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, 20 Eanáir 2004 - Tuesday, 20 January 2004
Hearing on the Barron Report
The Sub-Committee met at 10 a.m.
Committee Members Present:
DEPUTY SEÁN ARDAGH IN THE CHAIR.
Chairman: I welcome the members of the Justice for the Forgotten group represented by Greg O'Neill, solicitor; Cormac Ó Dualacháin and Micheál O'Connor. I also welcome the group represented by Des Doherty and Company, solicitors, and Miriam Reilly.
The sub-committee established by the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights wishes to express its deepest sympathy with the victims and relatives of the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 17 May 1974. In human terms, the true cost of these atrocities is incalculable. The sub-committee wishes to acknowledge the enormous suffering endured by both the victims and their families, which in many cases is ongoing. It is hoped that both the publication of the Barron report and the hearings which will be conducted by this sub-committee in the coming weeks may go some small way towards alleviating the distress these individuals have suffered over the years.
The joint committee established the sub-committee to consider the Barron report in public session and to report back to the joint committee. The Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights is an instrument of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann and fulfils an important public function in completing the task specifically assigned to it by both Houses. It is pursuant to the terms of reference decided by both Houses that the committee is sitting this morning.
My name is Seán Ardagh and I am chairman of the sub-committee. The other members are Deputy Costello, the Labour Party spokesperson on justice and law reform, Deputy Paul McGrath, vice-chairman of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, Deputy Hoctor, the Government convenor of the committee, Deputy Peter Power and Senator Jim Walsh, the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on justice and law reform in the Seanad. Hugh Mohan, senior counsel, is advising the sub-committee along with Paul Anthony McDermot and Tara Connolly. Deputy Finian McGrath, an Independent Deputy, is also a member of the sub-committee.
At the outset of our work, we recall the words of Mr. Justice Henry Barron in his statement to the joint committee on 10 December last. He said: "The Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 17 May 1974 remain the most devastating attack on the civilian population of this State to have taken place since the Troubles began". A total of 33 people, including one pregnant woman, died as a result of the explosions. Many more were injured and we will hear from some of those people today. Some insight into the nature of the atrocities which were perpetrated on the streets of Dublin and Monaghan can be gleaned from the following report of the Talbot Street bomb, which appeared in the Irish Press the following day. It stated:
Seconds after the blasts, as the pall of smoke rose from the streets, dazed survivors saw the normal home-going rush of people turned into a scene of carnage. There were bodies, some limbless, some blasted beyond recognition, some burned, lying on the pavements. Scores of others badly injured and many knocked out by the blast or shocked by the impact were hurled into windows and side streets. For some time it was impossible to distinguish between the dead and the injured.
Today, 30 years after the events described in that passage, we revisit those terrible scenes for the purpose of fulfilling our terms of reference.
It is appropriate to recall briefly how the Barron report came into being. It also might be appropriate at this juncture to recall the Taoiseach's acknowledgement of the extreme pain and suffering experienced by the victims and their families and of the fact that he has been committed to addressing the concerns of those affected by the terrible deeds perpetrated on that day.
To assist in this, on 19 December 1999, the Taoiseach announced the appointment of Mr. Justice Liam Hamilton. His terms of reference were agreed on 15 February 2000 and were as follows:
To undertake a thorough examination involving fact finding and assessment of all aspects of the Dublin/Monaghan bombings and their sequel, including the facts, circumstances, causes and perpetrators of the bombings; the nature, adequacy and extent of the Garda investigation, including the co-operation with and from the relevant authorities in Northern Ireland and the handling of evidence, including the scientific analyses of forensic evidence; the reasons why no prosecution took place, including whether and, if so, by whom and to what extent the investigations were impeded; and the issues raised by the "Hidden Hand" TV documentary broadcast in 1993.
In this context the phrase "the Dublin/Monaghan bombings" refers to the bomb explosions that took place in Parnell Street, Talbot Street and South Leinster Street, Dublin on 17 May 1974 and the bomb explosion that took place in Church Square, Monaghan on 17 May 1974.
