Public Hearings on the Barron Report.

Cuirim fáilte roimh gach éinne anseo inniú. Seo an dara lá de na héisteachtaí poiblí den Fo-Choiste ar an Tuarascáil ón gCoimisiún Fiosrúcháin Neamhspleách faoi Bhúmáil Bhaile Átha Cliath i 1972 agus 1973. Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh lucht féachanna TG4 freisin.

Yesterday the sub-committee heard contributions from victims and relatives of victims of the Dublin bombings of 1 December 1972 and 20 January 1973. We heard from the representatives of the late Mr. Tommy Douglas, Mr. Tommy Duffy and Mr. George Bradshaw. We also heard from Ms Carol Garvey on behalf of her husband, John, and from Mr. Pat Morrissey, a survivor. I thank all those who contributed to our discussion yesterday.

Today we will be meeting a number of other families of victims, particularly of the Belturbet bombing of 28 December 1972. Ms Geraldine O'Reilly was 15 years old at the time of her death while Mr. Patrick Stanley was 16 — two very young people. We will also be hearing from other Members.

The Douglas family have come from Scotland. Mr. Joe Douglas was unable to get here yesterday but I welcome him today. He is a brother of the late Mr. Tommy Douglas who died in the Dublin bombings. His brothers, Martin and Andrew, and sister, Maureen, spoke yesterday. We are delighted that he could make it today and look forward to hearing from him. Before he begins, I remind everybody that while members enjoy parliamentary privilege in respect of these proceedings, those attending and assisting us do not enjoy that same privilege.

Mr. Joe Douglas

I was 22 years old when Tommy was killed; he was 21. It was a terrible shock to the family. He had had a happy childhood and was very popular. He had many friends. The house was always full of his friends, coming and going and always doing things. They were really happy times.

Tommy had applied himself in school. He was a hard worker. He had always been in first, second or third place in class and got very high marks in everything he did. He had been a capable pupil and teachers had thought highly of him.

On leaving school Tommy went to work as an electrician. From what we have heard since he was killed, he did a great deal of unpaid work outside working hours. We have learned that the majority of the people concerned were senior citizens. Therefore, he was a caring boy. He was the type of boy who wanted to do things first. He would always be at the forefront. For example, he was the first in our family to learn to swim properly. We would paddle about but he had learned all the strokes. He was also the first in the family to pass the driving test. Whereas we all had L-plates, he had passed first time. In fact, he was the first to grow a moustache. He was that kind of person. If he set his mind on something, he would go and do it. He really liked to achieve things. He was not big-headed; he just liked to get things done.

We had mixed feelings about Tommy leaving for Dublin but we knew that in his heart that was what he wanted to do. He was determined to come and set up here. We knew he would find work, set up home and create a future for himself and his fiancé, Moira. In fact, it was when he came home for the new year celebrations in 1972 that he set about making arrangements for their marriage. Tommy and Moira arranged to get married in Sterling in August 1973. Sadly, it was not to be.

This account of the day Tommy died came from Moira. It was a Saturday morning and they were sitting at home when he said he had to go into town to do a couple of things. She replied that he had been working a lot of overtime — he was building up funds for their forthcoming wedding — and suggested he stay at home in the morning and do whatever he had to do if he had time in the afternoon. He agreed that he had been working a lot and that they could spend quality time together. They decided to make out their wedding guest list and even at that, Moira laughed because our family outnumbered hers five to one. She said it was a lovely morning. They had a light lunch and Tommy set off to go to work. As always, on crossing the Malahide Road he waved back to her — a final farewell.

When the bus arrived in Marlborough Street, Tommy had a couple of minutes to spare and thought to himself that this was his chance. He always used to send my mother, a native of Achill Island, a copy ofMayo News. He decided to run down to Eason’s to get the newspaper. He was running past the car, full of explosives, when it exploded. He was killed.

Moira had only recently come to Dublin. She had arrived about seven weeks after Tommy. She had not really made friends and this was a devastating blow for her. We felt her sadness, hurt and anguish. How must she have felt? He was her world.

Today we find ourselves discussing how this incident happened. It should not have happened. While it is now in the past, we hope in the future we can be given reasons. On this point, I thank Justice for the Forgotten which has given all the families tremendous support. I also thank the media for devoting massive coverage to the events and continuing to support us in our campaign for justice.

I thank Mr. Douglas.

I thank Mr. Douglas for coming here today and thank members of this family, Maureen, Andrew and Martin for coming here yesterday from Scotland to outline their situation. We are aware of how difficult this is for them and appreciate their meeting with us.

Members of the Douglas family spoke yesterday of their frustration with the process. Is it also Joe's experience that no assistance was given to his family by either the Irish or British Governments in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy?

Mr. Douglas

That is the impression I get from various reports. The investigations were short. There does not appear to have been a full or intensive investigation. The then Taoiseach, Mr. Lynch, assured me two days after my brother was killed, that no stone would be left unturned by the Government in its efforts to find the perpetrators. That has not been my experience so far. We have not heard anything further.

Did your family, when discussing this matter down through the years, come up with an answer as to why no assistance was given? Did you receive any communication from either Government?

Mr. Douglas

No. But for the Justice for the Forgotten group we would not been aware of these proceedings. The group has taken up our case and is doing a tremendous job. Neither Government appeared interested.

Were family members offered counselling or invited by the State to attend commemoration services and so on?

Mr. Douglas

No, not until in recent times when our case was taken up by Justice for the Forgotten. We never received any contact from either Government, police force or anybody else. It was as though they were hoping the matter would go away and never again rear itself. We were left to carry on as though nothing happened.

The family had a great love of Ireland given your mother was from Achill.

Mr. Douglas

Yes. We regularly came to Ireland on holiday as we have extended family here including, in Dublin. We have a tremendous affinity with Ireland. We believed that as we had Irish connections the Irish Government would work a little harder to find out why and by whom this atrocity had been carried out. This atrocity took place in the streets of the city centre and it is being brushed aside.

My brother was a British citizen living in Ireland. Surely he was worthy of some respect and the British Government should have at least shown an interest in him. However, they never came forward with any assistance.

What would you like us, as a committee, to do? What do you believe is the way forward?

Mr. Douglas

Mr. Justice Barron's report has many loose ends. While investigations did take place they appear to have come to a halt before being completed. The report contains the names of eyewitnesses and the dates and times of events yet the information has not resulted in anybody being arrested or charged even for the offence of being an accessory to a crime. It is incredible that though an abundance of information has been compiled nobody has been arrested. It is astonishing that nothing has been done given the amount of information available.

Can we move forward in a new direction?

Mr. Douglas

We all want to move forward. However, we cannot do that if there is no real closure to the matter. Nothing is happening that would spur us to move on. Were somebody arrested or identified as being linked to the crime it might give us hope and allow us to move forward. However, we are not moving forward, we are standing still. The Justice for the Forgotten group appears to be moving in the right direction and is asking the relevant questions.

I, too, wish to be associated with the words of welcome and to express my sincere sympathy to Joe and the other bereaved family members here today. I also express the hope that the ongoing process will help move the situation towards finality.

Mr. Douglas has set out — as did his brothers and sisters yesterday — the impact of this awful tragedy on his family. Perhaps he could tell us a little more about his brother's fiancée to whom he referred earlier. This tragedy must have had a devastating impact on her. How has she been since the event?

