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Statement by the Taoiseach on the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk Bombings (19 December 1999)

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Statement: Bertie Ahern ... Page Compiled: Martin Melaugh

Statement by the Taoiseach on the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk Bombings
(19 December 1999 Dublin; Department of the Taoiseach)


The Taoiseach, Mr. Bertie Ahern, T.D., announced on Sunday, 19th December, 1999, that the outgoing Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Liam Hamilton was being invited to undertake a through examination, involving fact finding and assessment of all aspects of the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk bombings and their sequel, including

  • the facts, circumstances, causes and perpetrators of the bombings;
  • the nature, adequacy and extent of the Garda investigations, including the adequacy of cooperation with and from the relevant authorities in Northern Ireland and the adequacy of the handling of scientific analyses of forensic evidence; and
  • the reasons why no prosecutions took place, including whether and if so, by whom and to what extent the investigations were impeded.

[These are not formal terms of reference which remain to be defined precisely following consultations, including with the Chief Justice and relevant groups of relatives.]

The Government intend and will insure that the Chief Justice will have full access to all relevant files and papers of Government Departments and the Garda Siochana. The Government will also direct that all members of the Public Service and the Garda Siochana extend their full co-operation to him. Furthermore, the Taoiseach intends that the Government will seek the co-operation of the British authorities with the Chief Justices examination.

The results of the Chief Justices examination will be presented to the Government, to be followed by an examination of the report in public session by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality and Womens Rights of a sub-committee of that Committee. (Because of the separation of powers between the Executive and the Legislature, it is not possible for the Government to direct the Oireachtas or a Committee of it to take a particular action. However, the Government would do everything in its power to ensure that the Committee took this action and, as there is cross-party support for this approach, the Government are confident that matters would unfold along the lines envisaged.)

It is also envisaged by the Government that the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality and Womens Rights would direct that the report prepared by the Chief Justice be submitted to the Committee, in order for it to advise the Oireachtas as to what further action, if any, would be necessary to establish the truth of what happened.

The Committees of the House of the Oireachtas (Compellability, Privileges and Immunities of Witnesses) Act, 1997 enables the Oireachtas to confer power on an Oireachtas Committee to send for persons, papers and records and it is envisaged that these powers would be invoked, including at the stage where the Committee, in public session, considered the follow-up to be given to the report of the Chief Justice.

The Government envisage that this consideration will involve hearings at which

  • the Justice for the Forgotten Group, representing the injured and bereaved, would have the right to appear before, and be heard by, the Committee;
  • the Committee would exercise powers to direct that material relevant to the findings of the report be placed before it; and
  • it would also exercise powers to call persons to appear before it to respond publicly to the report.

As the Government see the matter, there would be three approaches open to the Committee:
(i) advise the report achieved as far as possible the objective of finding out the truth and that no further action would be required or fruitful;
(ii) advise that the report did not achieve the objective which could only be done through a public inquiry; or
(iii) advise that the report did not achieve the objective and the Committee or a sub-committee of the Committee should examine the matter further (as outlined previously, the options available to such committees of sub-committees include public hearings and powers to send for persons, papers and records).

It is envisaged that suitable practical arrangements will be made with the Chief Justice in regard to the conduct of his inquiry, on matters such as the secretariat and support for research and for writing up his report and that he and his team would have a separate office in a location to be agreed with him.

The Government believe that this approach represents a genuine attempt to respond to the legitimate needs and concerns of those injured or bereaved as a result of these appalling outrages and to move towards closure for people who have suffered for too long. The procedure is, n many ways, analogues to that followed by the Public Accounts Committee of Dáil Eireann leading to the recently published report on DIRT, where the examination by the Committee took as its basis the report prepared by the Comptroller and Auditor General, which the PAC directed be submitted to it. It has been widely accepted that the approach adopted in the DIRT case was very effective.


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