Public Hearings on the Barron Report.

Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh gach éinne anseo inniú. Seo é an tríu lá de na éisteachtaí poiblí seo. Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh lucht féachanna TG4 freisin.

Yesterday the sub-committee heard contributions from victims and relatives of victims of a number of atrocities. Fr. James Carr attended to contribute with regard to the murder of his sister, Bríd Carr, on 17 November 1971. Mr. Francis McCann, Mr. Anthony O'Reilly and Ms Marie O'Reilly, relatives of Ms Geraldine O'Reilly, and Ms Gretta Farrell and Ms Susan Stanley, sisters of Mr. Patrick Stanley also contributed. Geraldine O'Reilly and Patrick Stanley were both killed in the Belturbet bombing of 28 December 1972. We also had a contribution from Mr. Joe Douglas, brother of Mr. Tommy Douglas who was killed by the bomb in Sackville Place on 20 January 1973. Mr. Cormac Ó Dúlacháin, SC, and Ms Margaret Irwin spoke on behalf of Justice for the Forgotten. I thank all those who have contributed to the discussions to date.

Before we begin, I remind invited guests that while Members of the Oireachtas have privilege, invitees appearing before committees of the Houses do not. I welcome the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, and the Secretary General of his Department, Mr. Seán Aylward. I thank them for attending today.

I thank the sub-committee for providing me and some of my senior officials with the opportunity to be here today. It has already received a detailed written submission which I hope will be of some assistance. As indicated in correspondence, this is a joint presentation on my part and that of the Secretary General of my Department, Mr. Seán Aylward. My officials and I remain at the disposal of the sub-committee and will endeavour to answer as thoroughly as possible any questions members may wish to put.

I again express my deepest sympathy to those who were so grievously affected by the bombings and other incidents examined in Judge Barron's report. In particular, I sympathise with those who were injured and the families of those murdered. It is a matter of great regret that the perpetrators of those crimes have managed to elude justice.

I commend the work of Mr. Justice Barron and those who assisted him in preparing this and his previous reports. I pay tribute to the sub-committee for this and previous work it has undertaken in building on the work of Mr. Justice Barron and helping to shine some light on the terrible and dark deeds which became the tragic and awful legacy in this State of the conflict in Northern Ireland. Upsetting and distressing as it is and was for the innocent victims of the atrocities, the work of the sub-committee will bring some measure of closure for them.

I turn to the report as it concerns my Department. With regard to the Garda investigations initiated in the aftermath of the various incidents and outrages described in the report, it is important for the sub-committee to appreciate that then, as now, neither the Minister nor the Department would in any sense have shadowed a Garda investigation. It is no longer the practice, nor has it been for many years, for the Department to receive Garda investigation reports as a matter of routine. Some may think from looking at older records — the sub-committee is dealing with older records — that it is still the practice, as it was at the time, for reports on major crimes to come to the Department. The situation is that with regard to major criminal episodes, I would receive at most either an oral or a very short written briefing, perhaps of two or three paragraphs, in order that I would be in a position to handle press queries at the time. I would not receive major Garda reports unless I requested them and even then I would be reluctant to request detailed working papers of Garda investigations because as the sub-committee knows, there is now a different ethos with regard to the relationship between the Minister and the Secretary General and the Garda Síochána than perhaps in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

As Minister, either personally or through the Department, I will be kept informed in a general way about particular investigations of national interest. This is always the case when an investigation involves a threat to the security of the State but it is clearly not a matter for me or my Department to attempt to second-guess members of a Garda investigation team. It follows, therefore, that any documentation within my Department on various Garda investigations constitutes only a very small subset of the information obtained or generated by the Garda in the course of its investigations.

On the details of the Garda investigations, I understand that at the sub-committee's invitation the Garda Commissioner will appear before it next week and I do not think it would usefully assist the sub-committee if I were to attempt to preface or anticipate his observations. Similarly, with regard to the role of the Defence Forces in subsequent investigations of the bombings, the sub-committee will appreciate that I would not be in a position to provide further useful information for it. There is excellent co-operation at an operational level between the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces and the reporting structures are such that the Garda investigation file would incorporate all relevant investigative matters.

Regarding relevant documentation in the Department, files and other papers dealing with the activities of paramilitary groupings are handled and maintained within a small unit of my Department known as the security and Northern Ireland division which is headed by a principal officer. Unfortunately, the four senior officials who would have dealt directly with security matters in 1972 and 1973 are all deceased. There is no one serving in my Department who would have been involved in these matters at the time. Therefore, I am not in a position to go to individuals and ask them for their recollections. Nevertheless, I am pleased to note that the independent commission considers that the Department facilitated its work in every way it could. In that context, I am glad to confirm to the sub-committee that for the purposes of Mr. Justice Barron's inquiry into the events under consideration, all files located in my Department were made available to the judge's independent commission.

I am at the disposal of the sub-committee regarding any questions it may wish to ask but before we enter a detailed question and answer session, I would like to make two further brief points. Much has been said, rightly, about the effect of the bombings on the persons left behind who have had to carry injury and grief with them ever since. The sub-committee has heard very moving direct personal testimony from survivors and relatives of those killed. Such harrowing experience has not gone unnoticed and unrecognised by the Government. Last year I announced the appointment of a commission to administer a remembrance fund established to address the needs of the victims of the conflict in Northern Ireland and their families in this jurisdiction. The decision was made following a consideration of the recommendations of the reports of the Victims Commission. The Remembrance Commission is charged with the administration of the remembrance fund for a three year period from the date of its commencement. In particular, its function is to assess and process applications from individuals for financial assistance under various categories and in accordance with the terms of a scheme to be operated by the commission.

In operating the scheme the commission is empowered to make payments under certain categories. It can make acknowledgement of payments of €15,000 to each of the bereaved families of the persons who were either killed in this jurisdiction or resident in the jurisdiction at the time of their death. I know €15,000 is a sum of money but it can never compensate and is not intended as compensation. Second, lump sums up to €15,000 per applicant can be made to spouses and dependent children of victims killed in this jurisdiction or resident here at the time of their death, and to any injured victim. Third, unless already covered by payments under the previous category, unmet and continuing medical costs to cover vouched medical expenses, including home help expenses not already paid by some other State body or agency, can be paid by the commission.

Fourth, relocation payments of up to €15,000 will be paid, subject to conditions, to bereaved families or injured persons who have had to move as a direct consequence of the conflict in Northern Ireland. Fifth, a grant will be paid, on my request and at the recommendation of the Taoiseach, to the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund.

The Remembrance Commission can also make lump sum payments to spouses and dependent children of victims killed in this jurisdiction or resident here at the time of their death, as well as any injured victim, of amounts up to €15,000 per applicant. Moreover, the payment for the counselling needs of persons in this jurisdiction who were injured as a direct result of the conflict in Northern Ireland will be met by the health authorities or by victims' support groups. Although I fully admit they are belated, I believe these arrangements, give some final recognition to the impact the events of the 1970s have had and continue to have on so many people. I was struck, on reading coverage of yesterday's proceedings here, that the point was made that a somewhat less concerned approach generally for victims pervaded public administration in the past. We now have a different attitude. In those days people were expected — wrongly, in many cases, I believe — simply to accept the burden of events and to soldier on without much help from the community. The arrangements I am now talking about are very much belated and I deeply regret they were not put in place at an earlier stage, but we did live in different times, economically, socially and in terms of attitude.

The point I am making is also illustrated by the seriousness with which the Government responded to the sub-committee's examination of the first Barron report into the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings. I am sure the committee is aware that the Oireachtas has now approved a draft order establishing a commission of investigation into certain aspects of the State's handling of the bombings. I understand that draft terms of reference and a draft statement of costs are being prepared under the auspices of the Department of the Taoiseach for the approval of the Government in due course.

I wish to emphasise that the horrendous bombings of 1972 and 1973, as well as the other events dealt with in the report, took place against the background of sustained conflict on this island. Although great progress has been made as regards bringing that conflict to an end, now more than ever, I believe members of the committee will join me in saying that paramilitarism in all its forms must come to a definitive end.

I thank the Minister. It is agreed that on behalf of all of the members of the committee Deputies Costello and Ó Fearghaíl will ask questions of, and debate with the Minister.

I thank the Minister for his statement. I also welcome Mr. Seán Aylward and congratulate him on his appointment as Secretary General.

Over the last couple of days we have listened to some harrowing accounts from victims and survivors of the bombings of 1972 and 1973. Last year we listened to similar harrowing accounts from relatives and survivors of the 1974 bombings. Coming though all of this was a feeling of anger and frustration that the State had not done enough and that their loved ones had been neglected. Even to this day, more than 30 years later, they feel neglected, frustrated and many are very angry. There were highly charged emotional presentations over the last couple of days.

