A number of issues have been raised during the past two days. One such issue, of which we are all conscious, is that the process upon which Mr. Justice Barron was asked to embark was, and has ultimately proved to be unsatisfactory. That is not the fault of Mr. Justice Barron. It harks back to a failure that arose out of the Good Friday Agreement.
When Justice for the Forgotten tried, initially, to convince the Government and various political parties that a serious process of inquiry was required, specifically in terms of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974, there was a reluctance to accept that was necessary. What was advanced was a piecemeal process. What has emerged is that the atrocities in Dublin and Monaghan are not the only atrocities about which families are seeking answers to questions. It is only now we are beginning to realise a well of atrocities exist from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s involving victims of this jurisdiction whose families have no real sense of what investigation was carried out on their behalf. They also have no means of determining what investigations were conducted. That is a common theme.
Families are essentially saying they are carrying the burden and are ultimately the people who have to stand up for their deceased parents, brothers or sisters in that if they do not ask questions no one else will. Even though 32 years have passed, they continue to ask those questions. What they have been given is a significant report produced in 1974 and attempts by Mr. Justice Barron to consider other incidents as best he can. The report before the committee considers to a significant degree the incident of 1 December while the incidents on 28 December in Belturbet and on 20 January are considered to a lesser degree. It then deals with other incidents as appendices. This indicates that those families whose loved ones were killed in atrocities and who are noted by way of appendix to some other report are not getting the answers they require. They are entitled to critically examine the detail of the information that emerges from the Barron report and to seek answers and explanations thereon.
We have submitted an observation paper on the first bombing which took place on 1 December. We will also leave with the committee observation papers on the other two bombings. We are trusting the committee to examine the detail of what emerges from the Barron report to see how it leads on to other questions. The difficulty which arises is that even this process leaves families out of the loop. It is important that victims' families are allowed to engage directly with Mr. Justice Barron and the Garda Síochána, to put questions to and seek answers from them. The current process involves families appearing before the committee and relying on it to ask questions of Mr. Justice Barron and the Garda Commissioner who will then have to liaise on the matter with a chief superintendent who in turn will have to liaise with somebody else.
We do not have a process which allows families to engage with those charged with responsibility for the investigation and to have explained to them in detail everything done on their behalf. Also, they must know if things were not done and be told what can now be done. There is an element to this which suggests that what comes through the Barron process is a historical exercise. It is not a historical exercise for the families as many investigations can still be pursued. Photo-fits are available of the person believed to have driven the car bomb into Belturbet. Those photo-fits are as valid today as the day they were created 32 years ago yet they have never been released to the public to determine if the person was known to any of them.
In a similar fashion, a photo-fit is available of the person believed to be the one who hired the cars used in the Dublin bombing on 1 December 1972. That photo-fit is as valid today as the day it was made. Yet, that too has never been put in the public domain in any form of media. We are not dealing with cases on which files have been closed or on which there is no evidence. Fingerprints, information and intelligence gathered at the time still remain on file. There is a sense that investigation of that intelligence ceased the day it was collected and that the State never obtained any further intelligence on the individuals concerned.
If prosecutions cannot be pursued the collective intelligence agencies of this State and the British State should at least state if the intelligence gathered in 1972 was accurate or proved to be inaccurate in terms of those believed to have been involved. The families must be reasonably satisfied they know the organisations, if not the individuals, involved.
The current process does not meet the needs of the victims' families. There is no list of unsolved murders. It is believed some 100, 110, or 120 murders were linked to the Northern troubles, yet the number of murders solved can be counted on one or two hands. There is, therefore, a well of unsolved murders, in which families are left with a sense that if the case could not be pursued at the time, it could never be pursued, with no opening for further communication. That simply is not the case. The purpose of looking critically at the information in the Barron report is to show that is not the case.
The investigation of all the bombings, which occurred within a six or seven week period, were carried out by the same police force, North and South, yet things were done differently from one investigation to another. It was possible for those in Donegal to go to Derry to sit in on interviews and interrogations. It was possible to go to the RUC in Derry and have people extradited. However in the case of the crimes in the South, there was a barrier to having conferences between the Garda Síochána and the RUC, and a perceived inability to have people arrested for interview or for gardaí to attend at interviews. There is a sense in these investigations that things are brought to a certain level and then stopped.
This raises very serious questions on the relationship between two police forces when a series of crimes, with cross-Border involvement, happen on the same day on both sides. What happened in Dublin on 17 May 1974 had happened on 1 December 1972, 28 December 1972 and on 20 January 1973. When one brings the reports together, there are common connections leading to the events on 17 May 1974. Common suspects are mentioned. Let us take the incident on 20 January 1973, the very circumstances in which a car was hijacked in Belfast that morning is replicated in every detail on 17 May 1974. It happened on the same street, at the same time and using the same method to take a person from a car, detention and release of that person at exactly the same time, 3.20 p.m., telling him to report to the same police station. There are coincidences but when there is such a number of coincidences, one begins to see a pattern and questions whether the same people are involved.
