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Justice at last for the forgotten victims of sectarian murder in Dundalk


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Alleged Collusion

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Here continues our excerpt from the Joint Oireachtas Committee Final Report on the Dundalk bombing of 19 December 1975:


Chapter 4

The Garda Investigation and the aftermath

90) In respect of the Garda investigation at the time of the bombing, former Superintendent John Courtney and former Detective Sergeant Owen Corrigan attended before the Sub-Committee. Both Mr. Corrigan and Mr. Courtney clarified that they had only been involved in the Dundalk investigation and thus could offer no insight into the other atrocities. The most appropriate starting point is the warnings that were received prior to the Dundalk bomb. In respect to this, Judge Barron stressed that in examining the intelligence information received by An Garda Síochána concerning the Dundalk bombings, it is important to consider the basis of the information and its limitations. In particular Judge Barron indicated that many of the sources of information remain unknown to the Inquiry and therefore their reliability cannot be assessed. Judge Barron also highlighted that the passage of time since the investigation makes it difficult to ascertain the state of knowledge of the Gardai at the time concerning the reliability of the informants and thus the information.

The warning

91) At pages 42 to 44 of his report Judge Barron considered the warnings that had been received in respect of the Dundalk bomb. A letter to Judge Barron dated 26 February 2002 indicates that information concerning a possible attack on Dundalk was received by the RUC on 15 December 1975 – four days before the bombing of Kay’s Tavern. According to Dr Reid, NI Secretary of State:

“[The report] suggested that the UVF had plans to plant bombs in the Republic. Two of the targets would be government buildings, one in Dundalk and the other in Dublin. Large car bombs (500lbs) would be used and planted by two UVF teams based in the south of Ireland and assisted by a team from Northern Ireland. There was no information on timing beyond the suggestion that the bombs would be planted within the following three weeks. The records show this information was passed by telephone to the Garda by the RUC. The RUC recorded this in the following terms: ‘Garda Síochána notified by phone. Letter following.’”

A subsequent letter dated 16 December 2002 identified the RUC officer (now deceased) who provided the information to An Garda Síochána in 1975, and stated that the information had come from “a casual contact”. The letter also said that the information had been received by the RUC on 15 December, typed up the following day, reported to RUC HQ on 17 December and conveyed to Garda HQ by telephone and letter on that day.

92) Judge Barron said that he had not seen a copy of the letter sent on 17 December, but concluded that the fact that the information was received by An Garda Síochána is confirmed by a letter from Assistant Commissioner Laurence Wren’s office to the Divisional Officer, Drogheda, also dated 17 December. Headed, “UDA / UVF – Bomb attacks in Republic”, the letter stated:

“Information has been received here that the UVF is planning to carry out two car-bomb attacks in the Republic during the next three weeks, one in Dundalk and the other in Dublin. It is stated that the explosives for use in these attacks are already in the Republic and the personnel who will carry out one of the outrages are also based here.

There is no indication of the type of building which is scheduled for attack in Dublin. The building in Dundalk is more clearly designated and is stated to be on the southern outskirts of the town, on the main Dublin road: ‘One turns off the main road to the right down to a Garda Box (telephone kiosk) on the righthand side, about 100 yards down there is a large Church and square and the relevant building is 150 yards from same.’ (Discussion with Superintendent Murtagh and this office on the 17/12/75 assessed possible target as the Imperial Hotel).

You should ensure that your Divisional Force is adequately alerted and that all possible steps are taken to spot-check vehicles and persons likely to engage in this activity. Spot-checks should be carried out with Army assistance, where this is considered desirable. You should not confine activity to the possibility that the personnel and materials are in the Republic, as it may well be that all may be transported into our territory immediately prior to placing of bomb.

It goes without saying that cars should be thoroughly checked and please see to it that appropriate supervision is given to ensure that the spirit of this briefing is put into practice. In this regard functions at hotels, dance halls, public houses, when large numbers of persons are present at night, should receive adequate attention as well as Churches at mass times, etc.”

Judge Barron noted that the same information was also passed to the other border divisions.