We are dealing with this matter under the general auspices of the Good Friday Agreement, which made specific provisions for victims as regards reconciliation and truth. In general terms, I would first like to ask how the Minister believes his Department has responded. What measures have been put in place or does he propose to introduce to ameliorate to some extent the sufferings that have been endured over this period of time?

The relatives told the committee that there were many issues to do with justice and truth for which they could not get answers or care, comfort or conciliation. The authorities, they said, from the Garda to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform were found wanting. Before dealing with specific issues, will the Minister give the committee some idea as to whether or not his Department has put any structures in place to alleviate the problems of suffering experienced by so many relatives, survivors and families?

We should first put all of this in context. As the Deputy knows, for many years, the victims of these bombings were effectively left on their own to campaign. They got virtually no recognition. The Deputy and I were among a small group of cross-party backbenchers, ten years ago or less, who were active in promoting their interests in the Houses of Oireachtas. However, essentially they were outsiders banging on the door to get public attention at that time. I am not saying this in criticism of any of my predecessors, but at the time there was an attitude in the Department that there was nothing to investigate and nothing further could be done. It was felt the demands for further investigation, elucidation and establishment of the truth were somehow beside the point. I believe that was a mistaken attitude, but it was one that was not peculiar to the Department of Justice and could be found across the system. I accept that it took a sea change in political and social attitudes for society and the political establishment to face up to their responsibilities to those who had been badly treated in the aftermath of the serious suffering inflicted on them.

It was in the context of trying to bring closure to Northern Ireland issues that the case for addressing the still open wounds which those people had, became much stronger and more obvious. It was in that context that the unfinished business of the victims and their families became much more visible in stark relief to the body politic in Ireland. One of the agencies established was the Victims' Commission, which made recommendations for the introduction of a mechanism whereby the State would, even 30 years after these events, make recompense and acknowledge the suffering of those who died and the families they left behind, as well as that of the injured people.

The scheme put in place was twofold. The State decided to implement a scheme that looked after its own. The first element of that was to administer an acknowledgement payment of €15,000, through the Remembrance Commission, to each of the bereaved families. Second, it was decided to pay capital sums to spouses and dependants of people who were killed in this jurisdiction or resident here at the time of their deaths, and to any injured victim in the same amount. Third, some people had continuing medical expenses arising out of their injuries, including the need for home help. In so far as they were not being met by other State bodies, the State should now take responsibility for them. Fourth, a sum of money was given by way of additional assistance to those who had to move as a direct consequence of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Finally, a substantial sum of money was paid by the remembrance commission to the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund. As Irishmen and Irishwomen, we have to appreciate that the great majority of the suffering took place north of the Border. We cannot simply allow the Border to become a demarcation line on where compensation occurs and remembrance takes place. The Department has set up an office to manage the commissioner's work and to deal with applications. I will be able to give the committee the contact details of that office.

A sea change occurred during the period in which I was privileged to serve the Government as Attorney General. The Hamilton committee was appointed and a substantial stream of funding was put in place for the Justice for the Forgotten group. Up to that point, it had gone completely unaided. A significant amount of resources have been put in to the whole process of trying to establish the truth, imperfect as the process has been, although I wish to pay tribute to the late Mr. Justice Hamilton and to Mr. Justice Barron for what they did. A very considerable amount of State resources has now gone into that process. A commission of inquiry is now under way and this sub-committee is continuing its endeavours.

Due to the time it takes to answer a question, specific questions should only be asked and specific answers given.

I had a specific tail to the general question that I was putting. It is good that the Government has at last begun to make some movement in the right direction. Nevertheless, the evidence given here over the last few days was that no one had pro-actively contacted the victims. The first contact they had with anyone who would give them some information was with the Justice for the Forgotten group. We need to be far more pro-active than that. In the context of the Good Friday Agreement, we are talking about both governments. In many cases, there were also citizens from the other jurisdiction.

Can what the Minister has already said be developed into a stronger position by his Department and by the Irish Government? Would he consider establishing a victims' charter for all the victims of the Troubles in the past 30 years? Very few, if any, have gone to prison in this context. Very few investigations have been conclusive and families have suffered enormously and feel neglected. They should have a right to information that is out there. It should be done on a proactive basis, so that it would not be done on a haphazard level where someone might contact one family or the other, as has been the case to date. In the absence of a truth commission, that would be the only way that one could properly implement the recommendations in the Good Friday Agreement. Will the Minister say if he will or will not look at this? I am effectively referring to a victims' charter, with rights to the victims in a formal structured capacity.

That is a very constructive suggestion and I will explore it on a bilateral basis with the authorities in the UK. I see a good deal of merit in refocusing our efforts to be more proactive in this matter. We should go out and find people, rather than simply putting advertisements in newspapers and telling them to come and find us if they want to do so.

I thank the Minister for that. The 30 years rule provides that national archives make information available over a 30 year period. We had a submission yesterday from the Justice for the Forgotten group. Ms Margaret Irwin gave us a memorandum which tried to get information from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform regarding documents which had not been disclosed under the 30 year rule. She is still awaiting a final outcome from the Information Commissioner. There was no indication as to what documentation had been refused. The file was withheld and neither the file reference nor the name of the files were given. However, it is clear the documentation related to the bombing. Can we get a commitment from the Minister that all of the files relevant to the bombing will be made available?

All the files have been made available to Mr. Justice Barron and are at the disposal of the committee. I am not holding anything back and not a scrap of paper will be held back regarding the committee's inquiries.

Ms Margaret Irwin ran into an issue regarding the National Archives Act. Under statute, the files are kept back on the grounds that there is confidential material in them or that they would cause danger or distress, or that their release would be contrary to the public interest. Since becoming Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, I have believed that there was a conservative approach in the Department to engagement with the National Archives Act. Anything that was colourably within those categories was generally withheld. We studied this, and I thank the Secretary General, Mr. Seán Aylward, for his support for the views that I strongly hold. Of course there are files that should not be just thrown into the public domain for public inspection, because it would be very unfair to people named about whom information was supplied to the Department which may or may not be right. Even if the information was right, it could be very damaging to these people in retrospect if it was simply thrown out for public inspection.

There is a middle course between those two things. The Secretary General and I have agreed to implement such a course. I made a public announcement on this last December that did not receive much coverage. We will establish a committee of independent academics who will advise the Department on access to the files which were kept back so that persons with a bona fide interest in research, such as historians, would have access to files subject to conditions that they would not abuse such access. On the odd occasion I have asked for an historical file, some of which arose in the context of Captain James Kelly's dealings with the Government before his death, I found them fascinating. They give insights into history which should be available to those who are writing our history. However, there are things in them, and I say this without having a fortress mentality, that one simply could not throw out into the public domain. Not merely would one ruin people's reputations, in some cases the information is simply wrong, as one finds out from a subsequent file. There are many people about whom suspicions were reported to the authorities in those days and it would be very unfair just to cast them out into the public domain.

That is why we believe the fairest system is not to have a black or white system where it either is made totally public and anybody can pore through it and make whatever use they want of it or it is kept entirely restricted. What we are putting in place, and I hope to announce the personnel who will be on the independent advisory committee, is a system which will allow people with a genuine reason to have access to files which might have security or reputation implications, subject to some ethical considerations.

In that context, the Littlejohn brothers were convicted in this State. There was also the Wyman and Crinnion case. There were many suggestions that British intelligence was rampant in the State. With regard to the trial that took place of Garda Crinnion and the British agent, Wyman, the Minister of the day specifically refused, by certificate, to allow certain files to be given to the court hearing. Presumably those files are in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform at present. They might throw light on the documents that were in the possession of the agent or the garda, which were not disclosed at the time, and what documents were passed on from C3, the security section, to the British agent. Are there other materials like that? Can the Minister indicate that he will make that information available because it would be relevant?

I do not know whether the Wyman and Crinnion case is pertinent to the committee's affairs. However, I would, as I indicated earlier, hold back nothing that is pertinent to the committee's investigations.

It was December. The arrests took place in——

However, I am told by the Secretary General, Mr. Aylward, that there are extensive Garda and departmental files on the Wyman and Crinnion affairs. It is fair to agree with Deputy Costello that British intelligence would have been active in Ireland at the time.

I have a last question.

I will call on Deputy Ó Fearghaíl first and return to Deputy Costello if there is time.

Is the Government concerned at the extent of non-cooperation by the British authorities with official inquiries in this jurisdiction, including inquests? What action will the Government take on this? What follow-up has there been on the implementation of the recommendations of the last committee of inquiry?

The Taoiseach has raised the matter with the British authorities on a number of occasions. Of course, we are concerned that Mr. Justice Barron and the committee should find themselves in the position of not receiving as much cooperation as they thought appropriate in the circumstances. I note the remarks recently attributed to the chairman of this committee in that regard.

