Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh gach éinne anseo inniu agus go h-áirithe do lucht féachanna TG4. I especially welcome surviving victims, relatives of victims and members of the Justice for the Forgotten group represented by Cormac Ó Dúlacháin and Mícheál O'Connor. Mr. Greg O'Neill is the solicitor.
The sub-committee expresses deepest sympathy with the victims and relatives of victims of the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973 and of the other atrocities that occurred in the State from 1970 to 1974. The sub-committee acknowledges the great suffering that has been endured by both the victims and their families. In many cases this suffering is ongoing and we hope that the publication of this second Barron report and the hearings which will be conducted by the sub-committee in the coming weeks will help in some small way to alleviate the grief these individuals have suffered over the years.
On 17 November 2004 the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights was asked by Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann to consider the report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973. This sub-committee was established for that purpose and we have been asked to consider the report in public session in order that the joint committee can report back to Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann by 17 February concerning any further necessary action.
We believe it is important that the Oireachtas can and does inquire into matters of great public concern, such as the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973, and the other atrocities in the State from 1970 to 1974. We believe the Oireachtas is an appropriate forum where efforts should be made to find the truth at the heart of matters of great concern. We, as Members of the Oireachtas, have been elected by the people and, as such, we must act as their public representatives in matters of public importance. The Oireachtas is a unique forum which is widely recognised and reported on by the media and in which an informed citizen's approach can be taken in respect of hearing, examining and inquiring into important public matters, albeit with legal and procedural advice. I thank TG4 in particular for the live broadcasting of the proceedings of the committee. This is in the public interest and TG4 is to be congratulated.
The sub-committee is composed of seven members. My name is Seán Ardagh. I am the Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights. I am also the Chairman of the sub-committee. The other members of the sub-commitee are, Deputy Máire Hoctor, who is also the Government convenor on the joint committee, Deputy Finian McGrath, who is an Independent TD for Dublin North Central, Deputy Joe Costello, who is the Labour Party spokesperson on justice and law reform, Deputy Seán Ó Fearghail, who is a Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare, Deputy Gerard Murphy, who is the Vice-Chairman of the joint committee, and Senator Jim Walsh, who is the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on justice and law reform in the Seanad. Mr. Hugh Mohan SC is advising the sub-committee.
I will go through some matters from Mr. Justice Barron's report to give some context to our deliberations. Three persons, George Bradshaw, Thomas Duffy and Thomas Douglas, were killed and 185 persons injured as a result of the Dublin bombings. The first of the Dublin bombings was at the Film Centre cinema on 26 November 1972. Mr. Justice Barron in his report stated:
The bombing took place during a period of intense unrest in the State, in which the Government seemed to be exhibiting a new severity in its dealings with republican subversives. The forced closure of Provisional Sinn Féin's office at Kevin Street, Dublin in October caused some controversy; but matters were brought to a head with the arrest of the Provisional IRA leader Seán MacStiofáin and his ensuing hunger and thirst strike. The day before the bombing saw massive demonstrations in the city centre and an unsuccessful attempt by armed men to seize MacStiofáin from the Mater Hospital. When taken together, these events could have provided the motive for an attack which ordinarily would not have been contemplated by republican subversives. This is particularly so if one considers the possibility that the bombing was carried out by a small number of republican paramilitaries without authority from the Official or Provisional IRA leadership.
Mr. Justice Barron concluded in relation to the Film Centre bombing that:
Although the information available to Gardaí and to the Inquiry does not point to any particular suspects with certainty, it seems more likely than not that the bombing of the Film Centre Cinema was carried out by republican subversives as a response to a Government ‘crackdown' on the IRA and their associates.
In relation to the bombings at Eden Quay and Sackville Place on 1 December 1972, the Dáil debate on the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Bill started on 29 November of that year. The contents of the Bill and the distinct possibility of a defeat for the Government leading to a general election, had been the subject of media attention for some days previously. Mr. Justice Barron stated: "It is quite possible that the bombs were planted in order to influence the debate on the Bill."
Mr. Justice Barron concluded:
There is no evidence to suggest that the IRA or any other republican group were involved in the attacks. There is evidence that the IRA had access to considerable amounts of Ammonium Nitrate and Sodium Chlorate and there is little doubt that the UVF, UDA or similar groups could also have obtained such explosive substances without undue difficulty.