93) Judge Barron reached the following conclusion:

“The security forces in Northern Ireland did receive advance warning of an impending attack on Dundalk and this warning was conveyed to An Garda Síochána. The Inquiry has not been able to establish whether the apparent sighting of the bomb convoy leaving Portadown on the day of the bombing was known to the authorities in Northern Ireland before the attack itself took place. In the circumstances, it is impossible to say whether those authorities knew enough to have prevented the attack taking place.” (page135)

94) Former Detective Sergeant Corrigan stated that the warning was treated with the utmost seriousness. When asked by Senator Jim Walsh what steps were taken, the following exchange occurred:

Mr. Corrigan: As I have stated, mobile patrols would have been assigned to the shopping centre, which was the only one in Dundalk at that time. Other public buildings deemed to be possible targets for attack would have been covered by way of mobile patrols on an ongoing basis. In addition to the normal strengths available, special patrols would have been allocated in the period up to Christmas.

Senator J. Walsh: Would roadblocks have been used?

Mr. Corrigan: There would have been roadblocks but they would have been--.

Senator J. Walsh: In respect of this specific incident, can Mr. Corrigan recall any specific steps being taken as a precaution?

Mr. Corrigan: Not specifically, but there were roadblocks at the different approaches to the town in conjunction with the additional patrols in the town. At that time, there was a roadblock on the Newry road which practically operated on a full-time basis and there were occasional roadblocks on the minor roads leading from south Armagh, such as the Crossmaglen road.

Senator J. Walsh: Nothing specific arose from any of them to prevent this particular occurrence.

Mr. Corrigan: No.

95) In response to a question from Deputy O’Fearghaíl, Mr. Corrigan stated that “I have explained to the Committee that the Garda did all in its power. One must remember that Dundalk was a hive of activity on many fronts. Subversive activity was at an all-time high and resources were diverted to cover the shopping centres and all the approach roads”.

96) Mr. James MacGuill, solicitor for the Watters and Rooney families, observed that one of the most important issues to emerge from the Barron report was the previously undisclosed information that the authorities had received a credible warning about the bomb either two days or four days before it happened depending on how one reads the report. He said that the families were entitled to expect that official witnesses appearing before the Sub-Committee would come before it with hard facts. Instead, he complained that members were treated to a series of “it would have happened” or “this would have been done”. He said that the evidence given has made the families’ feeling of utter astonishment at the failure to act on the warning even worse. He pointed out that it is clear that the warning, as people identified, came from within approximately 250 yards of the main church in the centre of Dundalk, practically pinpoint to where the bomb went off. He pointed out that Dundalk was a very small town back then and “You could not move as a stranger in the town of Dundalk and plant a bomb if someone was looking for you.” Yet it appears that whatever would have happened would have happened at another part of the town. Nobody went to the bother of establishing where the patrols where supposed to have been, whether the individual gardaí were interviewed or what steps were taken. Mr. MacGuill said that it is utterly astonishing that evidence was given on a would have basis to this Sub-Committee in relation to a very specific concern identified on behalf of the families and that this has not been addressed.

97) In a very strong presentation, worth quoting in full, Mr. MacGuill stated that:

“Again, from the families' point of view, it is now established a warning was received from the RUC and that it was considered so urgent it had to be communicated first by telephone and then in writing. It appears even to this day that Gardaí cannot establish when they received the warning. It is suggested that the warning was received on 15 December and confirmed in writing on 16 December. Yet, as of last week a statement claims it was given on 17 December. We have not been told, despite the fact that the committee has given him every opportunity to give the information, what steps were taken in reliance on that warning. Is there to this day a culture of secrecy and silence, an unwillingness to identify errors in the past? Is this something that could happen again? Failure by this committee to note that failure on the part of the authorities may support or contribute to failures in the future.

To suggest that the warning could not be acted upon because it was vague without at the same time indicating whether any efforts were made to firm it up or to get more detail on it, is quite simply an affront to the families. If somebody warns you that something is about to happen but you do not feel there is enough information to prevent it, you ask questions such as ‘who do you think are plotting it?’, ‘can we have photographs of them?’ and ‘can we put the Army, the Garda, the Civil Defence, the FCA on alert?’ None of this was done. The people responsible do not believe they owe it to this committee to explain that failure. It is astonishing that lives could have been saved if action had been taken. The fact that people do not believe they have to account for this is, unfortunately, an affront to the families who are anxious that their personal concerns be put on record here today. They do not expect the committee to hold a public inquiry into their case only. They are however anxious to address the committee in detail on why there should be an inquiry to address all the questions of the families who have lost people through collusion whether by omission or by commission.

