TRANSCRIPTS OF OUR CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE JOINT OIREACHTAS SUB COMMITTEE
ON THE BARRON REPORT INTO THE DUBLIN & MONAGHAN BOMBINGS
Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights
Dé Máirt, 25 Eanáir 2005 - Tuesday, 25 January 2005
Hearing on the Barron Report
The Sub-Committee met at 9.30 a.m.
Committee Members Present:
DEPUTY SEÁN ARDAGH IN THE CHAIR.
Chairman: Be mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh gach éinne anseo inniu agus go h-áirithe do lucht féachanna TG4. I especially welcome surviving victims, relatives of victims and members of the Justice for the Forgotten group represented by Cormac Ó Dúlacháin and Mícheál OConnor. Mr. Greg ONeill is the solicitor.
The sub-committee expresses deepest sympathy with the victims and relatives of victims of the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973 and of the other atrocities that occurred in the State from 1970 to 1974. The sub-committee acknowledges the great suffering that has been endured by both the victims and their families. In many cases this suffering is ongoing and we hope that the publication of this second Barron report and the hearings which will be conducted by the sub-committee in the coming weeks will help in some small way to alleviate the grief these individuals have suffered over the years.
On 17 November 2004 the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Womens Rights was asked by Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann to consider the report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973. This sub-committee was established for that purpose and we have been asked to consider the report in public session in order that the joint committee can report back to Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann by 17 February concerning any further necessary action.
We believe it is important that the Oireachtas can and does inquire into matters of great public concern, such as the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973, and the other atrocities in the State from 1970 to 1974. We believe the Oireachtas is an appropriate forum where efforts should be made to find the truth at the heart of matters of great concern. We, as Members of the Oireachtas, have been elected by the people and, as such, we must act as their public representatives in matters of public importance. The Oireachtas is a unique forum which is widely recognised and reported on by the media and in which an informed citizens approach can be taken in respect of hearing, examining and inquiring into important public matters, albeit with legal and procedural advice. I thank TG4 in particular for the live broadcasting of the proceedings of the committee. This is in the public interest and TG4 is to be congratulated.
The sub-committee is composed of seven members. My name is Seán Ardagh. I am the Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Womens Rights. I am also the Chairman of the sub-committee. The other members of the sub-commitee are, Deputy Máire Hoctor, who is also the Government convenor on the joint committee, Deputy Finian McGrath, who is an Independent TD for Dublin North Central, Deputy Joe Costello, who is the Labour Party spokesperson on justice and law reform, Deputy Seán Ó Feargháil, who is a Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare, Deputy Gerard Murphy, who is the Vice-Chairman of the joint committee, and Senator Jim Walsh, who is the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on justice and law reform in the Seanad. Mr. Hugh Mohan SC is advising the sub-committee.
I will go through some matters from Mr. Justice Barrons report to give some context to our deliberations. Three persons, George Bradshaw, Thomas Duffy and Thomas Douglas, were killed and 185 persons injured as a result of the Dublin bombings. The first of the Dublin bombings was at the Film Centre cinema on 26 November 1972. Mr. Justice Barron in his report stated:
The bombing took place during a period of intense unrest in the State, in which the Government seemed to be exhibiting a new severity in its dealings with republican subversives. The forced closure of Provisional Sinn Féins office at Kevin Street, Dublin in October caused some controversy; but matters were brought to a head with the arrest of the Provisional IRA leader Seán MacStiofáin and his ensuing hunger and thirst strike. The day before the bombing saw massive demonstrations in the city centre and an unsuccessful attempt by armed men to seize MacStiofáin from the Mater Hospital. When taken together, these events could have provided the motive for an attack which ordinarily would not have been contemplated by republican subversives. This is particularly so if one considers the possibility that the bombing was carried out by a small number of republican paramilitaries without authority from the Official or Provisional IRA leadership.
Mr. Justice Barron concluded in relation to the Film Centre bombing that:
Although the information available to Gardaí and to the Inquiry does not point to any particular suspects with certainty, it seems more likely than not that the bombing of the Film Centre Cinema was carried out by republican subversives as a response to a Government crackdown on the IRA and their associates.
