Justice at last for the forgotten victims of sectarian murder in Dundalk
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The Irish Daily Mail, 30 November 2006:
Butchered by the British
Oireachtas report finds damning evidence of collusion between UK security forces and loyalist terrorists in string of atrocities
Now British must tell us full truth
Taoiseach: Report is 'a matter of most serious concern'
By Ronald Quinlan
British security forces were last night accused of widespread collusion with loyalist terrorists in 'acts of international terrorism'.
It was the most categoric indictment to date of the role of undercover British agents on both sides of the border in the 1970s.
In an official report, a joint Oireachtas committee said 'the spectre of collusion' at the height of the Troubles was 'widespread'.
Damningly, they accused British security forces of involvement in 'the butchery of innocent victims'.
The committee said it was 'fully satisfied' that there was collusion in a whole series of loyalist gun and bomb attacks - including several south of the Border.
Among the atrocities identified is one of the most shocking mass murders of that era - the Miami Showband massacre of 1975.
But the committee also found evidence of collusion in a number of attacks in the Republic, including a bomb attack on Dublin airport in 1975 and pub bombings in Dundalk and Castleblayney.
Equally damning is the committee's finding that the British cabinet of the day knew the full extent to which its security forces had been infiltrated by loyalist terrorists but failed to respond. It comes less than two weeks before publication of a separate official report into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings - that is expected to be just as outspoken in its condemnation of British collusion.
Relatives of some of the 18 terrorist victims whose deaths were investigated led calls last night for a full public inquiry.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern called for 'full and unfettered British co-operation with the ongoing investigations and inquiries'.
There have been repeated claims that a previous investigation by Mr Justice Henry Barron into collusion allegations, upon which the committee based its report, was hampered by a British refusal to cooperate.
Mr Ahern said that the report's findings were 'deeply troubling and a mater of most serious concern'.
And the committee said there was no valid reason why British authorities should not play their part in uncovering the full extent of collusion.
'Cannot be swept under the carpet'
It said: 'We are horrified that persons who were employed by the British administration to preserve peace and to protect people were engaged in the creation of violence and the butchering of innocent victims.
'We are of the view that these matters cannot be swept under the carpet,' it insisted.
The committee of five TDs and two senators had some harsh words for successive Dublin governments, which it accused of ignoring clear evidence of collusion at the time.
'The fact that little or nothing was done to address this is, to put it mildly, alarming,' the report stated.
The committee based part of its research on official British files recovered from the national archive in London, including documents about loyalist infiltration of both the RUC and the UDR, the reserve force that replaced the notorious B Specials. he document entitled 'Subversion in the UDR' and written in 1973 by military intelligence, estimated five to 15 per cent of UDR soldiers were linked to loyalists, and that the 'best single source of weapons, and only significant source of modern weapons, for Protestant extremist groups, has been the UDR'.
A memo from a civil servant recording a meeting in September 1975 between Mr Wilson, Mrs Thatcher, and then Northern Secretary Merlyn Rees, shed further light on the issue.
It concluded that 'there were certain elements in the police who were very close to the UVF, and who were prepared to hand over information, for example, to Mr Paisley'. Meanwhile the committee yesterday called for a full debate in the Dail and Seanad on the issue of British collusion.
'Collusion on south side of the border'
Margaret Urwin of victim group Justice for the Forgotten said: 'I think the findings are absolutely brilliant and powerful. Nobody could have asked for more and I want to congratulate the committee on doing that.'
But she went on to criticise the committee's failure to call immediately for a public inquiry.
Jeffrey Donaldson, a Democratic Unionist MP who served in the UDR, last night attempted to defend the since-disbanded organisation and the RUC.
Although he accepted that rogue elements were involved in atrocities such as the 1975 Miami Showband massacre, he insisted it did not prove that systematic security force plotting with the loyalists took place
'It could also be claimed that there's evidence of collusion between security forces south of the border and the Provisional IRA. I would say to the Irish Government, you should be very cautious about pointing the finger at the security forces in Northern Ireland.'
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Dundalk pub bomb horror
Shortly after 6.15pm on Friday December 19, 1975, a car bomb containing 150lb of explosives was detonated without warning outside a popular pub in the centre of Dundalk, Co Louth.
The explosion at Kay's Tavern resulted in the death of two men and injured 21 people.
Hugh Watters, a tailor, died instantly while lorry driver Jack Rooney died three days later. Both men were in their 60s.
Mr Watters was believed to be enjoying a drink after work in the bar at the time of the explosion, Mr Rooney to have been walking past the pub.
Shortly after the incident, it was claimed the bomb was planted by the outlawed 'Red Hand Commandos' - a branch of the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force.
Justice Henry Barron, the retired Irish judge who in 2003 published the Barron Report into the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings, had in 2001 requested the publication of a British bomb disposal expert's report on the Kay's Tavern incident.