One has to remember in these matters that one is talking about a separate sovereign state and that although one can attempt to persuade, one cannot direct or demand as one can in one's own jurisdiction. The British Prime Minister said, in a letter dated 10 January 2005, that his government welcomed the establishment of the inquiry and co-operated with it as fully as possible, conducting a thorough search of all government records and, consistent with its responsibilities for protecting national security and the lives of individuals, ensuring that all potentially relevant information that was uncovered, including intelligence information, was shared with the investigation. That is the British position as stated by the British Prime Minister to the Taoiseach on 10 January 2005.

Obviously, the crucial phrase in the formulation which Prime Minister Blair has adopted is the clause "consistent with our responsibilities to protect national security and the lives of individuals". In that matter, whereas we can seek to persuade, we cannot seek to direct. In the last analysis, it is the judgment of the British Government as to where that particular formulation leads it that will decide how it moves on this matter. From my own experience as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, and having seen a conservative approach being taken, and what I hope in the future will be a middle way or less conservative approach in respect of our own records, I will do my level best — the Taoiseach will also do his level best — to persuade the British to interpret that clause in a manner which is as generous as possible to the activities of this committee.

It was clear in the past couple of days that many families are firmly convinced that there was British collusion in the murder of their loved ones. If this is true, does the Minister see any circumstances in which a British Government would make such an admission or release information which could lead to that being proven or would this simply present another appalling vista?

I am a spokesman for the Irish Government, not the British Government, so I cannot anticipate what attitude that government will take on any individual issue. I do not purport to speak for that government. However, it is important in all this, and when dealing with allegations of collusion, to be clear about what exactly is being alleged. If one is alleging a collusive policy which was a matter of government policy, that is one thing. If one is alleging lower grade collusion, that is a second thing.

For instance, Mr. Justice Cory made recommendations to the two governments. In the near future I will put resolutions before each House of the Oireachtas to establish a tribunal of inquiry into the death of the two RUC officers, Mr. Breen and Mr. Buchanan. It was suggested that there was collusion by a member or members of the Garda Síochána which led to their murder. Nobody in their right mind would think that such collusion was a matter of State collusion in the sense of governmental or governmentally authorised collusion. Nonetheless, it is a sufficiently serious allegation for us to establish a tribunal of inquiry to decide if there was such collusion by agents of the Irish State at a level below Government.

It is important to remember that collusion is a broad brush and one must state exactly what one is suggesting when looking at appalling vistas. It is not an appalling vista, although it would be a matter of deep anger, if it turned out that Mr. Breen and Mr. Buchanan were led to their deaths by a rogue member of the Garda Síochána colluding with the Provisional IRA at the time. That would be a matter of disgrace and shock to everybody but it would not be a matter of government collusion or an appalling vista for the Irish Government to find it out. The same applies to the Stevens inquiry which was conducted under Mr. Stevens and Hugh Orde.

They made extensive findings of collusive activity, which is the subject of further inquiry. The appalling vista is something to which we must all face up on occasion, whether it is a broad thing such as the Stevens inquiry or a narrower thing such as the Film Centre-Buchanan matter. It is not correct for a government to say the consequence of uncovering the truth justifies concealing it, except in the most extreme case.

Unless the government is involved.

Yes. Governments come and go. No government owes a political duty to its predecessors to engage in cover up 20 or 30 years later.

In light of concerns expressed by relatives who appeared before the sub-committee over the past few days, is the Minister in favour of the Garda establishing a special unit to meet families to furnish them with further information relating to the investigation, to review what further or renewed investigations might be undertaken, to review and update intelligence on the suspects and to allay ongoing concerns the families may have?

The commissioner will appear before the sub-committee in the near future and I presume these issues will be raised with him. I will not stand in the way of the commissioner engaging with the relatives as he considers appropriate. There is a strong case to be made for liaison between the Garda and the victims and I presume the commissioner shares that view. With regard to the subclauses mentioned by the Deputy, I would put a question mark over the sharing of intelligence because the commissioner has a higher duty. I presume, in so far as he can provide information of assistance to the relatives, he will have no objection to doing so.

What arrangements are in place for mutual co-operation between the Garda and the PSNI in the investigation of cross-Border crimes?

I am grateful to the Deputy for raising this issue. Co-operation between the Garda and the PSNI has never been closer and it is done on the basis of sharing a common understanding that the two police forces are interdependent in terms of each other's effectiveness. Each force recognises it cannot carry out its task on this island if the other is failing in its task. That shared mutual understanding of interdependence has reached unprecedented levels. Police force co-operation legislation is in place and during the next month the secondment and attachment arrangements will be implemented. I have attended two high level, fruitful conferences on cross-Border crime to establish connections between the two forces. However, on a minute to minute, hour to hour and day to day basis, there is strong co-operation between the PSNI and the Garda.

It is only right to acknowledge that there would have been many more tragedies in the South over the years but for the co-operation of the police force in Northern Ireland, which shared information with the Garda andvice versa. People make points about policing but when one reads reports, as I have, of people being caught red handed constructing bombs with 1,800 lbs or 2,000 lbs of explosives in our jurisdiction intended for use in Northern Ireland, one recognises how important is co-operation, not only in regard to paramilitary or terrorist type offences but in regard to criminality of all kinds.

I wish to follow up questions I asked about the victims. I am heartened by the Minister's open response to the sub-committee's proposal to establish a victims' charter.

It is a good idea. I said I would explore it jointly.

Hopefully an ombudsman will be established so that the link could be made with the victims. I am also heartened by his willingness to disclose documentation. The Minister said it was a good idea but I hope it goes a step further than a good idea. The greatest problem we have faced is the non-disclosure of information by the authorities in Northern Ireland. In the context of the Good Friday Agreement, can the Minister do something to address the non-disclosure of information by the PSNI and the establishment of a victims' charter?

The sub-committee received a letter yesterday from the chief constable of the PSNI, which stated, "I can confirm that the contents of the letter are receiving the fullest consideration and a final response will be forwarded as soon as possible." I do not know whether that is a stalling tactic but the sub-committee has received nothing so far. Can the Minister use his good offices to ascertain whether disclosure of documentation might be forthcoming? Otherwise we will not be able to make progress.

I reiterate that the Taoiseach, as the letter from which I quoted demonstrates, has vigorously pursued the points made by the Deputy. It is not for want of interest or advocacy on the part of the Government that events have not moved more rapidly than they have to date. The Taoiseach will continue to use all available channels to pursue this policy objective.

Mr. Martin Douglas, who assisted the sub-committee recently, brought a letter from his MP, Nigel Evans. A letter from Prime Minister Blair, dated 10 January 2005, was enclosed with it, the last paragraph of which states:

The Government is aware of the continuing hurt that Mr. Douglas and others feel about the number of unresolved deaths that took place as a result of the conflict in Northern Ireland. It is entirely understandable that those who have suffered the loss of loved ones still yearn to find out what happened. The British Government is committed to doing what it can to give those people the best chance of doing that.

Perhaps the two letters should be read in conjunction with each other.

Does the Minister expect this will result in improved co-operation between the various inquiries and the British Government?

I welcome the Minister's comments in reply to a question by Deputy Costello that the Garda is examining ways its members could be made available to specific groups that have concerns so that they can obtain files and seek reassurance. Will the Minister include Justice for the Forgotten among those groups, given the need to bring closure to these appalling events for the families?

There is no basis on which I want to exclude Justice for the Forgotten from the remarks I made. If it was relevant, and if they wanted to appoint a researcher of standing, my Department would assist them in any way possible. I have no doubt the Garda Síochána would do so also. However, I cannot sign a blank cheque and say that any file anywhere can be thrown open to anyone. I cannot do that and it would not be right for me to do so.

In the Minister's opening statement, he mentioned, in response to the last hearings we had with regard to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, that the Government was co-operating by setting up the commission of investigation as recommended. Has the Government been in contact with the British Government about one of the main recommendations, that of establishing a public inquiry in Northern Ireland? If so, what is the reaction to that recommendation? This report seems much more critical of the failure of the British authorities to co-operate.

I would have to communicate with the Senator or the Chairman with regard to that matter. I am not in a position to give the Senator a fair or truthful update as to what has happened with regard to that recommendation.

I have a question about the British Government's non-co-operation, particularly with regard to official inquiries, including inquests. What action will the Minister take over the next few weeks? This is an important and serious issue.

Is it acceptable that victims——

We will move on.

I am hearing much talk. The families are distraught——

The Minister will respond.

They feel it is a case of "I will persuade them" or "I will raise it". That is not good enough if one is talking about resolving the major issues.