Mr. Douglas

She is a happily married woman with three children. I do not see her much. She prefers not to discuss this incident with her husband and family. The subject is never discussed in their house. She finds it difficult to discuss the matter with anybody. The only person to whom she spoke about Tommy's death was her mother. As her mother is now suffering from Alzheimer's disease she has nobody with whom she can now discuss it. Though she has a husband and family who love her dearly, a part of her remains in Ireland.

It is fair to say that coping with bereavement is part of living. However, coping with loss as a result of murder can be different. How has the Douglas family managed to cope and what impact has this unresolved crime had on their personal lives?

Mr. Douglas

I would not say we have coped. We continue to experience emptiness each time the family meets and Tom is not there. We often wonder when looking at our grandchildren what Tom's grandchildren would have been like. His name is mentioned often at various events and so on but, unfortunately, he is not here to share them with us. His death has been a tremendous loss to us. My mother, in particular, was greatly affected by his death as she and Tom were very close. Tom's last thought was of my mother.

It has been stated that there was little or no contact between the family and the British or Irish state authorities. Surely, there must have been some contact from the Garda Síochána. Is Mr. Douglas aware of any such contact?

Mr. Douglas

No, to my knowledge there was none

None whatsoever?

Mr. Douglas

No. I attended the inquest in Ireland a couple of months after the event. It was adjourned after five minutes. There has been no contact since then.

At what stage did the Douglas family make first contact with the other families affected by the atrocity?

Mr. Douglas

A relative in County Mayo read or heard on television about the campaign and telephoned my brother Andy about it. He then contacted the rest of us. No information about the campaign had been broadcast on the news in the UK. We then contacted those involved to offer our support. That was the first contact we had on the matter.

Did Mr. Douglas or his family, in the aftermath of the atrocity, form a view on why it had been carried out or on who might have been responsible for the act?

Mr. Douglas

It was my belief it came from loyalists. There was no reason for republicans to do this in their own city. Loyalist-minded criminals would have had more reason to come down here to do this.

I thank Mr. Douglas for his contribution. Following questions from members, does he have anything further to add?

Mr. Douglas

I would like closure. I would love to see the Irish and British Governments push away the smokescreen that seems to have surrounded them. I would like them to come clean, be open and tell the truth about what happened; whether outside agencies or secret organisations in the North, part of the British military, were involved. They have the answers. Then we would certainly move on.

I thank Mr. Douglas for travelling to Dublin to assist the sub-committee. We are very grateful to him.

Mr. Douglas

You are welcome.

I welcome Reverend Fr. James Carr. Fr. Carr is a friend of mine and we have been in contact for a number of years through St. Teresa of the Child Jesus Church, Donore Avenue. I know his sister, Bríd Carr, died tragically in a shooting in the North. I invite him to make his contribution, following which Deputy Murphy and Senator Walsh will enter into dialogue with him.

Fr. James Carr

I have a script and would feel more comfortable if I could follow it. Is that all right?

Absolutely. That is no problem.

Fr. Carr

Our search has always been to find the truth. At the moment this is the case. Mr. Justice Barron's report conformed very much with what we knew from local knowledge, that is, from talking to the people of Lifford. His report confirms the knowledge we had before she was declared dead. I have studied both Barron reports and Bríd's death is unique in that there was no collusion or involvement by Northern forces, that is, the army, RUC or illegal elements.

The death of Bríd Carr took place in relative proximity to and within a short lapse of time of those of Oliver Boyce and Bríd Porter. I feel this facilitates a comparison of policing carried out in each case. I put it that the comparison is very lopsided. The Government was torn in almost two equal parts as to how to deal with the Northern situation. Controversy arose from allegations that Government Ministers were conspiring to import arms and there were accusations that the Fianna Fáil Government was soft on subversives.

On 22 November that yearThe Irish Times gave the essence of a fiery speech delivered in Letterkenny by Neil Blaney, 28 hours after Brid fell clinically dead on Lifford bridge. This, first of all, was very hurtful to the family as Neil Blaney was a neighbour. The Garda Síochána observed military concealed in a field near the bridge, opposite the town and its reaction was to send patrols in the direction of Claddy and Porthall. That was, cynically speaking, riding off into the sunset. There is no mention of patrolling the riverbank. The Garda station and the area behind the post office are quite near to each other. They say they went immediately. They could arrive there in a short space of time. It is hard to see how three men carrying a .303 rifle and a Bren gun could vanish. I also have a map of the area in Lifford which will certify that the post office and the Garda station are within shouting distance of each other.

The first paragraph on page 103 states the Garda cannot say who fired the shots but by a process of elimination and further information given in paragraphs three and four on page 103, clear evidence points towards the suspects. Gardaí did not conduct a search of where the suspects resided, house to house inquiries or road checks. Did the gardaí who saw them in the vicinity make a statement? The decision not to question a suspect and to relegate it to a futile exercise is an extrordinary approach to detective work. Saying there were three suspects, said to be resident, was a sanitised way of saying they were on the run from Northern Ireland. They were in Lifford for some time and the expression was the dogs in the street knew who they were and why they were there.

In regard to a forensic examination, none was carried out. We could confer on the defectiveness of forensic examination in the case of Oliver Boyce and Bríd Porter, mentioned already.

From an observation of the Barron report, Mr. Justice Barron offers no conclusion and in conclusion only offers a summing up. In reality that contribution is not pertinent to the inquiry and is irrelevant.

I thank the sub-committee for giving me this opportunity. There is no conclusion to our search. My intention in approaching this subject is to be objective, while supressing latent anger. I rate my sister Bríd's case as a case of the ignored. In furnishing the submission I avoided giving a conclusion. I would consider that to be contrary to the meaning of a submission. A submission must be judged on evidence proferred. However, on this occasion I venture to discuss the case verbally, given that this is the first opportunity I have had to discuss it with a concerned person or group and I feel some discussion on my conclusion would be helpful.

At this point, I venture to suggest what seems to me as possible conclusions: first, little effort was made in carrying out inquiries; second, there were instructions to go soft on the IRA; and third, the IRA was in control in north-west Donegal and the prudent course was not to rock the boat. Each possible culmination points to injustice and treats us as nonentities.

Our emphasis is not on what the IRA did, but on what the State did to us. The points I have made serve as a prelude to introduce the manner in which we were treated by the State. I keep in mind that things were done differently 33 years ago. However, by any standards the attitude was "stay quiet and lick your wounds". For example, no messages of sympathy were received from the State. In contrast, the IRA sympathised, apologised and brought a wreath to the funeral. Another example is the unbelievable hassle my mother experienced in trying to get Bríd's savings from the post office. Also, my mother received a letter from the then Minister for Justice which bluntly told her that since Bríd died outside the jurisdiction of the State, no public liability could be granted.

John Wilson, in A Place and a Name, correctly interpreted the Victims' Commission's terms of reference. He dealt only with specified cases and mentioned other cases of concern. Mr. Justice Hamilton clarified the matter by deciding that cases like Bríd's were outside his terms of reference. Later the letter and the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement prevailed because of pressure.

Why should Bríd's case be clarified and treated as an appendix, classified in the same status and way as the bombing of a prefab customs hut on the other end of the bridge where she was shot?

