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Dail Questions (13 February 2001) on the The Dublin and Monaghan Bombs
Dublin & Monaghan Bombs:
Page Compiled: Martin Melaugh
Questions in the Dáil to the Taoiseach - 13 February 2001
on the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk Bombings.
1. Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach the progress made to date by the Barron Inquiry into the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk bombings; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
2. Mr. Higgins (Dublin West) asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the investigations by the Barron Inquiry into the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk bombings; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
3. Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on progress in the inquiry into the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk bombings of May 1974.
4. Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the current inquiry into the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk bombings.
The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, together.
Judge Barron is the sole member of the Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin/Monaghan and Dundalk bombings which is independent and as such he is not required to report progress. However, I understand that his inquiries are progressing satisfactorily.
A further advertisement - Mr. Hamilton had previously placed an advertisement in the newspapers - was placed in daily and Sunday newspapers, North and South, in mid-January, appealing for anyone with relevant information to contact the commission. The commission is anxious that everyone with information involved in the production of television programmes and press articles relating to the bombings should contact and co-operate with the commission as a matter of urgency.
Mr. Quinn: Does the Taoiseach share the concern of many people about the slowness of this inquiry, notwithstanding the unfortunate circumstances that led to the change of chairperson, and has he conveyed to Judge Barron the sense of urgency that is shared by all in the House? Can he give any indication as to when some degree of finality can be brought to the issue, whether it is to indicate that nothing further can be done or that there is a positive line of inquiry? The people who contacted me are very anxious that a sense of urgency be injected into these proceedings and that some degree of certainty, even if negative, is obtained.
The Taoiseach: I do agree. It is urgent and it was hoped we would have had the report of the commission of inquiry by now and it would have been referred as promised to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights meeting in public session to consider what could be done. An effort is being made to go through everything possible.
I thank Judge Barron who understands this and would like to complete his work. He is undertaking a very thorough examination involving a fact finding assessment on all aspects of the bombings and their sequel including facts, circumstances, causes and perpetrators of the bombings, the Garda investigations and looking at the papers, including the relevant papers that he can receive from Northern Ireland. He is dealing with the new Secretary of State, Dr. John Reid, to see how he can assist. He is particularly anxious to talk to all of the journalists, particularly those involved with the "Hidden Hand - The Forgotten Massacre" television documentary. New advertisements were placed in January for this reason. I understand he is still seeking other papers in order to conduct a thorough investigation. As the late Judge Hamilton said, the whole effort is to use this period to see if enough evidence and substantive papers are available to see what the committee can usefully do. I hope we reach that stage as quickly as possible.
Mr. Higgins (Dublin West): I underline the urgency of the situation. As time goes on some people in positions of authority are getting older and some are deceased so there is a crucial urgency that this is brought to a speedy conclusion. The Victims Commission and the former Tánaiste, Mr. Wilson, reported the belief among many of those they interviewed, the relatives or victims of the atrocities, that hidden hands were at work in organising the deaths of their loved ones or in protecting their identity. There was a suspicion that Governments here were less than enthusiastic in pressing the British Government for the real truth of possible involvement by their state forces. Have the Garda authorities given all information that they have to the inquiry on the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk bombings? Has there been any investigation by the Taoiseach's office as to whether there was evidence that previous Administrations did not pursue the British Government very strongly in attempting to get at the truth of whether there was security force involvement? Does the Taoiseach know what co-operation the British Government has so far extended to this inquiry? Have all the relevant papers been given? Are some papers being withheld? What is the Government doing to ensure that all documentation and everything known to the British Government and security forces is handed over so that the truth can be discovered?
The Taoiseach: I share the view of all Deputies that we must do everything we can within the extensive terms of reference agreed in consultation with the Justice for the Forgotten group. A solid basis for discovering the truth is the object of the exercise. I am very grateful to Judge Barron for accepting this task. It will involve an enormous amount of paper work to search back through the years. To the best of my knowledge, his requests for documents and assistance from the Garda Síochána have been answered. Judge Barron is not answerable to me on this matter and he will issue his report in due time.
The former Secretary of State, Mr. Mandelson, promised that the papers from Northern Ireland would be sent to the inquiry. A certain amount but not all of them have been sent. These papers are not being withheld, rather they have not yet been passed on. There is co-operation from everyone involved in this inquiry. Public notices were published in January asking for anyone with information to come forward, particularly journalists and photographers who covered the events. There is an enormous amount of records and this House has decided that the commission of inquiry is the best way to deal with this. Even though time has moved on, all the records are available and they will be examined by Judge Barron.
