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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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Chairman: I now want to go to Patrick Stanley’s sisters, Susan Stanley and Gretta Farrell. His was an equally tragic and innocent life lost.

Ms Gretta Farrell: I have a presentation prepared because I find it difficult to talk about the matter.

On 28 December 1972, my parents, brothers, sisters, extended family and I were devastated by the loss of Paddy. This tragedy still lives with us and we will never fully recover from the loss of Paddy. Paddy was tall, dark and he had shoulder length hair. He was very handsome and I was very proud he was my brother. He was 16 and I was 13 years of age when he was killed. He was the eldest of ten children. He lived for sport. He loved soccer, gaelic football and hurling, and he played as goalkeeper in all of these sports. He was nominated for an under-21 GAA All-Star award before he died.

Paddy was a kind and gentle person who adored his family, particularly his mother, his two grannies and his grand aunt, Mary, who used to call him Master Pat. She was 89 years of age at the time of his death and she was never told he had been taken from us. She died less than six months later thinking she was asleep every time he called down to see her, although he managed to leave gifts each time.

On the day of my First Communion, I was to go and see my grandparents who lived about two miles from my parents’ home. It was raining and we did not have a car at that time. Paddy wrapped me up a long raincoat, put me on the crossbar of his bike and brought me up to see my grandparents. He was only ten then.

The morning I was told of Paddy’s death, my cousin Teresa told me he had been in an accident. I thought he had dislocated his shoulder again but she told me he was dead in Belturbet. I had never even heard of Belturbet. I was with my granny Treacy and at lunchtime I was brought to be with my family, on strict instructions that I was not to cry or upset anyone, especially not to upset mam, who was six months pregnant with Susan. It was also the day we found out that she was expecting Susan.

At the time, we were told very little about how Paddy died. We were told he was in a phone box trying to ring us to let us know he would not be home that night because the roads were too bad to travel, but a car bomb exploded outside the telephone kiosk before he got to pass on his message. At the time I thought he had died instantly with no marks on him, but later that day I heard someone saying that he had been blown to bits and that the coffin would have to be closed. I was 13 and I remember I was told I was not allowed to cry in case I upset anyone. Mam was not allowed out of bed because she was in such a state of shock and my dad was in Belturbet, trying to bring Paddy home to us. For long after that I used to have nightmares at the thought of Paddy in the grave. Daddy was still in Belturbet and was trying to get home to us and I remember feeling that we were left there alone.

That was December 1972 and it did not get any easier after that. We grew up keeping our grief and tragic loss to ourselves. Nobody ever offered to help us come to terms with that grief or the insurmountable loss we had suffered. Because Paddy was the eldest I often wished it had been me that was taken, not him, thinking that the enormous pain and suffering my parents were going through might not have been so bad. I know my parents would not have wished this but it was how I felt.

Thirty-two years after my brother’s murder no one has been charged. Never - not even on the day Paddy died - did a garda or politician call to our door to tell us how the investigation was going or what was happening. Anything we or my parents knew was what we read in the newspapers and it was not in the newspapers for very long after that. We just felt as if everyone wanted to forget them.

Paddy was born, lived and died an Irish citizen and the justice which was not forthcoming after his murder should be forthcoming now, as a matter of great urgency. The Barron report has done little to convince me that we have anything like the full story. It has been said that to delve to the necessary depths would cause embarrassment, not just to the British Government but also to our own Government, and there appears to be a tendency to avoid coming to unpalatable conclusions. Paddy Stanley and Geraldine O’Reilly should not be forgotten children murdered in Belturbet and I urge this committee to ensure that justice is done for them.

Chairman: I know that you are very emotional. Thank you very much indeed for your contribution.

Ms Susan Stanley: As Gretta said, our mother was six months pregnant with me when Paddy was tragically taken from us. When I close my eyes I cannot see him. I know nothing about him, which is sad. As Gretta said, he was a wonderful young man. Many people have told me this.

Gretta mentioned the closed coffin. I would like to tell you what the man who took Paddy out of the phone box had to tell us when we met him. It is very poignant and people should know what was done to my brother. Paddy O’Reilly said:

It was a sad case, an innocent wee boy split open, a memory I will take to the grave. His feet were in the box and he was in bad shape, blood baked all over him. I thought I was a tough man but I am no tougher than the next. He was like a cinder.

My mother and father did not send him out to come home like that. Yesterday Bertie Ahern said that nobody was above the reproach of the law. That is why we are here to seek justice. Mr. Justice Barron said in his report that the bombers were acting on their own initiative. That means it is not a war crime. It is not something that can be covered under the Good Friday Agreement.

I try not to read newspapers because I have enough grief in myself and my family. I do not need to look any further than my own doorstep for bad news. It is up to us to see that justice is done for the two children who lost their lives on the feast of the Holy Innocents, 28 December. Three bombs went off that night. It was like a practice run - “Let’s see if our new timers work, boys. We’ll go out and do some destruction tonight.” That is what happened. There are not that many roads leading to and from Belturbet. There was a Garda post on Aghalane Bridge and they were seen coming in and leaving. No Garda car left Aghalane Bridge that night to see where they were gone or where they had come from. I honestly believe that if something had been done in the couple of days, months or even years after my brother was taken away from my family, many lives could have been saved. It is so unfair that these people are allowed to get away with mass murder. That is what they did - they physically got away with it.

We never did anything to anybody. My brother was trying to get some money together, probably to buy new football boots. They talked about political tension in the town. The only political tension in Clara is between the GAA and soccer - there is nothing else. It is inconceivable that this should have happened to these two children that night. We have to see the books. We have to see the reports opened. We need to hear what people had to say back then. They are not all dead. The papers have not all disappeared, although some may have. We need to hear from the British Government, from the PSNI. It is important to us to have the answers.

I did not find out how my brother was killed until I could read. I did not know. Neither did Gretta or any of my other brothers and sisters. My parents never spoke about it. There was a photograph of him at home as an All-Star. That was the amount of information I had for years. We had a box at home - Gretta has spoken about it. The box was kept underneath mammy and daddy’s bed and in it were all the paper cuttings. They used to sneak in and out of the bedroom, two or three at a time, and read the paper cuttings to find out how their brother was taken away from them. My parents still cannot talk about it 32 years later. It is not fair that Irish citizens should have this over them. We should not allow it because tomorrow or the next day it could be one of your children or my son who has that done to him.

Chairman: Susan, thank you very much indeed.

Deputy Costello: I welcome Gretta and Susan. We very much appreciate your coming here to speak to us. It is terribly heartrending and emotional. As you both said, it was the feast of the Holy Innocents and these were two young people who were cut down in their prime. We certainly heard your plea for justice and that something should be done to resolve this matter. In the context of your family in Clara in County Offaly, you must have felt speaking to your parents that you were so far away from the Troubles that it was strange that it should touch a family like yours. What was the atmosphere and the talk in the home?

Ms Farrell: The town was totally shocked. The whole of County Offaly was shocked that something had happened so far away from the Border. We would not have been travelling to the North or anywhere near it. Paddy was there helping on a lorry and the roads were in too bad a condition to get home that night. That was the only reason he was still there. He should have been at home. The shock spread throughout the town which had never seen a funeral like it. It was horrific that something like this could have happened to someone living so far south.

Deputy Costello: What contact was made with the Garda and State agencies in the period following his death?

Ms Farrell: No one ever came. The Garda never came to our house. No one ever came to tell us that this or that was or was not happening. For years my father has been writing to every politician, whether he knows them or not. Over the years he has written to every Minister for Justice but has never received any help or any indication of why it happened. One Minister for Justice told him to forget it, that it had happened a long time ago and to move on.

Ms Stanley: That was very hard to take, that somebody could tell a person, “Look, that is it. It happened.” I am living proof that it happened 32 years ago because that is how old I am. He was told to leave it and move on, although he did not. He still has all those letters at home and is still writing. It is not fair.

Deputy Costello: They got no help, no information. Was contact about doing something first made by Justice for the Forgotten?

Ms Farrell: Without the efforts of Justice for the Forgotten, we would not be here today.

Deputy Costello: As far as the State was concerned, the people concerned did not exist.

Ms Farrell: We did not.

Deputy Costello: Did Mr. Justice Barron contact Mrs. Farrell?

Ms Farrell: No.

Deputy Costello: Did he write to her?

Ms Farrell: No.

Ms Stanley: I tried to get in contact with his office but got no reply.

Deputy Costello: In Mr. Justice Barron’s account, on various pages from page 116 onwards, a strong finger of suspicion is pointed at a particular culprit. Before Mr. Justice Barron’s report, did Mrs. Farrell have any information on the investigation or who the culprit might be? What were her suspicions in this matter?

Ms Farrell: We were always told it was a loyalist bombing and that there was talk of people who had been seen that night driving into Belturbet. As we were so far away from Belturbet and were all so young, nothing was forthcoming. This person may or may not have done it.

Chairman: I want to be careful not to put people in a position whereby members’ privilege may be a problem.

Deputy Costello: Mrs. Farrell is looking for justice and feels frustrated that justice has neither been done nor been seen to be done. Is there anything she wishes to say in particular that could point the way forward?

Ms Farrell: We need a public inquiry; someone needs to be held accountable. People went out that night to plant the bomb which killed two people. They should be made to pay for this.

Deputy Costello: I thank Mrs. Farrell and Ms Stanley.

Deputy Ó Feargháil: I thank Mrs. Farrell and Ms Stanley for their frank and moving presentation. They have painted a vivid picture of their brother, Paddy. Can they tell us a little more about how he came to be working with Calor Kosangas? Was it a holiday job? How did he come to be in Belturbet on that occasion?

Ms Farrell: He was working for a guy from home named Paddy Jennings who owned the lorry. The driver was Colm O’Brien whom Paddy was helping on that day. They headed off to Belturbet. I do not think they knew they were heading to Belturbet that morning until they got there. They were collecting gas. As it was winter, the roads were in a particularly bad condition that night. They decided to park the lorry outside the town and go into it to find somewhere to stay. They booked into a bed and breakfast in the town. There was no telephone in the bed and breakfast. That is why he went out. He told Colm he would have to telephone us because we would be worried. As we did not have a telephone, he was telephoning our neighbour. They told him where there was a telephone box. There were two telephone boxes in the town, one of which was not working. Unfortunately, he went to the other one. That was how he came to be there.

Deputy Ó Feargháil: Can Mrs. Farrell recall the circumstances in which her parents were told of the tragedy?

Ms Farrell: Yes. There was a newsflash on television that night, that there had been an explosion and two people had been killed. As it was Christmas, they were all up quite late at home. Mam and dad said to them, “We will say the rosary now, before we go to bed, for those two people.” They said the rosary and went to bed. At about 2.30 a.m. the local priest called and got daddy up out of bed. He told him that Paddy was dead, that he had been killed in an explosion. That was it. It was the local priest who came to tell them what had happened.

Deputy Ó Feargháil: Even at that stage, was there no contact with the Garda authorities?

Ms Farrell: No. There was never any contact in 32 years.

Deputy Ó Feargháil: Their sense of loss is palpable; it is particularly obvious in the case of Ms Stanley who was not even born when this tragedy occurred. Can they give us a feel of how it has affected their lives over the past 32 years and the lasting impact Paddy’s death has had on them?

Ms Farrell: It has been horrific. We were so young. Daddy had to go to Belturbet that day to arrange to bring them home and they would not let mammy out of bed or let us near her. We had different relations in the house that day, some of whom were very good with children, some of whom were not. As you went in and out through the different rooms, you could hear different people’s conversations about what had happened, what was going on and when he was to be buried. They had forgotten we were there and to include us. It was terrible.

For years afterwards you could not talk to mam and dad about it. They just could not talk about it. They were so heartbroken. There were days you would come home from school to find mammy lost in grief. No one said, “Teresa, you have ten children; we will come and help you to get going.” It did not happen.

Deputy Ó Feargháil: Mrs. Farrell paints a picture of a total systems failure, where none of the State caring agencies put out a hand to help.

Ms Farrell: No one.

Ms Stanley: I was born with two broken arms. Last night I asked my mother if she would like me to say anything and she replied, “God, Susan, I do not know; I could not put it into words.” Years previously, at Christmas time, my dad had a heart attack. I slept with mam that night. I was 17 years old at the time and it was the first time she spoke to me about my brother’s death. She said that at first she thought the priest was talking about our grandad, also named Paddy Stanley. She said that when she realised it was Paddy, she could feel something terrible happening inside her, that this young woman had to carry life when her first-born had been taken away from her. As Gretta said, he was a wonderful boy. We have brilliant brothers and sisters and a wonderful mother and father. How did that woman get out of bed to give birth when there was no one there for her? We must get justice to make their deaths worthwhile. Gretta told me he was an Irish citizen. We must ensure justice is done for that Irish citizen. That is important for him and Geraldine.

Chairman: Thank you, Susan and Gretta, for your moving and emotional contributions which are very helpful to the committee in terms of its consideration of what it can do and the questions it can ask.

I now invite the legal representative for Justice for the Forgotten to make a submission. Ms Margaret Urwin, secretary of the Justice for the Forgotten group is accompanied by Mr. Cormac Ó Dúlacháin, Senior Counsel, and Mícheál O’Connor, BL. I understand Mr. Ó Dúlacháin will make the submission and that Margaret and Mícheál are also available to answers questions that might be forthcoming.

Mr. Cormac Ó Dúlacháin, SC: A number of issues have been raised during the past two days. One such issue, of which we are all conscious, is that the process upon which Mr. Justice Barron was asked to embark was, and has ultimately proved to be unsatisfactory. That is not the fault of Mr. Justice Barron. It harks back to a failure that arose out of the Good Friday Agreement.

When Justice for the Forgotten tried, initially, to convince the Government and various political parties that a serious process of inquiry was required, specifically in terms of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974, there was a reluctance to accept that was necessary. What was advanced was a piecemeal process. What has emerged is that the atrocities in Dublin and Monaghan are not the only atrocities about which families are seeking answers to questions. It is only now we are beginning to realise a well of atrocities exist from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s involving victims of this jurisdiction whose families have no real sense of what investigation was carried out on their behalf. They also have no means of determining what investigations were conducted. That is a common theme.

Families are essentially saying they are carrying the burden and are ultimately the people who have to stand up for their deceased parents, brothers or sisters in that if they do not ask questions no one else will. Even though 32 years have passed, they continue to ask those questions. What they have been given is a significant report produced in 1974 and attempts by Mr. Justice Barron to consider other incidents as best he can. The report before the committee considers to a significant degree the incident of 1 December while the incidents on 28 December in Belturbet and on 20 January are considered to a lesser degree. It then deals with other incidents as appendices. This indicates that those families whose loved ones were killed in atrocities and who are noted by way of appendix to some other report are not getting the answers they require. They are entitled to critically examine the detail of the information that emerges from the Barron report and to seek answers and explanations thereon.

We have submitted an observation paper on the first bombing which took place on 1 December. We will also leave with the committee observation papers on the other two bombings. We are trusting the committee to examine the detail of what emerges from the Barron report to see how it leads on to other questions. The difficulty which arises is that even this process leaves families out of the loop. It is important that victims’ families are allowed to engage directly with Mr. Justice Barron and the Garda Síochána, to put questions to and seek answers from them. The current process involves families appearing before the committee and relying on it to ask questions of Mr. Justice Barron and the Garda Commissioner who will then have to liaise on the matter with a chief superintendent who in turn will have to liaise with somebody else.

We do not have a process which allows families to engage with those charged with responsibility for the investigation and to have explained to them in detail everything done on their behalf. Also, they must know if things were not done and be told what can now be done. There is an element to this which suggests that what comes through the Barron process is a historical exercise. It is not a historical exercise for the families as many investigations can still be pursued. Photo-fits are available of the person believed to have driven the car bomb into Belturbet. Those photo-fits are as valid today as the day they were created 32 years ago yet they have never been released to the public to determine if the person was known to any of them.

In a similar fashion, a photo-fit is available of the person believed to be the one who hired the cars used in the Dublin bombing on 1 December 1972. That photo-fit is as valid today as the day it was made. Yet, that too has never been put in the public domain in any form of media. We are not dealing with cases on which files have been closed or on which there is no evidence. Fingerprints, information and intelligence gathered at the time still remain on file. There is a sense that investigation of that intelligence ceased the day it was collected and that the State never obtained any further intelligence on the individuals concerned.

If prosecutions cannot be pursued the collective intelligence agencies of this State and the British State should at least state if the intelligence gathered in 1972 was accurate or proved to be inaccurate in terms of those believed to have been involved. The families must be reasonably satisfied they know the organisations, if not the individuals, involved.

The current process does not meet the needs of the victims’ families. There is no list of unsolved murders. It is believed some 100, 110, or 120 murders were linked to the Northern troubles, yet the number of murders solved can be counted on one or two hands. There is, therefore, a well of unsolved murders, in which families are left with a sense that if the case could not be pursued at the time, it could never be pursued, with no opening for further communication. That simply is not the case. The purpose of looking critically at the information in the Barron report is to show that is not the case.

The investigation of all the bombings, which occurred within a six or seven week period, were carried out by the same police force, North and South, yet things were done differently from one investigation to another. It was possible for those in Donegal to go to Derry to sit in on interviews and interrogations. It was possible to go to the RUC in Derry and have people extradited. However in the case of the crimes in the South, there was a barrier to having conferences between the Garda Síochána and the RUC, and a perceived inability to have people arrested for interview or for gardaí to attend at interviews. There is a sense in these investigations that things are brought to a certain level and then stopped.

This raises very serious questions on the relationship between two police forces when a series of crimes, with cross-Border involvement, happen on the same day on both sides. What happened in Dublin on 17 May 1974 had happened on 1 December 1972, 28 December 1972 and on 20 January 1973. When one brings the reports together, there are common connections leading to the events on 17 May 1974. Common suspects are mentioned. Let us take the incident on 20 January 1973, the very circumstances in which a car was hijacked in Belfast that morning is replicated in every detail on 17 May 1974. It happened on the same street, at the same time and using the same method to take a person from a car, detention and release of that person at exactly the same time, 3.20 p.m., telling him to report to the same police station. There are coincidences but when there is such a number of coincidences, one begins to see a pattern and questions whether the same people are involved.

The first incident was in Dublin on 1 December 1972 and the failings of the investigation into it raise questions as to whether those people were left at large to commit further crimes. It becomes very clear when one examines the investigation into the incident in Belturbet, where a “Mr. B” is mentioned. “Mr. B” is also mentioned in the Barron report of 1974 and in the intervening period he is left at large until he is ultimately convicted of another murder in Northern Ireland. Questions emerge that connect these cases, if not directly then indirectly.

When one considers all the cases at the same time, patterns and common evidence begin to emerge. One gets the sense that all the cases are being investigated separately and all arrive at a point where the file is effectively closed in an operational sense. The families are not interested in the academic definition of closing a file, or that, as a matter of law, the investigation is not closed until it is solved. They know in reality the files on the murder of their loved ones are closed and that there seemed to be no process in which the files are revisited as a matter of course every five or ten years. They have a sense that the State is very reluctant to engage with the victims of crime to inform them of what is happening. That continues.

Even, as lawyers engaging with Mr. Justice Barron, we do not come to the report to criticise it for the sake of criticism, but the points arising from the report that we wish to highlight would have been highlighted more effectively, if we had been in a position to do so, when Mr. Justice Barron was considering these matters. Mr. Justice Barron was reporting to the Government and not to us. We, as lawyers, had no sight of any of the documents to which he had access. We had no idea of the content of his report. We could not, on behalf of relatives, tell him what other line of inquiry he could pursue.

Mr. Justice Barron has not had the benefit of an input from us or the families involved to ensure his is a more wholesome and effective report. That undermines the whole exercise significantly. It means that the Douglas family find that the report does not fill in the detail and leaves them with so many questions, that they question whether their brother’s murder received less attention because they did not live in the country. That may not be the case, but that does not come out in the Barron report. They have not had the benefit of sitting down with a Garda officer to obtain an explanation of what occurred.

To illustrate the point, let me indicate the changes that are occurring in Northern Ireland. In the past year, the Pat Finucane centre in Derry has made considerable progress with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the office of the police ombudsman and the prosecution service. After their perseverance in a tough battle, they are able to get access of transcripts of trials, to the books of evidence that were produced and to the RUC notes of the interview of suspects. Yet when Ms Margaret Urwin, from Justice for the Forgotten goes to the National Archive to access files from the Department of Justice from 30 years ago, she finds that files that may have only a passing reference to the bombings are not open to the public. There may be good reason for that, but not only are they not open to the public, we do not know the number, the names or the details of these files.

One gets a sense from the Barron report that Mr. Justice Barron has seen one file, yet there are lists of files that are not open to public scrutiny. There is a concern that the bombings of 1 December 1972 and those immediately after it are a matter of State secrecy and that there is a reluctance on the part of the Department for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to facilitate open disclosure.

There is also a sense that there is a huge political issue, that it is uncomfortable to deal with. We were very surprised with the Barron conclusion on the spy trial - if I might call it that without mentioning names - in December 1972 and January 1973, the sense that that whole episode had no connection whatsoever with bombings or other incidents in the State. Our sense is that Barron arrived at that conclusion without really having had the opportunity to explore the issue in any great detail and knowing, as we do, that even in 1972 the extent of the files taken from the Garda and passed to MI5 or MI6 was not revealed. We know that there was a discrete interest in information relating to the investigation of the bombings of 1 December 1972. If there were political matters that were uncomfortable or had sensitivities - maybe justifiable sensitivities in 1972 and 1973 - at least those matters should now be brought out in public. They are political matters which the committee is entitled to investigate and question the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform about.

I will make a final point at this stage. We can come back with further submissions - if the committee wishes to hear further from us - on the detail of each of these incidents. We would be delighted to have that opportunity.

On the question of British co-operation with inquiries, this is a point I made yesterday. This is about a current obligation, not an historic exercise about what happened in the Second World War but in unsolved murders. This, effectively, is still part of a criminal investigation process. What is going on could lead to the identification of people responsible who are still answerable. We find that a neighbouring government must have a significant number of relevant files, if nothing else starting with the fact that there were reported car thefts within its jurisdiction that they had to investigate, but also significant details on suspects, the identity of whom emerges from information supplied discreetly to the Garda in 1972 and 1973 and from information available to it from prosecutions that Mr. Justice Barron mentions in his report - a trial in 1975 and a trial in 1976. We know information has been collected, and has continued to be collected over the years. That is relevant, yet we find a neighbouring government stating if it will co-operate, it will co-operate on its terms, in its timescale, when it suits and as it suits. That is the level of commitment under the Good Friday Agreement to victims and families of the most innocent victims one can find. Even in the coming month, in the cases of the Douglas, Duffy and Bradshaw families, the inquest into the 1972 bombing and that of 20 January 1973 are finally reopening. It should have happened earlier but it did not. It is opening in a context where the British Government and authorities have refused to co-operate. We anticipate that this will repeat itself within the next four weeks. We ask the committee to raise with the Department of Foreign Affairs, not in a report in a month or two but now, the matter of whether we are happy to sit back and see this continue and whether this committee should take on that specific issue at this time.

Senator J. Walsh: I thank Mr. Ó Dúlacháin for his submission to the committee. Did the Justice for the Forgotten group liaise with Mr. Justice Barron during his investigation?

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