Thank you very much. You have certainly made a very forensic examination of the report and I understand your attitude to it. I noticed you were biting your lip at times. You and your family must have suffered emotionally over the past 33 years.

Fr. Carr

We are angry and we are suffering, we are nonentities as citizens. I think the Chairman or someone close to him already experienced my anger some years ago.

Yes. However, it is amazing the way it hits one on a face to face basis. I am stunned at this point in time by the whole situation.

I welcome Fr. James Carr and sympathise with him and his family on their tragic loss. Judging from what he has said, I assume he and his family feel that a lack of political will or ambiguity on the part of Government directly influenced the intensity of the Garda investigation. Is that his opinion?

Fr. Carr

I voiced it as a possible opinion.

Would Fr. Carr consider the attitude at the time was to leave things lie and not interfere with the activities of the IRA at that point in that area?

Fr. Carr

Yes, but it was a very tense time in north-west Donegal at the time — I mentioned a speech by Neil Blaney in Letterkenny, a copy of which I can furnish to members——

Please do. We would be happy to get it.

Fr. Carr

——which was delivered 28 hours after Bríd fell clinically dead on Lifford Bridge and which I classified as insensitive. IRA influence was at a peak. Perhaps the Garda in its judgment decided it just could not face up to arresting the three men who had been identified and whose names had been given to it. A garda recognised two of them. They were resident in Lifford for some time and remained there for some time afterwards, feeling secure I presume.

Considering Fr. Carr's assessment of the quality of the Garda investigation at the time, how can the process through which we are now going bring any conclusion to his family's tragedy?

Fr. Carr

I feel the three remaining members of the family are geriatric. We have suffered for 33 years but we are not immune to suffering yet. I feel the suffering will continue. One cannot regress to the past.

Considering what happened and that from an early stage the family expressed dissatisfaction with the method of investigation, can Fr. Carr give any explanation as to why the State services did not do something to try and console the family through the provision of back-up services in the meantime?

Fr. Carr

We got absolutely no back-up service. We got hassle. In one contact with a local garda when we were going to collect the corpse from Altnagelvin Hospital, he stopped us and told us the body would not be released — false information. That was the sum of Garda help to us.

Thank you.

I welcome Fr. Carr and join in the sympathy to him and his family. In the past few days and previously when discussing the Dublin-Monaghan bombings we heard many similar tales about people who felt badly let down by the State. How many siblings did Bríd have and what age was she when she was killed?

Fr. Carr

My mother lived for 23 years afterwards. She died at the age of 93. I have an older brother and a younger sister. My brother lives in the family home in Donegal, in the Fanad area in the north west. I live in Dublin and my sister lives in Kent. That is the sum total of our family.

I take it the family has always lived in north-west Donegal and that you are familiar with people there.

Fr. Carr


Fr. Carr paints a picture of the climate at the time, probably the initial stages of the 30 years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. It has been stated the climate in the area was one in which the IRA was in control and that the witnesses did not feel confident enough to publicly identify the perpetrators. Was that air of intimidation prominent at that time and did it continue for long afterwards?

Fr. Carr

I visited the area for only a few days during the summer and at Christmas. They were staunch supporters of Neil Blaney. Quite a number of them, though not IRA activists, were IRA supporters.

Did the feeling of intimidation linger for a long time?

Fr. Carr

No. A number of Northern people were on the run — that was the classification — and they were given shelter in a remote area behind the hills in Donegal.

I get the impression you were disappointed with Garda operations at the time, particularly in relation to the incident involving the murder of your sister. You mentioned it appeared the Garda preferred to leave matters lie. Were there other incidences where that occurred?

Fr. Carr

This incident was unique in so far as no question of collusion arose. Oliver Boyce and Breege Porter were killed near Buncrana about two years later. That case was, in my opinion, meticulously followed up in comparison to how my sister's case was dealt with.

What would you like to be the outcome of this process?

Fr. Carr

That is the most difficult question I have been asked today. I cannot visualise the damage done being healed in such a way as to allow us to live a normal life. The committee is faced with a problem. I have pain.

How old was Bríd when she died?

Fr. Carr

She was 26 years old.

You have taken many initiatives over the years in trying to further the investigation. Perhaps you could give us a chronology of what initiatives you have taken and what sort of response you have received.

Fr. Carr

I took many initiatives but I was not satisfied with the responses I received. My first initiative was to contact former Tánaiste, Mr. John Wilson. However, a difficulty arose immediately when I raised the question of whether my sister's case was covered by the terms of reference of the first victims' commission. I did not receive a reply to that question. I went through the session feeling Mr. Wilson was in a difficult position as I had presented a case that was not covered by the commission's remit. The situation was not satisfactory. I felt he was seeking further information on the matter. I was seeking a remedy and he was seeking information about when and where exactly it had happened. There was no meeting of minds.

I was disappointed that in his report — I should perhaps have expected it — he dealt only with the Dublin-Monaghan bombings and the murder of Mr. Ludlow in the Dundalk bombing. Other incidents were included under the heading "Other Cases of Concern".

Would you accept the terms of reference were such that he was not——

Fr. Carr

The terms of reference excluded it.

Yes. Did you at any time approach a senior garda on the matter?

Fr. Carr

I have had no contact whatsoever with the Garda as I do not have a bone to pick with them. However, as the committee may be aware, I had a great deal of contact with the Chairman and his wife from whom I received great assistance. I contacted Mr. Justice Hamilton who informed me he could not deal with the matter as it did not come within his terms of reference. That confirmed Mr. Wilson's position.

I had occasion to meet the Taoiseach, Deputy Ahern, when canvassing outside a church. He told me he would see what he could do. I believe he followed up the matter and did what he could. I also tried to gain access to the Taoiseach through writing to his Department and was generally told the matter would be brought to the Taoiseach's attention as soon as possible. I reached a dead end on the matter.

The Minister, the Secretary General at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Commissioner will assist us in our consideration of the matter. Do you have a particular question you would like the committee to put to them in relation to the death of your sister, Bríd, and the investigation or lack of it?

Fr. Carr

I can supply the committee with a copy of my submission and of Neil Blaney's speech. I can also supply two maps which indicate where the incident took place and the relationship between the Garda station and the post office. These maps are helpful in so far as they make a statement to the effect that the gardaí were within shouting distance of where the shooting took place. I will entrust the committee with that question and see what emerges.

We would be obliged if Fr. Carr could give us a copy of his script, the speech of the former Deputy, the maps to which he referred and any other information he feels would be helpful to us in our consideration of the report.

Fr. Carr

I do not feel I have any further information to add.

After the session, if Fr. Carr wishes, either Melanie or Wendy will assist him to make photocopies in order that he can keep the originals.

Fr. Carr

I have the photocopies.

I thank Fr. Carr for attending and sharing his concerns and his search for a remedy to the death of Bríd. It has been very helpful to us in our consideration of the report. He is welcome to stay if he wishes to hear the other guests who are here today.

I now wish to move on to the awful bombing in Belturbet, County Cavan, where a 15 year old girl and a 16 year old boy tragically lost their lives. The ages, in particular, and the innocence of the victims got me when I read the report. I welcome Anthony O'Reilly, Marie O'Reilly and Frances McCann. Frances is a sister of Geraldine O'Reilly, Anthony is a brother of Geraldine and Marie is Anthony's wife. I thank them for attending, they are all very welcome. Greta Farrell and Susan Stanley who are sisters of Patrick Stanley are also with us. I thank them for attending and sharing their experiences with the sub-committee. I invite the O'Reilly family to make its contribution. Deputies Hoctor and Finian McGrath will share in a dialogue on the various matters that emerge. I accept this is difficult and advise speakers that they should take their time.