Mr. Gormley: When did the Taoiseach last raise this matter with Prime Minister Blair? There is a perception that the British Government has been less than co-operative because of the allegations of collusion between the RUC, British military intelligence and the UVF. Is this a matter the Taoiseach has vigorously pursued with the Prime Minister?
The Taoiseach: It is. I have raised this issue over many years and I was anxious that we pursue it in this House and try to get to the bottom of it. I understand the Deputy's concern. Over the years I have had contacts with various groups and organisations dealing with Bloody Sunday of January 1972. I am aware of the concerns that these groups still have. They are worried that the rifles used on that day have been destroyed. Thousands of photographs taken that day are missing and many other records do not seem to be available. While the Bloody Sunday tribunal set up by the British Government is doing good work, the Ministry of Defence, another arm of the state, is not providing material. This is a big issue in Northern Ireland. I requested the former Secretary of State, Mr. Mandelson, and I will ask the present Secretary of State, that any information should be provided to this commission of inquiry.
I have raised the matters of Bloody Sunday and the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk bombings on numerous occasions. All available information will be communicated to the investigating authorities by the British Government. Experience has shown that usually not all information is available to Governments.
Mrs. Owen: Given the current relationship with the North, does the Taoiseach accept his role in urging those who are required to co-operate with the Barron and Saville inquiries to do so ? A number of high-profile republicans are refusing to co-operate with the Bloody Sunday inquiry. If Judge Barron has not got all the information he needs at the end of the inquiry into the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk bombings, will the Taoiseach consider a sworn inquiry ? Before he became Attorney General, Michael McDowell urged the Government to do so. Has he advised the Taoiseach to keep an open mind on having a full sworn inquiry ?
The Taoiseach: These issues were debated at length in this House two years ago. Deputy Quinn, myself and others worked on this issue. A full sworn inquiry cannot take place without having some basic documents or facts to work from. The commission of inquiry is thoroughly examining whether such a position can be reached, as we hope that it can. Judge Barron is continuing the excellent work of Judge Hamilton, who spent nine months working extremely hard on this. It is not an easy task. We shall wait for the report. If no facts can be obtained, a sworn tribunal in such circumstances will not be much use. I hope we will not be in that position.
Judge Barron and his team are examining all available evidence. This is the time to bring forward any shred of information, not in a television programme following the report of the inquiry. Long years of suffering have passed for the families of the victims. It is not a very long time ago, however, in terms of people's memories and the knowledge they may have retained. It is possible that people who have retired, who could not speak before, can speak now. We urge such people to help Judge Barron and his team.
Mrs. Owen: What about people who will not co-operate ?
The Taoiseach: Both republicans and the British army should co-operate. Successive Governments fought hard for this enormously costly inquiry so these issues do not go on forever. Issues regarding Bloody Sunday are deeply felt by the community. People should co-operate to enable the inquiry to do its job.
Mr. G. Mitchell: Regarding the need for people to come forward to give information, the Taoiseach will be aware that the Saville inquiry has given anonymity to certain witnesses. As a result, more people have offered to give evidence. Has the Barron inquiry considered allowing persons to give evidence anonymously, or has it offered anonymity to any person in return for evidence ?
The Taoiseach: Judge Barron has not given me an up to date, day by day account, so I do not know the answer to that question. From inquiries in Northern Ireland, I am sure that if people were prepared to help, Justice Barron or any of the inquiry team would be glad to talk about those issues. It is important these people get to the truth, and every consideration will be given to them, but I would not expect Justice Barron to raise that issue with me.
Mr. Currie: Has the attention of the Taoiseach been drawn to a statement made in the Northern Ireland Assembly by a leading member of Sinn Féin that there is evidence of collusion between the British Government, loyalist paramilitaries and the Irish Government in relation to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings? Would the Taoiseach like to comment on that allegation and will he bring those remarks to the attention of the commission?
The Taoiseach: I presume they are the remarks made during the Northern Ireland Assembly debate.
Mr. Currie: Last night, yes.
The Taoiseach: I have read the full text of that debate. There were allegations of collusion involving the Garda, the Irish Government and many others in the course of that debate but no credence could be given to any of it. When members of the SDLP sought an amendment and asked people to substantiate any of the issues raised, not one iota of evidence was produced that could be construed as something to follow. The contents of that fairly lengthy debate have been made available and I am sure they will be looked at by Justice Barron.