In relation to the bombings at Eden Quay and Sackville Place on 1 December 1972, the Dáil debate on the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Bill started on 29 November of that year. The contents of the Bill and the distinct possibility of a defeat for the Government leading to a general election, had been the subject of media attention for some days previously. Mr. Justice Barron stated: It is quite possible that the bombs were planted in order to influence the debate on the Bill.
Mr. Justice Barron concluded:
There is no evidence to suggest that the IRA or any other republican group were involved in the attacks. There is evidence that the IRA had access to considerable amounts of Ammonium Nitrate and Sodium Chlorate and there is little doubt that the UVF, UDA or similar groups could also have obtained such explosive substances without undue difficulty.
There are some aspects to the attacks that were not characteristic of loyalist subversive groups at that time: the giving of a warning, the coordinated nature of the blasts; the use of hired vehicles; the use of a stolen licence to hire these vehicles, and the apparent use of a car stolen four months previously. In addition, the political context in which the attacks took place has led to speculation that members of the British Army or Intelligence Services may have instigated, assisted with or even carried out the attacks.
Mr. Justice Barron continued:
These features may be consistent with involvement by the British Army or Intelligence Services in the bombings. However, the circumstances are not so unique, or even unusual, that they would reasonably exclude the involvement of other groups.
Before any finding of collusion in a specific instance can be made, two requirements need to be met.
Firstly, there has to be credible information identifying individual members of the security forces as having been involved. That would establish collusion on an individual level. The second requirement is that evidence which shows that that collusion was officially sanctioned would be needed. On the information available to date, credible and reliable evidence in respect of both of those requirements is absent in respect of the bombings of 1 December 1972.
He concludes: While suspicions linger, evidence has not been forthcoming to take it beyond that.
In regard to the Sackville Place bombing of 20 January 1973, Mr. Justice Barron concluded:
There is no substantive evidence linking the bombing of 20 January 1973 with any particular group or groups. The fact that the hijacking of the bomb car took place in a loyalist area of Belfast suggests that loyalists rather than republican paramilitaries were responsible. Confidential information obtained by gardaí suggested that responsibility lay with the UVF, but no evidence was found to confirm this. Nor was there any evidence to suggest the involvement of members of the security forces in the attacks.
In the murder of Brid Carr on 19 November 1971, British army personnel were involved in erecting ramps on the Lifford-Strabane road on the Strabane side of the British customs post. Fifteen shots were fired at the troops from a position on the State side of the Border. British army soldiers returned fire. Mr. Justice Barron concluded: It seems clear that Brid Carr met her death as a result of gunfire coming from the State side.
In regard to the death of Oliver Boyce and Bríd Porter at Burnfoot, County Donegal on 1 January 1973, the inquiry states it is likely that whoever shot and stabbed the deceased had a connection with the UDA.
At 10.01 p.m. on 28 December 1972 a car bomb exploded in Fermanagh Street, Clones, County Monaghan. Two men were seriously injured. At 10.28 p.m. another car bomb exploded on Main Street, Belturbet, County Cavan. Two people were killed. Eight more were severely injured. The victims who died in Belturbet were Patrick Stanley, 16 years, of Clara, County Offaly, and Geraldine OReilly, 15 years, of Drumacon, Belturbet, County Cavan. Finally, at 10.50 p.m., a bomb exploded at Mullnagoad, a village near Pettigo, County Donegal. No one was injured. The report of the inquiry also makes reference to other bombings in the State from 1970-74 at St. Johnston, Lifford, Carrigans, Bridgend, Clones, Cloughfin and Pettigo.
Today in module 1 of our hearings the sub-committee will hear from individual members of families who have suffered bereavement and from surviving victims of the atrocities. The contributions of these victims are invaluable to the work of the sub-committee and I sincerely thank them for their attendance this morning. The sub-committee wanted to commence by hearing from the victims in order to place them at the centre of our work.
The second module will deal with the historical and political context of the time. In the third module we will be assisted by the Minster for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Garda, officials from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Army. Mr. Justice Barron has also agreed to make himself available to address questions on his report to assist the sub-committee. It is intended that the hearings will commence each morning at 9.30 a.m. and conclude at noon.