Ms Frances McCann

I am Geraldine O'Reilly's sister. On 28 December 1972 my husband and I were in a very happy home. My sister Geraldine was there and my other sisters, Kathleen and Bridie. My husband and I live on the other side of the town and we decided we would go home. Anthony was leaving us home and Geraldine said she would come with us, as she wanted to get a bag of chips. They dropped us off and within a short space of time we heard an almighty explosion and saw a flashing of lights. We were stunned; nobody knew what had happened. We heard that a bomb had gone off but little did I know that my brother Anthony and Geraldine had not got through the town.

I was eight months pregnant with twins and was suffering from high blood pressure and so on. My husband went out. I wondered why everybody was passing me. I asked what had happened and what was wrong but nobody wanted to tell me. My husband came home and told me that Anthony and Geraldine were involved and that Geraldine was dead. I did not want to believe it. I could not believe it. Anthony had gone to hospital. He had been waiting outside the chip shop for Geraldine. We heard that a young boy had also died and we later learned it was Patrick Stanley. It did something to us. Belturbet was a quiet town. We live very near the Border. We are just a few fields away from it but we never thought there would be a bomb in Belturbet. It was an awful shock.

My parents had to be told the news. My dad, may the Lord have mercy on him, was getting ready for bed. My parents were in shock. I do not think they ever came to terms with it. They took it with them to their grave. There was no help for any of us at that time. There was no mention of counselling or any other help. The only help any of us got was from neighbours and friends. Protestants were equally as good as the Catholics in helping out. The general thing that happens when there is a death in the family is that neighbours would keep calling to help out.

The twins were born shortly afterwards and I was in hospital for some time. They were very lucky to be born alive, thanks to the help of the gynaecologist and so on. I had two small children. I cannot describe the look on my parents' faces. It was so sad. They were glad I had the twins safely but there was a silence and an emptiness in the house. All Geraldine's things were there. The knitting that she had before she went out was just sitting on the couch. Everything belonging to her was there. For a long time I think mam and dad expected her to come back. They could not accept that this terrible thing had happened. They were on medication and the doctors were very good to them.

We all had to live with it in our own way. As other speakers have said, we were left to get on with it. There was no help. The people of the town were helpful. Many people were hurt that night and it was a miracle that more people did not die. As it was Christmas time there were quite a few people about and it was a 100 lb bomb that went off in the middle of the town. We felt bad for Patrick that he had to go into town that night and it is so sad that this happened to him. We had to get on with our lives. When we went home to our mam and dad, they would keep silent about it, as if it hurt so much they could not talk about it. My mam found it hard to stay in the house — she had to keep going outside. The time that Geraldine would have been coming home from secondary school was very hard for my mother — she would still watch for her. Her uniform and all her clothes hung on the back of the door in the bedroom with all her other things. I was given a piece of Geraldine's hair, which I still have, and the purse she had in her hand that night. Geraldine died from a very severe blow to the skull. I hope she died instantly.

There was an anger directed at who did this, why no one was telling us about it and the fact that no one had been caught for it. However, we were left alone with it like all the other families. Christmas for us has never been the same. The date of 29 December lurks on our minds and I have never felt happy at Christmas since. It was definitely never happy for my parents. Geraldine was a very happy young girl of 15. Occasionally she would be allowed to go to a dance with a sister or a couple of friends. She had lovely friends and was very happy at school and had everything to live for. Even today, 32 years later, we still feel so broken by this terrible tragedy which happened in Belturbet.

Even as time passed, I found something would happen to me when I passed the spot at which this happened. I found it very hard to cope with this while living in Belturbet. We got together as a family and tried to help one another and our parents. My sisters, Bridie and Kathleen, were at home with my parents and helped them. Anthony had to deal with the fact that he was lucky to come out of it alive, thank God. It still hurts today to talk about it.

My children ask questions about this and say "Oh my God, mammy, that is terrible". They can hardly believe it happened. The first person to do anything about it was John Wilson and, in recent times, Justice for the Forgotten. Margaret Irwin wrote to us and told us we could get some help and, although it came 32 years later, at least it was some recognition of our situation. A small plaque was erected on a wall in Belturbet. It did not state that the victims died from a bomb blast but that Geraldine O'Reilly and Patrick Stanley died tragically. For some reason, they did not want to make it a big issue. The plaque has to come down and we hope a proper monument will be erected with their names on it — some type of suitable monument to recognise that they died there on 28 December, which is the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Two innocent people died that night.

Sometimes when I stop and think about it, I start to shake and shiver and wonder what she would have been like on her birthday. She would have been 16 the following April and her birthday is always a very sad time as well as 28 December. It devastated our family. We have never been the same. When mammy sees her friends, she expects to see her with them — she had lovely friends — and it makes her sad. Thank God we had good neighbours and friends on both sides — Catholic and Protestant — which was all the help we were given at the time.

Thank you very much, Frances, for helping us out in this regard. It is very helpful to the committee. The report states that Geraldine had come into town in her brother's car, so I assume it was Anthony's car. Is that correct?

Mr. Anthony O’Reilly


Does Ms O'Reilly wish to contribute?

Ms Marie O’Reilly

I will do so on behalf of Anthony because he is very emotional today as well as Frances. I met Geraldine personally when I started going out with Anthony. Both of us are from Belturbet and Frances is married to a brother of mine — so we are intermarried. Geraldine used to baby-sit our baby daughter, Caroline, who was a year old the following day. I was only 20 years old at the time. Frances said that Geraldine went to the odd dance. Anthony and I took her to one of her first dances after which we waited for her to come out. I thought she was a lovely girl. She enjoyed Irish dancing and her costume was with her school uniform hanging on the back of her bedroom door for years. Geraldine's mother went into the room an odd time and would look around.

Anthony and I had been in Glasgow before this happened. We got married in Glasgow. Mr. Joe Douglas said he was from Glasgow — I must find out from where exactly. When we returned home, Anthony's father was ill so we stayed at home and lived in the same house with the family. As Frances says, that particular night Anthony went into town and brought Geraldine with him and left Frances and I at home.

We heard the explosion but did not know what had happened. We all gathered outside the house — which was outside the town — and watched cars going past. A particular car stopped and someone said there had been an explosion in the town. Straight away we knew Anthony had been in there with Geraldine. A neighbour and I took it upon ourselves to walk into town, the house being a mile outside it. The devastation on the Diamond was terrible. The Army was there with the Garda. A barricade had been erected and when we went up to it, we were told two people had been killed — a man and a woman. Straight away I thought "who are these people?". One person said "Actually, one of them is a young girl called Geraldine O'Reilly — we do not know who the other person is". Immediately I thought it was Anthony so I went a wee bit hysterical. Geraldine Magee — the neighbour who came with me — said that the husband of a sister in law of hers was in the town. They went to find some information for us.