The report was commissioned by the Justice for the Forgotten, a Government-backed group for the victims of the Dublin-Monaghan Bombings. It stated IRA methods of crystallisation for extracting nitrates when making bombs were not learned by Loyalist groups until the end of the 1970s. Controls in 1973 on the nitrate content of fertiliser had made the traditional method of mixing it with fuel oil impossible.
The report found the bomb detonated at Kay's Tavern was most likely made from explosives seized from the IRA. A second bomb which exploded on the same day outside a bar in Silverbridge, Co Armagh, killing three people, was found to contain similar materials.
The British bomb disposal expert concluded that only five people, all British soldiers, would have had access to both the seized explosives and the Loyalist terrorists.
No one was ever brought to justice over the atrocity and after the publication of the Barron Report, victim Mr Watters' daughter Margaret English accused he State of neglecting the victims' families.
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Farmer blown up outside bar
Patrick Mone, a 56-year-old farmer, was killed when a loyalist bomb exploded in Co Monaghan on March 7, 1976.
He was standing outside the Three Star Inn in Castleblayney when a car bomb went off without warning at 8.20pm. The 200lb bomb caused severe damage to the street and many buildings had to be demolished.
Mr Mone and his wife Anna had been married for six years. She witnessed the horrific incident sitting in their car nearby.
No one has ever been convicted for the crime. In January 1999 a former RUC sergeant, John Weir, claimed to have information that the Castleblayney bombing was carried out by a fellow RUC officer and a UDR officer. He said the explosives were provided by another RUC officer.
John Francis Hayes, a father of three, was killed in a bombing at Dublin Airport on November 29, 1975. The 39-year-old from Balbriggan, Co Dublin, was in the toilet adjacent to a public bar.
The UDA claimed responsibility, claiming it was 'retaliation for the murder of members of the Security Forces by PIRA'.
In July Judge Barron said allegations of collusion between the British forces and loyalists could not be proved.
His wife Monica expressed her disappointment. 'We've all been ignored. I had a three-year-old boy and 11-year-old twins and I had to bring them up alone,' she said.
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Families killed in their homes
The Oireachtas committee's report looks into a number of killings by loyalist gangs, including:
Father of three Trevor Brecknell, 32, bar owner Patrick Donnelly, 24, and 14-year-old Michael Donnelly were murdered in the gun and bomb attack on Donnelly's Bar in Silverbridge on December 19, 1975.
Mr Brecknell had just visited his new-born son in hospital before the attack.
Joe O'Dowd, 61, and his nephews Barry, 24, and Declan, 19, were shot dead in their home in Ballydougan, Co Down, on January 4, 1976.
Declan was due to return to work on an oil rig following the Christmas holidays, and friends and family had gathered to see him off, before UVF gunmen entered their home.
After shooting Declan in the hallway, they entered the sittingroom and opened fire.
In a suspected coordinated attack, just 15 minutes later - and 20 miles away - a UVF attack left three members of another family dead. Brothers John Martin, 24, Anthony, 17, and Brian Reavey, 22, were all shot dead in their home at Whitecross, Co Armagh.
Six men armed with automatic weapons burst into the Reavey home and shot John as he sat in a chair. They then opened fire with machineguns on Anthony and Brian. Anthony survived the initial attack but died of his injuries on January 30.
Catholics Elizabeth McDonald, 38, and Gerard McGleenan were killed in a loyalist attack on the Step Inn in Keady, Co Armagh, on August 18, 1976.
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Showband massacred in stage clothes
It was an otherwise routine night of shuttling from gig to gig for the Miami Showband, one of Ireland's most popular touring cabaret bands f the Seventies.
The band was returning from a gig in the Castle Ballroom in Banbridge, Co Down, on July 31, 1975 when their minibus was flagged down on the outskirts of Newry in what appeared to be a routine military roadblock.
The Dublin group was travelling in two vehicles and was making its way back to the Republic in the early hours of the morning.
Road manager Brian Maguire was first on the road with a van stocked with equipment while the second van was driven by the band's lead singer Fran O'Toole.
He was joined by band members Tony Geraghty, Steven Travers and Des McAlea.
The drummer, Ray Millar, had left in his own car and was heading north o Antrim to spend the night at his parents' home.
But on this occasion it was not a regular roadblock that stopped the Miami Showband at 2.30am.
Instead, a gang of UVF gunmen intended to frame the band as members of the IRA by planting a bomb in their vehicle.
Still in their stage clothes, the bandmates were ordered to line up in a ditch near the roadblock. However, the bomb exploded prematurely, killing two UVF members, Harris Boyle and Wesley Somerville, in the process.
The remaining gunmen opened fire on the band.
Three bandmates - O'Toole, Geraghty and Brian McCoy - died at the scene.
Guitarist Steven Travers and Des McAlea survived the attack, and the latter vowed never to return to Northern Ireland.
The following year three men from the Ulster Defence Regiment were each jailed for 35 years in connection with the Miami Showband killings.
At the time, the judge said he would have imposed the death penalty had it not been abolished.
