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

Dé Céadaoin, 27 Meán Fómhair 2006 - Wednesday, 27 September 2006

Public Hearing on the Barron Report

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The Sub-Committee met at 9.45 a.m.

Sub Committee Members Present:
Deputy Seán Ardagh (Fianna Fáil),
Senator Maurice Cummins (FineGael),
Deputy Kathleen Lynch (Labour),
Senator Jim Walsh. (Fianna Fáil)
Deputy Máire Hoctor (Fianna Fáil)
Deputy Finian McGrath (Independent)
Deputy Seán Ó Feargháil (Fianna Fáil)


Chairman: The sub-committee heard yesterday from the families of the victims of many of the incidents referred to in the report. Today we will hear from other witnesses to assist in our consideration of the report. The order in which the sub-committee will take witnesses is set out in the schedule, which is being circulated.

Senator J. Walsh: I apologise for being late. I raised an issue yesterday regarding identifying witnesses. If we are not going to name people or ask questions-----

Chairman: I will not accept this query in public. We will go into private session. If necessary, I will ask all the witnesses to withdraw and we will then discuss the matter.

Senator J. Walsh: I have one question. Can those who should not be mentioned be numbered so that when members ask questions, we will all know about whom we are talking? At least then there will be clarity in the replies. I asked a question yesterday and it transpired that the information I was given was incorrect. I am asking that this be done in the interests of clarity.

Chairman: There is no problem in numbering people or specifying a page or, for example, the second mention in a particular paragraph on a page. However, I ask members not to name individuals.

Senator J. Walsh: Can the clerk produce a numbered list of the people members and witnesses are instructed not to name and distribute it to all of us? This will permit clarity in the answers and questions we are putting to people.

Chairman: We will try to do that. In the meantime, individuals should be referred to as the "person in that paragraph" , "the second person", "the fourth person" and so forth. We are again joined by representatives from Justice for the Forgotten. I welcome Ms Margaret Urwin, secretary of Justice for the Forgotten, Mr. Cormac Ó Dúlacháin, SC, counsel for Justice for the Forgotten, and Mr. Kevin O'Loughlan, chairman of Justice for the Forgotten.

We have already received a very comprehensive written submission from Justice for the Forgotten for which we are very grateful. The delegation will be aware of the committee's procedures from previous appearances before it. I remind witnesses of the committee's terms of reference, which are to consider Mr. Justice Barron's report into the bombing of Kay's Tavern in Dundalk for the purpose of making recommendations in respect of legislative or administrative provisions. As a result of the Supreme Court decision in the Abbeylara case, we are prevented from making any findings or expressions of culpability against individuals who are not Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

I invite members of the delegation to make a few remarks. Does Mr. O'Loughlan wish to make some opening remarks?

Mr. Kevin O'Loughlan: I thank the Chairman. I am chairperson of Justice for the Forgotten, which represents the families of those who died in the Dublin-Monaghan bombings of 1974 and those who died in the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973. We are here today to support the families affected by the atrocities into which the committee is inquiring. The evidence shows that the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974 and the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973 are linked to the murders being investigated by the committee. We are here to support the families affected by these murders and give them as much help as possible. I will now ask Mr. Cormac Ó Dúlacháin to present a more detailed submission.

Mr. Cormac Ó Dúlacháin, SC: We have appeared before this committee on a number of occasions and it is useful to summarise why we came to be here. In December 1999, the Taoiseach, in consultation with other party leaders, agreed to the establishment of a commission of inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. The commission of inquiry was established soon afterwards. It was expressly stated in December 1999 that the purpose of what was to become known as the Barron inquiries was to establish whether there was any foundation to the concerns that had been voiced from the early 1990s. The purpose of the Barron inquiries was not to reach final conclusions. Rather, it was to establish fundamentally whether there were valid concerns which required significant public scrutiny.