We said there was a young boy but they did not know who it was. It was not Anthony and he had gone to hospital as he was hurt and injured. We turned home again. When we got to the house, the doctor was attending Mrs. O'Reilly and Anthony's father. The bishop came in afterwards. The doctor wanted to give me some sedatives but I would not take them. As my daughter was asleep in a cot down in the bedroom, I took her into my arms and into the bed. We slept the next few nights together. I was brought up to the hospital to visit Anthony. He wanted out. They did not want to discharge him but he wanted to come home because he wanted to be there for Geraldine's funeral.

For years afterwards, I was picking glass out of Anthony's head. He must have been blown out of the car. The car was a mess, which can be seen from the photographs. It was double-parked and very near the car bomb. He had nightmares for years afterwards and would wake up. We had a lot of problems. We had so many that our marriage nearly ended. We are talking about 15 years later.

Luckily I got help when I needed it. I met up with the Jehovah's Witnesses and started studying the scriptures. It was through my study of the scriptures that I realised why these things happen. God does not cause them. Many people ask why did God take these two unfortunate children, but God does not do things like that. Man is the ruination of man. The comfort I got was in the scriptures where in 2 Corinthians 1.3-4 it says, "Blessed be ..... the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in ... our tribulation." Many a time I have quoted this scripture to Anthony. I have often referred to Acts 17.31, "He [God] has set a day in which he purposes to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed [we know that man to be Jesus Christ], and he has furnished a guarantee to all men in that he has resurrected him from the dead." Through the continuing study of the scriptures, we know that there will be a resurrection and we believe it will be on Earth. That has given me a great comfort and I was also able to help Anthony come to terms. Yes, he is still an emotional wreck when it comes to the like of this. However, we have grown together and we have overcome it.

The first time we heard of something like this was when Joe Tiernan called, a journalist writing a book on the bombings in Dublin, Monaghan and other places. He was speaking to Anthony. He in turn got in touch with Margaret Urwin and she got back in touch with Anthony. We learnt there was a group called Justice for the Forgotten. Anthony thought he would like then to get involved in it as he wanted answers. He wanted those to be brought to justice for what had happened. We have compiled a file at home, which he goes over now and again, with all the different photographs all through the years from that particular night

A friend who was a Protestant and I who was a Catholic, both from Belturbet, became Jehovah's Witnesses on the same day. We are now 15 years in that organisation. We have come across many other people who have gone through traumatic experiences but have learnt through the scriptures to come to terms with this. We know that no man can fully help anybody in situations like this. We put our faith in our God. If anyone wants to ask questions of Anthony, he will probably be able to answer them.

Thank you very much indeed. I am glad that your faith gave you such strength because you certainly needed something to help you over the years. Is the premises a chip shop now?

Mr. O’Reilly

No. It is a chemist.

You would prefer to take and answer questions from members. Deputies Hoctor and Finian McGrath will ask questions of the witnesses.

With the Chairman, I welcome members of the O'Reilly and Stanley families and Fr. James Carr. I thank Anthony, Frances and Marie for being here under difficult circumstances. They have relayed their stories very well and the sub-committee appreciates this very much. On the geography of the Belturbet area, I understand that Geraldine's homeplace was Drumacon and Anthony, Marie and Frances lived in the locality. Did you all live within a radius of one or two miles in the Belturbet area?

Ms McCann


Ms O’Reilly

We all lived out of Drumcon, around a mile on the northern side of Belturbet. Frances lived on the other side of the town.

So you all lived within a near distance of Belturbet. On the night of 28 December of that year, a bomb had gone off in Clones, approximately half an hour before the bomb in Belturbet. Was it relayed on television or was it known to anyone in Belturbet that this had happened in Clones?

Ms O’Reilly


Ms McCann


Was there political tension in small towns such as Belturbet and Clones in the northern boundary area? In Dublin, people were very much on the alert. In the Barron report, details are given on car registration numbers, so people were alert to a certain extent. Were people alert to such events in Belturbet? Was it unexpected that such an event could occur there?

Ms McCann

It is the last thing one would think of for your town. We lived on the edge of the Troubles. The Border was just down the road from us, but it was totally unexpected. It brought the town to a standstill. The people of the town were stunned. There were not many gardaí on duty in Belturbet at any particular time. The gardaí there were very helpful and did what they could. No one ever expected it. It was a horrible tragedy, especially when one thinks that Patrick Stanley would have come into the town and been there at that particular night. It is really shocking.

Thank you. A few lines were dedicated to Geraldine in the Barron report. Did you have the opportunity to meet Mr. Justice Barron?

Ms McCann

No, we did not.

Were you invited to meet him?

Ms McCann


You mentioned there was a plaque dedicated to both Geraldine and Patrick Stanley. Who was responsible for erecting the plaque?

Ms McCann

It was the town commissioners and one man in particular, Mr. John Scott. It was erected on the 25th anniversary of their deaths. He asked us if it was all right to go ahead with it. He got in contact with the Stanley family too. That was a sad occasion. Somehow we wished something had been done when our parents were alive. Our parents got absolutely nothing — no plaque, no remembrance, nothing to remember them by and nobody to say they were due anything. That was the sadness I felt on that day — if only this had been done when mummy and daddy were alive. However, they did it and we appreciated it at the time.

I welcome the delegation to the Oireachtas sub-committee and once again I wish to convey our deepest sympathy.

Given that Geraldine and Paddy Stanley were 15 and 16 years of age at the time, they must have been among the youngest victims of the Troubles. It opens ones eyes when one sees it, which is not to demean any of the other victims. It is just that these people were starting off their life. They were young and fresh, two young teenagers who, all of a sudden, were just wiped out. I find it very sad and it must be horrific from the families' point of view. On the comments the Chairman made earlier, it is a very difficult process for the families. The dignity, courage and generosity of the victims today and yesterday has absolutely amazed and moved me. It is important to put this on the public record because it is an extremely difficult time for all the families.

My question relates to the incident itself and the death of Geraldine. Frances said that the bomb was totally unexpected. Was this unusual for a Border town? In 1972, many people further south would have expected Border towns to be hotbeds of activity, with explosives and bombs.

Ms McCann

Yes, they would. Belturbet and Ballyconnell are Border towns. Clones was another one. It could have happened at any time. If only there was a warning. There was absolutely no warning. Definitely that fear might exist. I am sure Geraldine and Paddy Stanley would not have been thinking about bombs or the Troubles. I was an older sister and we would have known more about them. At her age, Geraldine would have been thinking about when dad might let her go to a dance. She went out with her friends and so on. When she died, she looked very peaceful, and I know that both she and Paddy are in Heaven. I had some lovely dreams about her, which was a good help to me.

You said that one of the saddest aspects was that your parents did not even see the outcome of the Barron report or the hearings being conducted today. This is probably one of the saddest and hurtful aspects from your point of view. You also referred to the plaque. Can I ask the family why they think that happened at the time? Why did you feel let down or ignored by the State at the time, or does the family have a view on it?

Ms McCann

They just did not know. They did not have the information. It was not followed up. A certain amount of investigation was probably carried out but for some reason it did not continue. It was as if it never happened.

I find that amazing. There is a constant theme that many of the victims of the 1972 and 1973 bombings, particularly our neighbours from Scotland, felt totally let down by the system. I do not accept that this should have happened. Some 32 years on, I find it amazing. From the families' point of view, do people feel that a blind eye was turned to the whole thing or was it for political reasons? Perhaps you do not agree with that analysis. I am just asking the question.