I distinguished between what one can seek to persuade people to do and that which one can effectively demand people do. When one is dealing with a sovereign government, it is a matter of diplomacy and political persuasion, not direction. In that sphere at this stage I am not in a position to take action against the UK Government. The degree of co-operation between the two Governments has never been closer and their common enterprise of bringing justice to this island has never been better served by a close alliance between two Governments. There has never been a closer or more co-operative relationship between a Taoiseach and a Prime Minister in the history of Anglo-Irish affairs. Therefore, it is not for want of the existence of channels that any problems exist. As the Prime Minister's letter shows, it is not for the want of persistence on the part of the Taoiseach with regard to this matter.

It is unacceptable that a so-called friendly government is not co-operating with our committee.

Is it acceptable that the victims should be left to pursue private actions in the European Court of Human Rights? That is an important question.

In view of what the Minister said about making files available, Justice for the Forgotten has some questions as to why Mr. Justice Barron did not see the investigation file on the Clones bombing. Did he see both the investigation file and the C3 file on each of the bombings in Clones, Pettigo and Belturbet? Why are these questions being raised if the files are available?

I understand Mr. Justice Barron received any file he wanted to see and nothing was held back.

We can take the matter up with the judge.

Is it acceptable that the victims should be left to pursue private actions in the European Court of Human Rights?

If the Deputy is implying that the Irish State should commence a state versus state action, I would have to think long and hard about the wisdom of such a suggestion. Every person under the European Convention of Human Rights has the right to commence an action against a state which is a signatory to the convention. The Deputy's question suggests the Irish State should commence action against the United Kingdom in that respect.

(Interruptions).

That is something on which I would have to reflect.

So they are on their own basically.

Following up on Deputy Finian McGrath's point, is there any way that victims who wish to take a case before the European Court of Human Rights can be assisted by the Government?

If the Chairman is referring to a system of legal aid, that is not an issue on which I am prepared to comment at this stage. Once I go down the road of supplying legal aid to individuals to go to Strasbourg, the potential implications for the Irish Exchequer could be enormous.

I accept that. I am not aware of the ways in which the Government could help these people.

If we are talking about assistance which does not take the form of funding their legal teams, every assistance will be offered to any Irish citizen who pursues the vindication of his or her rights.

With regard to the remembrance commission, the size of the fund is €9 million and the address of the commission is 1 Lower Grand Canal Street, Dublin 2. It is a five-member commission. To date it has spent €2.3 million and given €1.25 million to the Northern Ireland fund. This means that, in all, it has spent just over €2.3 million, which includes the €1.25 million grant to the Northern Ireland fund. The full sum available to it under current Government decisions is €9 million. Therefore, there is approximately another €6.7 million available for use for the purposes of the commission over the coming years.

I thank the Minister and Mr. Aylward for coming here today. They have been helpful to us in our consideration of the report.

We will now meet with relatives of Oliver Boyce and Breege Porter. I welcome Mr. Hugo Boyce, Mr. Seán Boyce and Mrs. Ann McDermott. Oliver Boyce and Breege Porter were murdered on 1 January 1973 near Burnfoot, County Donegal, close to the Border. Reading through the report, it was the most dastardly of killings and I extend my deepest sympathy to all of the families. I thank the witnesses for coming along today. It is difficult for the relatives of victims to speak about it but it is important that they do so that we can bring this matter to a conclusion in as much as that is possible. Mr. Hugo Boyce will speak first and Mr. Seán Boyce and Mrs. Ann McDermott will then make whatever statement or submission they wish. Deputies Hoctor and Finian McGrath will then have a dialogue with them.

Mr. Hugo Boyce

I thank the committee for inviting us here. I am not well prepared as we had very little notice. I am Hugo Boyce, the brother of Oliver who was murdered on New Year's Eve, on 1 January 1973. My Mum and Dad are from Letterkenny and there were nine in the family. I am the middle one. My brother Oliver spent a good bit of time in England but before he went he was a carpenter as are two of my other brothers. My brother was a great guy. I will leave Ann to talk about his girlfriend, Breege.

Before Oliver went to England he worked as a carpenter around Donegal. He worked on the building of the Ballyliffin Hotel, a hotel in Bridgend and the Drummond Hotel in Ballykelly and indeed he was a brilliant carpenter. He was a fine craftsman as well and did some lovely work which we still have in the house. He went to England and he came back in 1970. I have fond memories of him because I was in St. Luke's Hospital at that stage and he used to fly in to see me in Dublin and he always brought me nice, jazzy shirts at the time. He used to be into the music in a big way at that time. He came back from England and took up work in Bray in County Wicklow and roughly about December 1972 he was working in a tunnel in Dún Laoghaire where he got ruptured. He was off work then for a while and was home in Buncrana.

Regarding the night they were abducted, there are different accusations going around. That night I came to our house at approximately 11.50 p.m. Mum and Dad were in the house and my brother Seán. He and Breege left our house at approximately 12.10 a.m. to 12.15 a.m. They were engaged to be married in August. My father and mother were very fond of Breege and the two of them were a great pair and we all had great time for Breege. They came to a tragic end that night. We believe they were ambushed or apprehended between Clonmany and Buncrana but there are different reports, including the Barron report, which might suggest differently. We feel knowing some of the witnesses that that is what happened. I came home myself that night from a dance at approximately 3 a.m. My mother was up because my brother Oliver was not home. He had the use of my father's car and we automatically thought he had run out of petrol. He believed that cars went on fresh air. He was not great at putting petrol into the car. Later on that morning my brother Seán and some other people — I think my brother Vincent was down from Dublin at the time — went looking to see if they could find him.

I was working as a mechanic. I went to my boss that morning and the milkman came in about 9.30 a.m. and said two people had been murdered at Muff. Eamon Doherty, another friend of mine, and Brian O'Donoghue went to the scene of my brother's murder. I was not fit for it. Brian O'Donoghue identified my brother and his girlfriend. I went into the coroner the next day in Letterkenny to the morgue but I just could not go through with it at the time. The remains came home on the Tuesday and probably a mistake we made at the time was with the coffins. We were asked by the priests and some of the gardaí to have the coffins closed and I would say to anybody that has a person in an accident never to let that happen if it is in any way humanly possible. Oliver, apart from a scratch on his ear, and Breege looked okay. My mum used always say what he looked like in later days and I think my brothers and sisters missed not taking a final view of him. That is sad and we made a mistake.

My dad kept a diary and he noted the time they came in and that David Frost was on the television. He said that on leaving at 12.10 a.m. or 12.15 a.m. Breege turned around and said "I will see you tomorrow". Later on he wrote in his diary "Tomorrow never came".

Unlike the other cases here in which the people were killed almost by accident I feel my brother and Breege were — they were not singled out — picked up by accident but definitely murdered because they were Catholics. Maybe I could quote a bit from the paper at the time. This is the coroner's report. Dr. McGinley said:

During my long years as a coroner, I never thought I would be called upon to investigate a crime of this nature. It is also very difficult for any sane man in Donegal, irrespective of his political affiliations, to imagine that there are people within this island who would be capable of committing such a terrible crime. This appalling crime has shocked the people of Donegal but they will be more shocked when they receive the account of the injuries received by the deceased couple.

The injuries were horrific. Indeed, most of my brothers and sisters did not know of the serious injuries until a couple of years ago when there was a report in theSunday World by Hugh Jordan.

This was all about trying to get the case reopened. Ann wrote to several politicians and different papers to try to get it reopened. The lack of justice going back the years was terrible but we did not want to bother our mothers and fathers who were living at the time. My mother died in 1987 and my dad died a year later in 1988. My mother always said that God would see that justice was done. Like the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, he is taking his time.

I would like to read a little bit from the report Hugh Jordan had in theSunday World. It is from Ivan Cooper in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Cooper insists the young couple who were engaged to be married are forgotten victims of the Troubles. "There is no question of this. The case should be reviewed," he said. "This young couple from County Donegal lost their lives in a brutal fashion because of the sick society which exists in Northern Ireland. The people responsible are still at large and if possible now should be brought to book."

I would just like to say a few words on the Barron report. As far as we are concerned, it leaves a lot to be desired. He made no contact whatsoever with any of the witnesses that we know or with ourselves at all.

I did not inform you, but while the members of the sub-committee have full privilege in what they say, that privilege does not extend to yourself. I am sorry I must mention it to you.

Mr. H. Boyce

So I cannot comment on Mr. Justice Barron's report?

You cannot in any way impugn anyone's name, but you can still make general points.

Mr. H. Boyce

No bother. He made no contact with us. We will go on about the report and the Garda element of it. We often wondered why they did not all give blood. The report says there were blood samples taken from three of them. We often wondered why the four of them did not give blood samples. At the time of the court case in Dublin at which there were three judges, we could not understand why there was not a judge and jury. It says in the report that the RUC were co-operative, but as a matter of fact some RUC officers would not attend the case in Dublin. They might be more co-operative today.