There are some aspects to the attacks that were not characteristic of loyalist subversive groups at that time: the giving of a warning, the coordinated nature of the blasts; the use of hired vehicles; the use of a stolen licence to hire these vehicles, and the apparent use of a car stolen four months previously. In addition, the political context in which the attacks took place has led to speculation that members of the British Army or Intelligence Services may have instigated, assisted with or even carried out the attacks.
Mr. Justice Barron continued:
These features may be consistent with involvement by the British Army or Intelligence Services in the bombings. However, the circumstances are not so unique, or even unusual, that they would reasonably exclude the involvement of other groups.
Before any finding of collusion in a specific instance can be made, two requirements need to be met.
Firstly, there has to be credible information identifying individual members of the security forces as having been involved. That would establish collusion on an individual level. The second requirement is that evidence which shows that that collusion was officially sanctioned would be needed. On the information available to date, credible and reliable evidence in respect of both of those requirements is absent in respect of the bombings of 1 December 1972.
He concludes: "While suspicions linger, evidence has not been forthcoming to take it beyond that".
In regard to the Sackville Place bombing of 20 January 1973, Mr. Justice Barron concluded:
There is no substantive evidence linking the bombing of 20 January 1973 with any particular group or groups. The fact that the hijacking of the bomb car took place in a loyalist area of Belfast suggests that loyalists rather than republican paramilitaries were responsible. Confidential information obtained by gardaí suggested that responsibility lay with the UVF, but no evidence was found to confirm this. Nor was there any evidence to suggest the involvement of members of the security forces in the attacks.
In the murder of Brid Carr on 19 November 1971, British army personnel were involved in erecting ramps on the Lifford-Strabane road on the Strabane side of the British customs post. Fifteen shots were fired at the troops from a position on the State side of the Border. British army soldiers returned fire. Mr. Justice Barron concluded: "It seems clear that Brid Carr met her death as a result of gunfire coming from the State side."
In regard to the death of Oliver Boyce and Bríd Porter at Burnfoot, County Donegal on 1 January 1973, the inquiry states "it is likely that whoever shot and stabbed the deceased had a connection with the UDA".
At 10.01 p.m. on 28 December 1972 a car bomb exploded in Fermanagh Street, Clones, County Monaghan. Two men were seriously injured. At 10.28 p.m. another car bomb exploded on Main Street, Belturbet, County Cavan. Two people were killed. Eight more were severely injured. The victims who died in Belturbet were Patrick Stanley, 16 years, of Clara, County Offaly, and Geraldine O'Reilly, 15 years, of Drumacon, Belturbet, County Cavan. Finally, at 10.50 p.m., a bomb exploded at Mullnagoad, a village near Pettigo, County Donegal. No one was injured. The report of the inquiry also makes reference to other bombings in the State from 1970-74 at St. Johnston, Lifford, Carrigans, Bridgend, Clones, Cloughfin and Pettigo.
Today in module 1 of our hearings the sub-committee will hear from individual members of families who have suffered bereavement 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 this morning. The sub-committee wanted to commence by hearing from the victims in order to place them at the centre of our work.
The second module will deal with the historical and political context of the time. In the third module we will be assisted by the Minster for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Garda, officials from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Army. Mr. Justice Barron has also agreed to make himself available to address questions on his report to assist the sub-committee. It is intended that the hearings will commence each morning at 9.30 a.m. and conclude at noon.
In respect of the procedures and for the benefit of those present, it should be noted that the sub-committee is bound by its very precise terms of reference beyond which it will not stray. In particular, the sub-committee is not conducting an investigation of its own into the terrible events that happened in the State from 1970-74, nor is it seeking to apportion guilt or innocence to any person or body. It has neither the jurisdiction nor the legal authority to perform any such function. We ask everybody appearing before us to respect the fact that we cannot stray beyond our terms of reference. Everyone who will appear here today will do so on a voluntary basis and we thank them most sincerely again for their attendance on that basis. 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. While members do enjoy certain parliamentary privilege in respect of these proceedings, those attending and assisting us do not enjoy that same privilege.
The sub-committee expresses its gratitude to Mr. Justice Barron for the work he and his staff have done in producing the report we are now to consider. I invite Mr. Cormac Ó Dúlacháin to make an opening statement.