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Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights
Sub-Committee on the Barron Report

Dé Céadaoin, 26 Eanáir 2004 - Wednesday, 26 January 2005

Public Hearing on the Barron Report

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The Sub-Committee met at 9.30 a.m.

Sub Committee Members Present:
Deputy Seán Ardagh (Fianna Fáil),
Deputy Joe Costello (Labour)
Senator Jim Walsh. (Fianna Fáil)
Deputy Máire Hoctor (Fianna Fáil)
Deputy Finian McGrath (Independent)
Deputy Seán Ó Feargháil (Fianna Fáil)
Deputy Gerard Murphy (Fine Gael)


Chairman: Cuirim fáilte roimh gach éinne anseo inniú. Seo an dara lá de na héisteachtaí poiblí den Fo-Choiste ar an Tuarascáil ón gCoimisiún Fiosrúcháin Neamhspleách faoi Bhúmáil Bhaile Átha Cliath i 1972 agus 1973. Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh lucht féachanna TG4 freisin.

Yesterday the sub-committee heard contributions from victims and relatives of victims of the Dublin bombings of 1 December 1972 and 20 January 1973. We heard from the representatives of the late Mr. Tommy Douglas, Mr. Tommy Duffy and Mr. George Bradshaw. We also heard from Ms Carol Garvey on behalf of her husband, John, and from Mr. Pat Morrissey, a survivor. I thank all those who contributed to our discussion yesterday.

Today we will be meeting a number of other families of victims, particularly of the Belturbet bombing of 28 December 1972. Ms Geraldine O’Reilly was 15 years old at the time of her death while Mr. Patrick Stanley was 16 - two very young people. We will also be hearing from other Members.

The Douglas family have come from Scotland. Mr. Joe Douglas was unable to get here yesterday but I welcome him today. He is a brother of the late Mr. Tommy Douglas who died in the Dublin bombings. His brothers, Martin and Andrew, and sister, Maureen, spoke yesterday. We are delighted that he could make it today and look forward to hearing from him. Before he begins, I remind everybody that while members enjoy parliamentary privilege in respect of these proceedings, those attending and assisting us do not enjoy that same privilege.

Mr. Joe Douglas: I was 22 years old when Tommy was killed; he was 21. It was a terrible shock to the family. He had had a happy childhood and was very popular. He had many friends. The house was always full of his friends, coming and going and always doing things. They were really happy times.

Tommy had applied himself in school. He was a hard worker. He had always been in first, second or third place in class and got very high marks in everything he did. He had been a capable pupil and teachers had thought highly of him.

On leaving school Tommy went to work as an electrician. From what we have heard since he was killed, he did a great deal of unpaid work outside working hours. We have learned that the majority of the people concerned were senior citizens. Therefore, he was a caring boy. He was the type of boy who wanted to do things first. He would always be at the forefront. For example, he was the first in our family to learn to swim properly. We would paddle about but he had learned all the strokes. He was also the first in the family to pass the driving test. Whereas we all had L-plates, he had passed first time. In fact, he was the first to grow a moustache. He was that kind of person. If he set his mind on something, he would go and do it. He really liked to achieve things. He was not big-headed; he just liked to get things done.

We had mixed feelings about Tommy leaving for Dublin but we knew that in his heart that was what he wanted to do. He was determined to come and set up here. We knew he would find work, set up home and create a future for himself and his fiancé, Moira. In fact, it was when he came home for the new year celebrations in 1972 that he set about making arrangements for their marriage. Tommy and Moira arranged to get married in Sterling in August 1973. Sadly, it was not to be.

This account of the day Tommy died came from Moira. It was a Saturday morning and they were sitting at home when he said he had to go into town to do a couple of things. She replied that he had been working a lot of overtime - he was building up funds for their forthcoming wedding - and suggested he stay at home in the morning and do whatever he had to do if he had time in the afternoon. He agreed that he had been working a lot and that they could spend quality time together. They decided to make out their wedding guest list and even at that, Moira laughed because our family outnumbered hers five to one. She said it was a lovely morning. They had a light lunch and Tommy set off to go to work. As always, on crossing the Malahide Road he waved back to her - a final farewell.