98) Mr. Seán Aylward, Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform felt that it was important to note that:

“the Gardaí did everything that could reasonably have been expected of them in response to the pre-attack warning received from the then RUC two days before the bombing took place. Unfortunately, because the warning was not specific as to the timing and target, it proved insufficient to prevent the attack from taking place”.

99) The Sub-Committee is deeply concerned that in light of the warnings given the Gardaí were not in a position to take more effective steps to prevent the atrocities occurring. While it is never possible to stop all attacks by determined terrorists, given the nature of the warning and the relatively small size of the target towns it is surprising to say the least that persons from another jurisdiction were able to arrive, plant large lethal devices and leave again without being detected. It is even more surprising when one considers that the persons who planted the devices either were or should have been well known to the Gardai, given what appears to be their multiple participation in terrorist atrocities. We do not accept any attempt to minimise this issue by suggesting that there were continuous warnings issuing at the time and so it was difficult to deal with them all and this warning was nothing different. This warning was different. It was sufficiently clear and it was sufficiently specific.

100) The Sub-Committee is of the view that the specific nature of the warning shows that it came from someone who was close to the perpetrators. One question which arises is whether whatever informant was the source of the RUC’s information about the Dundalk bombing also passed on information about other atrocities and, if so, what steps, if any, were taken on foot of that information.

The meeting in Crumlin Road

101) Another important topic of focus in Judge Barron’s report into the garda investigation was a meeting that was scheduled to take place in Crumlin Road Station, Belfast.

102) At page 19 of his Report Judge Barron described how D/Inspector John Courtney and D/Sgt Owen Corrigan arranged a meeting in Belfast with a senior CID officer to discuss the theft of the bomb car. Specifically, they had been told that an RUC constable possessed information concerning the persons who had stolen the car.

The senior officer identified the constable and accompanied them to Crumlin Road Station, Belfast to interview him:

“We spoke to a Detective Inspector there. I requested to see the Constable with the information. He said he was a D/Constable, that he would ring him and get him to come in and that he would give me every facility. At that stage [the senior RUC officer] said ‘I will not allow you interview that Detective Constable.’ I said that all I wanted to find out was the fact about the car, but he would not agree to me seeing him. D/Sergeant Corrigan and I left without seeing this D/Constable and returned to Dundalk.”

The above passage comes from a statement made by John Courtney to Garda officers on 11th April 2001. There is no mention of this incident in the contemporary documents.

103) Mr. MacGuill asked us to consider how on earth do two serving members of the Garda Síochána who find themselves in Crumlin Road RUC station to interview someone have that interview process terminated and do nothing about it? He suggested that if any of us were taken out of our way for a purpose and that purpose was compromised at the last minute we would expect at least that there would be an expression of upset and annoyance. That did not happen and Mr. MacGuill suggested that this raises the question - did nothing happen because there was a deliberate but unspoken, unwritten policy not to press on issues of collusion? Is the explanation for all the missing files the fact that nobody wanted this policy to ever come to light or to be acknowledged? Is it credible that somebody says “the reason I didn't report that up the line is I believed C3 was infiltrated by the British spies”. Mr. MacGuill said that there can be only one answer to that, namely, that it is not credible. He said that this should be explored in public in the context of whether this State and senior officials of the State condoned or at a minimum were inactive in the face of collusion that was established to them.