In the past number of years, what has emerged from the Barron reports collectively is a body of evidence that has been extremely powerful in underlying the existence of very serious issues and that there is evidence of collusion from the early to the mid-1970s. This evidence emerged from the Barron reports and very powerfully through testimony given to this committee yesterday and on other occasions. What is to follow this body of evidence? Is it simply enough that it is collected and collated or is it time to subject it to detailed scrutiny and inquire further into the matter?

If one compares the information possessed by this committee with the information presented by Judge Peter Corry to the Irish and British Governments following his limited inquiries, it is very clear that the body of evidence available to the Irish Government through this process is ten times more detailed and powerful than the evidence collected by Judge Corry, which grounded the decision by both Governments to establish a number of formal inquiries. It is dangerous to compartmentalise the inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the various other inquiries which have taken place and to assert that the conclusion in the report into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings was X and the conclusion in the report into the Dublin bombings of 1972 was Y. We need to examine them collectively.

Given the publication of the report into the Dundalk bombings and the appendices and sub-reports into various other outrages, a number of questions come to mind. A critical question which goes to the heart of collusion is who knew what was happening in the period between 1974, in particular, and 1976 and 1977. The question arises as to whether what was going on was known at a very low level or whether it was known to the institutions and those in charge of them.

From looking at 1974, we know that detailed information as to the identity of loyalists was communicated from RUC Special Branch to the Garda Síochána. As early as 1974, the identity of those involved in atrocities was known. As the various reports have emerged, we have seen that names given to the Garda Síochána in 1974 subsequently reappeared in connection with events in Silverbridge, the Miami Showband and other atrocities. The identity of individual perpetrators was known as early as 1974. We know that their identity was not a local matter but was known at divisional headquarters in Portadown and at RUC headquarters. We know from the Holroyd notebooks that the identity of these people was known to military intelligence. We know the structures within military intelligence that all that fed into military headquarters in Lisburn. We know from the Wallace documents that these individuals were being listed and collated and that associations were being identified. If one takes the individuals as being unrelated to the security forces and takes them purely as subversives, the identity of this network or organisation of subversives in Armagh was well known by 1974.

Due to the fact that there has been no means of questioning anybody about it, what has not emerged through the Barron inquiries is what intelligence was gathered in connection with these people from 1974 onwards. We know that from June 1974 onwards, both the Garda Síochána and the RUC knew that this group was capable of horrendous acts. It was capable of planting no-warning bombs in Dublin and Monaghan and planning events involving mass murder with no question of warnings. We know that from the summer of 1974, the security forces in Northern Ireland knew that a powerful and dangerous group operated in their midst and yet we have no evidence or indication that anything was done to curtail, restrict or limit the free range of movement or the freedom to act of these individuals. While it is often said there is no evidence to convict, we continuously saw throughout the 1970s and 1980s the security forces adopt practices designed to curtail, limit and obstruct groups and organisations in carrying out actions. The question for the security forces is not simply related to having evidence to convict, but of how resources were applied and what was done to obstruct and defeat those who sought to carry out unlawful acts. That network of intelligence was in place by the summer of 1974 and we begin to see what emerged in 1975 and 1976. If we take on one side the atrocities that have been the subject of these reports and witnesses before this committee, one counts the number of serious criminal investigations that they gave rise to and the context in which they were carried out, one will find that senior police officers were involved in the Miami Showband investigation. One will find that senior police officers across a number of divisions were involved in the investigation concerning the Reaveys and the O'Dowds. One will find that atrocities attracted huge public focus, not only because of the atrocities themselves but of the counter atrocities they gave rise to.

If one reflects on the time and looks back at the newspapers, Dáil reports and British parliament reports, one continuously finds major expressions of political concern about what was happening in Armagh. In that context, we are expected to believe the detail about individuals and that their membership of the UDR and RUC reserve remained unknown to the powers that be. In some way, all of this never crossed the desk of senior commanders, whether it was civilian intelligence, RUC intelligence or military intelligence. All of this was supposedly immune from CID investigation or forensic officers. The experience of some inquiries made reveals that there were two very different cultures within the RUC. One was that of CID, criminal investigation, formal investigative officers who in many incidents were collecting information. The other was that of RUC special branch which either controlled that information or controlled the course and direction of inquiries.

