Chuaigh an Ceann Comhairle i gceannas ar 2.30 p.m.
Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if
he has received a third interim report from the MacEntee commission
investigating the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings; the main findings
of the report; when he expects to receive a final report from Mr.
MacEntee; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Kenny asked the Taoiseach the
revised timetable for the work of the MacEntee commission; and if he
will make a statement on the matter. [9152/06]
Sargent asked the Taoiseach the
progress by the MacEntee commission of investigation into the Dublin and
Monaghan bombings; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if
he has received the report of Mr. Justice Barron on the Dundalk bombing
of 1975; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if
he has received the interim report of Mr. Patrick MacEntee on the
investigation of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of May 1974; and if he
will make a statement on the matter. [9271/06]
J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach if
he has received the third interim report from the MacEntee commission
into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings; and if he will make a statement
on the matter. [10202/06]
The Taoiseach: I
propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, together.
Mr. Justice Barron has completed all his reports. His reports on the
Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974, the Dublin bombings of 1972 and
1973, and the murder of Seamus Ludlow have each been referred to the
Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s
Rights for consideration. I received last month Mr. Justice Barron’s
final report on the Dundalk bombing of 1975. This report also contains
references, in the form of appendices, to other incidents that were
brought to the attention of the inquiry, including bombs in
Castleblayney, Dublin Airport, Silverbridge and the Miami Showband
murders. The Government has not yet had an opportunity to consider the
report in detail. It is currently being considered by the relevant
Departments prior to consideration by the Government. As with other
reports, it is envisaged that it will be referred in due course to the
Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights.
This marks the completion of the work of the commission of inquiry. I
take this opportunity to put on record my gratitude to Mr. Justice Henry
Barron and his predecessor, the late Mr. Justice Liam Hamilton, for all
their work on these reports.
On 26 April 2005, the Government appointed Mr. Patrick MacEntee SC as
sole member of a commission of investigation to examine specific matters
relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974, including aspects
of the Garda investigation and missing documentation. This was in
accordance with the recommendations of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on
Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights which considered the
Barron report on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
As the House knows, I previously granted two extensions of the
timeframe for the completion of the report, from 14 November 2005 to 31
January 2006, and then again to 28 February 2006. I also published the
two interim reports from Mr. MacEntee and placed copies in the
Oireachtas Library. At the end of February, Mr. MacEntee informed me
that more time was required to complete the inquiry to pursue a new line
of investigation which has arisen. He therefore requested a further
extension of the timeframe to 31 May 2006.
He also provided for me a further interim report, as required by the
legislation. I have published that report and have placed a copy in the
Oireachtas Library. It is clear from this third interim report that Mr.
MacEntee requires more time to pursue specific inquiries as there remain
important opportunities to advance the investigation that might
otherwise be lost. It is for that reason that I have granted the
additional extension. It is, of course, unfortunate that the victims and
survivors of these terrible atrocities will need to wait a further
period before the final report is available. However, I believe they
will agree on the importance of Mr. MacEntee being allowed sufficient
time to pursue any lines of inquiry that he deems relevant.
I am grateful to Mr. MacEntee for the work he has completed to date.
As he is independent, I am not in a position to comment on his ongoing
work. I look forward to receiving his final report in May.
Mr. Rabbitte: I
join the Taoiseach in thanking Mr. Justice Barron for the work he has
done and for completing his report on the Castleblayney, Silverbridge,
Miami Showband etc. aspects as contained in his terms of reference. Will
the Taoiseach indicate to the House when he intends to put that into the
public domain via the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality,
Defence and Women’s Rights? Is it his intention that the Opposition
leaders be shown sight of the report before it is released through that
Does the Taoiseach expect that the latest deadline of 31 May for the
report from the MacEntee commission of inquiry will be met? On the third
interim report, to which the Taoiseach referred, and Mr. MacEntee’s
reference to what he called a variety of contacts and the fact that a
meeting with certain entities whose assistance had been sought by the
commission for some time had become feasible, does the Taoiseach know
what variety of contacts and specific entities are referred to? Is that
reference to the British authorities or to loyalist paramilitaries?