In respect of the procedures and for the benefit of those present, it should be noted that the sub-committee is bound by its very precise terms of reference beyond which it will not stray. In particular, the sub-committee is not conducting an investigation of its own into the terrible events that happened in the State from 1970-74, nor is it seeking to apportion guilt or innocence to any person or body. It has neither the jurisdiction nor the legal authority to perform any such function. We ask everybody appearing before us to respect the fact that we cannot stray beyond our terms of reference. Everyone who will appear here today will do so on a voluntary basis and we thank them most sincerely again for their attendance on that basis. The sub-committee is very concerned that any person who appears before it is fully aware that he or she is not entitled to any form of statutory or parliamentary privilege. While members do enjoy certain parliamentary privilege in respect of these proceedings, those attending and assisting us do not enjoy that same privilege.
The sub-committee expresses its gratitude to Mr. Justice Barron for the work he and his staff have done in producing the report we are now to consider. I invite Mr. Cormac Ó Dúlacháin to make an opening statement.
Mr. Cormac Ó Dúlacháin, SC: Thank you, Chairman. It is my pleasure to appear with Mr. Micheál OConnor on behalf of the Duffy, Bradshaw and Douglas families today, and the Stanley and OReilly families who will appear before you tomorrow. We appear on behalf of victims of three fatal bombings that occurred in December 1972 and January 1973. These victims have much in common. Their loved ones were killed or they themselves were injured in criminal atrocities that had a confirmed cross-Border dimension. In all cases, the detection and prosecution of those responsible were dependent on the co-operation and actions of two police forces but no one was arrested, charged or convicted and no one has served one day in prison. If anyone were to be convicted, the period of imprisonment they would now serve would in all probability under the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement be insignificant.
The relatives here today appreciate this opportunity of coming before this committee and the function this committee is discharging. In the turmoil of the politics of the last six months it is sometimes forgotten that the Good Friday Agreement contained a commitment to address the needs of the victims. What is happening in the coming days is part of that process.
In some respects, the Good Friday Agreement was non-specific as to how the needs of victims were to be addressed. There was no formal truth process. There was no formal commitment to a truth process. Even in the latest round of discussions and negotiations leading from Leeds Castle, there was a feeling that, to a certain extent, victims were being left behind. This hearing is an opportunity to bring the focus back on the suffering that occurs when politics fails and affords an opportunity to hear from and about victims in circumstances other than political debate or argument.
We appreciate the work that started with the Victims Commissioner, John Wilson, and the work done by Judge Barron but there is a selectivity to the process. All the victims here are conscious that there are other victims for whom no reports have been prepared and who have never been invited to appear before any committee. They are not appearing today in any sense that they feel they are more important than any other victim. They appreciate the suffering of all those victims. The families will speak for themselves.
What we have sought to do with and in assisting Justice for the Forgotten is assist this committee with this inquiry by clarifying matters we believe this committee can further by questions it can raise with witnesses who will appear in the coming days. There are a number of things we would ask the committee to do. We are conscious that the Barron report does not outline in great detail the source material and ask this committee to consider whether it should have far more information, whether it should have sight of the correspondence that passed to and from Judge Barron from official bodies, whether it should be aware and have a list before it of the people he met and those who assisted him, and of the files, particularly the files shown to Judge Barron. It is important to establish exactly the nature of information to which these families are entitled and how they should receive it.
We ask the committee to look at specific issues of concern that arise from the Barron report. We hope later today to furnish to the committee four observation papers, one dealing with each incident and one dealing with the question of non-co-operation.
I will turn to the question of non-co-operation. The non-co-operation of the British Government is a grave political issue because it does not concern the actions of a government 30 years ago but the actions of the current British Government and the obligations of that Government under the Good Friday Agreement. Ultimately, it concerns that Governments current commitment to the rule of law. This process is still part of an investigative process; it is a process trying to establish the truth as to criminal actions and criminal atrocities that occurred. There is now emerging a pattern and a policy of non-co-operation with official inquiries established by this Government that involve any investigation of allegations of collusion. This committee made recommendations which the British Government has chosen to ignore. The families here today want to know whether there is the political will to pursue those matters.