As Frances has already stated, they were the times that were in it.

Ms McCann

To answer the question, yes. I think the Garda may have done their best, but for a particular reason the books may have been closed. They came up against a blank wall. They were not getting help from the other side. At the time, the gardaí in the town were very helpful. I would say that they wanted to catch the culprits. However, for some particular reason, they were coming up against a blank wall.

I have one final question for Anthony or Marie. What would they like to happen next on the whole issue of the murder of Geraldine?

Ms O’Reilly

A memorial is now being erected in the town. Finally, there has been a recognition that something occurred. I grew up in Belturbet and worked in a shop in the Diamond. The shops in Belturbet depended a lot on cross-Border activity. It was particularly devastating that this bombing happened and no one knew who did it. People felt that perhaps people who were travelling in and out did it, and they were still walking around. There was this type of feeling throughout the town. I do not know whether people talk about it to this day. It is freaky to think that one's neighbours could do such a thing. The problem is not knowing who did it. If we knew, particularly if Anthony knew, he could come to terms with it and say, "This is what happened, now I must leave it." It is great that a monument is being erected in the town. I thank the Taoiseach for putting money aside to erect the monument.

Thank you very much. Would Anthony like to say anything about his relationship with Geraldine or what he would like to see happen as a result of these hearings?

Mr. O’Reilly

I was very fond of Geraldine but I am not happy to talk about it.

You miss her terribly.

Mr. O’Reilly


Thank you very much for coming along and sharing with us your obvious grief and distress. I hope this has helped in some way to bring you to terms with what has happened and reduce the grief and distress you feel. I thank Anthony, Marie and Frances.

I now want to go to Patrick Stanley's sisters, Susan Stanley and Gretta Farrell. His was an equally tragic and innocent life lost.

Ms Gretta Farrell

I have a presentation prepared because I find it difficult to talk about the matter.

On 28 December 1972, my parents, brothers, sisters, extended family and I were devastated by the loss of Paddy. This tragedy still lives with us and we will never fully recover from the loss of Paddy. Paddy was tall, dark and he had shoulder length hair. He was very handsome and I was very proud he was my brother. He was 16 and I was 13 years of age when he was killed. He was the eldest of ten children. He lived for sport. He loved soccer, gaelic football and hurling, and he played as goalkeeper in all of these sports. He was nominated for an under-21 GAA All-Star award before he died.

Paddy was a kind and gentle person who adored his family, particularly his mother, his two grannies and his grand aunt, Mary, who used to call him Master Pat. She was 89 years of age at the time of his death and she was never told he had been taken from us. She died less than six months later thinking she was asleep every time he called down to see her, although he managed to leave gifts each time.

On the day of my First Communion, I was to go and see my grandparents who lived about two miles from my parents' home. It was raining and we did not have a car at that time. Paddy wrapped me up in a long raincoat, put me on the crossbar of his bike and brought me up to see my grandparents. He was only ten then.

The morning I was told of Paddy's death, my cousin Teresa told me he had been in an accident. I thought he had dislocated his shoulder again but she told me he was dead in Belturbet. I had never even heard of Belturbet. I was with my granny Treacy and at lunchtime I was brought to be with my family, on strict instructions that I was not to cry or upset anyone, especially not to upset mam, who was six months pregnant with Susan. It was also the day we found out that she was expecting Susan.

At the time, we were told very little about how Paddy died. We were told he was in a phone box trying to ring us to let us know he would not be home that night because the roads were too bad to travel, but a car bomb exploded outside the telephone kiosk before he got to pass on his message. At the time I thought he had died instantly with no marks on him, but later that day I heard someone saying that he had been blown to bits and that the coffin would have to be closed. I was 13 and I remember I was told I was not allowed to cry in case I upset anyone. Mam was not allowed out of bed because she was in such a state of shock and my dad was in Belturbet, trying to bring Paddy home to us. For long after that I used to have nightmares at the thought of Paddy in the grave. Daddy was still in Belturbet and was trying to get home to us and I remember feeling that we were left there alone.

That was December 1972 and it did not get any easier after that. We grew up keeping our grief and tragic loss to ourselves. Nobody ever offered to help us come to terms with that grief or the insurmountable loss we had suffered. Because Paddy was the eldest I often wished it had been me that was taken, not him, thinking that the enormous pain and suffering my parents were going through might not have been so bad. I know my parents would not have wished this but it was how I felt.

Thirty-two years after my brother's murder no one has been charged. Never — not even on the day Paddy died — did a garda or politician call to our door to tell us how the investigation was going or what was happening. Anything we or my parents knew was what we read in the newspapers and it was not in the newspapers for very long after that. We just felt as if everyone wanted to forget them.

Paddy was born, lived and died an Irish citizen and the justice which was not forthcoming after his murder should be forthcoming now, as a matter of great urgency. The Barron report has done little to convince me that we have anything like the full story. It has been said that to delve to the necessary depths would cause embarrassment, not just to the British Government but also to our own Government, and there appears to be a tendency to avoid coming to unpalatable conclusions. Paddy Stanley and Geraldine O'Reilly should not be forgotten children murdered in Belturbet and I urge this committee to ensure that justice is done for them.

I know that you are very emotional. Thank you very much indeed for your contribution.

Ms Susan Stanley

As Gretta said, our mother was six months pregnant with me when Paddy was tragically taken from us. When I close my eyes I cannot see him. I know nothing about him, which is sad. As Gretta said, he was a wonderful young man. Many people have told me this.

Gretta mentioned the closed coffin. I would like to tell you what the man who took Paddy out of the phone box had to tell us when we met him. It is very poignant and people should know what was done to my brother. Paddy O'Reilly said:

It was a sad case, an innocent wee boy split open, a memory I will take to the grave. His feet were in the box and he was in bad shape, blood baked all over him. I thought I was a tough man but I am no tougher than the next. He was like a cinder.

My mother and father did not send him out to come home like that. Yesterday Bertie Ahern said that nobody was above the reproach of the law. That is why we are here to seek justice. Mr. Justice Barron said in his report that the bombers were acting on their own initiative. That means it is not a war crime. It is not something that can be covered under the Good Friday Agreement.

I try not to read newspapers because I have enough grief in myself and my family. I do not need to look any further than my own doorstep for bad news. It is up to us to see that justice is done for the two children who lost their lives on the feast of the Holy Innocents, 28 December. Three bombs went off that night. It was like a practice run — "Let's see if our new timers work, boys. We'll go out and do some destruction tonight." That is what happened. There are not that many roads leading to and from Belturbet. There was a Garda post on Aghalane Bridge and they were seen coming in and leaving. No Garda car left Aghalane Bridge that night to see where they were gone or where they had come from. I honestly believe that if something had been done in the couple of days, months or even years after my brother was taken away from my family, many lives could have been saved. It is so unfair that these people are allowed to get away with mass murder. That is what they did — they physically got away with it.

We never did anything to anybody. My brother was trying to get some money together, probably to buy new football boots. They talked about political tension in the town. The only political tension in Clara is between the GAA and soccer — there is nothing else. It is inconceivable that this should have happened to these two children that night. We have to see the books. We have to see the reports opened. We need to hear what people had to say back then. They are not all dead. The papers have not all disappeared, although some may have. We need to hear from the British Government, from the PSNI. It is important to us to have the answers.