The results of the examination by Mr. Justice Hamilton, who was succeeded by Mr. Justice Henry Barron, were to be presented to the Government and followed by an examination of the report in public session by the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights or a sub-committee of that committee. It was envisaged that the joint committee would advise the Oireachtas on what further action, if any, would be necessary to establish the truth of what happened. The establishment of the Independent Commission of Inquiry was a genuine attempt to respond to the legitimate needs and concerns of those injured or bereaved as a result of the bombings and to move towards closure for people who had suffered for too long.
The Barron report
was presented to the Taoiseach on 29 October 2003. The main body of the
report was 277 pages long. An idea of the areas covered may be gleaned
from the part headings: Part 1: Background information; Part 2: The Garda
Investigation; Part 3: Assessment of the Investigation; Part 4: Issues
raised by the "Hidden Hand" Programme; Part 5: The Perpetrators
and Possible Collusion; and Part 6: Conclusions. The report also contained
four appendices dealing with the following subjects: a transcript of the
"Hidden Hand" programme; the murder of John Francis Greene;
weapons linking members of the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries;
and a profile of the victims of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings.
By a motion of referral by Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann on 10 December 2003, both Houses of the Oireachtas requested the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, or a sub-committee thereof, to consider in public session the Barron report and to report back to both Houses within three months concerning three items, first, whether the report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974 addresses all the issues covered in the original terms of reference of the inquiry; second, the lessons to be drawn and any actions to be taken in light of the Barron report, its findings and conclusions; and, third, whether, having regard to the report's findings and following consultations with the inquiry, a further public inquiry into any aspect of the report would be required or fruitful.
In recent weeks we have placed advertisements seeking written submissions from interested parties and have received many such submissions. Even at this stage, if there are any parties who believe they can assist us with our terms of reference we will welcome their written submissions. Many of the submissions received were clearly the result of a great deal of time and effort. They were of great benefit to us and we are extremely grateful to all of the authors. In the coming days and weeks, the sub-committee will request some of the parties whose written submissions were of particular relevance to our terms of reference to make oral submissions. These will consist of a short oral presentation followed by questions from individual members of the sub-committee about matters arising out of those presentations. Where oral presentations are not requested, this should not be taken to imply that the sub-committee is ignoring the other written submissions. They have been circulated to each member of the sub-committee and will form an integral part of the sub-committee's deliberations.
A written programme of the sub-committee's hearings has been circulated and the sub-committee has adopted its proposed programme as the best means of structuring its work, bearing in mind the specific terms of reference. The sub-committee is concerned to optimise the time available to it to fulfil its remit within the timeframe delegated by the Houses of the Oireachtas. The sub-committee proposes to divide its work into five modules. Written submissions, in addition to those already received, will be welcome from interested persons and parties in advance of each module.
Today, in module 1,
the sub-committee will hear from individual members of families who have
suffered bereavements 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 here today. The sub-committee
wanted to commence by hearing from the victims in order to place them
at the centre of its work. Module 2 will deal with an examination of whether
the report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin and
Monaghan Bombings of 1974 addresses all of the issues covered in the terms
of reference of that inquiry.
At the beginning of each module, the sub-committee will set out which persons or parties it wishes to hear from and will indicate the proposed order of that part of the hearings. The public hearings will then conclude and the sub-committee will prepare a report on its terms of reference for the purposes of reporting back to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights which in turn will report to both Houses of the Oireachtas. The joint committee, in line with its terms of reference will report back to the Houses of the Oireachtas by 10 March 2004. The report of the joint committee to both Houses will detail the submissions received, the hearings held and such comments, recommendations or conclusions as the sub-committee may decide to make and the said report will be published.
In respect of procedures, it should be noted that the sub-committee is bound by its very precise terms of reference and will not stray beyond them. In particular, the sub-committee is not conducting an investigation of its own into the terrible events of 1974 or seeking to apportion any blame to any person or body. The sub-committee has neither the jurisdiction nor the legal authority to perform any such function. However, if it feels that a further public inquiry which has the power to address those types of issues is necessary, it is open to the sub-committee to so recommend. We would ask everyone appearing before us to respect the fact that we cannot stray beyond our terms of reference.