When one takes all of the inquiries that were ongoing and the political concerns expressed, one has to come to the conclusion that people at a very high level knew what was going on, yet we find the most minimal accountability. If one tries to trace who was arrested, lifted or detained, one finds people on minor changes and discovers subsequently that they were given character references when they appeared in court on these charges, that the prosecutors and prosecuting officers indicated that these people were believed to have no known associations, when all the other contemporaneous evidence was pointing in the other direction. Records of previous convictions were not referred to. Ultimately, it is not brought to an end by police or security action.

Matters changed in the late 1970s when this group centred around Glenanne began to disintegrate or fragment. The only period in which it really came into focus was in 1979 when a particular RUC officer began to speak out about his involvement. What do we find? We discover that centrally involved in a number of these events were policemen who were members of a special patrol group, a special unit set up to tackle the very thing in which they were involved. It was a specialist unit with its own command structure, its own assistant chief constable as head and linked straight to RUC headquarters. There is a huge question mark when one finds that a special anti-terrorist unit - that was the nature of the special patrol group - and its members were involved and associated with people whom we now know were terrorists and involved in a range of atrocities which directly led to other atrocities such as the Kingsmill massacre. It was brought home to me in one long meeting we had with John Weir in Paris a number of years ago when we asked where it was going to stop. When was the tit-for-tat retaliation and the madness going to stop? He said it had stopped one evening when, as a further retaliation, they sat down to plan an attack on a primary school. At some stage someone said "No". At some stage the spiral stopped.

One comes back to our main concern which started with the Dublin-Monaghan bombings as to whether there was collusion. We end up with the benefit of four Barron reports that put the Dublin-Monaghan bombings evidentially at the start of a trail of evidence that identifies a period in which we believe there was significant state collusion which was not limited to what might be referred to as foot soldiers, bad apples, or the occasional wayward RUC officer or UDR member.

That brings us back to the question of where we go from here. We made a number of complaints to the European Court of Human Rights arising from what we believe was the failure of the United Kingdom to co-operate with various inquiries. Both complaints were ruled inadmissible under the rules of the court, particularly the time limit provisions, which require that complaints be lodged within a period of six months of the grounds of complaint being evident; it is not always six months from the event or atrocity being complained of. We complained about the lack of co-operation with inquests, the Oireachtas committee and the Barron inquiry. The context in which the court ruled against the admissibility of the complaints was, in part, that one could not complain about the British Government not co-operating with an inquest if it took 30 years for the State or the relatives to ask for that inquest to be resumed. One cannot expect a formal level of co-operation from a government if the inquiries established are non-statutory and without legal powers, in the nature of the Barron inquiry. It was very much a case of the European Court telling us not to look to the convention if both the victims' families and the Government had failed to bring these matters to a head much earlier.

That effectively brings us to what should be done at this stage. We have constantly campaigned for a public inquiry on the basis that the evidence needs to be gathered, sifted and tested publicly. We have admitted all along, however, that there are limitations and difficulties. We find it ironic that a public inquiry has been established to inquire into the murders of two RUC officers who served during this period when the police force and others in structures whom we believe were involved in collusion do not seem to be amenable to a formal inquiry. Having been constantly told that one cannot compel co-operation, it would be interesting to know whether the inquiry under Judge Smithwick into the murder of Breen and Buchanan is being recognised by the British Government and whether it is obtaining co-operation from the PSNI.

I am aware of the controversy surrounding the formal and statutory inquiries in the North following the Cory report but it is important to find out the extent to which those inquiries are receiving co-operation from the security authorities. For us, the evidence of collusion is now so compelling and powerful that there is an obligation on the Oireachtas to take up the issue and state the matter must be fully inquired into in order that the full nature and extent of what occurred in those years can be established.

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