Dublin and Monaghan Bombings: Motion (Resumed)

The following motion was moved by the Taoiseach on Wednesday, 25 May 2016:
That Dáil Éireann:
recalling the motion it adopted unanimously on 10 July 2008 which:
— noted 'the interim and final reports of the sub-Committee of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights on the report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin-Monaghan Bombings and the three related Barron reports, including the Inquiry into the Bombing of Kay’s Tavern, Dundalk, and commends the sub-Committee on its work';
— urged 'the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to allow access by an independent, international judicial figure to all original documents held by the British Government relating to the atrocities that occurred in this jurisdiction and which were inquired into by Judge Barron, for the purposes of assessing said documents with the aim of assisting in the resolution of these crimes'; and
— directed 'the Clerk of the Dáil to communicate the text of this Resolution, together with copies of the aforementioned reports, to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with a request that the matter be considered by the House of Commons';
recalling the motion it unanimously adopted on Wednesday, 18 May 2011 which:
— noted 'that the question of obtaining access to information held by the British Government on the bombings has been pursued for many years';
— requested ‘the Government to continue to raise the matter with the British Government and to press it to comply with the request of Dáil Éireann and reaffirms the support of Members on all sides of this House'; and
— acknowledged 'that the co-operation being sought is taking place in the context of transformed relationships on this island and between Ireland and Britain based on mutual respect, on partnership and on friendship';
notes that Tuesday, 17 May 2016 marked the forty-second anniversary of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings;
and requests the Government to continue to raise the matter with the British Government, and directs the Ceann Comhairle, the Clerk and the chairs of relevant committees when appointed to do likewise with their respective British counterparts, in order to actively pursue the implementation of the 2008 and 2011 all-party motions.

I welcome the opportunity to support this all-party motion on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, in which 33 people and an unborn child were murdered in a series of devastating explosions which mark 17 May 1974 as the single bloodiest day of the Troubles. I extend my gratitude to Justice for the Forgotten for continuing to carry the torch regarding this very dark moment in our past, particularly in Monaghan town in my constituency.

Previous inquiries by Mr. Justice Barron have raised serious concerns over non-co-operation by the British Government, with efforts to uncover who was responsible. Relatives of the victims continue to campaign to have their claims of state collusion with paramilitaries fully explored, with complete access to British files. These families and the relatives of the 3,500 victims of the Troubles deserve the truth through a clear, reliable mechanism. Prime Minister David Cameron has previously refused to release all the files on the issue, stating that all appropriate materials have been released. The Fianna Fáil Party has consistently supported the relatives and raised the issue of full access to the files at every available opportunity when meeting with British officials and politicians. The failure in the Fresh Start agreement to agree on the best mechanism to deal with the past must be addressed.

Families who have lost loved ones in the Troubles on both sides deserve the truth. On 17 May 1974, two car bombs exploded in the centre of Dublin. They were detonated simultaneously and timed and placed to cause the maximum level of carnage and disruption, while leaving escape routes free for the attackers. Some hours later a fourth bomb, apparently intended to divert police and security forces from individuals trying to cross back from the Republic into the North of Ireland, exploded in my own constituency, in the border town of Monaghan. Twenty-seven people were killed in Dublin and six in Monaghan.

There needs to be a clear route to address the outstanding legacy of those dark days of the Troubles. Today's motion is one aspect of that. The British Government should take the lead and open their files to an independent investigation. The families and communities devastated by these atrocities deserve the truth.

I have listened with interest to the contributions from all Deputies to this debate. Their contributions reaffirm to the House the deep and lasting effects of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings even after 42 years. I also recognise the members of the families who are here with us today. These bombings were callous and unjustifiable acts of brutality against innocent and defenceless people. They were acts of violence that were offences not only against the victims, but against all right-thinking people. These were terrorist atrocities in the truest sense of that chilling phrase which, tragically, became all too familiar to us over the course of the Troubles. As contributors to the debate on this motion have stated, the families of those killed and injured have borne the grief of those terrible events and the resulting pain is still being felt by them. Their suffering has not gone away and the memory of their loved ones lives on with them.

As has been noted already, the late Mr. Justice Henry Barron carried out a detailed and painstaking inquiry into these awful events and, indeed, a number of other tragic atrocities that took place between 1972 and 1976 in which many other people lost their lives. The Barron report provided some of the answers that the families and the public had sought about the bombings. The subsequent hearings of the Oireachtas joint committee provided the families with a very important opportunity to have their voices heard and to tell their stories.

However, all of those families and, indeed, all of us still have some unanswered questions about what happened, why it happened and how it happened. The Government and this House have already clearly and unequivocally urged the British Government to allow access to its documents relevant to these events. The Taoiseach, as he has outlined, has raised this issue directly with the British Prime Minister. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade has also consistently raised the issue with his counterpart, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and it will remain as a top priority agenda item to be discussed between them. I reassure the House that the Government will continue to press for a response. The priority attached to this issue is reflected in the clear commitment set out in the programme for Government. Dealing with the legacy of the violence of the troubles is not an easy task. There is, unfortunately, no simple formula of words or actions that can put right such grave wrongs that were suffered.

The Good Friday Agreement recognised the need for a particular acknowledgement of the position of victims, and in remembering the victims and their families we should be strengthened in our determination to construct a changed society in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement. The Government is strongly committed to continuing to work in partnership with our colleagues in the British Government and in the Northern Ireland Executive to develop and establish effective ways to address the legacy of the Troubles. The Government is fully committed to implementation of those measures agreed in the Stormont House Agreement and I earnestly hope that they may provide opportunities for the families of victims to access further information.

As we make progress to a better future for all who share this island and those who live on the neighbouring island, we must not forget all of those who died in the violence of the Troubles, those who mourn them and those who were injured. This motion sends a message of continued strong solidarity to the families of those who were so tragically killed in Dublin and Monaghan and, indeed, to the families of all those who lost their lives. I thank the Deputies who contributed to the debate and I respect the sincerity of everyone who spoke with evident passion and feeling. I commend the motion to the House.

Question put and agreed to.