When the bus arrived in Marlborough Street, Tommy had a couple of minutes to spare and thought to himself that this was his chance. He always used to send my mother, a native of Achill Island, a copy of Mayo News. He decided to run down to Eason’s to get the newspaper. He was running past the car, full of explosives, when it exploded. He was killed.

Moira had only recently come to Dublin. She had arrived about seven weeks after Tommy. She had not really made friends and this was a devastating blow for her. We felt her sadness, hurt and anguish. How must she have felt? He was her world.

Today we find ourselves discussing how this incident happened. It should not have happened. While it is now in the past, we hope in the future we can be given reasons. On this point, I thank Justice for the Forgotten which has given all the families tremendous support. I also thank the media for devoting massive coverage to the events and continuing to support us in our campaign for justice.

Chairman: I thank Mr. Douglas.

Deputy Costello: I thank Mr. Douglas for coming here today and thank members of this family, Maureen, Andrew and Martin for coming here yesterday from Scotland to outline their situation. We are aware of how difficult this is for them and appreciate their meeting with us.

Members of the Douglas family spoke yesterday of their frustration with the process. Is it also Joe’s experience that no assistance was given to his family by either the Irish or British Governments in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy?

Mr. Douglas: That is the impression I get from various reports. The investigations were short. There does not appear to have been a full or intensive investigation. The then Taoiseach, Mr. Lynch, assured me two days after my brother was killed, that no stone would be left unturned by the Government in its efforts to find the perpetrators. That has not been my experience so far. We have not heard anything further.

Deputy Costello: Did your family, when discussing this matter down through the years, come up with an answer as to why no assistance was given? Did you receive any communication from either Government?

Mr. Douglas: No. But for the Justice for the Forgotten group we would not been aware of these proceedings. The group has taken up our case and is doing a tremendous job. Neither Government appeared interested.

Deputy Costello: Were family members offered counselling or invited by the State to attend commemoration services and so on?

Mr. Douglas: No, not until in recent times when our case was taken up by Justice for the Forgotten. We never received any contact from either Government, police force or anybody else. It was as though they hoping the matter would go away and never again rear itself. We were left to carry on as though nothing happened.

Deputy Costello: The family had a great love of Ireland given your mother was from Achill.

Mr. Douglas: Yes. We regularly came to Ireland on holiday as we have extended family here including, in Dublin. We have a tremendous affinity with Ireland. We believed that as we had Irish connections the Irish Government would work a little harder to find out why and by whom this atrocity had been carried out. This atrocity took place in the streets of the city centre and it is being brushed aside.

My brother was a British citizen living in Ireland. Surely he was worthy of some respect and the British Government should have at least shown an interest in him. However, they never came forward with any assistance.

Deputy Costello: What would you like us, as a committee, to do? What do you believe is the way forward?

Mr. Douglas: Mr. Justice Barron’s report has many loose ends. While investigations did take place they appear to have come to a halt before being completed. The report contains the names of eyewitnesses and the dates and times of events yet the information has not resulted in anybody being arrested or charged even for the offence of being an accessory to a crime. It is incredible that though an abundance of information has been compiled nobody has been arrested. It is astonishing that nothing has been done given the amount of information available.

Deputy Costello: Can we move forward in a new direction?

Mr. Douglas: We all want to move forward. However, we cannot do that if there is no real closure to the matter. Nothing is happening that would spur us to move on. Were somebody arrested or identified as being linked to the crime it might give us hope and allow us to move forward. However, we are not moving forward, we are standing still. The Justice for the Forgotten group appears to be moving in the right direction and is asking the relevant questions.

Deputy Costello: Thank you.