With regard to the investigation that happened in 1972 and 1973, the report outlines an extensive and wide ranging investigation into the bombing on 1 December 1972. It reveals the rigour that was applied by the gardaí, the inquiries they conducted in Northern Ireland and in England and the application of considerable resources in the days that immediately followed the bombing. However, when one looks at the investigations into the bombing in Belturbet on 28 December and in Dublin on 20 January 1973, certainly from the detail in the Barron report, the same urgency and application of resources, use of contacts with the RUC and trips to Belfast and other places does not appear. It is important for us to clarify whether that is so or whether there is more detail available on those investigations, particularly given that there seems to have been a considerable degree of co-operation between the gardaí in Donegal and the RUC in Derry regarding the murders that occurred outside Buncrana.
With regard to the investigations, we are also concerned that lessons were learned about forensic examination of bomb sites as a result of the 1972 and 1973 bombings but those lessons do not seem to have been applied when the forensic examination of the bombings in May 1974 occurred. They are an example of matters that are to be explored and we will have an opportunity tomorrow to outline them.
The issue of collusion has loomed large in the minds of the families and it is a matter that this committee has considered. We are concerned that this report raises further issues relevant to it. We are also conscious that the Barron report into the Dundalk bombings of December 1975 will add further to those concerns. In that instance, the spectre of collusion that hangs over these atrocities has to be dealt with. If the recommendations that this committee makes are not acted upon, maybe it will be time for the committee itself to fill that void as best it can. We are concerned that Mr. Justice Barron did consider to some degree the question of various events that occurred in Dublin in December 1972 in relation to Garda files coming into the possession of people who were working for the British authorities and connections to people such as Kenneth Littlejohn involved in other affairs earlier in the year.
We are concerned that aspect has not been fully explored in the Barron report. The members of the committee may well be aware that in the official secrets trials that took place in 1973, the nature and extent of the files that had been taken from the Irish authorities and passed to the British authorities were never disclosed. They were not disclosed in the trial because the Minister for Justice at the time deemed that the files had to still remain secret and could not be used in a public trail. The question that arises is whether it is now time to lift that veil of secrecy. Is it now time that this committee should know definitively what happened in December 1972 and whether there is any connection, tenuous or not, between those events and other unlawful events that occurred at that time?
We are also concerned that a veil of secrecy still prevails in relation to State files. Various files have become available in the National Archives under the 30 year disclosure rule but recent inquiries conducted by Justice for the Forgotten have revealed an extensive range of Department of Justice files that have not been disclosed. There may be good reasons for the non-disclosure but not alone have the files not been disclosed but there is a refusal to disclose the names of the files, the number of files and the file numbers. That is in the context where in the last report by this committee there was a concern as to whether files were missing. That is a matter that, in the public interest, the committee might wish to clarify with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
I will conclude by indicating that we want this committee to consider a number of recommendations. First, we want the committee to consider whether it should extend the invitation to hear victims to a broader range of victims than those who have been the subject of atrocities that have been examined by Mr. Justice Barron and whether there are others who need to be brought into this process in the absence of any other process being open to them and in the absence of a truth commission or such entity.
We also want the committee to consider and to engage with the Garda Commissioner to agree how information in relation to past atrocities should be made available to the victims or whether it always has to be done through a process such as a Barron inquiry. Is there not some other mechanism or methodology whereby victims have a right to know, years later, what was pursued and what was the outcome of inquiries?
The third aspect is, if no further progress can be made with other governments in relation to investigations and collusion, we ask this committee either to establish a sub-committee or to reconvene later this year to consider all the evidence that has emerged from the Barron reports. We would be quite willing to come back to this committee in September for three to five days and outline our understanding of all that information and bring it all together and let the committee do the best it can do at that stage.
Fourth, it is an opportunity to reflect generally, in relation to the Good Friday Agreement, on how victims issues will finally be addressed and whether, on a larger scale, there is something both governments and all parties need to do to address the needs of victims and to know the truth of what occurred. Thank you.