The soldiers were members of the outlawed UVF and received the longest sentences in Northern Ireland history.
Rodney Samuel McDowell, James Somerville and Thomas Raymond Crozier remained in jail until they were released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
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The Irish Daily Mail, 30 November 2006:
Britain must own up to its role in dirty war
For almost 30 years, the north-eastern corner of this island was embroiled in a bloody terrorist campaign. It was like all guerilla campaigns, a dirty one. The Provisional IRA, although ostensibly in a 'war of liberation' with the British security forces, never showed any scruples about civilian casualties - and, indeed, on repeated occasions, deliberately targeted them.
And, as in all wars, there were atrocities on both sides. The B Special bullyboys over-reacted at Burntollet, the Paras went berserk on Bloody Sunday, on countless occasions an RUC whose ranks were drawn overwhelmingly from the loyalist community showed its sectarian colours in the most ugly manner possible.
But over-reaction in the face of extreme provocation is one thing. Cold-blooded collusion in terrorism by the supposed forces of law and order is another matter altogether - and arguably even more serious when it is perpetrated on the territory of a sovereign, independent state.
It has long been suspected that, at least on a number of occasions, British undercover agents did indeed collude with loyalist terrorists - on both sides of the border. That suspicion has now been replaced, in the eyes of a respected inter-party Dail committee and by extension in the eyes of the Irish Government, by a near-certainty.
A series of gun and bomb attacks during the 1970s that were investigated by Mr Justice Henry Barron, and subsequently by the Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality, all show prima facie evidence of collusion. So to, it appears, do inquiries into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
This committee also goes further than any official report has gone before in suggesting that knowledge of the extent to which the security forces in the North had been infiltrated by loyalist paramilitaries went all the way up to the cabinet table in Downing Street.
All this, as Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said last night, happened a long time ago, during a dark and tragic period in Irish history - a period we would all now prefer to forget. And, some might argue, why not?
Ireland has moved on, the IRA and the loyalist paramilitaries have laid down their guns, a power-sharing administration once again appears on the cards at Stormont. If Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley can lay aside the rancour of the past, why should we rake over old coals of discord?
It is, of course, not that simple. The IRA has, by and large, admitted to their deeds; in many cases, individuals have served prison sentences. Justice has, to a greater or lesser extent, been achieved.
This, however, is not the case with the atrocities investigated by the Oireachtas committee. Nobody has ever been held accountable. To the relatives of the victims, these events are as raw today as they were 30 years ago.
And not only has the British government consistently refused to admit that its security forces had any involvement in loyalist paramilitary activity; it has repeatedly hindered efforts by Mr Justice Barron and others to investigate allegations of such collusion.
If we are indeed to put the past firmly behind us - we must all face up, honestly and openly, to the reality of history. That applies to the British government, just as much as it applies to the IRA and the UDA.
If the shoe was on the other foot and an all-party Westminster committee made similar findings about atrocities by Irish citizens, the British government would not be shy in calling for a full inquiry.
That is the least we should now now expect - that, and if such an inquiry upholds the conclusions of the joint Oireachtas committee, a personal apology from prime minister Tony Blair.
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See early media reports from the http://www.breakingnews.ie/ dated 29 November 2006:
See also the following report from ireland.com: Barron finds British collusion in attacks
The Argus (Dundalk), 29 November 2006: A high level of collusion found in Dundalk bombing
The Daily Telegraph, 29 November 2006: Ahern call for ‘collusion’ inquiry
The Irish Independent, 29 November 2006: British and loyalists 'colluded in bombing'
Ulster Television News online, 29 November 2006:Green Party demand public inquiry
The Irish Examiner, 30 November 2006: Government backs report on collusion in North
The Irish Examiner, 30 November 2006: The nine attacks — a litany of terror and death
The Irish Examiner, 30 November 2006: ‘What we have heard today are things we have known for years’
The Irish Independent, 30 November 2006: British colluded in 'butchery'
The Irish News, 30 November 2006: Families welcome collusion findings
The Irish Times, 30 November 2006: London must co-operate on collusion inquiries - Ahern
The Irish Times, 30 November 2006:
The Irish Times, 30 November 2006: Remit: the atrocities covered
The Dundalk Democrat, 6 December 2006: Dundalk Bombings News Special: Reports by Anne Marie Eaton:
The Argus (Dundalk), 6 December 2006: News Special Report of Independent Commission of Inquiry into Dundalk Bombing
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Here is media coverage of the fourth Barron Report:
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 Dundalk Democrat, 12 July 2006: Gardai expected bomb at Imperial
The Dundalk Democrat, 12 July 2006: Barron Report is a step closer to the truth
The Dundalk Democrat, 12 July 2006: Families will continue their campaign for justice
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
The Argus (Dundalk), 12 July 2006:Questions that still need answers
Daily Ireland, 13 July 2006: Justice Group seeks advice
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Last edited: 23 December 2006 17:45:36
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