Deputy Ó Feargháil: I, too, wish to be associated with the words of welcome and to express my sincere sympathy to Joe and the other bereaved family members here today. I also express the hope that the ongoing process will help move the situation towards finality.

Mr. Douglas has set out - as did his brothers and sisters yesterday - the impact of this awful tragedy on his family. Perhaps he could tell us a little more about his brother’s fiancée to whom he referred earlier. This tragedy must have had a devastating impact on her. How has she been since the event?

Mr. Douglas: She is a happily married woman with three children. I do not see her much. She prefers not to discuss this incident with her husband and family. The subject is never discussed in their house. She finds it difficult to discuss the matter with anybody. The only person to whom she spoke about Tommy’s death was her mother. As her mother is now suffering from Alzheimer’s disease she has nobody with whom she can now discuss it. Though she has a husband and family who love her dearly, a part of her remains in Ireland.

Deputy Ó Feargháil: It is fair to say that coping with bereavement is part of living. However, coping with loss as a result of murder can be different. How has the Douglas family managed to cope and what impact has this unresolved crime had on their personal lives?

Mr. Douglas: I would not say we have coped. We continue to experience emptiness each time the family meets and Tom is not there. We often wonder when looking at our grandchildren what Tom’s grandchildren would have been like. His name is mentioned often at various events and so on but, unfortunately, he is not here to share them with us. His death has been a tremendous loss to us. My mother, in particular, was greatly affected by his death as she and Tom were very close. Tom’s last thought was of my mother.

Deputy Ó Feargháil: It has been stated that there was little or no contact between the family and the British or Irish state authorities. Surely, there must have been some contact from the Garda Síochána. Is Mr. Douglas aware of any such contact?

Mr. Douglas: No, to my knowledge there was none

Deputy Ó Feargháil: None whatsoever?

Mr. Douglas: No. I attended the inquest in Ireland a couple of months after the event. It was adjourned after five minutes. There has been no contact since then.

Deputy Ó Feargháil: At what stage did the Douglas family make first contact with the other families affected by the atrocity?

Mr. Douglas: A relative in County Mayo read or heard on television about the campaign and telephoned my brother Andy about it. He then contacted the rest of us. No information about the campaign had been broadcast on the news in the UK. We then contacted those involved to offer our support. That was the first contact we had on the matter.

Deputy Ó Feargháil: Did Mr. Douglas or his family, in the aftermath of the atrocity, form a view on why it had been carried out or on who might have been responsible for the act?

Mr. Douglas: It was my belief it came from loyalists. There was no reason for republicans to do this in their own city. Loyalist-minded criminals would have had more reason to come down here to do this.

Chairman: I thank Mr. Douglas for his contribution. Following questions from members, does he have anything further to add?

Mr. Douglas: I would like closure. I would love to see the Irish and British Governments push away the smokescreen that seems to have surrounded them. I would like them to come clean, be open and tell the truth about what happened; whether outside agencies or secret organisations in the North, part of the British military, were involved. They have the answers. Then we would certainly move on.

Chairman: I thank Mr. Douglas for travelling to Dublin to assist the sub-committee. We are very grateful to him.

Mr. Douglas: You are welcome.

Chairman: I welcome Reverened Fr. James Carr. Fr. Carr is a friend of mine and we have been in contact for a number of years through St. Teresa of the Child Jesus Church, Donore Avenue. I know his sister, Bríd Carr, died tragically in a shooting in the North. I invite him to make his contribution, following which Deputy Murphy and Senator Walsh will enter into dialogue with him.

Fr. James Carr: I have a script and would feel more comfortable if I could follow it. Is that all right?

Chairman: Absolutely. That is no problem.

Fr. Carr: Our search has always been to find the truth. At the moment this is the case. Mr. Justice Barron’s report conformed very much with what we knew from local knowledge, that is, from talking to the people of Lifford. His report confirms the knowledge we had before she was declared dead. I have studied both Barron reports and Bríd’s death is unique in that there was no collusion or involvement by Northern forces, that is, the army, RUC or illegal elements.