Chairman: Thank you, Mr. O Dúlacháin. I will now invite Mrs. Monica Duffy-Campbell, Mr. Tom Duffy and Mr. Paddy Duffy, who are surviving relatives of Tommy Duffy who was killed in the bombings, to make a statement. After you have spoken, Deputy Hoctor and Deputy Finian McGrath will pose some questions on some of the matters you discuss.
Mrs. Monica Duffy-Campbell: My husband, Tom, was murdered on 1 December 1972 in Sackville Place. At that stage I had one little girl and I was expecting my son Tom; I was four months pregnant at the time. My life has changed beyond belief since that night. My husband at the time was 24 years of age. He was a young, vibrant, happy go lucky, hard working, loving husband. He went out to work full of expectations and life, full of what the future might hold for us as a couple and family. The next time I was to see Tom was in a coffin in the North Strand following the bombings of 1 December 1972.
For many years I was not able to come to terms with the enormity of what happened to Tom. It was easier for me to not think about it. It was just too big for me to handle. Over the last ten years I have been in counselling and to this day I continue with counselling to help me to come to terms with the enormity of what happened to Tom and the awful way in which he died. My son, Tom, has come on board with me into Justice for the Forgotten to lend support and, in fact, he has been involved for the past couple of years also.
I am glad to have the opportunity after 32 years to be here to speak to the Oireachtas committee. It has been a long 32 years but I am very glad to be here. I would ask the committee to consider some of the things that have come out in the Barron report, that have come to pass in recent months. I do not see any significant result for me, personally, in it. It asks more questions than it answers.
The Offences Against the State Act was defeated the week before Tom was murdered. That Bill was passed a couple of hours after the event on the night that Tom died. I will believe until the day I die that the British Government, or British agents, were involved in the death of my husband. I am quite astounded that the British Government has not even had the courtesy to reply to letters for this Barron report when they were asked.
The one thing I would like the Oireachtas committee to do is to examine further why we did not get any information. The British Government is supposedly a friendly nation, we are not at war with it. Why did it decide to stand totally back from this and not give any answers? Why has it got to hide?
With the Barron report, no pressure could be put on the British Government. It was optional, it could answer if it wanted to answer; it need not if it did not wish. Of course, it chose not to. Why would it not? The assumption is that it must have something to hide. I ask the Oireachtas committee to find out why the British Government failed to get involved in this report. I also ask it, following these Oireachtas meetings, to put something in place following this, so that these Oireachtas hearings are not just something - we appreciate being here - to placate the families, just let it pass over and be the end of it. There must be some sort of follow-up.
I will go on fighting or pushing for the next 32 years for some truth. I cannot come to terms with this. I will not find closure and my family will not find closure until somebody stands up and says OK, we think these people were responsible. I know in my heart they were. I am asking you, as our elected representatives, to help us come to terms and prove that.
Chairman: Thank you very much, Mrs. Duffy-Campbell. I know it is very difficult for you. I appreciate what you have said. I will now ask Mr. Tom Duffy, who is the son of Tommy Duffy, if he wishes to contribute the next statement.
Mr. Tom Duffy: Good morning. Once again, I thank the Oireachtas sub-committee for giving us an opportunity to speak to you. For me, personally, it lends a certain legitimacy to our efforts, that we actually have people to face us, to talk to for a change, as opposed to writing out letters and not getting replies. I am quite grateful for it, thank you.
In terms of the impact of my dads death on me and my family, it is quite odd. I grew up with a certain sense of normality. Although mum was not able to talk particularly about my dad and the events that killed him, there was a certain knowledge that flowed around our family about what happened to my dad that was never spoken of explicitly. It is only after many years of mum seeking counselling and us going through the process with Justice for the Forgotten that we have started to come to terms with it and have been able to speak outside our souls and our hearts of a loss that I personally have and that, although I never met my father, I carried with me for my life. I grew up in the environment of the event that had taken his life, that has scarred the family and, although I was not there for the event, the psychological scars were evident. This inability to talk was also matched by our inability to express ourselves outside the family and the lack of discussion about the events that took my dads life and two other men, in and around December 1972 and January 1973.