I did not find out how my brother was killed until I could read. I did not know. Neither did Gretta or any of my other brothers and sisters. My parents never spoke about it. There was a photograph of him at home as an All-Star. That was the amount of information I had for years. We had a box at home — Gretta has spoken about it. The box was kept underneath mammy and daddy's bed and in it were all the paper cuttings. They used to sneak in and out of the bedroom, two or three at a time, and read the paper cuttings to find out how their brother was taken away from them. My parents still cannot talk about it 32 years later. It is not fair that Irish citizens should have this over them. We should not allow it because tomorrow or the next day it could be one of your children or my son who has that done to him.

Susan, thank you very much indeed.

I welcome Gretta and Susan. We very much appreciate your coming here to speak to us. It is terribly heartrending and emotional. As you both said, it was the feast of the Holy Innocents and these were two young people who were cut down in their prime. We certainly heard your plea for justice and that something should be done to resolve this matter. In the context of your family in Clara in County Offaly, you must have felt speaking to your parents that you were so far away from the Troubles that it was strange that it should touch a family like yours. What was the atmosphere and the talk in the home?

Ms Farrell

The town was totally shocked. The whole of County Offaly was shocked that something had happened so far away from the Border. We would not have been travelling to the North or anywhere near it. Paddy was there helping on a lorry and the roads were in too bad a condition to get home that night. That was the only reason he was still there. He should have been at home. The shock spread throughout the town which had never seen a funeral like it. It was horrific that something like this could have happened to someone living so far south.

What contact was made with the Garda and State agencies in the period following his death?

Ms Farrell

No one ever came. The Garda never came to our house. No one ever came to tell us that this or that was or was not happening. For years my father has been writing to every politician, whether he knows them or not. Over the years he has written to every Minister for Justice but has never received any help or any indication of why it happened. One Minister for Justice told him to forget it, that it had happened a long time ago and to move on.

Ms Stanley

That was very hard to take, that somebody could tell a person, "Look, that is it. It happened." I am living proof that it happened 32 years ago because that is how old I am. He was told to leave it and move on, although he did not. He still has all those letters at home and is still writing. It is not fair.

They got no help, no information. Was contact about doing something first made by Justice for the Forgotten?

Ms Farrell

Without the efforts of Justice for the Forgotten, we would not be here today.

As far as the State was concerned, the people concerned did not exist.

Ms Farrell

We did not.

Did Mr. Justice Barron contact Mrs. Farrell?

Ms Farrell


Did he write to her?

Ms Farrell


Ms Stanley

I tried to get in contact with his office but got no reply.

In Mr. Justice Barron's account, on various pages from page 116 onwards, a strong finger of suspicion is pointed at a particular culprit. Before Mr. Justice Barron's report, did Mrs. Farrell have any information on the investigation or who the culprit might be? What were her suspicions in this matter?

Ms Farrell

We were always told it was a loyalist bombing and that there was talk of people who had been seen that night driving into Belturbet. As we were so far away from Belturbet and were all so young, nothing was forthcoming. This person may or may not have done it.

I want to be careful not to put people in a position whereby members' privilege may be a problem.

Mrs. Farrell is looking for justice and feels frustrated that justice has neither been done nor been seen to be done. Is there anything she wishes to say in particular that could point the way forward?

Ms Farrell

We need a public inquiry; someone needs to be held accountable. People went out that night to plant the bomb which killed two people. They should be made to pay for this.

I thank Mrs. Farrell and Ms Stanley.

I thank Mrs. Farrell and Ms Stanley for their frank and moving presentation. They have painted a vivid picture of their brother, Paddy. Can they tell us a little more about how he came to be working with Calor Kosangas? Was it a holiday job? How did he come to be in Belturbet on that occasion?

Ms Farrell

He was working for a guy from home named Paddy Jennings who owned the lorry. The driver was Colm O'Brien whom Paddy was helping on that day. They headed off to Belturbet. I do not think they knew they were heading to Belturbet that morning until they got there. They were collecting gas. As it was winter, the roads were in a particularly bad condition that night. They decided to park the lorry outside the town and go into it to find somewhere to stay. They booked into a bed and breakfast in the town. There was no telephone in the bed and breakfast. That is why he went out. He told Colm he would have to telephone us because we would be worried. As we did not have a telephone, he was telephoning our neighbour. They told him where there was a telephone box. There were two telephone boxes in the town, one of which was not working. Unfortunately, he went to the other one. That was how he came to be there.

Can Mrs. Farrell recall the circumstances in which her parents were told of the tragedy?

Ms Farrell

Yes. There was a newsflash on television that night, that there had been an explosion and two people had been killed. As it was Christmas, they were all up quite late at home. Mam and dad said to them, "We will say the rosary now, before we go to bed, for those two people." They said the rosary and went to bed. At about 2.30 a.m. the local priest called and got daddy up out of bed. He told him that Paddy was dead, that he had been killed in an explosion. That was it. It was the local priest who came to tell them what had happened.

Even at that stage, was there no contact with the Garda authorities?

Ms Farrell

No. There was never any contact in 32 years.

Their sense of loss is palpable; it is particularly obvious in the case of Ms Stanley who was not even born when this tragedy occurred. Can they give us a feel of how it has affected their lives over the past 32 years and the lasting impact Paddy's death has had on them?

Ms Farrell

It has been horrific. We were so young. Daddy had to go to Belturbet that day to arrange to bring them home and they would not let mammy out of bed or let us near her. We had different relations in the house that day, some of whom were very good with children, some of whom were not. As you went in and out through the different rooms, you could hear different people's conversations about what had happened, what was going on and when he was to be buried. They had forgotten we were there and to include us. It was terrible.

For years afterwards you could not talk to mam and dad about it. They just could not talk about it. They were so heartbroken. There were days you would come home from school to find mammy lost in grief. No one said, "Teresa, you have ten children; we will come and help you to get going." It did not happen.

Mrs. Farrell paints a picture of a total systems failure, where none of the State caring agencies put out a hand to help.

Ms Farrell

No one.

Ms Stanley

I was born with two broken arms. Last night I asked my mother if she would like me to say anything and she replied, "God, Susan, I do not know; I could not put it into words." Years previously, at Christmas time, my dad had a heart attack. I slept with mam that night. I was 17 years old at the time and it was the first time she spoke to me about my brother's death. She said that at first she thought the priest was talking about our grandad, also named Paddy Stanley. She said that when she realised it was Paddy, she could feel something terrible happening inside her, that this young woman had to carry life when her first-born had been taken away from her. As Gretta said, he was a wonderful boy. We have brilliant brothers and sisters and a wonderful mother and father. How did that woman get out of bed to give birth when there was no one there for her? We must get justice to make their deaths worthwhile. Gretta told me he was an Irish citizen. We must ensure justice is done for that Irish citizen. That is important for him and Geraldine.

Thank you, Susan and Gretta, for your moving and emotional contributions which are very helpful to the committee in terms of its consideration of what it can do and the questions it can ask.

I now invite the legal representative for Justice for the Forgotten to make a submission. Ms Margaret Urwin, secretary of the Justice for the Forgotten group is accompanied by Mr. Cormac Ó Dúlacháin, Senior Counsel, and Mícheál O'Connor, BL. I understand Mr. Ó Dúlacháin will make the submission and that Margaret and Mícheál are also available to answer questions that might be forthcoming.