The death of Bríd Carr took place in relative proximity to and within a short lapse of time of those of Oliver Boyce and Bríd Porter. I feel this facilitates a comparison of policing carried out in each case. I put it that the comparison is very lopsided. The Government was torn in almost two equal parts as to how to deal with the Northern situation. Controversy arose from allegations that Government Ministers were conspiring to import arms and there were accusations that the Fianna Fáil Government was soft on subversives.

On 22 November that year The Irish Times gave the essence of a fiery speech delivered in Letterkenny by Neil Blaney, 28 hours after Brid fell clinically dead on Lifford bridge. This, first of all, was very hurtful to the family as Neil Blaney was a neighbour. The Garda Síochána observed military concealed in a field near the bridge, opposite the town and its reaction was to send patrols in the direction of Claddyand Porthall. That was, cynically speaking, riding off into the sunset. There is no mention of patrolling the riverbank. The Garda station and the area behind the post office are quite near to each other. They say they went immediately. They could arrive there in a short space of time. It is hard to see how three men carrying a .303 rifle and a Bren gun could vanish. I also have a map of the area in Lifford which will certify that the post office and the Garda station are within shouting distance of each other.

The first paragraph on page 103 states the Garda cannot say who fired the shots but by a process of elimination and further information given in paragraphs three and four on page 103, clear evidence points towards the suspects. Gardaí did not conduct a search of where the suspects resided, house to house inquiries or road checks. Did the gardaí who saw them in the vicinity make a statement? The decision not to question a suspect and to relegate it to a futuile exercise is an extrordinary approach to detective work. Saying there were three suspects, said to be resident, was a sanitised way of saying they were on the run from Northern Ireland. They were in Lifford for some time and the expression was the dogs in the street knew who they were and why they were there.

In regard to a forensic examination, none was carried out. We could confer on the defectiveness of forensic examination in the case of Oliver Boyce and Bríd Porter, mentioned already.

From an observation of the Barron report, Mr. Justice Barron offers no conclusion and in conclusion only offers a summing up. In reality that contribution is not pertinent to the inquiry and is irrelevant.

I thank the sub-committee for giving me this opportunity. There is no conclusion to our search. My intention in approaching this subject is to be objective, while supressing latent anger. I rate my sister Bríd’s case as a case of the ignored. In furnishing the submission I avoided giving a conclusion. I would consider that to be contrary to the meaning of a submission. A submission must be judged on evidence proferred. However, on this occasion I venture to discuss the case verbally, given that this is the first opportunity I have had to discuss it with a concerned person or group and I feel some discussion on my conclusion would be helpful.

At this point, I venture to suggest what seems to me as possible conclusions: first, little effort was made in carrying out inquiries; second, there were instructions to go soft on the IRA; and third, the IRA was in control in north-west Donegal and the prudent course was not to rock the boat. Each possible culmination points to injustice and treats us as nonentities.

Our emphasis is not on what the IRA did, but on what the State did to us. The points I have made serve as a prelude to introduce the manner in which we were treated by the State. I keep in mind that things were done differently 33 years ago. However, by any standards the attitude was “stay quiet and lick your wounds”. For example, no messages of sympathy were received from the State. In contrast, the IRA sympathised, apologised and brought a wreath to the funeral. Another example is the unbelievable hassle my mother experienced in trying to get Bríd’s savings from the post office. Also, my mother received a letter from the then Minister for Justice which bluntly told her that since Bríd died outside the jurisdiction of the State, no public liability could be granted.

John Wilson, in A Place and a Name, correctly interpreted the Victims' Commission’s terms of reference. He dealt only with specified cases and mentioned other cases of concern. Mr. Justice Hamilton clarified the matter by deciding that cases like Bríd’s were outside his terms of reference. Later the letter and the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement prevailed because of pressure.

Why should Bríd’s case be clarified and treated as an appendix, classified in the same status and way as the bombing of a prefab customs hut on the other end of the bridge where she was shot?