As Mr. Cormac O Dúlacháin said earlier on, this veil of secrecy that existed for us personally and also socially, was an inability to talk. As we slowly but surely started going through the process of joining with Justice for the Forgotten and trying to contribute to Mr. Justice Barrons report, facts have started to bubble up. We have started to manage to grasp and make real - that is for me personally - some of these unspoken truths, that for us are truths. Unfortunately, the phrase that jumps to mind for me is that history is written by the victors. To some extent I understand that desperate people take desperate measures when they feel they have a cause to fight but I do not understand when people make cold calculated political decisions that affect peoples lives.
Ultimately, what I feel about this process is that by us taking this on board, JFF coming on board with this and the Oireachtas signing up to it, we get an opportunity to let history be rewritten by the efforts of a loving, caring society and people who show that these events, which we kept hidden for so long, do matter to us personally and socially. The anguish we have gone through as a family is not in vain, and we learn as a society ultimately that while stuff may not have been mentioned in the past we have an ability now to speak about it, move forward, learn from it and become better people for it. That sounds like a grandiose statement but that is what I feel about it.
Chairman: Thank you very much, Tom. I now invite Paddy Duffy, who is a brother of Tommy Duffy, to contribute.
Mr. Paddy Duffy: Good morning. My name is Paddy Duffy, I am a brother of Tommy Duffy. I will speak first about the psychological effects it has had on the whole family. This House could not understand the effect it has had on the family. There has been a total change and I think Tommy has hit on it in that we have been totally unable to communicate in some way. I think people have not been able to speak about what has happened. It is only in the last two or three years, with counselling, that for the first time people have been able to speak about this. I have to acknowledge Justice for the Forgotten, because through them counselling has been sought and something has been done. What I find very strange is that you wait for 32 years to get counselling. I feel there is something wrong within the system itself.
Mr. Chairman, in your introduction you spoke about the truth and said it should be sought through this House or through this committee. We have waited 32 years for truth. I wish you well in seeking the truth but as regards the British authorities and the British Government - and they are friendly neighbours - I do not think it is going to be forthcoming at this stage because if you backed back for 32 years you obviously have something to hide. There has been no co-operation so far at all from the British Government and I find this very strange. It is so strange that it is actually sticking out a mile that there is something to hide.
The other matter concerns the files that have not been disclosed by our own people. There is also a huge question around this for us. If there are files there that have not been revealed then there is obviously something very wrong in that system as well.
With regard to the missing files - if they exist - somebody must be answerable for those also because in ones walk of life and ones work, one must take responsibility. It appears that somebody has failed to take responsibility in this regard. I thank the committee.
Chairman: I thank Mr. Paddy Duffy and call on Deputy Hoctor.
Deputy Hoctor: I welcome Mrs. Monica Duffy-Campbell and Tom and Paddy Duffy, to whom I express my deepest sympathy, even if I do so after 32 years. I also welcome the members of the families who are with us today. I assure them that we value their presence.
Mrs. Duffy-Campbell has stated she found it difficult to talk about this matter for a long period. Does she wish to relate to us now details of what occurred on the night of 1 December, particularly in terms of where she was when she heard the dreadful news?
Mrs. Duffy-Campbell: I just remember that it was a rainy night. I heard the bang. I lived in Artane at the time in the upstairs part of the house. My little girl was asleep. I cannot explain what came over me but I just knew that something bad had happened. Within a few minutes I felt something dreadful had befallen Tom, to the point where I went next door and relayed to them that something had happened to my husband. I stayed there and they tried to calm me down. The Miss Ireland contest was on television at the time and they invited me to watch it. However, I knew something awful had happened. I cannot explain what happened that night. Eventually a priest, a doctor and a garda called looking for me and I had no choice but to go in and confirm that Tom was one of the people involved.
The night he died somebody tried to help me by giving me an injection. It was too difficult for me to comprehend. I would be optimistic sometimes to the point of stupidity but I could not believe something awful could have happened to somebody so lovely in my life. I could not do so because I was four months pregnant with my son, Tom, at the time. I think I just switched off. There is one thing I remember which I have never really had the opportunity to relate. My house became crowded and lots of people came in. I heard somebody in the background say, He will be a martyr. I did not want any martyrs, I wanted my husband. I did not want him to be a martyr and he did not want to be one. Anyone who thought like that at the time just did not know what they were talking about.