104) Mr. Courtney described the meeting for us in the following terms. He said he met a Bill Moody of CID and:

“Detective Sergeant Corrigan had met him before and knew him. They appeared to be on friendly terms. We explained to him our problem and asked if he could help us in any way in investigating the bombs that went off in Dundalk, killing two people. He said he would give us every help possible and there was a constable down at the Crumlin Road station who was in a position to help and would be able to tell us who took or stole the car. We were delighted with that and we went to the Crumlin Road station. We did not know our way and he brought us there. We met a detective inspector and he introduced us to him. I told the inspector that we wanted to see this constable. He told me the person in question was an assistant constable who was off that day but that he would bring him in immediately and we should wait. With that, Chief Superintendent Mooney stepped in and said,

‘You are not going to see that man’. I said that we were only going to ask him a couple of simple questions about who took the car, what person was involved. That was all we wanted to find out. He told me that I would not see that man. I told him that he could question him himself and give us the result of the conversation, but he did not allow it. We were very disappointed.

Having the name of the person who took the car would be the first lead in the investigation.”

105) Mr. Corrigan gave us his impressions of the meeting in question:

“We met Mr. Mooney and he made all the arrangements to have the member who had the information recalled from his day off. Up to that point he had been very helpful to us. Suddenly, his total attitude and demeanour changed. From what I can recall, he left the room and returned and gestured with his hands as he told us that we would not see that man. He just disappeared from the place. As has been stated, I had known him very well and he had known Mr. Courtney very well because both had been in CID and he was a CID officer.

I might elaborate for the information of the committee. He was the head of CID. The RUC operated with CID and also had a special branch. Special Branch worked in liaison with British military services. The CID investigated the matters on the ground but they were governed by certain stipulations. In other words, Special Branch dictated or were the senior partner in the arrangement as I knew it. Everything had to go through Special Branch for approval. My impression from the moment Mr. Mooney arrived with us at Tennant Street station was that he was in good form. His attitude totally changed in Crumlin Road station. We had made arrangements to wait for this man. We had waited for ten or 15 minutes for him to be collected from his home or come to the station of his own accord to help us. Mr. Mooney suddenly came in the door and told us that we were not going to see that man, turned on his heel and walked out.”

106) The following exchange then occurred:

Senator J. Walsh: Is it Mr. Corrigan's belief that the withdrawal of cooperation was at the behest of Special Branch?

Mr. Corrigan: I could not speculate; I am only giving an outline. That is why I mentioned this for the information of the committee.

Senator J. Walsh: Mr. Corrigan does not know.

Mr. Corrigan: Both of us were very surprised at the change of attitude. We did not meet him at the station. We met him at Knock and then travelled to Tennant Street. On the way up there was banter and general and cordial conversation. He left the room and, as I have already outlined, he returned a short time later.

Deputy S. Ardagh: The witness is permitted to speculate. What would he speculate?

Mr. Corrigan: I would say there was an input or he was acting under influence from some other quarter. His attitude changed so dramatically in the short intervening period.

107) Mr. Seán Aylward, the Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, stated that in respect of the Crumlin Road meeting “As far as we can establish the Department was neither notified of the lack of co-operation at the time nor asked to intervene”.

108) In this Sub-Committee’s Final Report on the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Murder of Seamus Ludlow (March 2006) we also considered the visit to Crumlin Road (see page 19 et seq). In that report we noted that the names of four suspects for the murder of Mr Ludlow had been provided by the RUC to the Gardai and that the RUC had stated that they had received this information some 18 months prior to giving it to the Gardai. We stated that:

“Former Detective Inspector Courtney made it clear that the RUC had been very selective in their co-operation with the Gardai. As we know, they only passed on the information in respect of the four named suspects 18 months after they had received it themselves. In addition, they did not provide any assistance in respect of the car used in the Dundalk bombing. This shows that at that time the RUC appeared to be drip feeding information to the Gardai and the question arises as to whether they were only passing on information to serve their own ends.” (para 65)

We also noted that there was a conflict of evidence as to whether or not a policy existed that dictated that the Gardai would not interview suspects North of the border during the time in question (see chapter 5 of that report).

109) The Sub-Committee agrees with Mr. MacGuill that questions remain to be answered about the meeting in Crumlin Road. It was and remains a most astonishing event. We agree that it seems an extraordinary state of affairs that agendas of meetings between the RUC and Garda were not provided to Mr. Justice Barron’s inquiry team. We also agree that nobody brought before us evidence which illustrated that two civilians lost their lives in Dundalk and that the matter was on the agenda every month as it would have to be. The "would have" culture remains a matter of concern to the Sub-Committee.