It should be also noted that in its work the sub-committee is both legally and constitutionally bound to respect and follow the content of the Supreme Court judgment in the Abbeylara case. For anyone who is interested in reading that judgment it may be found in the 2002 Irish Reports. In it, Mr Justice Hardiman stated:
If the Oireachtas were enabled to send for any citizen and to reach findings of fact or conclusions which could be adverse to him and affect his reputation and employment, it would indeed be functioning as a 'High Court of Parliament' and its members would indeed be 'general inquisitors of the realm' to use the archaic language employed by the English courts to describe the former powers of the Westminster parliament. I have not heard anything that convinces me that there is in our Constitution anything which confers such a power on the Oireachtas, either in relation to civil or public servants or in relation to citizens generally.
Mr. Justice Geoghegan stated:
Any kind of inquiry by an Oireachtas committee or sub-committee for a direct and express legislative purpose and which would not be intended to result in findings of blameworthy conduct on the part of identifiable individuals is constitutionally and legally permissible.
As a result of the Supreme Court judgment in the Abbeylara case the sub-committee is legally restrained from entering into any adjudication on the issue of individual or personal culpability. The sub-committee hopes that all interested parties and bodies will understand and respect its position in this regard.
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. Not only can the sub-committee not give any form of guarantee or assurances in this regard, but we would urge invitees to obtain their own independent legal advice as it would appear that each invitee will be responsible for their individual statements.
The sub-committee will apply the Standing Orders of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann. In particular, it should be noted that Dáil Standing Order 59 provides that in committees, order is to be maintained by the chairperson. Standing Order 94 allows the chairperson to order any person whose conduct is grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately. Similar powers are to be found in Seanad Standing Order 78. I hope those powers will not be needed. That is not anticipated.
It is anticipated that daily transcripts of the proceedings before this sub-committee will be made generally available on the Oireachtas website as promptly as possible during the course of the hearings.
Before we commence, there are a couple of acknowledgements we wish to make. Everyone who appears before us does so on a voluntary basis and we thank them very much in advance for their assistance with our work. This sub-committee would also like to express its gratitude for the work done by the late Mr. Justice Hamilton, Mr. Justice Henry Barron and their staff, who have performed an important public service in producing the report we are here to consider.
I now invite Mr. Cormac Ó Dúlacháin for the Justice for the Forgotten Group to make his opening statement.
Mr. Cormac Ó Dúlacháin: Thank you for the invitation. Today is a day for the relatives and those immediately affected by the bombings in order that they can give the committee their personal stories and testimony regarding the bombings and what has occurred over almost 30 years.
I appear with Micheál O'Connor and solicitor Greg O'Neill of Brophy Solicitors. I will briefly outline how this matter has come back before this committee at this time and what we believe the committee is being asked to address. Next week, we will have the opportunity to make a comprehensive submission which deals with the substance of the Barron report in respect of what it does and does not address and the issues covered by its terms of reference.
I express our appreciation to the committee for the invitation to appear before it and the opportunity today and in the coming weeks to advance the case for a public inquiry. It is worth remembering that it was the joint committee, of which this sub-committee is part, that first offered the victims an official opportunity to publicly state the case for an inquiry. That was in November 1999 when Justice for the Forgotten was invited to appear before the joint committee. Effectively, the committee created the political momentum which led in December 1999 to the establishment of what we call the Barron commission. In that regard it is appropriate that the matter has now returned to the committee which was instrumental in creating this political momentum.
Today, I would like to outline briefly the background of how this process came about from the perspective of Justice for the Forgotten. If this is appreciated by the members of the committee, it may lead to a greater understanding of the expectations of the relatives and injured appearing before it today. In 1993, Yorkshire Television broadcast a programme which highlighted three issues. The first, which was very important, was that it reflected back to 17 May 1974 and the enormity of the bombings. In itself, this was a public service as it made people stop and reflect on what occurred.
Second, it highlighted allegations that the criminal investigation was compromised and the political response was inadequate. Third, it alleged that evidence existed which pointed to security force collusion with the loyalists believed to have been involved in the bombings. These allegations, whether true or false in whole or in part, were extremely serious. If true only in part, the relatives believed they warranted a public investigation.