We must sympathise with the relatives of the victims of the Dublin bombing. We have the same grief, but our case is different in that everybody knows who murdered my brother and Bríd. The PSNI knows, the Garda knows, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform knows and the dogs in the street know. We cannot understand why the other three have not been extradited. There are three extradition warrants still in the barracks in Buncrana for those three. We know one of the suspects, tried by a court in Dublin, got off on a technicality because a proper warrant had not been obtained in relation to his oral submission. We spent ten days at the court in Dublin in September 1973. We knew after a couple of days that things were going the wrong way. Just as I believe my brother and his girlfriend were in the wrong place at the wrong time I also believe the wrong Government was in power and that some deal was done. I cannot understand why nobody has been brought to justice for any of these atrocities.

Time eases the grieving. However, worse than obtaining justice is a lack of justice. There has been no justice from any Department or Government since 1972. I do not believe justice will ever be done. As my mother says, we may only get justice through God. In an article in one of yesterday's newspapers the Taoiseach, when speaking about his good friend currently on a six months sabbatical — I know we cannot name people — is quoted as saying that nobody is above the law. Those who committed the atrocities about which we have been speaking for the past three days appear to be above the law. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is not assisting us in any way.

It is my hope that the committee will re-investigate the case and try to assist us in that regard. I thank members for listening to what I had to say.

Thank you, Hugo, for sharing your views with us.

Mrs. Ann McDermott

I am a sister of Breege Porter who was murdered on 1 January along with Hugo's brother, Oliver, her fiancée. Breege was the youngest of our family and she was 7 years younger than me. She was a lively, happy-go-lucky person who worked at the shirt factory in Buncrana. Everybody was fond of Breege. She would have been 21 in February of the year she was killed. As Hugo stated, Breege and Oliver had planned to marry in August.

At the time they were killed, I was married and not living at home. Breege was the only remaining child at home with my mother and father at the time. They were devastated to lose their daughter, the baby of the family, who lived with them. They never got over Breege's death. Mr and Mrs Boyce and all of Oliver's family were very good to them and tried to help them get through that difficult time.

Hugo has already told you what happened that day. I know only from hearsay what happened that morning because I was living in Derry at the time. Nobody was able to contact me, given the telephone system was not as modern as today, until after Oliver and Breege had been identified. I had been listening that morning to an English radio programme when it was announced in the news headlines that the couple murdered in Donegal had been identified as Breege Porter and Oliver Boyce. That was how I first learned what had happened. A short time later one of the local priests came to tell me the news but he was too late, I already knew.

I, too, thank members of the committee for providing us with an opportunity to speak about what happened. As Hugo has told you what happened I will not go over it again. Like the Boyce family we are disappointed the three suspects have not been extradited. It has been reported that one of the suspects contacted the Garda Síochána to find out if he was to be extradited — he knew but nothing was ever done about it. I support everything Hugo had to say on the matter.

Thank you. Seán, do you wish to say anything at this point?

Mr. Seán Boyce

No, except to say I support what Hugo and Ann had to say.

I welcome Hugo, Seán and Ann to the meeting and wish to express to them my sympathy in their great loss. It is obvious the past 32 years have been dreadfully painful for them particularly as the matter has not yet been resolved. Perhaps Hugo would tell us what age Oliver was at the time?

Mr. H. Boyce

He was 25 years old and Breege was 21 years old.

Page 107 of Mr. Justice Barron's report includes a quotation from the superintendent of the local area at the time which states: "It is freely accepted by people who knew the deceased, Oliver Boyce, that if he was hijacked and forced to drive some place against his will he would crash the car rather than obey." Would Hugo like to comment on that report?

Mr. H. Boyce

I agree with what was said. Oliver was a robust person. There is evidence he put up a fight because the cuts on his hands were of the type one received from putting up a fight. He also had minor stab wounds to his ear. He would definitely try to crash the car in such a situation.

It was reported that Breege's purse was found hidden in her trousers which would indicate they believed they might be about to be robbed.

Hugo stated earlier that in his opinion they were accidentally abducted and that it was the discovery that they were Catholics which led to their death. Is that correct?

Mr. H. Boyce

Yes. Their abduction was definitely accidental. Everything, including the timing, suggests they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Both of them were Catholics. It was obvious to anyone who got into my father's car that he was a Catholic as he had pictures of Padre Pio all over it.

Perhaps you could describe the climate at the time in terms of political tensions? Was that area of Donegal a politically charged environment in which to live at the time or was it an unusual occurrence for people to be abducted in their own car and forced to drive to a particular place?

Mr. H. Boyce

Tensions were very high. Many of the witnesses at the time did not come forward out of fear. We do not hold that against them; we know they were afraid and rightly so. Everybody felt afraid at the time but the situation is different now. We know the matter is being re-investigated and that a great deal more evidence exists. People were afraid to come forward.

Thank you.

I welcome the witnesses to the hearing and once again offer our sincere sympathy on the murder of Breege and Oliver. This is a sad and horrific case particularly in terms of the nature of the murders. I again offer the families our sincere sympathy.

Hugo said earlier that he returned home the night of the murders at approximately 3 a.m. and that he officially heard the terrible news at 9.30 a.m. the following morning.

Mr. H. Boyce

That is correct.

What did you do then? Were you involved in a search at that stage or did you——

Mr. H. Boyce

No, my brothers went to look for him. They thought the car might have run out of petrol because Oliver was not one for remembering to put petrol in it. It was my father's car. I was at my workplace when the milkman told me two people had been found dead in Muff. I went there with a couple of friends because I felt it might be them.

The Barron report states that the bodies were discovered at 2.08 a.m., that some neighbours heard screams at 1.45 a.m. and that two people who lived near where the incident took place went to the Garda station to report it. Was it the family's experience when they later heard the details that the neighbours had reacted quickly and positively? Was that the family's experience on hearing the details afterwards?

Mr. H. Boyce

It was, definitely. We know the neighbours concerned. My father and mother and the Porter family were talking to them for years later. They heard the shooting and all that, had a look around but did not——

Did they hear shooting as well as the screams?

Mr. H. Boyce

Yes, they heard the shots.

There appears to be more emphasis on the screams.

Mr. H. Boyce

They heard both, and they heard more shots after the screams.

They reacted very quickly and positively.

Mr. H. Boyce

The son of the man and woman who heard it was in bed and they woke him. They had a quick search and then went to the Garda.

Does the broader family agree with the findings of the Barron report that the suspects in this murder were linked to the UDA? That is the UDA A company and C company in Derry. Is that its assessment?

Mrs. McDermott

Yes, we agree with that.

On page 115 of the Barron report, they seem to be positive about the gun found in the possession of one of the suspects. It was a Colt .32 pistol. Does the family agree with that conclusion in the Barron report?

Mr. H. Boyce

Yes, the guns and knives, and the fingerprints and blood samples.

For the record, in the third last paragraph on page 115 Barron uses the word "probable" regarding the knife found on one individual. Does the family agree with that statement in the report that the knife was probably the one used in the murders?

Mrs. McDermott

Yes, that was the knife involved.

This is strong material. Is it the family's view, overall, that this was a blatant sectarian murder?

Mr. H. Boyce

That is correct.

That is an accurate summary.

Mrs. McDermott

Yes, it was, definitely.

The family also believes, as do the Garda in Donegal and many other people that they know the names of the three suspects. I know I have to tread very carefully in this regard.

Mr. H. Boyce

Yes, that is correct.

Mrs. McDermott

Yes, that is correct.

Will the family tell us about the ongoing communication it had with the Garda Síochána in the aftermath of the deaths? Was there regular contact and was the family kept briefed as regards the progress of the investigation?

Mrs. McDermott

No, not afterwards.

Mr. H. Boyce

The local sergeant and garda were very good to my father and mother, just as friends of the family, because they were next-door neighbours. Nothing has been heard from detectives, as yet.

Was there no contact at all?

Mr. H. Boyce

There was no contact at all.

Mr. S. Boyce

Once the inquiry commenced, there was no contact.

Mr. H. Boyce

There was some questioning at the very start, but that was all.

Mrs. McDermott

Years later, my husband and I decided to try to find out why these three suspects had never been extradited. My father was dead, but my mother was still alive at the time. I had not told her we were making inquiries to try to find out. One day she was in Buncrana and a sergeant stopped her and said, "Mrs. Porter, will you tell whoever is looking into your daughter's death to stop it?" My mother was afraid that something might happen to either me or the family, because we had young boys. We did not do anything more about it; we left it at that.

When did that happen?

Mrs. McDermott

I am not too sure. It could have been in the late 1980s. I cannot recall the exact date. My father died in 1985, so I believe it was some time after that.

I thank the family for coming before the committee. Of all the murders that took place there is probably a more detailed account in the report from Mr. Justice Barron of the murders of Oliver and Bríd. Is anything missing? Members of the family said Mr. Justice Barron did not speak to them. Is there anything that could be added to what is here?