Mr. Cormac Ó Dúlacháin, SC

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.

I thank Mr. Ó Dúlacháin for his submission to the committee. Did the Justice for the Forgotten group liaise with Mr. Justice Barron during his investigation?

Mr. Ó Dúlacháin, SC

We did. There was a huge difference between these and the 1974 inquiry. In the case of the Dublin bombings of 1974, there was so much information in the public domain. There were witnesses of whom we knew. There were people who were willing to talk. There are papers that have become available from other sources. We were able to meaningfully engage because we had a body of information on which to work.

The 1 December 1972 and 20 January 1973 bombings had not been the subject of journalistic inquiry or television documentaries. Therefore, the information to enable us to conduct independent investigations or feed in to Mr. Justice Barron's inquiry was very limited and his interpretation of his role meant that his ability to reveal material to us was extremely limited and restricted.

In the case of the 1974 bombings, Mr. Ó Dúlacháin had interaction with Mr. Justice Barron during the process. Is he saying there was less interaction on this occasion?

Mr. Ó Dúlacháin, SC

Significantly less. The dynamics of what we knew meant we simply did not have material on which to work.

Mr. Ó Dúlacháin mentioned the disparity in the standards of investigation between different Garda operations into the various crimes. To what does Mr. Ó Dúlacháin attribute this? I think he would express satisfaction with some and be critical of others.

Mr. Ó Dúlacháin, SC

It appears to us that either there was a lack of direction or a policy as to how we should go about investigating crimes with a very definite cross-Border connection. One can appreciate that there may be a belief in respect of a connection across a border but when one had a very definite connection — a car stolen in the morning and used in the evening — and where one had the evidence that established that connection, there did not seem to be any agreed protocol, arrangement or instructions on how to go about co-ordinating the investigations.

In his submission Mr. Ó Dúlacháin laid much emphasis on the need for the families to interact with the Garda and Mr. Justice Barron. Has he a specific forum in mind in which that might take place?

Mr. Ó Dúlacháin, SC

That really is a matter for debate. At one level, one talks about public inquiries and takes fright. The public inquiry, at one level in which families are interested, allows them to be present and interact with those who have the knowledge. For them, therefore, it can be public if it involves them. Whether it must occur on a grand public stage is a different matter but at the most basic level there should be interaction between a police force and those who have suffered. That interaction should involve a detailed description of what occurred, an opportunity to contribute and to question.

To what end does Mr. Ó Dúlacháin see that taking place? Is it to advance investigations or assist the families to come to terms with these events and put them on the path to closure?

Mr. Ó Dúlacháin, SC

There are a number of aspects. Families can begin to address and come to terms with the issues, if they believe they have done everything possible. If they come away with an understanding that a significant investigation has been conducted and the reasons it failed, if it did fail, at least they know that is an aspect they can put behind them. Second, that interaction forces the police force to look back and ask themselves if there is anything that can be done now or if anything was left undone. The process has the dual benefit of meeting the needs of a family as well as looking at the case afresh, asking questions and learning from the process.

Mr. Ó Dúlácháin recognises the difficulties arising from the cross-jurisdictional nature of the investigation, and that the co-operation of officers on both sides of the Border is required. How can that be advanced, given the criticism in the report of the failure of the Northern Ireland office to assist in any way?

Mr. Ó Dúlacháin, SC

Ultimately, it is a matter of political will. It is a question of whether the peace process must engage with people on their entitlement to truth. There is a sense that the peace process must engage with people on this issue but the detail of how it should be done has not been worked out and agreed by both Governments. There is no agreed consensus between all parties and both Governments as to how and by whom it will be done.

Yesterday, Mr. Martin Douglas read into the record a letter from the British Prime Minister, Mr. Blair, to Mr. Nigel Evans, the MP in Mr. Douglas's constituency. It states, "It is entirely understandable that those who have suffered the loss of loved ones still yearn to find out what happened and the British Government is committed to doing what it can to give those people the best chance of achieving that." That is in stark contrast to the criticism in the Barron report of the failure of the British authorities to assist him in any way in regard to these investigations.

Mr. Ó Dúlacháin has emphasised the responsibilities of both Governments to provide information. Is he suggesting that the definition of collusion would include the prevention of relevant data being made available on events that happened 30 years ago?

Mr. Ó Dúlacháin, SC

It is very clear in a legal sense and in international law that providing cover constitutes an act of collusion. If one provides protection, obscures people from prosecution or fails to disclose information, one is acting as a participant in the overall event. Even if one does so subsequently, one is acquiesing. Not to co-operate with investigations, whether civil or criminal, parliamentary or quasi-judicial, into murders is effectively to give an imprimatur to the murder that occurred.

Is Mr. Ó Dúlácháin putting that on a par with people in authority at the time being aware of events and not disclosing and taking action on them?

Mr. Ó Dúlacháin, SC

If it was wrong to do so 30 years ago, it is wrong to do it again today. It is hard to communicate, but it is a matter for the body politic to take the issue and put the emphasis on it. It has been left at the fringe of the debate on the peace process, closure, decommissing and political institutions. This is an issue that affects people on both sides of the Border.

I will put a question to Ms Margaret Urwin, secretary of the organisation, Justice for the Forgotten. Today, the O'Reillys, the Stanleys and the Douglas' — I do not know if Fr. Carr has been in touch with you — paid tribute to the work of Ms Urwin. There may be victims or relatives of victims watching the proceedings who feel forgotten. Will Ms Urwin tell the committee what Justice for the Forgotten can do for them and how they can contact her?

Ms Margaret Urwin

It had occurred to me that this was an opportunity to publicise the services of Justice for the Forgotten, which provides services for all those bereaved by the northern conflict, living in this jurisdiction and all of those who were injured by any acts relating to the northern conflict. We have funding to provide counselling services and we also provide holistic services at our family centre in Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin. We also have an outreach service, whereby counselling or holistic therapies can be provided in any part of the State to anybody who has suffered as a result of the conflict. Our telephone number is in all of the State directories under Justice for the Forgotten, and if one looks it up under the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, one will be referred to Justice for the Forgotten.

Have the all families with whom Justice for the Forgotten has been in contact been compensated and are their medical bills being paid? I refer in particular to victims who have shrapnel in their bodies. Are their cases being handled by the Department in a sensitive manner?

Ms Urwin

I take it the Deputy is referring to the Remembrance Commission.

Ms Urwin

First, it is not compensation. Acknowledgement payments have been made to the bereaved families of our members and to the great majority of people with whom we are in touch. There are difficulties with making payments to the injured at present. The structure of the scheme is very limiting and I know the commission is continuing to look at ways of making the funding more accessible to the survivors.

The Remembrance Commission is very sympathetic. Representatives of the commission visited our centre on 30 November and they met a number of survivors as well as families of the bereaved. I think they were greatly impressed by what they saw. They had an opportunity to look at the facilities in terms of counselling and holistic therapies.

I thank Ms Urwin, Mr. Cormac Ó Dúlacháin and Mr. Mícheál O'Connor. I thank everybody who came here today, in particular the families of the victims and the victims themselves, and all who have helped in our consideration of the report.

The sub-committee adjourned at 12 p.m. until 9.30 a.m. on Thursday, 27 January 2005.