Following these broadcasts, the relatives held a public meeting and having called for a public inquiry they innocently expected that one would follow soon after. The official response, however, was muted. The then Minister for Justice committed her Department to a review of the television programme and two years later, in May 1995, a subsequent Minister for Justice issued a public statement containing the official response of the State to the programme. This was based on a Garda review of the original investigation, additional interviews conducted by the Garda and views expressed by the Director of Public Prosecutions. Effectively, the Department argued that no further inquiry was warranted because there was no substance in the programme, the Garda investigation was thorough and there was no evidence of collusion. It is important to reflect that the 1995 statement was issued following the Department's own assessment and was based on the stated views of the then Garda Commissioner and the Director of Public Prosecutions. As a stated position, therefore, it carried enormous weight.
We all appreciate that public inquiries are not established on the basis of allegations or idle speculation. There must be material facts which raise a legitimate and grave concern. From 1995 to 1999 Justice for the Forgotten continued to maintain that there was sufficient evidence to give rise to serious and grave concerns such as to warrant a public inquiry. The State position was the opposite of this and was effectively that there was no basis for an inquiry.
In August 1999 John Wilson, as Victims Commissioner, issued his report. I should acknowledge that on two occasions he met Justice for the Forgotten and a large number of the relatives after which he reflected on the matter. In his report he implicitly acknowledged the impasse between the two positions and referred to a vacuum in the relatives' search for the truth. In the context of the Good Friday Agreement, on the basis of which he and his office were appointed, he accepted that the issue was sufficiently grave that it warranted a further independent review. At that stage he indicated that it should be a private form of judicial inquiry or investigation and recommended that a judge be asked to review relevant files. It was clear that the object of this exercise was to establish whether there was substance to the allegations. It was never argued by anybody that, should there be substance to the allegations, a criminal investigation into the murder of 34 people was seriously deficient or, if there was evidence of collusion, that a public inquiry should not follow.
The Government over the years has been well aware of the criteria that apply in considering whether an issue is grave enough to warrant a public inquiry. The Government has been a strong advocate of the concept of public inquiry into serious and grave matters. It did so in advocating the re-opening an inquiry into Bloody Sunday and, in more recent times, in appointing Judge Cory and agreeing that he would review certain killings. It should be noted that the Government was willing to accept the independent view of an eminent judge from another jurisdiction in deciding, following such a review, whether a public inquiry should follow. Our Government and this Parliament have not been shy to establish tribunals when the case warrants such.
In December 1999,
Justice for the Forgotten agreed to co-operate with the commission of
inquiry chaired by the late Justice Liam Hamilton. That was after considerable
debate and deliberation because the position was that Justice for the
Forgotten still believed that the only effective means of inquiry was
by way of public inquiry. The purpose of that review, as understood by
Justice for the Forgotten and the Government, was to break that impasse.
Was there sufficient evidence to justify a public inquiry? What was to
become the Barron commission was not designed or intended to be a substitute
for a public inquiry. As a procedure, it was devoid of the powers and
procedures that are the hallmarks of any investigation in public.
The language of this process needs some clarification and understanding. Our belief is that the judge was asked to carry out an assessment leading to a report. That report was to be considered by this Oireachtas committee. The fact that a report was to come back to be considered indicates that, in its conception, it was not seen as a process that was final in itself. Normally, a report is issued and people react or act on the basis of the findings, but this report was to come back to be considered. Part of what the committee was asked to consider when the report came back to it was whether there should be a public inquiry or a parliamentary committee inquiry or whether the matter was at an end.
The position, following
the Abbeylara judgment, of our Supreme Court is that any meaningful public
examination and investigation cannot be conducted by this committee. Therefore,
if further inquiry is required, as we assert it is, the only current mechanism
is by way of tribunal of inquiry. Therefore, what falls to be decided
by this committee in the coming weeks should be guided by the main objective
of the entire process - what was this process about? Essentially, it was
to establish the truth about what happened, the truth about the bombings,
the Garda and RUC investigations, the State response and the allegation
The committee has been mandated to consider whether the Barron report addresses all the issues. When the committee is asked to consider whether the report addresses all the issues, it has to have regard to the object of the entire process. In a superficial way, it can be said the Barron report addresses all the issues in that it certainly contains extensive detail and comment on the various aspects set out in the terms of reference. However, does it address the issues in the sense of establishing the substantive truth about what occurred? We believe this substantive question, establishing the truth, is the first question to be considered by the committee in relation to the report.
