Wednesday, 16 May 2018
Go raibh maith agat a Chathaoirligh. Ar dtús a Aire, ba mhaith liom fáilte mhór a chur romhat go dtí an Teach seo inniu. Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leat fosta chun a bheith anseo inniu chun labhairt faoin ábhar iontach tábhachtach seo. The Minister is very welcome to the House. I appreciate that this is a particularly busy time for him and his presence this morning is to be appreciated by all. I acknowledge the fact the Minister made an effort to come here to address this very important issue.
As the Minister is aware, tomorrow 17 May marks the 44th anniversary of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. Some 33 people in Monaghan and Dublin lost their lives on that day and it turned out to be the worst loss of life of the entire period of the Troubles. I take this opportunity to request of the Minister a renewed effort on his part and, indeed, on the part of the Government so that the files in relation to this particular issue are released by the British Government in order that the people of Dublin and, indeed, Monaghan can have final closure on this issue.
It is difficult to imagine that 44 years on we are no wiser as to who was responsible, what happened or what group was responsible for this atrocity in which 33 people lost their lives - seven from County Monaghan and 26 from Dublin. We can only imagine the pain the families continue to endure over this period of time and that pain is compounded by the absence of more than four decades of the truth of what actually happened on that day. People have campaigned for many years. Justice for the Forgotten deserves credit for its continued renewed efforts over many years to try to find justice and the truth of what happened. Every year on the anniversary of this event, all Members of both Houses renew our determination to try to find some comfort for those who have suffered. As the anniversary approaches tomorrow, our thoughts and our prayers are with the victims and their families at this difficult time of commemoration.
I am sure it is difficult for the families to appreciate that no one has been charged, much less convicted for that day of carnage and the truth of what actually happened remains a mystery. Indeed, the families' quest for truth and justice has been painfully slow, blocked in every direction and largely ignored. The British Government must make those documents available. There must be some international agreement that it is breaching by not so doing. The British Government has said that it would set up an inquiry into what happened but we still await the outcome of that.
I call on the Minister in his new role and his new portfolio to reinvigorate our efforts and the efforts of the Government on behalf of the people of this country, especially the people of Monaghan and Dublin, to request the British Government to release the papers so that the families can finally bring closure to this and so that they can put the memories of their loved ones to rest and finally realise who or what was behind that atrocity on that fateful day.
I thank the Senator for raising this issue and I am very aware that in the week of the 44th anniversary of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings that this is hugely sensitive time for the families concerned. That tragic incident saw the biggest loss of life in any single day during the Troubles, as pointed out by the Senator. It is important to acknowledge politicians across the Oireachtas who work on a cross-party basis with the Government on this issue, in support of the tireless efforts of Justice for the Forgotten which is playing such an important role, in terms of trying to move this process forward.
The Government will be represented at the wreath-laying ceremony tomorrow to mark the anniversary of these tragic events by my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Charles Flanagan. I will be taking Leader's Questions which is why I cannot unfortunately be there myself.
The Programme for a Partnership Government highlights the priority that the Government attaches to the implementation of the all-party Dáil motions relating to the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. I recently met with Justice for the Forgotten to hear its views and update it on the Government’s continuing engagement on legacy issues, including with the British Government, and on the Dáil motions.
The all-party motion on the 1974 Dublin-Monaghan bombings that was adopted by the Dáil on 25 May 2016 has, like those adopted in 2008 and 2011, been conveyed to the British Government. These motions call on the British Government to allow access to 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 Mr. Seamus Ludlow.
The Government is committed to actively pursuing the implementation of these all-party motions, and has consistently raised the issue with the British Government. I am actively engaged with the British Government on an ongoing basis on this issue, as are officials from my Department. I raised the issue again in person with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, last month and my officials were in touch with their British counterparts as recently as last week. I have consistently underlined to the British Government that the Dáil motions represent the consensus political view in Ireland that an independent, international judicial review of all the relevant documents is required to establish the full facts of the Dublin-Monaghan atrocities.I have consistently underlined to the British Government that the Dáil motions represent the consensus political view in Ireland and that an independent international judicial review of all of the relevant documents is required to establish the full facts of the Dublin-Monaghan atrocities. I have also made it clear that the absence of a response from the British Government is of deep concern to the Government and both Houses of Oireachtas. I have emphasised the urgent need for such a response. I will draw the attention of the Secretary of State to this debate in the Seanad and the many questions which have been raised in the Dáil to illustrate this point. I wish to reassure the House that the Government will continue to engage with the British Government on the request on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings and pursue all possible avenues that could achieve progress to that end.
I thank the Minister for his response. I do not for a minute doubt his sincerity in respect of this particular issue. I have some brief questions. Why, after all these years, has the British Government refused to hand over the files that would provide some clarity on this issue? In the Minister's opinion, what is the reason behind that? Can we apply any new pressure, internationally or otherwise, to force the British Government to release the files? I am sure the Minister will agree that 44 years is a long time to be waiting on justice. Every avenue which can be explored should be explored.
The honest answer is that I do not know why the requests that have come from the Government on the back of all-party Dáil motions have not been responded to in a more satisfactory way. There is now an opportunity to address the issue. The British Government is moving ahead with a legacy consultation process in Northern Ireland, dealing with very sensitive and difficult cases. That is a process which, it is to be hoped, can lead to truth and reconciliation for many families, unionist and nationalist. I hope that can create a context whereby we will see a more proactive and helpful response to the requests we are making regarding the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. We will continue to raise this issue and I can assure the Senator that Karen Bradley, my counterpart in Northern Ireland, is very aware of the concern of the Irish Government in respect of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings.