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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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Mr. Ó Dúlacháin, SC: We did. There was a huge difference between these and the 1974 inquiry. In the case of the Dublin bombings of 1974, there was so much information in the public domain. There were witnesses of whom we knew. There were people who were willing to talk. There are papers that have become available from other sources. We were able to meaningfully engage because we had a body of information on which to work.

The 1 December 1972 and 20 January 1973 bombings had not been the subject of journalistic inquiry or television documentaries. Therefore, the information to enable us to conduct independent investigations or feed in to Mr. Justice Barron’s inquiry was very limited and his interpretation of his role meant that his ability to reveal material to us was extremely limited and restricted.

Senator J. Walsh: In the case of the 1974 bombings, Mr. Ó Dúlacháin had interaction with Mr. Justice Barron during the process. Is he saying there was less interaction on this occasion?

Mr. Ó Dúlacháin, SC: Significantly less. The dynamics of what we knew meant we simply did not have material on which to work.

Senator J. Walsh: Mr. Ó Dúlacháin mentioned the disparity in the standards of investigation between different Garda operations into the various crimes. To what does Mr. Ó Dúlacháin attribute this? I think he would express satisfaction with some and be critical of others.

Mr. Ó Dúlacháin, SC: It appears to us that either there was a lack of direction or a policy as to how we should go about investigating crimes with a very definite cross-Border connection. One can appreciate that there may be a belief in respect of a connection across a border but when one had a very definite connection - a car stolen in the morning and used in the evening - and where one had the evidence that established that connection, there did not seem to be any agreed protocol, arrangement or instructions on how to go about co-ordinating the investigations.

Senator J. Walsh: In his submission Mr. Ó Dúlacháin laid much emphasis on the need for the families to interact with the Garda and Mr. Justice Barron. Has he a specific forum in mind in which that might take place?

Mr. Ó Dúlacháin, SC: That really is a matter for debate. At one level, one talks about public inquiries and takes fright. The public inquiry, at one level in which families are interested, allows them to be present and interact with those who have the knowledge. For them, therefore, it can be public if it involves them. Whether it must occur on a grand public stage is a different matter but at the most basic level there should be interaction between a police force and those who have suffered. That interaction should involve a detailed description of what occurred, an opportunity to contribute and to question.

Senator J. Walsh: To what end does Mr. Ó Dúlacháin see that taking place? Is it to advance investigations or assist the families to come to terms with these events and put them on the path to closure?

Mr. Ó Dúlacháin, SC: There are a number of aspects. Families can begin to address and come to terms with the issues, if they believe they have done everything possible. If they come away with an understanding that a significant investigation has been conducted and the reasons it failed, if it did fail, at least they know that is an aspect they can put behind them. Second, that interaction forces the police force to look back and ask themselves if there is anything that can be done now or if anything was left undone. The process has the dual benefit of meeting the needs of a family as well as looking at the case afresh, asking questions and learning from the process.

Senator J. Walsh: Mr. Ó Dúlácháin recognises the difficulties arising from the cross-jurisdictional nature of the investigation, and that the co-operation of officers on both sides of the Border is required. How can that be advanced, given the criticism in the report of the failure of the Northern Ireland office to assist in any way?

Mr. Ó Dúlacháin, SC: Ultimately, it is a matter of political will. It is a question of whether the peace process must engage with people on their entitlement to truth. There is a sense that the peace process must engage with people on this issue but the detail of how it should be done has not been worked out and agreed by both Governments. There is no agreed consensus between all parties and both Governments as to how and by whom it will be done.

Senator J. Walsh: Yesterday, Mr. Martin Douglas read into the record a letter from the British Prime Minister, Mr. Blair, to Mr. Nigel Evans, the MP in Mr. Douglas’s constituency. It states, “It is entirely understandable that those who have suffered the loss of loved ones still yearn to find out what happened and the British Government is committed to doing what it can to give those people the best chance of achieving that.” That is in stark contrast to the criticism in the Barron report of the failure of the British authorities to assist him in any way in regard to these investigations.

Mr. Ó Dúlacháin has emphasised the responsibilities of both Governments to provide information. Is he suggesting that the definition of collusion would include the prevention of relevant data being made available on events that happened 30 years ago?

Mr. Ó Dúlacháin, SC: It is very clear in a legal sense and in international law that providing cover constitutes an act of collusion. If one provides protection, obscures people from prosecution or fails to disclose information, one is acting as a participant in the overall event. Even if one does so subsequently, one is acquiesing. Not to co-operate with investigations, whether civil or criminal, parliamentary or quasi-judicial, into murders is effectively to give an imprimatur to the murder that occurred.

Senator J. Walsh: Is Mr. Ó Dúlácháin putting that on a par with people in authority at the time being aware of events and not disclosing and taking action on them?

Mr. Ó Dúlacháin, SC: If it was wrong to do so 30 years ago, it is wrong to do it again today. It is hard to communicate, but it a matter for the body politic to take the issue and put the emphasis on it. It has been left at the fringe of the debate on the peace process, closure, decommissing and political institutions. This is an issue that affects people on both sides of the Border.

Chairman: I will put a question to Ms Margaret Urwin, secretary of the organisation, Justice for the Forgotten. Today, the O’Reillys, the Stanleys and the Douglas’ - I do not know if Fr. Carr has been in touch with you - paid tribute to the work of Ms Urwin. There may be victims or relatives of victims watching the proceedings who feel forgotten. Will Ms Urwin tell the committee what Justice for the Forgotten can do for them and how they can contact her?

Ms Margaret Urwin: It had occurred to me that this was an opportunity to publicise the services of Justice for the Forgotten, which provides services for all those bereaved by the northern conflict, living in this jurisdiction and all of those who were injured by any acts relating to the northern conflict. We have funding to provide counselling services and we also provide holistic services at our family centre in Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin. We also have an outreach service, whereby counselling or holistic therapies can be provided in any part of the State to anybody who has suffered as a result of the conflict. Our telephone number is in all of the State directories under Justice for the Forgotten, and if one looks it up under the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, one will be referred to Justice for the Forgotten.

Deputy F. McGrath: Have the all families with whom Justice for the Forgotten has been in contact been compensated and are their medical bills being paid? I refer in particular to victims who have shrapnel in their bodies. Are their cases being handled by the Department in a sensitive manner?

Ms Urwin: I take it the Deputy is referring to the Remembrance Commission.

Deputy F. McGrath: Yes.

Ms Urwin: First, it is not compensation. Acknowledgement payments have been made to the bereaved families of our members and to the great majority of people with whom we are in touch. There are difficulties with making payments to the injured at present. The structure of the scheme is very limiting and I know the commission is continuing to look at ways of making the funding more accessible to the survivors.

The Remembrance Commission is very sympathetic. Representatives of the commission visited our centre on 30 November and they met a number of survivors as well as families of the bereaved. I think they were greatly impressed by what they saw. They had an opportunity to look at the facilities in terms of counselling and holistic therapies.

Chairman: I thank Ms Urwin, Mr. Cormac Ó Dúlacháin and Mr. Míchéal O’Connor. I thank everybody who came here today, in particular the families of the victims and the victims themselves, and all who have helped in our consideration of the report.

The sub-committee adjourned at 12 p.m.
until 9.30 a.m. on Thursday, 27 January 2005.

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