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The Argus (Dundalk), 12 July 2006:

Questions that still need answers

Kevin Mulligan

There will always be some who will question on the grounds of cost and need the wisdom of reports such as that which was published last week into the bombing of Kay's Tavern in Dundalk in December 1975 in which two local men lost their lives and many more suffered serious injury.

I for one could never subscribe to that theory on the basis that it can bring some closure to the ordeal suffered by the relatives of the dead and the injured and for the reason that an extensive trawl of the circumstances leading up to the incident, the response of the emergency services and the calibre of the investigation into determining who was responsible, can unearth valuable lessons that may be applied in the future.

Having read the report of Mr Justice Barron that was presented to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, and Law Reform last week I am even more convinced of the need for such reports.

Apart from the main conclusion of the Inquiry that the bombing in Dundalk was carried out by Loyalist extremists, most probably associated with the Mid-Ulster UVF, it is hard to dispute the evidence that led Mr Justice Barron to conclude that the group that carried out the attack on Dundalk contained members of the RUC and UDR who probably knew of the plan to plant the bomb even if they did not take part themselves.

It is also difficult to dispute the suspicion of the Inquiry that "by their attitude towards Loyalist violence and towards violent members of their own forces, some senior members of the security forces in the north allowed a climate to develop in which loyalist subversives could believe that they could attack with impunity".

It is also clear from the Inquiry report that the Gardai did not receive the co-operation to which they were entitled in trying to track and bring to justice those responsible for the Dundalk attack. The conclusion is clearly illustrated in the frustrating delay and prevarication that the Gardai encountered in trying to get a match for two fingermarks which they found on tape attached to a clock used as a timing device to ignite the Dundalk bomb.

The Gardai experts maintained that the fingermarks were of sufficient quality to secure a match, but the RUC always disputed the quality of the prints, and perhaps more importantly did not not seem overly enthusiastic to try and match the prints to suspects on their files in the period immediately after the bombing. It is only in recent times when the pressure was applied at Government level after the Good Friday Agreement that the RUC conclusively determined that they could find no match for the prints.


Gardai, on the other hand, have always maintained that their inquiries about the fingermarks were never discharged with great earnestness by the northern authorities for fear that it could uncover one of their own informants who was the prime suspect as leader of the gang that carried out the Dundalk bombing.

There is another aspect of the Inquiry which revealed flaws in the system in the Republic and lessons about the extent of precautions taken on foot of a warning about a possible attack. The Inquiry revealed that Garda had received a warning from the RUC four days before the attack on Kay's that "the UVF is planning to carry out car-bomb attacks in the Republic during the next three weeks, one in Dundalk and the other in Dublin".

The information was passed to Garda Divisional HQ in Drogheda who issued the instruction that "cars should be thoroughly checked".

The Inquiry took the view that Gardai did all they could given the need to maintain normal commercial life in the town, and while it is always easy to be wise after an event, the question must be asked even now 30 years after the bombing that given the intelligence information were sufficient resources allocated to ensure that all vehicles entering Dundalk at that time were adequately checked?

Of course it can always be said that there is not a lot to be gained from asking those questions today when clearly as a result of the Good Friday agreement we have all moved on and thankfully this island is a much different place from that of 30 years ago.

However, it must not easily be forgotten that two local men died in that bombing and many more were seriously injured and as of today no group have ever offered atonement and no one has ever been brought to justice for such a wicked deed.

That may never happen, but at least the report of Mr Justice Barron gives the first real insight into what actually happened on that terrible night of December 19th, 1975,  the flaws in the investigation, and a clear guide as to who was responsible.

I Top I  I Comments on the Barron Report I

Download the Barron Report on the Dundalk bombing from the Oireachtas website.

This document is in Adobe PDF format and can be downloaded from the link below.

Interim Report on the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Bombing of Kay's Tavern, Dundalk.

Houses of the Oireachtas, Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights.

Download the free reader software for Adobe PDF format

See the Irish News, 5 July 2006: "Relatives 'furious' over Barron report blunder

See also The Irish News online breaking news, 5 July 2006: Pub bombers 'treated better than victims' families'

See also: Oireachtas press release of 5 July 2006.

Daily Ireland, 6 July 2006: Blast victim’s relative hits out

The Irish Examiner, 6 July 2006: Loyalists had licence to kill Catholics, finds inquiry

The Irish Independent, 6 July 2006: Bombers 'treated better than victims'

The Irish News, 6 July 2006: Relatives want 1975 bombing inquiry

The Irish News, 6 July 2006: Horror lives on for bar owner

The Irish News, 6 July 2006: Report points to RUC reservist's farm as base for UVF operations

The Irish News, 6 July 2006: Hope that collusion theories may be brought to surface

The Irish Times, 6 July 2006: 1970s bombing victims complain of official neglect

LMFM Radio online news report, 6 July 2006: Hearings into report on Dundalk bombing to begin in September

TOM News, 6 July 2006: Latest Barron Report Highlights Need for Ahern-Blair Summit on Collusion

Daily Ireland, 7 July 2006: Taoiseach urged to call summit

Daily Ireland, 7 July 2006: Barron inquiry typically leaves more questions than answers Conclusion of report into collusion allegations between loyalists and the British government is 'unsatisfactory'

Daily Ireland, 7 July 2006: Families to discuss Barron report

Daily Ireland, 7 July 2006: Garda probe questions raised

The Irish News of the World, 9 July 2006: Showband massacre: shocking new report Former cop behind plot

The Newry Democrat, 11 July 2006: Collusion summit call

The Argus (Dundalk), 12 July 2006: Inquiry lists 19 suspects

The Argus (Dundalk), 12 July 2006: Members of RUC and UDR probably knew about plan to bomb Dundalk

The Argus (Dundalk), 12 July 2006:Guide to names listed by inquiry

The Argus (Dundalk), 12 July 2006: My father and family have been let down by the government

The Argus (Dundalk), 12 July 2006: Authorities reluctance to admit mistakes cost families heartache

The Argus (Dundalk), 12 July 2006:Joint Committee likely to hold series of hearings in autumn

The Argus (Dundalk), 12 July 2006: Sharp differences over fingermarks evidence

Daily Ireland, 13 July 2006: Justice Group seeks advice

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Produced in association with the Ludlow Family.

Last edited: 23 July 2006 19:07:20

 Visit the Ludlow family's websiteVisit Justice for the Forgotten  Statement by John Oliver Weir

Download the Barron Inquiry Report into the 17 May 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, (pdf file)

Barron Report: on the Dublin Bombings of 1972 and 1973, can also be downloaded in pdf form

Download the Barron Report into the murder of Seamus Ludlow from the Oireachtas website (pdf file)

Copyright © 2006 the Rooney, Watters and Ludlow families. 

All rights reserved. Revised: July 23, 2006 .