011, 2016 and today. Some might say it is surprising that there has been a need to bring virtually the same motion before the House on four separate occasions. The most surprising aspect is that it took 34 years for the first motion to be tabled. That is telling. I hope what we can offer to the families and campaigners joining us here tonight is that on this occasion, the motion will be met with action.

I thank all Members who contributed to the debate, particularly those on the Opposition benches. I thank the Government representatives, particularly Deputy Brendan Smith. The Deputy was the only Government Member who represents either Monaghan or Dublin to participate in the debate.

The truth is that the British Government murdered Irish citizens. Sometimes it did it quite overtly, including the murder of children and that of Aidan McAnespie, as he went from my county to a football match in neighbouring Tyrone. In most instances, these murders were committed covertly and in collusion with loyalists, unionist death squads and armed groups. In some instances, nobody claimed responsibility. It was a key part of a British Government strategy. As others have stated, the files will not be opened on this particular case unless the British Government is forced to open them. That is because when the files relating to this case are opened, the entire British colonial strategy will be exposed. The actions of the British Government in Ireland were not unique to this country; they were part of the colonial playbook across the parts of the world in which Britain was active.

That is why the truth of collusion needs to be spoken. For a long time in this House and across official Ireland, collusion was presented as republican propaganda and people were given no succour. Anybody who dared to suggest it was likely to get a visit from the Garda special branch. That was part of the core aim of successive Governments. After Dublin and Monaghan, other bombings in Dublin, the bombing of Castleblayney, the bombing of Belturbet, the bombing of Dundalk, the murder of John Francis Green and all of the acts in this State in which the British Government had a hand, the instinctive objective of Governments in Dublin was to ensure that such acts did not lead to an increase in support for republicanism. That was the basis on which decisions were made, not the need to secure truth and justice for those who had been bereaved. The key policy objective was censorship and ensuring that the conflict, as it was considered in Dublin, was contained in the North.

All I can say is thank God for people like those in the Gallery. Thank God for Relatives for Justice, the Pat Finucane Centre and Justice for the Forgotten. Their tenacity, determination and absolute belief that loved ones would not be forgotten ensured that official Ireland had to change tack. I thank them again. We have to say with one voice across all political parties and on all sides of the House that Britain must be held accountable for the actions of its agents in Ireland. This House and the State also need to be held accountable for their failure to hold Britain accountable.

I will respond on one point. I thank Deputy Howlin for his contribution. The Deputy was a member of Government in 2014, when the Stormont House Agreement was passed by all parties in the North and by both Governments. The only signatory to that agreement that has failed in any way to live up to its responsibilities in respect of transparency, accountability, truth and justice is the British Government. This will be a stressful and emotional week for the families of Dublin and Monaghan but I hope it will also be a week of vindication.

I thank Margaret Irwin in particular. All of the people involved deserve great credit but Margaret Irwin has been a true champion of the families and of Justice for the Forgotten. We owe her and all those who have campaigned for truth and justice a debt of gratitude. I commend the motion to the House.

Question put and agreed to.