In addition, the committee must be conscious of the legal obligations flowing from the European Convention on Human Rights which entered into substantive law in this country on 1 January this year. In that regard, we simply want to bring to the attention of the committee that there are certain special circumstances where human rights can only be adequately vindicated by an examination in public of a matter of concern.
Within this State the only formula or process for a thorough examination in public is a tribunal of inquiry. If the Barron report was the final story, the last word, and if nothing else was to be uncovered, there would still be an obligation, not just to publish the report but also to present the evidence and witnesses and test the matter in public. The gravity of the findings would call in law for public presentation and testing. As a matter of constitutional law, that cannot happen before this committee. We will be submitting to the committee that, on this point alone, a tribunal of inquiry has to be convened. In the past week we have written to the Taoiseach indicating our belief that the Government is under a legal as opposed to a purely political obligation to establish a tribunal of inquiry.
The report is devastating
in terms of the extent of failures it reveals but that extensive revelation
and exposure should not be confused with finality, nor should the conclusions
reached by a judge carrying out an assessment be confused with the conclusions
reached at the end of a full sworn public inquiry. Next week we hope to
set out before the committee the manner in which the Barron report raises
more questions than it answers. We wish to expose issues that require
further investigation. By placing on record the facts of what occurred
we want to show that it does not establish how and why those omissions
and failures occurred and does not apportion responsibility. It further
expressly leaves unresolved major issues.
Notwithstanding all the negative comments about public inquiries, it is important to reaffirm the fundamental principles underlying an investigation in public. It underlies the concept that justice should be administered in public. To have any confidence, an inquiry into serious and grave matters must be conducted in public and independent; parties must have access to all relevant information on which the inquiry relies and there must be an opportunity to examine and re-examine witnesses in public.
By affording us an opportunity to publicly present the case for a public inquiry the committee is discharging an important function. First, it indicates the concern with which the issue is being considered and enables the public to be better informed of the grounds for an inquiry. From our point of view, it is far, far preferable for us to be here advocating our case in public for an inquiry than to be doing so to Government Ministers behind closed doors. It is preferable that this committee recommend a public inquiry having considered the matter than that we be left to rely on the assertion of legal rights. In that respect, while I have indicated our belief and legal view that the Government has a legal obligation to establish a public inquiry, the reality of achieving inquiries is that someone has to consider the report. Given the history of this atrocity and what has occurred over the past 29 years, from the relatives' perspective in Justice for the Forgotten it is important that this committee carry out that consideration in public. Consideration of the report carried out in discussions with Ministers behind closed doors would not be satisfactory at this stage. The very fact that the consideration is happening in public is in itself very important in underlining the process in play.
For Justice for the Forgotten, it has taken ten years to reach this point. The reason for the delay rests not with the relatives or the injured, so should anyone be asking why, 29 or 30 years later, this question is being raised? The responsibility for the passage of time lies elsewhere.
From our perspective, the Barron report is a ringing endorsement of the case for a public inquiry. It is akin to an opening statement for such an inquiry; it is not a closing statement. It validates the relentless campaign of those who will appear before the committee today. This is a campaign driven by these people's deep sense of obligation to ask fundamental questions about what was done to and for their loved ones and themselves. I will conclude by acknowledging that all the people appearing before the committee today have, by their commitment to pursue the truth over the past ten years, done this country an enormous service.
Chairman: I thank Mr. Ó Dúlacháin very much. He said that the members of his group here today are committed to pursuing the truth. We appreciate that and thank them all very much for their attendance. We want to create some informality in order that people feel comfortable in making whatever statements they wish. If they wish to stop and take a drink of water, they should not hesitate. The intention is that, after the members of the first group of three people speak, there will be some questions from members of the sub-committee. They may wish to answer them or not and should feel free to do whatever they please in this respect. I will introduce the first three people: Ms Alice O'Brien, Mr. Thomas O'Brien and Mr. Derek Byrne. They are very welcome. Perhaps Ms O'Brien might commence.
Ms Alice O'Brien: My name is Alice O'Brien. I lost my sister, her husband and her two children in the 1974 bombing in Parnell Street. My sister was only 22 years old and had two children. Jacqueline was a year and five months old and Anne-Marie was five months. My sister, who was the eldest of 14 children, lived just around the corner from Parnell Street in Gardiner Street. She had been in her flat for six months to the day. She could have been going anywhere down town. When my sister died, my mother died with her. My mother was 43 when the bombing happened and died when she was 53, leaving behind 13 children. We all had to fight to get the other children sorted out for school and do everything that their mother should have been doing for them but was unable to do. There were ten children younger than me.