The Progress of the investigation

110) The following preliminary remarks were made in Judge Barron’s assessment of the investigation and were outlined at 62 of the report:

“In making an assessment of the Garda investigation into the bombings, the following factors have to be taken into account:

(i) The work of the investigation team should be judged, first and foremost, according to the prevailing standards of the time, taking into account the resources then at the disposal of An Garda Síochána.

(ii) However, criticism is also valid where the prevailing standards fell below what might reasonably have been expected at that time.

(iii) Any criticisms of the investigation must take into account the wider social and political circumstances in which the investigation took place.”

111) In his submission to the Sub-Committee, Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy clarified that the investigation into the Dundalk bombing “employed the usual structures for a murder inquiry at that time”.

112) Mr. Courtney said that the investigation went on for a number of months and that a team was involved in the investigation at all times. He said that it was never wound up and that it was always ongoing.

113) Mr. Courtney said that with regard to all the suspects, he depended on the cooperation of the RUC on these matters because he had no entitlement or authority to cross the Border and monitor the suspects. The only hope the Gardaí had was that they were watching them to see would they cross the Border on the way to Dundalk and they could be intercepted at the checkpoint. He said we would definitely have talked to them then. He also said that he asked the RUC a number of times for its co-operation in checking the fingerprints but nothing came of his inquiries. In terms of forensics he said that:

“If there was anything significant about it I would have been told. I would have checked them. We would have expected to receive fingerprints from the Ford Cortina used to bring the bomb down. We were checking this and hoping that something would emerge.”

114) Mr. Courtney explained the steps he took when he re-opened the investigation:

“I reopened the case after consulting with Detective Sergeant Corrigan, who was the Border detective sergeant in Dundalk at the time. We decided or anywhere else across the Border.”

Mr. Courtney explained that he was surprised at the time that the RUC Officer had not ensured that the two persons in question were interviewed.

115) When asked by Deputy O’Fearghaíl whether or not he had an awareness of the existence of the gang at Glenanne Mr. Corrigan stated “Yes, of course. Absolutely”. When asked by the Chairman, Deputy Ardagh whether he knew that some members of this gang were members of the UDR and RUC he said “I was personally aware there were members of the UDR and UVF in the gang. Their well known”.

116) In response to a question from the Chairman, Deputy Ardagh Mr. Corrigan stated that the Gardaí submitted a condensed monthly report to C3 on all activities on the border. When pressed by Senator Walsh as to whether it would have been put in writing or verbally to C3 that people who were in the RUC, the special branch, RUC reservists and the UDR were involved in paramilitary activity Mr. Corrigan stated that “As far as I knew, the level of intelligence available to C3 was infiltrated by the security forces in the North, both RUC and UDR”. Mr. Courtney said that he did pass information to C3 that members of the paramilitary gangs were also permanent and reserve members of the RUC and UDR.

117) When questioned by Senator Walsh about Mr. Corrigan’s claim that information on collusion had been passed to C3, Mr. Seán Aylward, Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, stated that:

“We do not possess written reports which back that up. It should be noted that on a daily basis the people in the division in question were on scrambler telephones to the people in C3. While a great many conversations and oral briefings would have taken place, they would not necessarily have been writing very much down, especially where communications were speculative or just providing information rather than hard facts to be put before the Government.”

Mr. Aylward did confirm that there were monthly and quarterly reports from the Gardaí to the Department and said that he would ask for further scrutiny of those reports.

118) The Sub-Committee sought to follow this up and received a written response from Commissioner Conroy. He informed us that there are no references to British/Northern Ireland security personnel operating as loyalist paramilitaries in the relevant written reports of Mr. Courtney or Mr. Corrigan. The Sub-Committee is not in a position to make any finding of fact on this issue and, in any event, it may be the case that there is no dispute of fact since it is possible that communications from Mr. Courtney or Mr. Corrigan were made orally rather than in writing. In a sense nothing turns on this since the Sub-Committee is satisfied from other evidence, such as the high level contacts between the Irish and British in August 1975 about the allegation that four members of the RUC in the Portadown area were members of the UVF, that collusion was an area of concern on this side of the border at the relevant time. This begs the question as to why that concern was not followed up either at all or more vigorously. We will return to this issue in our conclusions.