Chairman: Thank you very much. You have certainly made a very forensic examination of the report and I understand your attitude to it. I noticed you were biting your lip at times. You and your family must have suffered emotionally over the past 33 years.

Fr. Carr: We are angry and we are suffering, we are nonentities as citizens. I think the Chairman or someone close to him already experienced my anger some years ago.

Chairman: Yes. However, it is amazing the way it hits one on a face to face basis. I am stunned at this point in time by the whole situation.

Deputy Murphy: I welcome Fr. James Carr and sympathise with him and his family on their tragic loss. Judging from what he has said, I assume he and his family feel that a lack of political will or ambiguity on the part of Government directly influenced the intensity of the Garda investigation. Is that his opinion?

Fr. Carr: I voiced it as a possible opinion.

Deputy Murphy: Would Fr. Carr consider the attitude at the time was to leave things lie and not interfere with the activities of the IRA at that point in that area?

Fr. Carr: Yes, but it was a very tense time in north-west Donegal at the time - I mentioned a speech by Neil Blaney in Letterkenny, a copy of which I can furnish to members——

Chairman: Please do. We would be happy to get it.

Fr. Carr: ——which was delivered 28 hours after Bríd fell clinically dead on Lifford Bridge and which I classified as insensitive. IRA influence was at a peak. Perhaps the Garda in its judgment decided it just could not face up to arresting the three men who had been identified and whose names had been given to it. A garda recognised two of them. They were resident in Lifford for some time and remained there for some time afterwards, feeling secure I presume.

Deputy Murphy: Considering Fr. Carr’s assessment of the quality of the Garda investigation at the time, how can the process through which we are now going bring any conclusion to his family’s tragedy?

Fr. Carr: I feel the three remaining members of the family are geriatric. We have suffered for 33 years but we are not immune to suffering yet. I feel the suffering will continue. One cannot regress to the past.

Deputy Murphy: Considering what happened and that from an early stage the family expressed dissatisfaction with the method of investigation, can Fr. Carr give any explanation as to why the State services did not do something to try and console the family through the provision of back-up services in the meantime?

Fr. Carr: We got absolutely no back-up service. We got hassle. In one contact with a local garda when we were going to collect the corpse from Altnagelvin Hospital, he stopped us and told us the body would not be released - false information. That was the sum of Garda help to us.

Deputy Murphy: Thank you.

Senator J. Walsh: I welcome Fr. Carr and join in the sympathy to him and his family. In the past few days and previously when discussing the Dublin-Monaghan bombings we heard many similar tales about people who felt badly let down by the State. How many siblings did Bríd have and what age was she when she was killed?

Fr. Carr: My mother lived for 23 years afterwards. She died at the age of 93. I have an older brother and a younger sister. My brother lives in the family home in Donegal, in the Fanad area in the north west. I live in Dublin and my sister lives in Kent. That is the sum total of our family.

Senator J. Walsh: I take it the family has always lived in north-west Donegal and that you are familiar with people there.

Fr. Carr: Yes.

Senator J. Walsh: Fr. Carr paints a picture of the climate at the time, probably the initial stages of the 30 years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. It has been stated the climate in the area was one in which the IRA was in control and that the witnesses did not feel confident enough to publicly identify the perpetrators. Was that air of intimidation prominent at that time and did it continue for long afterwards?

Fr. Carr: I visited the area for only a few days during the summer and at Christmas. They were staunch supporters of Neil Blaney. Quite a number of them, though not IRA activists, were IRA supporters.

Senator J. Walsh: Did the feeling of intimidation linger for a long time?

Fr. Carr: No. A number of Northern people were on the run - that was the classification - and they were given shelter in a remote area behind the hills in Donegal.

Senator J. Walsh: I get the impression you were disappointed with Garda operations at the time, particularly in relation to the incident involving the murder of your sister. You mentioned it appeared the Garda preferred to leave matters lie. Were there other incidences where that occurred?

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