My father joined the campaign with me in 1993. Unfortunately, Paddy Doyle is not here today to see the outcome of this because he died in 1999 having continued to work on the campaign until then. We watched the Yorkshire Television programme, "The Hidden Hand", and have been involved ever since. My other friend, Jackie Wade-McCarthy, who was involved in the campaign lost her sister who was nine months pregnant. Unfortunately, Jackie has died. She will be dead two years on 15 January. She is really missed on the campaign.
After the screening of the Yorkshire Television programme, there was a sense of euphoria as a result of the serious questions raised by the documentary. We felt the Government of the day could do nothing less than grant us a public inquiry. The initial euphoria soon evaporated because, of course, we did not get a public inquiry and an internal Garda investigation came to nothing.
Judge Barron deals with the issue in great detail in his report, raising many further questions. Only for Judge Barron's report, we would not be here today. In 1999 Bertie Ahern came along and, since that day, has opened up for us. From 1993 until 1999 we had come through successive Governments but the door has been shut in our faces many times. I hope today that this door will not be shut in our faces. This is our opening.
Tim Grace and I went to the House of Commons in London and got nowhere. We met Jane Winters of Irish Rights Watch who has been very good. She was the only one over there at the time to give us any leeway and the only one who spoke to us about the 1974 bombings. Anyone else we came across and to whom we mentioned the 1974 bombings did not want to know.
In 1995 Derek Byrne and I had the honour of addressing the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation which was sitting in Dublin Castle. During that address I told the members of the forum that bereaved families and survivors had the right to know the truth about the possible involvement of the British security forces in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and that we also asked for the right to know the truth about the allegations of the failure of our Government and our police force to investigate the outrageous allegations.
We were also marginalised by successive Irish Governments for 25 years. Doors were slammed in our faces and our concerns ignored. More sinister than this was the fact that members of the Garda special detective unit monitored our mass every year at the Pro-Cathederal. We could not even have a mass without the police force intimidating us when we were the victims at the time. Our people died - we did not need gardaí at the mass. They were captured in the act on film by the Yorkshire Television programme.
When our lawyers, Greg O'Neill and Cormac Ó Dúlacháin, came on board in 1996, it was the best day of our lives because we would never have got anywhere without them. The initial claim against the British Government at the European Court of Human Rights was made in order to make evidence available to the European Court to assist in its deliberations. My late father sought access to Garda files but this request was refused by the Garda Commissioner. A case was taken to the High Court which was lost. We appealed to the High Court.
It was 25 years after the bombings before a Taoiseach would agree to meet the families and survivors. We met Mr. Ahern in 1999 which started the process which resulted in the Barron inquiry. After four years of assessment, we now have Judge Barron's report. We raised questions on every page. I have been attending meetings, lobbying politicians, and travelling to London, Belfast, Derry and other places for more than a decade. When I addressed the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation back in 1995, I called for members to make recommendations for a public inquiry into the bombings. I now call on you to recommend to the Houses of the Oireachtas that a public judicial inquiry be established. I feel that, in light of the Barron report, we cannot fail to do so.
I am here on behalf of my family. I have six sisters and six brothers left. We had a bad life after my mother and father died in the bombings. Some of my sisters were only four and they never knew Anna. I am asking the committee on behalf of all my family for a public inquiry into the 1974 bombing. We deserve it after 30 years and ten years lobbying everybody. I am pleading with committee members for a public inquiry into the 1974 bombings.
Chairman: I thank Ms O'Brien for that sincere and touching contribution.
Mr. Thomas O'Brien: Alice said much of what I was going to say. Johnny O'Brien was my eldest brother. My father died in 1972 and when Johnny, Anna, Jacqueline and Anne-Marie died, my mother was heartbroken and she is still. Johnny was the eldest brother of 11 and I often wonder what the two kids would be now. They would be in their 30s and could be married and so on. We never will get over it, and so I am asking, like Alice, for a public inquiry to get this sorted out once and for all.