Mr. Currie: From his reading of the report of the debates, would the Taoiseach agree that this was a very specific allegation made by a leading Sinn Féin member who said there was evidence of it? Will the Taoiseach ensure that no stone is left unturned, no file or trail left unexamined, to ensure there is a full investigation into these extremely serious allegations? It is also important that the gentleman who made the allegations be asked to supply the necessary evidence to the Commission and that a demand is made that he put his money where his mouth is.
The Taoiseach: Any of the allegations made during the debate should be looked at. People from any side of the debate with evidence that would be helpful to Justice Barron's commission of inquiry should bring that evidence forward. The text of that debate will be made available to Justice Barron. I would not agree with Deputy Currie that people have made very specific-------
Mr. Currie: He said there was evidence of collusion.
The Taoiseach: Just about everybody in that debate said there was evidence of collusion on one side or another but nothing specific was said. When they were challenged by SDLP colleagues to produce facts in the debate, nobody did, unfortunately. I am not responsible for the investigation. It is for Justice Barron and his colleagues to try to find any shred of information they can to get to the truth.
Mr. Higgins (Dublin West): The author of the victims commission, Mr. Wilson, thought it worth pointing out that many believe Garda investigations into the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk bombings were stymied for political reasons. It is believed that the Administration here did not want to embarrass the British Government in case there was collusion, or perhaps they knew of collusion. Will former Taoisigh and former Ministers for Justice be called to give evidence to the commission? Does the Taoiseach think they should be called and will he call on them to come forward to give any information they have to the commission? Are there Cabinet documents or minutes that might throw light on a matter which causes unease among people here, and will they, or should they, be made available to the Commission as well?
The Taoiseach: All Government papers, all documents in the Department of Justice and all the papers within the Garda will be looked at and examined. I know the point that Deputy Higgins has made. I raised it in this House many years ago as a question, just as he is asking a question now. The question is how so many people could be killed in horrendous and barbaric acts of terrorism on one day on 17 May 1974 and the inquiry be wrapped up, while the people went back to their various bases in 1976. That is what the Deputy is saying. That is one of the reasons we have agreed that these matters be looked at. I do not know any of the answers and any papers that are there on this matter can be looked at.
Looking back at it now, 25 years later, it appears strange. There were difficult times and difficult events and in 1975 there were more bombings. The Dundalk bombing occurred on 19 September 1975 and then there were other acts in 1976, a very difficult year. There was the killing of the British ambassador here and all the other events. It is not that there was nothing going on but the people who were involved with this were experiencing a huge threat to the State. I am not here to justify these matters. I know what people have said to me and what people continually say.
Judge Barron is an eminent person and it is for him to seek whatever co-operation he requires in this regard. Don Mullan's book contains an enormous amount of the detail on this, as well as other books, articles and television programmes, all of which have been examined and are being followed through by Judge Barron.
Mr. Gregory: Is the Taoiseach awaiting the outcome of the Barron inquiry before implementing the recommendations of John Wilson's Victims Commission which were published in July 1999 in so far as they relate to the relatives and victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings? The relatives are concerned that a number of the recommendations have not been implemented in relation to anyone, but particularly in relation to those victims and relatives of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
The Taoiseach: Not for my part - they are not related. The implementation of that report is a matter for the Minister for Justice. As far as I am concerned, Judge Barron's work is not holding up any of that report.
Mr. Gregory: Will the Taoiseach ensure that the recommendations are implemented forthwith, particularly in relation to compensation and other assistance? The report was made in July 1999 and the recommendations have not been implemented. Can he ensure that they will be?
The Taoiseach: I will raise that matter with the Minister for Justice.
Mr. J. O'Keeffe: The Taoiseach will probably agree there is probably evidence that, if it were available, would be helpful to the inquiry but that evidence may be outside the jurisdiction. What is the situation in relation to such evidence? Have there been any discussions at a political level in particular with the UK in relation to making such evidence available to the inquiry?
The Taoiseach: I am no wiser than the Deputy, but I have never met a person who believes all the information on this is available within the jurisdiction. Everybody I have ever met concerning this issue over the decades believes some information is outside the jurisdiction. All we can do is ask for assistance from the British Government, particularly the Northern Ireland Office and the Secretary of State. That has been done and to the best of my knowledge some of the data has been made available. All of the reports indicate that most of the data was in Northern Ireland. However, I do not know whether that data will be made available or whether it exists in the first place.
Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Have the reports, including the RUC report, which have been available to the UK authorities been made available to the Barron inquiry?
The Taoiseach: The terms of reference asked for co-operation from the relevant Northern Ireland authorities, including the RUC. This was one of the first issues on which Mr. Justice Hamilton followed through.