Mr. H. Boyce

I am disappointed there is no mention of the fingerprints that are all over the car and matters such as that. Also, we disagree with his remarks on page 114 where he says, "Ultimately, it seems far more likely that Boyce and Porter had driven alone to the Glen Road". I presume he meant that they had gone there to have a court or something. That is 22 miles away and that comment is nowhere near the mark.

Geographically.

Mr. H. Boyce

If he had seen where the murder had taken place he would know that nobody would ever stop on that road because it so narrow.

Do Mr. Hugo Boyce, Mr. Sean Boyce or Mrs. McDermott wish to make any further comment?

Mrs. McDermott

Hugo has done it all very well for us.

I thank you all and you are now excused. Mr. Justice Henry Barron and Mr. Éanna Hickey, BL, are here. I want to welcome Mr. Justice Henry Barron, author of the report of the independent commission of inquiry into the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973 and also Mr. Éanna Hickey, BL. I thank Mr. Justice Barron for coming along and helping the committee in its consideration of the report. The Dáil and Seanad have asked the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights to consider the report and as a result this sub-committee has been formed to do that job. Mr. Justice Barron has agreed to answer as best he can any questions the committee might raise as regards its consideration of the report. The two principal questioners will be Senator Jim Walsh and Deputy Gerard Murphy. Would Mr. Justice Barron like us to go directly into the questions or would he like——

Mr. Justice Henry Barron

Directly to the questions.

As regards the data used by Mr. Justice Barron in his investigation, the Minister made it clear this morning that every file requested was made available. Yet questions arise from the Justice for the Forgotten group as to why Mr. Justice Barron did not see the investigation file on the Clones bombing. The group asks whether Mr. Justice Barron saw both the investigation file and the ‘C' file on each of the bombings in Clones, Pettigo and Belturbet. That appears to be a contradiction in that there seems to be some indication that all the files were not made available but the Minister and his Department say that everything was made available to the investigation.

Mr. Justice Barron

My understanding is that all the files we asked for were made available.

There are two files on each of these attacks. There is the intelligence file and the ordinary police file. We were originally given one file on each of these attacks. We asked for the reverse files and to the best of my knowledge we got any that were there.

Judge Barron talks about files that were sought. Was there no general request made for all files relating to the matter?

Mr. Justice Barron

Certainly. What I am saying is that if we had the intelligence file on Belturbet but did not ask for the ordinary police file, then we asked for the ordinary police file. If we had the ordinary police file on Pettigo but not the intelligence file, then we asked for that. So far as I am concerned we got whatever they had. I am quite satisfied about that.

Why did the investigation not see the investigation file on the Clones bombing?

Mr. Justice Barron

I cannot answer that.

What about the C3 file on each bombing in Clones, Pettigo and Belturbet?

Mr. Justice Barron

We saw any that were available. At this stage, I cannot say which were and which were not available. We recognise that there were two sets of files in headquarters regarding these matters. When we only had one file, we asked for the second one. I do not think that we got any local files. As I understand it, when the technical bureau investigation squad comes in, then that is the only important file on it, as well as the intelligence file. Of those files we received any that were there.

The Minister answered the question this morning and stated that any files sought were given to the investigation. I wonder whether other files beyond those could have been relevant to the investigation in the Department.

Mr. Justice Barron

There was an intelligence file which was known as a C3 file and a headquarters police ordinary file which was known as a C1 file. There would more than likely have been files in the local division. However, anything from the local division would have been on the C1 file and on the C3 file as well. We were satisfied that we got full co-operation for whatever we wanted.

A statement was made yesterday that the political circumstances of the time might have led to a situation where little effort was made in carrying out some of the inquiries by the authorities and that there may have been a political insinuation to go soft on these issues because of IRA involvement. Due to the tremendous political influence of the IRA around the Border, it suited elements in authority and in Government to indicate to the investigating authorities that the investigations should not be as intense as they might otherwise be. Should a conclusion be drawn in the report that because of the political circumstances of the time, the investigations may not have been as thorough as they should have been? This might equally be applied to the situation in Northern Ireland where authorities might have wished the same thing due to the political circumstances. In the overall context, should there have been a conclusion that there may have been a softer attitude than normal towards the investigation?

Mr. Justice Barron

That was an issue, which arose in the Dublin bombings of 1974, as to why an offer to question a particular suspect from the North had not been taken up. That issue was dealt with there. It was also examined in greater detail in a third report, but I have no recollection of it arising in this report. To what is the Deputy referring?

I was just referring to a comment generally made that the detail on the investigation at the time was not as intense or as detailed as it could have been. There may have been political influence in the situation. The Government may have wanted to go soft on the IRA in the South. If that was the case and if the investigations were not as substantive as they should have been, then could a conclusion have been drawn in the report that there was an attitude in Government circles at the time to go soft on the situation?

Mr. Justice Barron

I understand the Deputy's question. We considered it in this particular report and in part of the 1974 report and we have considered it in slightly more detail in the Ludlow report which the committee has not yet seen. To the best of my knowledge, the circumstance which would have arisen to deal with an issue like that was whether there was evidence that matters were not followed up that could have been followed up. So far as this report was concerned, that sort of issue did not seem to arise.

I have a question in connection with the murder of Bríd Carr on page 103. Mr. Justice Barron states in the report that the gunmen fired the shots at 3.37 p.m. and that they were seen by three witnesses. They all refused to make written statements. The three suspects had been resident in Lifford for some time, but they were originally from Strabane. From that, one could assume that they had moved from the North. The reasons are not given in the report, but I would assume that they were on the run. Would that be reasonable?

Mr. Justice Barron

I would have thought that would be so. As I understood it, these three people were well known members of a republican organisation. They were known to locals to have been doing the shooting. The locals were afraid to give statements. The gardaí took the view that it was not worth their while to bring them in for questioning. We set all of this out. It would be pure speculation to go on to suggest that the gardaí did not do their duty because of some Government statement that they should go soft on them.

Would it not seem reasonable that the gardaí should have interviewed them and not just accepted that in their view it would be a futile exercise?

Mr. Justice Barron

I totally agree with the Chairman.

In the conclusion of the report, Mr. Justice Barron mentions the direction of the bullet and how the lady was looking back over her shoulder when she was struck by it. Would it be reasonable to conclude from this that there are questions over the Garda action on this in so far as gardaí did not question or interrogate the three suspects?

Mr. Justice Barron

I think there are, yes. First, as regards the bullet, we did ask for the reports from the hospital so we could get the official evidence as to the course of the bullet and so on. We had to take that evidence from statements made by the lady who was there. That is that aspect of it. We did try to follow up that aspect. In so far as following up the failure of the gardaí to take action, I think that is obvious. They should have done so.

Does Mr. Justice Barron know if the suspects in this case are still——

Mr. Justice Barron

I know nothing about them.

Some suspects have been named in other cases in the report. Was there a reason for not naming the suspects in this case?

Mr. Justice Barron

There is a general policy, which arose in the first report, that we should not name anybody who is a danger to life. If they are not named here, that would be the reason.

Does Mr. Justice Barron feel there is any way this case could be followed up, practically 34 years later?

Mr. Justice Barron

That is one of the problems. That nothing might emerge from following it up would not be a justification for not doing so.

Thank you.

On page 103, the third paragraph states that the gunmen who fired the shots at 3.37 p.m were seen by three witnesses. They all refused to make written statements. In the next paragraph there is a different situation. The latter two gunmen were seen by a Garda officer shortly after the shooting. That officer identified two of the gunmen.

They are identified as gunmen in the report. Why is that?

Mr. Justice Barron

I cannot answer that at the moment. I think the answer to that is that we knew the three names were those of gunmen. The Garda officer saw two of the men there. There is no suggestion that he saw them with guns or anything of that nature. Perhaps it would have been happier phrasing to have said it was two of the men who were alleged to have been shooting that he saw.

Is it not a Freudian slip in so far as you believe they were gunmen?

Mr. Justice Barron

I suppose it is, yes. This report we received refers to the people named as shooting. So as far as we are concerned, the three people named were shooting and the gardaí saw two of them later on, 200 yards from where they were shooting.

Mr. Justice Barron has partly answered my question. Perhaps they were not as obviously identified as gunmen. The conclusion from C3, when it had wrapped up the investigation, was that no witness was prepared to come forward and supply a statement regarding this incident. Earlier, however, there is a statement that the latter two gunmen were seen by a Garda officer. If the previous three witnesses were not prepared to sign a statement, the Garda officer, who appears to have been a witness, would have been prepared to sign a statement. In other words, the investigation, as Fr. Carr rather angrily pointed out to the committee, seems to have been extraordinarily limp and inconclusive and the authorities had no intention of pursuing it because that area of Donegal was IRA to the core so they just threw up their hands in despair. Did the gardaí not have further information about the event, particularly if a garda saw two of the gunmen?