My other sisters campaigned as well but I have not been involved as much because I have not been well and I am not too long out of hospital. I do not have a statement and just came on the spur of the moment. At the end of the day, all we want is a public inquiry and the truth so that we can put this under the carpet. I will not say much more because my breathing is at me and I am not too well.
Chairman: I thank Mr. O'Brien because it involved a great effort on his part to attend. This shows his commitment to establishing the truth in this matter.
Mr. T. O'Brien: The truth is all we want. My mother was not in the best of health at the time and she still is not. She had a rough time bringing up 11 of us after the deaths of Johnny and Anna and the kids. We just want the truth.
Mr. Derek Byrne: I am a victim of the Parnell Street explosion. I was a little over 14 years of age and I worked in the Westbrook Motor Company, a garage on Parnell Street. I was injured in the bombing and I was pronounced dead on arrival at Jervis Street Hospital. I was placed in the morgue. I was in the hospital for three months and then spent time in Dr. Steeven's Hospital, Our Lady's, Rochestown Avenue, and the Richmond Hospital. I am still attending hospital. The stigma of the bombings is the scars I carry. When I was a teenager I was refused entrance into night clubs and discotheques and still to the present day you have a stigma attached to you that you are a "bowsie." I did not go back to work until I was 19. My father died the following year, 1975, and my mother died nine years ago. I reckon she died with a broken heart. I am pleading with, rather than asking, the committee for a public inquiry to establish the truth. All we are looking for is truth and justice in this matter.
Chairman: I thank Mr. Byrne. I call Deputy Paul McGrath, vice-chairman of the committee.
Deputy P. McGrath: Like you, Chairman, I welcome the witnesses to our hearing, particularly the victims and the families of people who died in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. It takes tremendous courage to come here and I compliment the three speakers who have spoken so far on their courage in appearing at a committee such as this. It is a daunting task to appear before people like ourselves and to tell one's story. I empathise with them and I compliment them on the way they have told their story. It must be absolutely awful to lose members of one's family in such a way. I have met people who have lost family in tragic circumstances and it is difficult for someone who has not been in that situation to understand it. I can see the trauma the witnesses have gone through in the past 30 years and particularly the difficulty they have had of not knowing exactly what happened.
Ms Alice O'Brien is partly responsible for establishing the Justice for the Forgotten group. Did she find comfort in bringing together the families of the victims and was the group a support to her in the ten years since it was established?
Ms A. O'Brien: It was a great support because everyone was in the same boat. Some of us had lost someone and then there were the injured people. I made great friends with Jacqueline Wade-McCarthy. Her sister died in the bombing and she had a little one as well who was two years old, Wendy Doherty. We got together and everyone was in the same boat, so we all started going to meetings and getting the campaign together. Myself and Jackie and Tim Grace went different places to try to get support to get the campaign off the ground, hoping we would get an inquiry. We did not think we would come up against so many closed doors and people not wanting to know about the 1974 bombing. We could not believe that it was shoved under the carpet and no one wanted to know. It was as if the bombings did not happen here in 1974.
Deputy P. McGrath: Was there no contact prior to establishing that group or had smaller groups come together to have the annual Mass, and so on? Did that begin with the establishment of Justice for the Forgotten or had there been ceremonies or group meetings prior to that?
Ms A. O'Brien: In 1993 I got together with a few of the people who were injured and we met in Wynn's Hotel. From there we went to a Mass in the Pro-Cathedral every year and the crowd got bigger and bigger. Then I met Margaret Irwin. We kept coming up against brick walls and were feeling down but Margaret gave us a boost to keep it going. We had Masses celebrated and the group got bigger and bigger. Margaret put articles in the newspapers asking people to come together. That is how so many people came together so that it is now Justice for the Forgotten.
Deputy P. McGrath: Has the group a counselling service or professional support to help with the trauma they are suffering?
Ms O'Brien: We have plenty of help now. There was no help in 1974. We have a counsellor. Una does trauma therapies, gives massages and so on. We have come a long way since 1999. A counsellor is available to us.
Deputy P. Power: I join my colleagues in thanking the witnesses for attending. It is not long since I came here for the first time as a newly elected Deputy after the last general election. It is not easy to attend one's first committee meeting of the national Parliament and I fully appreciate the position of the witnesses today.