On a separate area of inquiry by Mr. Paddy MacEntee SC, which relates
to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform’s missing files,
does the Taoiseach have any knowledge or information on whether that
segment of the inquiry has concluded? Is he satisfied that Mr. MacEntee
has received the co-operation and assistance from the Department of
Justice, Equality and Law Reform that the situation requires? Does the
Taoiseach know whether Mr. MacEntee is getting more co-operation from
the British authorities than Mr. Justice Barron experienced? Will the
Taoiseach give the House an approximate date by which he thinks the
investigation by Mr. MacEntee’s commission of inquiry will be
The Taoiseach: I
hope the completion of the Barron work by the Department will not take
too long. The only delays that have arisen in any of the reports seem to
have happened when decisions were made on whether to redraft them on
foot of debates, which always seem to take place, involving speculation
about names. I think the reports on some of the other incidents, such as
the bombings at Dublin Airport and Silverbridge, are shorter in
substance than some of the others. I hope we will be able to move on the
matter. I certainly will not delay it. The intention is to bring it to
the Government and get it to the committee as quickly as possible after
it has gone through the departmental system and the Office of the
Deputy Rabbitte correctly stated, in respect of the second issue,
that Mr. MacEntee hopes to produce a report by late May. I have no
reason to think he will seek a further extension, although he has sought
a few extensions already. It depends on how he thinks he is progressing.
On the work by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on
the Garda files, Mr. MacEntee raised two issues in his first interim
report. He raised the issue of criticism of archiving arrangements. He
said that some documentation — he did not specify it — which was
previously missing had been located. I interpret that reference as
relating to Garda files. As I understand it, he is getting full
co-operation on that aspect of his work. I am not sure what he will say
about it all at the end. I have a feeling he will say things from bits
that are picked up.
Deputy Rabbitte asked about Mr. MacEntee’s references to “certain
entities”. The Department of the Taoiseach’s interpretation of the
matter is that Mr. MacEntee is talking about the British authorities.
Having read the report carefully, I am aware that Mr. MacEntee does not
explicitly refer to the British authorities, but that is how all my good
colleagues interpret that reference. It seems to open up the possibility
of co-operation with people who did not give information previously. I
do not know whether it will come to anything significant, although
obviously I hope it will.
There has been a variety of contacts, including one meeting of
significance with the “certain entities” last month. As a result of
these contacts, the commission has received information in the form of
certain security and intelligence documentation, a portion of which the
commission considers to be material to its investigation. I assume that
information was not received previously. The information in question has
been sought by the commission since last summer. While we are not aware
of its significance, we are grateful that it has come across.
The commission has also received assurances from the “certain
entities” that information relating to two separate parts of the
investigation will be made available to the commission at the end of
this month — now, in other words. As I understand it, the commission
is confident that the information in question will come across. It is
obvious that the information from my officials is just as we get it, but
I understand that the contacts with the “certain entities” have
opened up the possibility of meeting other individuals who are important
to the investigation. To date, the commission has met one individual who
has provided material assistance. It is actively seeking to contact two
other individuals it believes may be able to assist in the
investigation. That is the reason for the work and it appears to be a
fairly hard line of progress.
Mr. Kenny: I
have given the Taoiseach credit in the past for his interest in this
from the beginning, and I repeat that now. I agree with Deputy Rabbitte
in respect of Mr. Justice Barron and Mr. MacEntee. The truth about
matters such as this is of critical importance to the integrity and
credibility of any Government. One of my near neighbours was blown up
and killed in the Dublin bombings. The fact that there never has been
finality on it still causes great upset to the families involved.
Closure is very important for them and politically for the Government.
It was a long time ago, and as the Taoiseach has previously pointed out,
this is the first occasion where it has been possible to have a
comprehensive analysis of investigations into these atrocities at what
was a terrible time for politics and for people on this island.
Has the Taoiseach raised this matter recently in his discussions with
the Prime Minister, Mr. Blair? I know the Attorney General considered
the possibility of taking a case to the European Court of Justice
against the British Government. This did not work with regard to the
families of Justice for the Forgotten, so I presume the Government does
not want to pursue a case that is not likely to be successful. Will the
Taoiseach inform the House whether the Attorney General is still
considering that option or is it likely to run into the sand? I support
the request for the extension from Mr. MacEntee in the hope that this
might bring finality. In the context of the Government’s analysis and
the consideration by the Attorney General, where do matters stand now?
The Taoiseach: I
have continually raised the inquiries aspect with the Prime Minister,
Mr. Blair, and sought to apply pressure as regards co-operation with our
investigations. We have received a great deal of co-operation in recent
years. Numerous Secretaries of State have been involved in this aspect
and have helped. I always like to see more help and more files and so
on, but so far they have been helpful. There is never any indication
that any of these issues will be investigated by the British authorities
in their own jurisdiction, as I, the other party leaders and the
committee have urged. I do not believe this is something they will do.