119) Mr. Aylward also explained that:

“Cross Border co-operation up until the 1990s was largely based on policeman to policeman co-operation on an informal case by case basis.

The Department did not drive or lead in that regard though in common with everybody else, it benefited from it. It was not the custom or practice for us to receive daily or monthly reports on the state of that co-operation. That does not appear to have been the case. Lacunae did exist, we know that now from the report.”

120) Ms. Margaret Urwin emphasised that Judge Barron highlights the fact that almost the exact same wording is used by the Garda officer in writing up the report on the Dundalk investigation as that used by the officer in writing up the report on the Monaghan bombing 18 months earlier. She said that this is a cause of grave concern as it is strongly suggestive of merely going through the motions.

121) The exact wording is to be found on page 50 of this Barron report, the fourth one.

The first sentence reads: “It will be appreciated that investigations were greatly hampered by reason of the fact that no direct enquiries could be made in the area where the crime originated”. Ms. Urwin suggested that the impression being given here once again is that there was little formal co-operation or dealings between the Northern security forces and the Garda in December 1975 to January 1976. In her view this is a total misrepresentation of the facts.

122) Ms. Urwin asked us to reflect on why, in relation to Dundalk, that nothing happened until Superintendent Courtney was appointed as the Border superintendent in or about 1976. He then started to investigate it, but why was nothing done in obviously what would be, even from a lay-person’s point of view, the vital time immediately after any crime has been committed?

123) In a statement to the Joint Committee Mr. Neil Faris, a Solicitor who responded to our request for submissions, reiterated previous submissions made by him stating:

“There is evidence that Ireland was resisting extradition to the United Kingdom at the time…that because of such impasse the Garda Siochana may have encountered additional difficulties in investigating crimes committed within the State”. In the Sub-Committee’s Final Report on the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin Bombings of 1972 and 1973 (February 2005) Mr Faris had asked us to consider whether what he described as the failure of the extradition process at the relevant time deprived the victims of the right to find out the truth about specific crimes.

124) Mr. Seán Aylward, the Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, stated that:

“The Garda investigation into the Dundalk bombing displayed clear positive and negative elements which I do not wish to rehearse. I am not in a on us.”

What did the Gardai know?

125) What was of particular interest in respect of this set of hearings was the focus not on the minutae of whether a particular evidential or forensic lead was followed up but rather was on the failure to act on and follow up general intelligence as to who was behind the series of atrocities that was occurring on both sides of the border.

126) Commissioner Conroy indicated that his belief was that the names of members of the Glenanne gang would have been familiar to the Gardai particularly to officers along the Border at the time.

127) Mr. Cormac O’Dúlácháin SC, on behalf of Justice for the Forgotten, made the following observations about the state of knowledge on both sides of the border.

From looking at 1974, detailed information as to the identity of loyalists was communicated from RUC Special Branch to the Garda Síochána. As early as 1974, the identity of those involved in atrocities was known. As the various reports have emerged, names given to the Garda Síochána in 1974 subsequently reappeared in connection with events in Silverbridge, the Miami Showband and other atrocities. The identity of individual perpetrators was known as early as 1974. Their identity was not a local matter but was known at divisional headquarters in Portadown and at RUC headquarters. From the Holroyd notebooks it is known that the identity of these people was known to military intelligence. The structures within military intelligence suggest that all that fed into military headquarters in Lisburn. It is known from the Wallace documents that these individuals were being listed and collated and that associations were being identified. If one takes the individuals as being unrelated to the security forces and takes them purely as subversives, the identity of this network or organisation of subversives in Armagh was well known by 1974. Due to the fact that there has been no means of questioning anybody about it, what has not emerged through the Barron inquiries is what intelligence was gathered in connection with these people from 1974 onwards. From June 1974 onwards, both the Garda Síochána and the RUC knew that this group was capable of horrendous acts. It was capable of planting no-warning bombs in Dublin and Monaghan and planning events involving mass murder with no question of warnings. From the summer of 1974, the security forces in Northern Ireland knew that a powerful and dangerous group operated in their midst and yet we have no evidence or indication that anything was done to curtail, restrict or limit the free range of movement or the freedom to act of these individuals. While it is often said there is no evidence to convict, one continuously saw throughout the 1970s and 1980s the security forces adopt practices designed to curtail, limit and obstruct groups and organisations in carrying out actions. The question for the security forces is not simply related to having evidence to convict, but of how resources were applied and what was done to obstruct and defeat those who sought to carry out unlawful acts.