It is important for me and for my colleagues on the sub-committee to hear from the witnesses today because we must make difficult decisions in a few weeks' time as to where we go from here. While we will listen to many lawyers, barristers and legal people, if we are to make these fine decisions, it is important for the committee to know the importance of this issue for the witnesses. That is why our starting point must be to comprehend and understand the impact these awful atrocities have had on their lives.
When watching the "Hidden Hand" programme, which was part of the "First Tuesday" series, for the first time a number of weeks ago, what struck me most forcibly was when Paddy Doyle made his contribution. It was clear that he had not recovered from what had happened, which was 20 years previously at the time the programme was made and 30 years ago now. That concentrated my mind on the enormity of this atrocity. I would have loved had Mr. Doyle been present today but, sadly, he has passed away. To assist my understanding, could the witnesses explain how the tragedy affected him? I would love if that had been elaborated on in the "Hidden Hand" programme. Could they do that for me?
Ms Alice O'Brien: Paddy did not know anything about the bombing or that Anna was a victim of the bombing until the Saturday. My aunt lived across from Anna in Gardiner Street, so she alerted the house in Finglas where we lived that Anna had not come home all night. Paddy and my mother's sister, Christine Conroy, went down to the mortuary. Paddy went in with Christine and he could not identify Anna. He identified Jacqueline and Ann Marie because they were the only two babies killed but he could not identify Anna at all. He identified Johnny by a tattoo on his arm that had "Anna and Johnny" on it. Anna was identified when Christine Conroy recognised an earring.
When Paddy came out of the mortuary he nearly had a heart attack. He said it was like a slaughterhouse and that they were just throwing pieces of bodies together here and there to make up a body. He never got over that. Paddy hit the drink for a few years after that and never got over the shock of seeing what was in the mortuary that morning.
Deputy P. Power: I see. He finished up at the end of the programme by saying that all he wanted was the truth to come out and that-----
Ms Alice O'Brien: Yes, the truth.
Deputy P. Power: He was hoping that the programme itself would be able to do that.
Ms Alice O'Brien: Yes. We thought that when Yorkshire Television showed the programme the issue would come to light and we really would get a public inquiry. We did not realise that we would have to wait years upon years. Paddy died on Easter Sunday in April 1999, and he is not here for the outcome, which is sad.
Deputy P. Power:
I did not catch exactly what Ms O'Brien said about just after the
"Hidden Hand" programme. Did she say that she had a sense of
euphoria after the programme?
Deputy P. Power: Why exactly was that? Ms O'Brien said that this emotion changed subsequently. Could she elaborate on that?
Ms Alice O'Brien: Until the "Hidden Hand" programme, we did not realise that the investigation only lasted a few weeks and that the Government of the day did not do anything. There were three weeks of an investigation when 33 people had died and all those people got injured. It is an outrage that nothing has been done. If somebody died tonight, a checkpoint would be put up around the house, an investigation would start and witnesses would be interviewed and so on. There was nothing like that. We never heard of anything. When the investigation ran dry after three months, no one came to our house to say who had done the bombing or anything else. We saw no one or heard nothing. The bombing was not mentioned in our house until about 1991.
Deputy P. Power: Before the "Hidden Hand" programme, did Ms O'Brien feel a huge compelling need because, throughout the years, the matter was unresolved in her mind and those of the others affected and caused huge anguish because they never really found out the truth, or did it only really surface in a major way for the first time in 1993? It has obviously consumed their lives since. What happened during the 1980s, for example?
Ms A. O'Brien: I was only 15 when the bombing occurred. Following it, my mother was very sick but the bombing was not mentioned. It is only as we got older and we started meeting people through the campaign, going to the masses and meeting up with different people who were in the bombing, that it all came to life for me. I was only 15 on the day. Then we were looking after children and so on and trying to get ourselves through work. It does not really hit one until one has children of one's own what my mother went through.
Chairman: This is very harrowing and emotional. We will take a break for approximately 15 minutes. When we resume Ms Bridget Fitzpatrick will make a contribution, but I ask Ms O'Brien to return then so that members can ask her and Ms Fitzpatrick questions.
suspended at 11.10 a.m. and resumed at 11.30 a.m.