As regards the Attorney General’s position, the advice in that
regard is now quite clear. While he continues to look at other options
so that no approach is totally ruled out, he has advised that the
chances of getting anywhere as regards the European Court of Justice are
poor, based on the time limitation. His judgment is that this would not
work and he believes the time limitation would prohibit it. He has given
me lengthy advice in this regard. I am not saying there are not other
avenues, but that one is closed.
Mr. Sargent: I
add my appreciation to Mr. Justice Barron for his work. On Mr. Patrick
MacEntee’s request for an extension, is the Taoiseach convinced that
this will be the last request for an extension or are we involved in an
open-ended process in the hope that additional evidence and personnel
might become available? In regard to that extension, is there any news
on the €9 million remembrance fund? I understood from the
Taoiseach’s answer in January that December 2006 would be the deadline
for applications to that fund. Will the Taoiseach indicate what the
interest or take-up has been in that fund to date and whether an
extension of the December date is being considered?
Following his reply about the European Court of Human Rights being a
possible course of action to bring about greater co-operation from the
UK Government, the Taoiseach stated that this might not be a good idea
or that it was not available to us, but he also stated that the Attorney
General was examining a number of ways in which we could follow this up.
Is he in a position to tell us any of the other ways or any progress
that has been made in this matter or whether he is happy with the
current co-operation from the UK Government?
The Taoiseach: Looking
at Mr. MacEntee’s third report, it depends on the end of May deadline,
whether he has the information he expects by the end of March, and the
two subsequent people who have been identified who it is expected will
talk to the inquiry. I cannot be sure except that it may open up lines
of inquiry, but Mr. MacEntee seems to believe that May would provide
enough time. Obviously in these events if something else opens up, I
would be open to being persuaded by him if he believes that can bring
finality to it.
I say the same to Deputy Sargent as I said to Deputy Kenny. The
Attorney General’s view is that the time limitation of bringing a case
to Europe on this would not work. There are many precedents for that,
not least the Justice for the Forgotten case. He has not ruled out that
when we come to the completion of this work and see all the reports
going through the committee, including Mr. MacEntee’s report, it may
not give up new opportunities. He has not come down on any specific one,
as I understand it, but he is keeping his options open where he may be
able to frame subsequent cases. It might be difficult but he certainly
does not want to rule that out in the future.
I followed up on the issue Deputy Sargent raised in the House in
January. If he recalls, he suggested running an advertisement campaign,
which we did in the national and local newspapers. That generated many
inquiries. We also highlighted the matter in Civil Service offices which
generated more interest. I do not know the exact number of cases or if
they are processed but it did generate a range of activity. It was a
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Is
the Taoiseach aware that the former Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, wrote to
the British Government in May 1975 requesting advice of the names of the
suspects responsible for the May 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombing? Is he
aware that Justice for the Forgotten has established that the
documentation pertaining to that request is within the British national
archives? Has he had such a trawl in his Department’s records and is
the corresponding copy of that letter in his Department’s files and
any response that might have issued from the British authorities to the
What is the Taoiseach’s view of the former Taoiseach’s refusal to
co-operate with Mr. Justice Barron and the subsequent Oireachtas
committee’s deliberations in regard to his series of reports? Is the
Taoiseach aware whether the former Taoiseach has co-operated — if the
requests were made — with Mr. Patrick<?oasys _jy ?>MacEntee’s
ongoing inquiry? If it is the case that such a request has been made and
has not been acceded to, will the Taoiseach call on the former Taoiseach
to now co-operate with Mr. MacEntee before the conclusion of his work?
When does the Taoiseach intend to publish the most recent report
received from Mr. Justice Barron which the Taoiseach advised the House
in his earlier response was received last month relating to the December
1975 bombing of Kay’s Tavern in Dundalk and other incidents that
occurred not only in the Border area, including in Castleblayney, County
Monaghan? Will he bring it forward in the same way as previous Barron
reports and refer it to the committee that has already deliberated on
the previous reports? The Taoiseach referred to Mr. MacEntee’s interim
reports but as this is a unique process, what is his intention regarding
Mr. MacEntee’s final report and how does he intend to process it? Will
it be brought to committee or brought before a full sitting of this
House? Has he given some consideration to how the final MacEntee report
will be processed when received this May?