128) The Sub-Committee received contradictory evidence as to whether there are written records maintained by C3 on the knowledge of the participants in the Glenanne gang. Mr. Corrigan stated he was aware of it. Mr. Justice Barron does not appear to have had the opportunity to establish when he became aware of it or what families have lost people at the hands of that gang on a date after its activities became known either to the authorities in the North or the South. The Sub-Committee endorses the following comments of Mr. MacGuill:

“At what level was the information about the Glenanne gang known? If it was known by the ordinary Garda officers on the street in Dundalk that this scandal.”

The forensic evidence

129) Judge Barron noted at page 66 of his report that the members of the Ballistics Unit responsible for the forensic examination of the scene did not arrive until 12:30 a.m. The first potentially significant finds – the car number plate, the battery and the ‘Baby Ben’ clock – were made by local uniformed officers who were searching the rubble for victims.

130) With regard to the prints that were recovered at the scene of the bomb, at page 70 of the report Judge Barron states that the existing file at the Technical Bureau contains only scientific reports and copies of the two fingerprints taken at the bomb scene. It appears that any other documentation was retained by the officer dealing with the particular case. As far as the Dundalk bombing is concerned, such documentation appears to have been lost.

131) Detective Inspector Joseph Kinsella from the Garda Technical Bureau attended before us and said from a fingerprint point of view co-operation between the RUC and the Gardai at the time appears to have been good. He said that he travelled to the PSNI fingerprint department in Belfast on 11 October 2005 and that the file on the Dundalk bombing was made available. A handwritten record on the file cover indicated that the late Detective Chief Superintendent Dan Murphy had delivered the finger marks to the RUC. A list of six suspects was written on the file and beside each name “neg”. A record of the marks being searched on a computerized system for retrieving fingerprints on 13 December 2000 was also noted on the file as having been done. The file contained a total of 49 persons listed as suspects for checking against finger marks developed on black adhesive tape which was attached to the alarm clock found at the scene of the Dundalk bombing. On 15 July 2005 a new computer system for searching palms was used but this also led to a negative result.

132) Detective Inspector Kinsella explained that the quality of the marks was not good and it was not even clear if they were finger or palm prints. He pointed out that a lot of the prints of suspects on file would have been fingerprints rather than palm prints.

133) Detective Inspector Kinsella said that the trail of material evidence/exhibits from the bombing finished with Detective Inspector Byrne who is since deceased. He said that he did not have a record of where the items were stored or went. All he had at this stage were photographs of the print marks.

Concluding thoughts

134) Whilst recognising that it is sometimes dangerous to apply the standards of today to events in the past, the Sub-Committee is nonetheless concerned that it did not prove possible to make more progress in the investigation into the Dundalk bombing and the other atrocities on this side of the border. We recognize that the existence of collusion and the lack of co-operation from the authorities in Britain made the task of the Gardaí difficult. Nonetheless, if extraordinary incidents such as that which occurred at Crumlin Road had been vigorously followed up at all levels, including political levels, then further progress might have been possible.

135) Commissioner Conroy told the Sub-Committee that if the Dundalk bombing happened today things would be very different insofar as the Gardai now have their own forensic science laboratory and so material could be examined locally instead of having to be sent to Northern Ireland for analysis. In addition the Gardaí have ballistics and DNA expertise as well as trained agent handlers who would be involved in dealing with people with information and proper evaluation of that information. He also pointed out that in many cases examination of CCTV can assist in detecting crime.

136) The Sub-Committee accepts Commissioner Conroy’s assurance that things would be done differently today if an act of international terrorism were to occur in the jurisdiction.


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