1970s was one of the most turbulent times in Irish history with the Dublin
government faced with economic uncertainty and a conflict in Northern
Ireland that was casting a terrifying shadow over the Republic.
events surrounding the Arms Trial that famously saw government minister
Charlie Haughey in the dock, accused of importing arms for northern
republicans, raised the question of how the south should react to violence
in the north.
Jack Lynch's decision that the Fianna Fail government should not become
directly involved in efforts to protect the Catholic community from loyalist
violence set the tone for later years.
governments were willing to enter political talks aimed at bringing about
peace in Northern Ireland but the Republic's own victims were forgotten as
the government distanced itself from the violence.
than 130 people died in the south in violence linked to paramilitary
violence; more than half of those victims (71) were killed between 1969 and
of those murdered were victims of loyalists but the list of the dead also
includes those killed during internal republican feuds, 13 gardai and the
'accidental' victims like Brigid Carr, a waitress killed in the cross-fire
between the IRA and British soldiers.
was not until July 1993, when Yorkshire Television made a documentary on the
conspiracy behind the loyalist car-bomb attacks on Dublin and Monaghan on
May 1974 that survivors and the bereaved began to find a voice.
bombings had claimed 33 lives, including that of a heavily pregnant woman
– the greatest loss of life in a single attack throughout the Troubles.
Even so, the Garda investigation was wound up within three months, no
arrests were made and no convictions secured.
year after the carnage Jack Lynch voiced his suspicion that the British had
been involved. It was widely known that loyalists in the mid-seventies did
not have the expertise to "put together such an operation on their
the decade and a half that followed the attacks a number of articles were
written voicing concerns about alleged collusion between the British
security forces and loyalist paramilitaries but no action was taken by the
small group of people also managed to secure partial funding for legal fees
from a "wealthy individual", holding their first public meeting in
a Dublin hotel in January 1996.
called themselves Justice For the Forgotten, believing that there had been
an active effort on the part of authorities to 'forget' southern victims of
was a good name at the time because we faced a long hard struggle," the
group's spokeswoman, Margaret Urwin, said.
group called for a full public inquiry into the 1974 bombings, armed with a
detailed dossier which included information supplied by ex-RUC officer John
Weir, jailed for paramilitary offences, who insisted that widespread
collusion between loyalists and the security forces had existed.
group eventually brought on board other survivors, including the Monaghan
families and those affected by bomb attacks in Castleblayney in 1976, Dublin
in 1972/73, as well as Dublin Airport and Dundalk, both in 1975.
the beginning, our whole focus was on the bereaved but later we also began
to work with the survivors, who should never be forgotten. We've been in
contact with about 250 people who were injured in attacks, and that's only
about 15 per cent of the total," Ms Urwin said.
think the problem was that those affected were ordinary people. In many
cases they were working class and they had no common purpose. In Bloody
Sunday there had been a common purpose. People had been taking part in a
the people in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings didn't know each other; they
were anonymous in a way. They had been shopping, or coming from work or
visiting. They had no-one to lead them and the politicians chose not to.
the beginning of June  the story was gone out of the media, no
questions were being asked in the Dail. It was as though the whole thing had
never happened. It was just gone for years."
the late 1990s Justice For the Forgotten had begun to win the support of a
number of politicians and the Garda had set up an internal inquiry, while
former tanaiste John Wilson was appointed to chair the Victims Commission in
the wake of the Good Friday Agreement.
government fell short of setting up a full public inquiry when they
appointed a judge to investigate a series of bombings and murders in the
Mr Justice Henry Barron's investigations were hampered by two key facts –
he could not subpoena witnesses or documents and the British authorities
refused to cooperate fully.
October 2003 four Barron reports have been published. None have led to the
government establishing a public tribunal of inquiry.
many cases, including the 1976 murder of Co Louth forestry worker Seamus
Ludlow, the judge was highly critical of the original Garda investigators.
complained that Garda and Department of Justice files had gone missing, also
admitting that a lack of support by the British had tied his hands in many
all of the cases he investigated the judge fell just short of stating that
collusion had taken place.
findings of his investigation into the Dundalk attack, made public last
month, echoed previous reports, in which he found that while allegations of
collusion were impossible to prove "by [the security forces'] attitudes
towards loyalist violence and towards violent members of their own forces,
some senior members allowed a climate to develop in which loyalist
subversives could believe that they could attack with impunity".
Barron also repeated his belief that the farm of RUC reservist James
Mitchell, in Glennane, near Newtownhamilton, had been a centre of operations
for the UVF gang which carried out bomb attacks on both sides of the border
in the mid-seventies.
Oireachtas committee began public hearings on the fourth and final Barron
report last week.
the meantime, the families are hopeful that criminal lawyer Patrick
MacEntee, due to report to the government in October, could expose more
evidence concerning collusion as it is believed he has spoken with members
of Britain's secret services.
police Historical Enquiries Team in Northern Ireland, which has been given
the task of investigating unsolved murders linked to the conflict, has also
met Justice for the Forgotten.
30 years all of these people were just forgotten.
will continue to seek full public inquiries and we believe that's the only
way forward. We cannot see any other way," Mrs Urwin said.
is up to this state to call for a public inquiry.
Britain chose not to cooperate, well then let them be seen before the world
that they refused to cooperate with an official inquiry. That is what has to
just seems to me so obvious that I can't see why the government cannot see