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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 26 May 1999

Vol. 505 No. 4

Ceisteanna–Questions. - Dublin and Monaghan Bombings.

Ruairí Quinn


3 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach the terms of reference of the interdepartmental committee on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13631/99]

I indicated on 12 May, in reply to questions, that when I met the Justice for the Forgotten group on 22 April last, I gave a commitment to form an interdepartmental group to work with them in an exercise broadly similar to that carried out in the Government's assessment of the evidence relating to Bloody Sunday. The interdepartmental group, to be chaired by the Assistant Secretary heading the Northern Ireland division of my Department, will assess available evidence, including relevant files and evidence assembled by a sub-committee of the relatives, to establish whether a case could be constructed for having a tribunal of inquiry. It will then report to me.

I said in my reply on 12 May that the recommendations of the Victims Commissioner, former Tánaiste Mr. John Wilson, would also have to be taken into account since the Government had put the Dublin and Monaghan bombings into his remit. As Mr. Wilson's report is expected very soon, it appears appropriate to hold over consideration of whether there is a need for more precise terms of reference for the interdepartmental group. However, it is clear that, in addition to establishing to what extent there is evidence that will stand up to scrutiny, such as to provide a minimum evidential basis for having a tribunal, the interdepartmental group will also have to consider the cross-jurisdictional aspect of the matter and how it bears on the feasibility and form of any effective inquiry.

Is my recollection of reports correct, that when in Opposition the Taoiseach gave an undertaking to look at the issue and that later when he had the file in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform examined, there was nothing in it? The Garda Síochána had a substantial file which was not necessarily part of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform's file. Is the Taoiseach now in a position to clarify the position? Can he confirm that there is sufficient prima facie documentation to warrant an inquiry? Notwithstanding the cross-Border difficulties it might generate to which the Taoiseach referred, is it his intention to proceed and establish such an inquiry?

I announced these matters on 12 May, which is only a fortnight ago. Getting the committee up and running is the only thing which has happened since then.

I have raised the Dublin and Monaghan bombings since I was elected to this House in 1977. I did not only raise it when I was in Opposition. I accompanied delegations during meetings with successive Ministers for Justice over the years. I know the families of nine or ten of the victims because they live in my constituency or are from my neighbourhood. I was continually told over the years by Ministers from different parties that there was very little in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform file. That was the correct information.

However, I discovered 18 months ago that the makers of a television programme met members of the Garda Síochána and had received access to enormous files and records. As somebody who has followed the issue closely over the past 22 years, that was news to me and to the families. As a result, my intention is that the group should have access to the Garda files because they are the only things which would be meaningful to them.

Arising from that, does an alarm bell not ring? Notwithstanding various political representations to the Department of Justice by different Administrations, a blank response was given on the basis that there was little or nothing in the Departmental file when the Department had access, through an operational agency – namely, the Garda Síochána – to a substantial amount of information which appeared on a television programme. Has the Taoiseach, since taking office, raised the fundamental question as to why the Department concealed from successive Ministers that documentary evidence was available, not necessarily in complete form but in much more substantial form than was made available to elected Members of this assembly?

I still cannot be certain that information is available but I know a little more about it now and there seems to be—

What are they hiding?

I think this group will uncover that. I certainly was not aware for 20 years that substantial evidence was available.

The Taoiseach mentioned a tribunal of inquiry, but how could it compel witnesses from Northern Ireland or the UK to appear?

As I said, the cross-jurisdictional issues will have to be examined. Two people, the person who gave evidence to the committee and to Mr. Don Mullan and the person who wrote to my political party, live in Northern Ireland and are prepared to co-operate. Both would have been members of the security forces at that time.