Mr. Justice Barron

I do not want to enter into any argument of any sort but if a garda sees two men, it does not mean that he saw them doing any shooting. This is the problem. It is a matter of evidence.

What is the meaning of that phrase "the latter two gunmen"?

Mr. Justice Barron

It means that two of the men who had been named were seen by the garda 200 yards from where the shooting had occurred.

I welcome Mr. Justice Barron. I refer him to the bottom of page 116 regarding the Clones bombings, particularly to the note at the bottom of the page. It states that the file seen by the inquiry was not the investigation file, C1, but the C3 security and intelligence file. This contained some early reports on the incident but no investigation report with statements attached. Will Mr. Justice Barron clarify that?

Mr. Justice Barron

We just did not see it. That is the point. I thought we had seen everything that was available. It was not available. Why it is not available, I cannot say.

Did the inquiry seek it?

Mr. Justice Barron

Yes, we certainly sought it.

Did the inquiry get any explanation of why it was not made available?

Mr. Justice Barron

No. At this stage, I am not in a position to tell the committee. Presumably, the letter that was sent stated it was not available. I doubt they gave any specific reason other than they did not find it.

In that regard, Senator Walsh, the Minister told us he would give every information possible to the committee about the file. We can contact the Minister and seek clarification and whatever files are involved.

This refers specifically to Garda files. The reason we can ask that question is due to the note at the bottom of the page, which clarifies it. Were there any other places in the report where such files were not accessed for some reason and which might not have a file note at the bottom?

Mr. Justice Barron

I have a feeling that there may have been more than one but I really do not remember at this stage. All I can tell the committee is what I have already said. Originally we got one file per incident. We then realised that there would have been more than one file and we asked for the reverse files, if you know what I mean. We got whatever they had.

If, subsequently, Mr. Justice Barron could identify whether there were any other such files, that would be useful for the committee. If there is a way it could be identified——

Mr. Justice Barron

I would have to go back on the correspondence.

I accept that. I would not expect Mr. Justice Barron to answer the question now. I wish to refer to the Garda reports. Mr. Justice Barron often quotes from some of the reports he accessed and saw. Sprinkled throughout the report, however, are references to where a file would have contained information with action pending but there is no further record of what took place. Did the inquiry pursue those with the Garda authorities to ascertain whether the matters had been followed up and had not been recorded or whether important leads were never pursued, which is an important issue?

Mr. Justice Barron

Unfortunately, there were numerous occasions on which they said further investigations would be reported and matters of that nature and nothing further came up. The problem is that there was nobody who was involved in the particular investigation. We would have seen anybody, currently alive, who would come to see us, and asked them these questions. My recollection is that although we saw a number of Garda officers regarding this particular report, most of them related to forensics. This sort of question was not followed up to the best of my knowledge on the general basis that we accepted that nothing further had been done.

So they were not pursued. The failure to outline an addendum, the follow up, the action taken and the response in the report inhibited the achievement of more definite conclusions. Did Mr. Justice Barron find that?

Mr. Justice Barron

No, I do not think so. If we felt that something could have been obtained by following it up, we would have followed it up.

I am anxious to clarify whether the Garda had followed up the leads it had identified.

Mr. Justice Barron

I understand what the Senator is saying.

There were gaps in the information, which must have made it difficult for Mr. Justice Barron to reach conclusions. If the leads had been followed up and the information made available to him, it would have been of great assistance in finalising the report.

Mr. Justice Barron

Of course it would but I think one of the difficulties that we faced was that very little seemed to have been written down and most communications between gardaí and RUC officers would have been verbal. There would be no record of them nor would there be any record of the people who had been making the verbal communications. That is really the difficulty when one goes back that distance in time. It was a pattern and I think we were not unreasonable to accept that if you see a pattern of statements like this, we will let you know if anything further turns up and there is nothing more on the file. It is reasonable to assume that nothing was done or if it was followed up, nothing useful was obtained.

I accept that. There are two options but the answer to each of those in the scale of the thoroughness of the Garda investigation is important.

Mr. Justice Barron

We set out to set out the facts that we discovered. This is the point.

I appreciate that. I refer to page 21 of the report where Mr. Justice Barron deals with the issue of seeking information. He was satisfied with the response of the Government but with regard to the British Government, he states that 12 months after he wrote to the Northern Ireland Office, it had not begun the process of searching for relevant documents and that the inquiry was surprised and disappointed at this lack of co-operation on the part of the British authorities. Apart from the correspondence he had with the British authorities, the PSNI and the Northern Ireland Office, were there other communications? Did the inquiry take steps to enlist political support to access information necessary to fully and thoroughly investigate these matters?

Mr. Justice Barron

The answer to that is in so far as the PSNI and the Northern Ireland office were concerned, any correspondence or communications were in writing. In so far as seeking political assistance, we did not do so.

In hindsight, does Mr. Justice Barron think that might have been helpful because the gap in information creates a void in reaching conclusions on these issues?

Mr. Justice Barron

I do not think we asked for political assistance in regard to the 1974 bombings either. The Taoiseach was very helpful. He wrote on at least two occasions and he said they would make every effort to answer any questions we put to them but all I can say is that we did not. I do not think we even considered it because we had not considered it before either.

Could correspondence and records of telephone calls with the Northern Ireland Office be made available to the sub-committee?

Mr. Justice Barron

It can be made available but the correspondence relating to the 1972-73 bombings is all set out in the report. There was additional correspondence during that period but it was dealing with mainly matters left over from the 1974 report. It did not deal with this one.

I refer to page 96 of the report. I am trying to establish the criteria the inquiry used to arrive at its conclusions. During previous hearings, we discussed whether conclusions were arrived at on the basis of being beyond reasonable doubt or on the balance of probability. The second and third paragraphs of page 96 deal with the inquiry into the bombings in 1974 and they state:

As was made clear, there is no doubt that collusion between elements of the security forces in Northern Ireland and loyalist subversives existed on a number of levels outside of the bombings.

However, before any finding of collusion in a specific instance can be made, two requirements need to be met. Firstly, there has to be credible information identifying individual members of the security forces as having been involved and that would establish collusion on an individual basis. The second requirement is evidence which shows that such collusion was officially sanctioned.

I refer to the conclusion at the bottom of page 87 regarding the film centre bombing, which states:

Although the information available to gardaí and to the inquiry does not point to any particular suspects with certainty, it seems more likely than not that the bombing of the film centre cinema was carried out by republican subversives as a response to a Government crackdown on the IRA and their associates.

As a non-legal person, I am struck that two different criteria were used to reach both conclusions. Will Mr. Justice Barron comment on that?

Mr. Justice Barron

At page 87, we are dealing with who is responsible; at page 96 we are dealing with collusion.

Would that not also deal with who was responsible?

Mr. Justice Barron

No, if one is dealing with collusion, one has to, first, find out who was responsible and then find whether they were assisted. That is what we are dealing with in the second one. It is a different issue.

The question is based on the different evidential criteria used to reach the conclusions or to process the thinking to get to a conclusion.

Mr. Justice Barron

I do not think there is any difference. What we are saying in the first place is it seems more likely. In the second instance we are not dealing with who did it. Further, not only have we not found out who was responsible but we have not even found any group or individuals within the security forces who might have been assisting them. It is a different matter.

I refer to the second last paragraph on page 125, which states:

The Inquiry is satisfied that Robert Bridges was involved in the bombing of Belturbet and that his group had also been involved in the bombing of Clones and Pettigo on the same date. The basis for this view is the absence of any intelligence pointing to other groups or individuals and the effective cessation of cross-Border attacks in the area following Bridges' imprisonment.

I appreciate he was identified in Garda reports and so on but this conclusion is based on the fact that there was no evidence of anybody else doing it.

We are not dealing with who was responsible. We cannot do it that way. We are going with general issue rather than the individual.

My question relates to the basis for that conclusion. The balance of probabilities would come to mind rather than it being beyond reasonable doubt. Would Mr. Justice Barron like to clarify the matter?

Mr. Justice Barron

With respect, we have stated the basis upon which we reached the conclusion. We also stated the basis on which we reached our conclusion with regard to the film centre. The force of the conclusion is different in each case.

Mr. Justice Barron

We set out to include all the facts we obtained. The conclusions are ours. Others may come to different conclusions based on the facts as presented.

I accept that. It struck me as not being as firmly based as some of the other conclusions.

Mr. Justice Barron

Yes. I accept that.

We heard from a number of the victims who are present. The trauma is still with them after all this time. They felt there was no interaction with the families on the part of the inquiry, and expressed their disappointment. Given their sense of abandonment, will Mr. Justice Barron make a comment on the matter?