The first incident was in Dublin on 1 December 1972 and the failings of the investigation into it raise questions as to whether those people were left at large to commit further crimes. It becomes very clear when one examines the investigation into the incident in Belturbet, where a "Mr. B" is mentioned. "Mr. B" is also mentioned in the Barron report of 1974 and in the intervening period he is left at large until he is ultimately convicted of another murder in Northern Ireland. Questions emerge that connect these cases, if not directly then indirectly.
When one considers all the cases at the same time, patterns and common evidence begin to emerge. One gets the sense that all the cases are being investigated separately and all arrive at a point where the file is effectively closed in an operational sense. The families are not interested in the academic definition of closing a file, or that, as a matter of law, the investigation is not closed until it is solved. They know in reality the files on the murder of their loved ones are closed and that there seemed to be no process in which the files are revisited as a matter of course every five or ten years. They have a sense that the State is very reluctant to engage with the victims of crime to inform them of what is happening. That continues.
Even, as lawyers engaging with Mr. Justice Barron, we do not come to the report to criticise it for the sake of criticism, but the points arising from the report that we wish to highlight would have been highlighted more effectively, if we had been in a position to do so, when Mr. Justice Barron was considering these matters. Mr. Justice Barron was reporting to the Government and not to us. We, as lawyers, had no sight of any of the documents to which he had access. We had no idea of the content of his report. We could not, on behalf of relatives, tell him what other line of inquiry he could pursue.
Mr. Justice Barron has not had the benefit of an input from us or the families involved to ensure his is a more wholesome and effective report. That undermines the whole exercise significantly. It means that the Douglas family find that the report does not fill in the detail and leaves them with so many questions, that they question whether their brother's murder received less attention because they did not live in the country. That may not be the case, but that does not come out in the Barron report. They have not had the benefit of sitting down with a Garda officer to obtain an explanation of what occurred.
To illustrate the point, let me indicate the changes that are occurring in Northern Ireland. In the past year, the Pat Finucane centre in Derry has made considerable progress with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the office of the police ombudsman and the prosecution service. After their perseverance in a tough battle, they are able to get access of transcripts of trials, to the books of evidence that were produced and to the RUC notes of the interview of suspects. Yet when Ms Margaret Urwin, from Justice for the Forgotten goes to the National Archive to access files from the Department of Justice from 30 years ago, she finds that files that may have only a passing reference to the bombings are not open to the public. There may be good reason for that, but not only are they not open to the public, we do not know the number, the names or the details of these files.
One gets a sense from the Barron report that Mr. Justice Barron has seen one file, yet there are lists of files that are not open to public scrutiny. There is a concern that the bombings of 1 December 1972 and those immediately after it are a matter of State secrecy and that there is a reluctance on the part of the Department for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to facilitate open disclosure.
There is also a sense that there is a huge political issue, that it is uncomfortable to deal with. We were very surprised with the Barron conclusion on the spy trial — if I might call it that without mentioning names — in December 1972 and January 1973, the sense that that whole episode had no connection whatsoever with bombings or other incidents in the State. Our sense is that Barron arrived at that conclusion without really having had the opportunity to explore the issue in any great detail and knowing, as we do, that even in 1972 the extent of the files taken from the Garda and passed to MI5 or MI6 was not revealed. We know that there was a discrete interest in information relating to the investigation of the bombings of 1 December 1972. If there were political matters that were uncomfortable or had sensitivities — maybe justifiable sensitivities in 1972 and 1973 — at least those matters should now be brought out in public. They are political matters which the committee is entitled to investigate and question the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform about.
I will make a final point at this stage. We can come back with further submissions — if the committee wishes to hear further from us — on the detail of each of these incidents. We would be delighted to have that opportunity.
On the question of British co-operation with inquiries, this is a point I made yesterday. This is about a current obligation, not an historic exercise about what happened in the Second World War but in unsolved murders. This, effectively, is still part of a criminal investigation process. What is going on could lead to the identification of people responsible who are still answerable. We find that a neighbouring government must have a significant number of relevant files, if nothing else starting with the fact that there were reported car thefts within its jurisdiction that they had to investigate, but also significant details on suspects, the identity of whom emerges from information supplied discreetly to the Garda in 1972 and 1973 and from information available to it from prosecutions that Mr. Justice Barron mentions in his report — a trial in 1975 and a trial in 1976. We know information has been collected, and has continued to be collected over the years. That is relevant, yet we find a neighbouring government stating if it will co-operate, it will co-operate on its terms, in its timescale, when it suits and as it suits. That is the level of commitment under the Good Friday Agreement to victims and families of the most innocent victims one can find. Even in the coming month, in the cases of the Douglas, Duffy and Bradshaw families, the inquest into the 1972 bombing and that of 20 January 1973 are finally reopening. It should have happened earlier but it did not. It is opening in a context where the British Government and authorities have refused to co-operate. We anticipate that this will repeat itself within the next four weeks. We ask the committee to raise with the Department of Foreign Affairs, not in a report in a month or two but now, the matter of whether we are happy to sit back and see this continue and whether this committee should take on that specific issue at this time.