Justice at last for the forgotten victims of sectarian murder in Dundalk
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Daily Ireland, 7 July 2006:
inquiry typically leaves more questions than answers
By Mick Hall
Formerly known as the Hamilton inquiry, the probe was set up in 1999 at the behest of the campaigning relatives' group Justice for the Forgotten. The investigation's remit included dozens of murders of Irish citizens in the South during the 1970s, including the 1974 Monaghan and Dublin bombings, which killed 33 people.
However, Mr Justice Barron was not vested with the power to subpoena, so that the investigation was entirely dependent on voluntary co-operation, particularly from the British government. The British authorities were accused of operating a covert military strategy of killing Irish citizens by arming, infiltrating and directing loyalist paramilitary units in the North.
At 6.22pm on December 19, 1975, a car bomb exploded outside Kay's Tavern in Dundalk. It killed two local men - Jack Rooney (60) and Hugh Watters (51) - and injured 14 others.
A subsequent Garda investigation failed to identify the perpetrators although the families have lived for years with the names of those identified by others as being responsible.
None of those named were ever questioned by gardaí in relation to the murders. The case was dropped because of lack of evidence.
When Mr Justice Barron said in his report that there was "no evidence that senior members of the security forces were involved in any way in the bombing", he was stating a material fact.
Since 1999, British documentation passed to Henry Barron has, in the words of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, been "limited enough". The judge himself once again stated his dissatisfaction with the level of co-operation in this latest report. The fact that Henry Barron found himself unable to name those involved pointed to a fundamental lack of co-operation from the British government.
However, according to some relatives of the murdered men, the Irish government remains just as culpable for its silence.
Margaret English (53), the daughter of Hugh Watters, remains deeply hurt by what she sees as the Irish government's failure to bring Britain to book for its alleged role in the death of her father.
"I don't have any anger towards those responsible. The Irish government have known who were responsible for over 30 years and allowed the British government to protect them and they ignored us for all that time," she said.
"They failed to protect their own citizens and instead help protect those who killed their citizens."
Ms English, who
was 22 at the time of her father's murder, was present when the two families
were presented with the fourth Barron report at the Dáil
brought down the stairs by government officials and given the report an hour and
a half before going to the press conference upstairs. I
"It's been 31 years but the emotion was just too much."
During the conference, Mrs English lambasted the Irish government for its treatment of the families but she said it was only when the name of the notorious and now deceased mid-Ulster Ulster Volunteer Force leader Robin "the Jackal" Jackson was mentioned that she found the strength to speak out.
"The experience of having so many journalists surrounding us was intimidating, and the family members didn't really speak. It was left to legal representatives but, when I heard a journalist ask about Robin Jackson, I just took the microphone and said what I thought.
"Hearing that name induced the same sense of anger and disbelief I experienced when meeting the victims commissioner John Wilson in 1998, after the Good Friday Agreement was signed. We were introduced as relatives of the Dundalk bombing victims and his reply was: 'Oh, yes, Robin Jackson.'
"When my father was killed, we weren't even told by the gardaí and only discovered it when we visited the local hospital. We were never informed about the progress of their investigation. My father's death was never talked about afterwards. We didn't want to upset my mother but the peace agreement changed that. It opened up a can of worms and has put our lives in emotional turmoil again."
The findings of
Henry Barron pointed to the nature of the explosives used in the Dundalk bombing
and suggested a possible link with the mid-1970s
concluded: "By their [security forces'] attitudes towards loyalist violence
and towards violent members of their own forces, some senior
This, of course, does not mean the British state sanctioned murder or incursions into the South's jurisdiction, even though partial evidence for this is already available.
government security memo, dated 1971, has been in the hands of the Barron
inquiry since 2003.
The memo therefore suggested three other options, the "best" being to remove existing restraints on army activities and the intensification of "border operations".
Many would claim the final Barron report lacked the political will to join the dots.
By suggesting that "some senior army officers" simply acquiesced with emerging trends of assassination and violence, he has denied the very possibility that they instead followed strategic written directives.
Last week's report was published after being referred to a subcommittee of the Oireachtas joint committee on justice and defence, chaired by the Fianna Fáil TD Seán Ardagh.
Mr Ardagh said public hearings into the findings of all four Barron reports would take place in the autumn. For the families of Hugh Watters and Jack Rooney, the hearings will present another painful opportunity to ask questions of the Irish state.
"They've known the truth for years. We deserve that truth and want a proper history written about what happened during that period," said Margaret English.
A government spokesperson told Daily Ireland: "The government has noted with concern that Judge Barron has once more stated, in his latest report, that the level of co-operation received from the British authorities has been unsatisfactory.
taoiseach and the minister for foreign affairs have raised these issues
consistently with the British government at every available opportunity"
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Download the Barron Report on the Dundalk bombing from the Oireachtas website.
See the Irish News: "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
The Irish News of the World, 9 July 2006: Showband massacre: shocking new report Former cop behind plot
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Produced in association with the Ludlow Family.
Last edited: 13 July 2006 16:58:38
Copyright © 2006 the Rooney, Watters and Ludlow families.
All rights reserved. Revised: July 13, 2006 .