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Tuesday, 28 March 2006

Chuaigh an Ceann Comhairle i gceannas ar 2.30 p.m.



 Ceisteanna — Questions.

 Dublin-Monaghan Bombings.

 1. Mr. 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. [9018/06]

 2. Mr. 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]

 3. Mr. 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. [9156/06]

 4. Caoimhghín 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. [9270/06]

 5. Caoimhghín 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]

 6. Mr. 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 committee?

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 concluded?

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 Attorney General.

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 worthwhile exercise.

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 request?

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 stage.

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 this stage.

The Taoiseach:We 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.

  3 o’clock

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 it anyway.

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 being missing?

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.

I Top I  

Produced in association with the Ludlow Family.

Last edited: 06 July 2006 20:56:47

 Visit the Ludlow family's websiteVisit Justice for the Forgotten  Statement by John Oliver Weir

Download the Barron Inquiry Report into the 17 May 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, (pdf file)

Barron Report: on the Dublin Bombings of 1972 and 1973, can also be downloaded in pdf form

Download the Barron Report into the murder of Seamus Ludlow from the Oireachtas website (pdf file)

Copyright © 2006 the Rooney, Watters and Ludlow families. All rights reserved. Revised: July 06, 2006 .