The Taoiseach: I
will treat the report in the same way as I treat any reports. I
published his interim reports immediately. When his final report is
published it will be discussed by the Government and also in this House.
If any parts of the report are relevant to the committee’s work, I
will supply the report to the committee as I have done with regard to
all reports on this level. To the best of my knowledge, archives
relating to the 1974 and 1975 periods have all been made public at this
The former Taoiseach, Mr. Liam Cosgrave, has stated his position on
these matters. I do not take issue with Mr. Cosgrave nor will I do so.
Mr. J. Higgins: It
is obvious that to clear up all these issues the full co-operation of
the British State authorities is necessary, otherwise it will be a sham.
What hope is there of getting the British State to reveal all the
information it has on these issues in the Republic when in a far more
recent case in Northern Ireland, the Blair regime is actively
frustrating the full inquiry into the Pat Finucane murder? Does the
Taoiseach agree that Prime Minister Blair is treating him, the head of
the Irish Government, and the Irish people, with contempt, by
continually stonewalling and refusing to direct the security services in
Britain and in Northern Ireland to reveal all they know? What action
will the Taoiseach take if Mr. MacEntee states in his final report that
he has not received sufficient information from those who have that
information — the British security forces — to draw definite
conclusions? This is an extremely frustrating matter for elected
representatives of Dáil Éireann who have been coming into this House
for years asking the Taoiseach to get the co-operation of Mr. Blair.
Since certain political commentators believe that Mr. Blair, like Mr.
Bush, is directly in touch with God, I suggest the Taoiseach might pray
he would be moved to reveal all. This seems to be the only hope left at
embarked upon an investigation process some years ago. The late Mr.
Justice Hamilton did excellent work and this work was completed by Mr.
Justice Barron. We have got as much data as we could for all these cases
from everybody both here and from British intelligence whether that was
through the NIO, British security or wherever. They were extraordinary
times. We have tried to go back and follow them through as much as is
possible and to assist the relatives.
As I have continually outlined throughout this process, the people
whom it is most important to help — I certainly tried to do so — are
the victims. The victims must be central to all we do in dealing with
the terrible events of the past. I have met several victims’ groups
and officials and am in ongoing contact with many victims on all sides.
We provided financial support to the victims’ groups. We and the
British have set up a number of inquiries to deal with specific cases.
We got the British Government to carry out the Bloody Sunday tribunal
for six or seven years, at enormous cost. It was vital that was done. We
have also received much co-operation.
I answered questions last week on the Finucane case. I devoted a
complete Question Time to it and gave my clear view on where I would
like to have seen more progress.
They were very troubled times, which gave rise to enormous
difficulties. When one looks back at those times and on the way matters
were handled, they were even more troubled than we thought as we lived
through them. One can see how people acted and how things happened. They
would not happen today, but we are not talking about today, we are
talking about 30 years ago. There were so many events and actions, and
the Garda Síochána, Departments and others were stretched. It would be
easy for me to criticise people of that period but I have no intention
of doing so as it would serve absolutely——
Mr. F. McGrath: A
state should not get involved in murder. It is unacceptable.
The Taoiseach: We
are talking about our own system. Much more will come out on these
issues. Deputy Rabbitte asked me to follow up the court case, which I
did. We will hear much more about that also. It will be another
extraordinary saga of those times.
There is only so much data we can discover in these cases. For the
past five or six years we trawled as extensively as we possibly could
for information. I have left no stone unturned in this regard. However,
we will not be able to re-enact everything. The British have set up a
well resourced historical inquiries team that will provide a thorough
examination of unresolved deaths throughout the Troubles. The Police
Ombudsman is reviewing cases involving the police, which is useful and
can bring closure for victims and survivors, and will hopefully build
community confidence, but it will not solve all the cases. Some of the
reports that are coming down the track will probably open up more than
they close, but that is inevitable.
Mr. J. Higgins: The
Taoiseach has turned over the stones but Mr. Blair has not done so.