Mr. Justice Barron

There was no wish to cause members of the families any further trauma than they had already suffered. We met them on one occasion. I cannot remember if we met them on their own or whether it was in the course of meeting the families of the victims of the 1974 bombings. However, we did meet them on one occasion. I particularly remember one of them saying their mother was very upset and ill and that she would like some conclusion. Therefore, we did meet them in that sense. We did not meet them in any sense to get information as to what had happened because, with respect, they did not know. We were investigating the circumstances of particular offences. Rightly or wrongly, we did not think it necessary to go to them to tell them what we were doing. Perhaps we should have done so. I do not know. However, we did meet them at least once.

Concerns were expressed in that regard. We are obviously aware that the real sensitivity is the rawness of the effects of these terrible events on the victims. There was a suggestion that perhaps if they could interact with the inquiry and the Garda, it would help the process of seeking closure. Would Mr. Justice Barron see any benefit in this? Some of the families listed in the appendices felt that perhaps enough consideration had not been given to those cases which did not appear in the body of the report. Perhaps Mr. Justice Barron would also comment on this matter.

Mr. Justice Barron

It is unfortunate they are included in the appendices. However, from our point of view we have terms of reference under which we write our report. We were asked, outside our terms of reference, if we would consider other bombings within the State. We tried in the appendices to deal with any bombings around that period. There were others later. I hope some of these will also be dealt with in the appendices in our final report. If we can assist the families in any way by further discussing the matter with them, I am perfectly happy to do so. There was no intention to ignore them in any way. They are the people for whom this report is essentially written. If there are matters which they feel could be better explained to them, we will try to do so.

I accept and welcome that helpful comment.

The Senator has asked two questions. The judge has answered one of them.

I think Mr. Justice Barron has answered the question. He has said that if he sees any way in which interaction could take place, he will be happy to co-operate and allow it to happen. I welcome this.

I welcome Mr. Justice Barron and thank him for all the good work he has done with regard to these and the 1974 bombings. I have a couple of questions.

Senator Walsh spoke about the victims and how they felt. They felt the need to be met by some of the agencies of the State. They also expressed disappointment that Mr. Justice Barron had not met them. He indicated that he had worked with Justice for the Forgotten and that it would have been impossible to meet everybody individually. What is his view of the suggestion that there should perhaps be a victims' charter or that the State should be asked to establish a structured contact mechanism with the victims and their families?

Mr. Justice Barron

The real problem with regard to the families is the length of time it has taken to reach this stage. As regards current matters, there have been developments. I do not know whether they are adequate. However, past events should receive the same treatment as the victims of crimes today.

I am not so sure victims of crime today receive good treatment either.

Mr. Justice Barron

It is a lot better than it used to be.

It is a voluntary organisation which is in place in that respect.

Mr. Justice Barron

I am not talking about run of the mill crime. I am talking about this sort of crime — terrorist related and nefarious. It is difficult to find out who is responsible and causes even greater trauma to the victims than would normally be the case. They should be supported.

I refer to page 14 of the report, the section about John Wyman and Patrick Crinnion. When I asked the Minister about this earlier, he said documents would be disclosed. Obviously, Garda Crinnion was supplying information to the British intelligence agent John Wyman. The fourth paragraph states Crinnion's car was found in the car park of the Burlington Hotel. A number of Garda documents marked "Secret and Confidential" were found concealed under a mat on the floor behind the driver's seat. He was meeting with Wyman. Has Mr. Justice Barron seen these documents?

Mr. Justice Barron

I think I have. I have seen the Crinnion file and a number of files with the Crinnion file. Nobody specifically said to us those were the files at the time. They are mentioned as possibly being responsible for what happened but that is the only reason they are mentioned. We are trying to find out who was responsible for three different, major events and I think it would have been wrong to have written a report without reference to this particular event in our history, but that is as far as it goes. Having said that, I think we did see the files, but I have no recollection now of what they were.

The files were withheld from the subsequent trial for some reason.

Mr. Justice Barron

Not for some reason; they were withheld because the Minister signed an order that they should be withheld.

That is my point. Why did the Minister do that?

Mr. Justice Barron

I cannot answer that.

What I really want to know is if there is material in the files which is not available in the public domain, was kept from the trial and would be valuable to the sub-committee. Does Mr. Justice Barron believe that to be the case?

Mr. Justice Barron

As far as I am concerned, the information we had in relation to them enabled us to discount them in relation to our conclusions.

On page 15, Mr. Justice Barron comes to the conclusion that the inquiry is satisfied there is no evidence to connect either of the men with the bombings in Dublin in 1972 and 1973. The arrests took place on 18 December 1972 but the bombing took place on 1 December. Can Mr. Justice Barron elaborate on why his conclusion was so strong that there was no evidence to connect either man to it?

It does not mean they were not connected, just that there was no evidence.

While there was nothing which came to Mr. Justice Barron's attention, the men had been operating for a considerable period of time. Garda opinion was dealing with C3 and the documents were special security documents which were passed on.

Mr. Justice Barron

There was nothing in any security documents that we saw which would have connected them with what happened, any of the three. In the ordinary course of events, crimes occur. There is no reason why separate crimes should be connected.

Mr. Justice Barron indicated that documents were missing in relation to the 1974 report. In the context under discussion, did he find that Garda files were sparse on occasion? Mr. Justice Barron indicated that while all the documents he sought were provided, they might appear in a C3 or C1 file. This indicates that while some of the files were thorough, there was no information in other areas in which he might have expected there would be. Are there missing files?

Mr. Justice Barron

In so far as any file we asked for was not provided to us, that file must be missing.

I will rephrase the question. Mr. Justice Barron could only be aware of a file in so far as once he could ask for it, he knew it was there. Were there gaps where Mr. Justice Barron would have expected files or sections of files to be?

Mr. Justice Barron

I do not think so. The impression I have been receiving in relation to co-operation from the gardaí is that they have gone out of their way to do everything they can to find me files. If files have not been provided to me, they have searched for them and have been unable to find them. That is my view at the moment.

If I could come back to my point——

There might be missing files.

Mr. Justice Barron

If we ask for a file and we do not get it, then it must be missing.

You referred to that. That is fine.

In the third paragraph on page 115 of his report, Mr. Justice Barron appears to conclude very strongly that the gun used in the murders of Oliver Boyce and Bríd Porter was found in the possession of a particular person. The report further states that it seems probable that the knife used was found in the possession of another person. Despite what looks to be a great deal of strong evidence, the Director of Public Prosecutions did not bring a prosecution. We heard the family this morning and I would like to hear Mr. Justice Barron's view.

Mr. Justice Barron

This is a legal matter.

Perhaps Mr. Justice Barron has a view on it.

Mr. Justice Barron

My understanding is that the finding of the gun itself does not mean the person who had it is the one who fired it. This as I understand it is the basic problem.

I understand that Taylor gave written statements as well as verbal accounts as a suspect at the time of the Boyce and Porter murders. I see Daly declined to give a written statement. Was it acceptable for a serious suspect to decline to give a written statement? At the end of his conclusion, Mr. Justice Barron states that the Director of Public Prosecution stated the evidence was insufficient to justify a prosecution against Daly and the other mentioned suspects.

Mr. Justice Barron

You have the right to remain silent. If my memory serves me correctly, there was a question and answer session with Daly, but I may be wrong. I think all three of them were questioned by gardaí, incidentally, in the North in Belfast. It was a matter for the DPP then and we are merely setting out what was the view of the DPP's office.

Was the bottom line that there was not enough evidence?

Mr. Justice Barron

That is so. The three of them, Daly, Little and Hamilton, were stopped at a checkpoint and they had the gun on them. They made certain statements and implicated Taylor. Taylor ultimately made a statement. The statement was admitted at his trial, but he was acquitted on the basis that they did not accept the truth of it. That is my understanding of it. They did not extradite the other three because they were already serving sentences of imprisonment in the North and it was when those sentences came to an end that the question of extraditing them arose. At that time, the DPP's office took the view that there was no point in it. I am not in a position to say whether they were right or wrong.

You have raised many questions for the sub-committee to ask our witnesses next week. I thank you very much indeed, Mr. Justice Barron, for attending here today. Do you wish to make a final contribution?

Mr. Justice Barron

Not really. If there is anything you specifically want me to say something on, I will try.

If there is anything further, our legal adviser can liaise with you. I thank the relatives of Oliver Boyce and Breege Porter, Ann McDermott, Hugo and Seán Boyce, for coming here today. I know it is very difficult and we appreciate very much the time and the effort you have taken, which is very helpful to us in our consideration. The sub-committee also thanks the Minister, Mr. Seán Aylward and Mr. Justice Barron.

We will resume next Tuesday, when we will meet the former Minister for Justice, Mr. Des O'Malley, Professor Eunan O'Halpin of Trinity College, who will give us some background into the Offences Against the State Act, and Dr. Garret FitzGerald, the former Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs. Mr. Seán Donlon will also attend on that day.

The sub-committee adjourned at 11.52 a.m. until 9.30 a.m. on Tuesday, 1 February 2005.