Mr. Kenny: I
thank the Taoiseach for his reply. Perhaps this is not a fair question
to ask but, arising from the discussion in the House on the Finucane
murder and the decision of the House to make an all-party recommendation
for a full public inquiry on that issue, is the Taoiseach satisfied that
the British Prime Minister, Mr. Blair, is on the level in his
discussions with the Taoiseach on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings? Has
the Prime Minister all the information he needs to give the Taoiseach a
straight answer to a straight question? Is the utmost and fullest
co-operation available to Mr. MacEntee, Mr. Justice Barron and the Irish
Government in this regard? Is the Taoiseach satisfied, man to man, that
the Prime Minister is in a position to give a full, honest and truthful
answer that information is concealed, even from the British Government,
that might be relevant to this matter? Some people decided to do this.
Instructions were given and people placed bombs in cars. People died and
people were murdered as a consequence and that pain still affects those
families. I know the Taoiseach would like to see that matter sorted out.
Perhaps this is a question he cannot answer but I thought I should ask
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: In
regard to the most recent Barron report that the Taoiseach received last
month, when does he intend to bring it forward to the relevant committee
for its attention? In respect of the correspondence to which I referred
earlier, I asked the Taoiseach was he aware of that correspondence which
issued in May 1975, a year following the 17 May 1974 atrocities. He did
not answer on that. The response the Taoiseach gave me in respect of
whether copies or records of the exchange of correspondence were in his
Department was that everything in his Department has been published.
The Taoiseach: Or
they have been sent to the archive. Everything from my Department goes
to the archive.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Therefore,
something may be in the archive that has not been published. Is that the
case? Will the Taoiseach say whether the documents to which I already
referred, which were initiated and issued by a former Taoiseach and in
respect of which, I understand, responses were received, are in his
Department? I must ask that question because if all those documents are
not published how can the Taoiseach’s answer satisfy my question, if
they may be in the archive? If they are not, how does he explain their
The Taoiseach: On
that question, I do not believe anybody is saying they are missing. I am
aware of them because I know that Justice for the Forgotten found the
records in the British archive. Data and information in my Department,
even if redacted and amended under the 30-year rule from 1974-75 are now
in our archive. It is available for public use and historians have
already gone through much of the data and written a considerable amount
about it. As to whether that letter and a reply to it are there, I do
not know, but at this stage it would have been passed over. If the reply
was a straightforward one, it would not have been held back unless it
was a matter concerning security and intelligence.
On the question of when I will publish the report, as I said to
Deputy Rabbitte, as soon as I have the report and it is through the
system in terms of the Departments and the Attorney General’s office,
I will bring it to the Cabinet and publish it as soon as possible.
In reply to Deputy Kenny’s question — when is one ever sure? I am
happy with the issue of Derry and that we got full closure on that. On
the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the British authorities have been
helpful. They have gone out of their way, through various Secretaries of
State, and have helped judges. I know that the late Mr. Justice Hamilton
received a great number of files earlier on and a great deal of
co-operation, as did Mr. Justice Barron. The latter’s report is
probably as close as we will ever get in regard to this matter. Members
will recall that Mr. Justice Barron fairly well pieced together the
whole circumstances of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. There were some
other issues which should have been followed up, which we considered —
the question of the van, the UDR man staying overnight in a Dublin hotel
and other such issues. They came under the terms of reference and I hope
we will get some more finality on that.
Deputy Kenny particularly asked me to reply on the question of the
Finucane murder. I do not want to leave on record that I am happy with
the position — I am not. For whatever reason, the British Government
has taken the view of the Inquiries Act and, in that respect I have to
agree to differ with the British Prime Minister and the British
Government. It is not compatible with what we agreed in Weston Park,
with what Judge Cory stated at the time of his report or with what he
has said now. It is not compatible with the kind of inquiry we thought
we would get under the 1921 legislation. The British Government held
back, it changed the legislation to the Inquiries Act. As I said
previously, I cannot stand here or anywhere else and say this is a full,
independent judicial inquiry for one reason concerning one clause. As I
said publicly, I hope they do not find a judge to take that job. I hope
no self-respecting judge takes that job because if he finds something,
he cannot use it or show it. Therefore how is he fulfilling an
independent judicial position? How is the inquiry full, if he has
information which he cannot put forward, and how is it independent? It
is neither what we nor the Finucane family nor all the rights activists
who have helped them since 1989, have sought, namely, a full,
independent judicial inquiry. I have said to Prime Minister Blair, I
have put on the record of the House and I have stated in the UK that I
do not think what we are being offered is full, independent or judicial.
I have my reasons for believing that is so but they are my reasons.
There is no point in me speculating but it is easy enough for people to
work out by the fact I am saying I have my reasons.