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Taoiseach must demand British cooperation with collusion inquiry commission – Ó Caoláin

31 January, 2008 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD


Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has called on the Taoiseach to hold a special summit meeting with the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the issue of collusion. Speaking in the Dáil today Deputy Ó Cáoláin said the Taoiseach should demand that the British Government co-operate with an Oireachtas Commission of inquiry into acts of collusion in this state and provide access to all the original documents in their possession relating to acts of collusion in this state.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "Under-stated as it was the McEntee report highlighted a massive failure on the part of this State to properly investigate the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of May 1974. The only logical explanation for what took place is a cover-up of collusion. Gross incompetence is not enough to explain the failure to investigate and the apparent destruction of records. The report again exposed the refusal of the British authorities to co-operate with a Commission of inquiry established by the Oireachtas.

"The findings of a variety of Reports justify the demand for full, independent, public judicial inquiries including:

- the Barron Report which concluded in relation to the Dublin-Monaghan bombings that a cover-up involving British forces, Gardaí and the Irish Government could not be ruled out;

- The Cory Report into the Murder of Pat Finucane and the involvement of at least five agents of the British State in that one particular killing;

- the Report of the Independent International Panel on Collusion in Sectarian Killings which concluded that in 24 of the 25 cases examined, including the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, there is "significant and credible evidence of involvement of police and military agents of the United Kingdom, both directly and in collusion with loyalist extremists";

- The various Oireachtas Committee Reports on various acts of collusion;

- The former Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan's Investigative Report into the circumstances surrounding the death of Raymond McCord Jnr and related matters which exposed the systemic reality and extent of collusion including collusion in attacks undertaken by loyalist paramilitaries in the 26 Counties.

"Both the British and Irish governments have failed to establish the inquiries repeatedly sought by relatives seeking truth and justice. This is despite statements such as those by the Taoiseach as recently as 10 December 2007 when he said that the suffering of victims had been sharpened "by the clear evidence of collusion by the security forces in many murders".

"I want to repeat Sinn Féin's demand for the Taoiseach to hold a special summit meeting with the British Prime Minister solely focused on the issue of collusion. The Taoiseach should create such an opportunity to demand of the British government that they provide access to all the original documents relating to the acts of collusion carried out in this jurisdiction that I have cited and indeed to the whole record of collusion in their possession. The search for truth and justice is far from over." ENDS

Full text of Deputy Ó Caoláin's speech follows:

Debate on Collusion 30 Eanáir 2008.

A firm commitment was made by the Taoiseach during the last Dáil that a full-scale debate on collusion would be held following the publication of the report of Patrick McEntee SC into the Garda and Government investigation of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974. The McEntee report was published in April 2007. The promised debate was not held soon thereafter as promised. Nor was it held during the remainder of the 29thth Dáil. Only now has the Government finally scheduled this debate. This has been especially disappointing and frustrating for the families of victims of collusion. The form of the debate is unsatisfactory as there is no motion and no proposal for action.

I have to say it is also frustrating in the extreme that this debate has been given a title that does not mention the word collusion. The investigations by Justice Barron, the reports of the Joint Oireachtas Committee and the inquiry of Patrick McEntee were not, as the title states vaguely, on 'violent incidents arising from the conflict in Northern Ireland'. They were on attacks, including mass murders, where British state collusion with unionist paramilitaries was strongly indicated. Throughout the long search for truth on collusion there has been an attempt by some to muddy the waters, a process that serves only further to shield those at the highest level in the British state who bore ultimate responsibility. I hope that muddying of the waters is not repeated in this debate.

Let it be said that every singe death in the conflict was a tragedy. No family's grief counts less than any other and there should never be a hierarchy of victims. That is the overall context in which we address deaths arising from the conflict. But it is necessary to be specific and to deal frankly and honestly with the issue of where responsibility lies and how and why many of the tragedies of our past took place. In Ireland as in conflicts all across the world the Government in power held all the advantages in terms of controlling the apparatus of the State, the legal system and, to a great extent, the mass media. The British government tried to convince the world that it was a peacekeeper, a policeman, a neutral force keeping the warring sides apart. It tried to mask its central role in the conflict. It was for this reason that it resorted so extensively to collusion. Better to have unionist paramilitaries front the war than to have the international embarrassment of the British Army and RUC carrying out an open campaign of terror in the manner of the Black and Tans.

To the shame of successive Irish governments they co-operated to a great extent with the British government in its so-called security strategies. They turned a blind eye to collusion. British agents worked within the gardai. There was open co-operation with the RUC during the worst phase of its repression against the nationalist community in the Six Counties. Political prisoners were extradited to face the Diplock Court system and even as the Irish government politely protested about the fate of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four and other victims of British state injustice, it was sending its own citizens into that system.

This is the reality which many in this House, now as in the past, are unwilling to state.

Let us make clear what this debate is about. It primarily concerns the acts of collusion or direct action by British forces which led to loss of life in this jurisdiction. These acts include:

· The bombing of Belturbet, Co. Cavan in December 1972 in which two teenage civilians were killed - Geraldine O'Reilly (15) Patrick Stanley (17).

· The Dublin bombings of December 1972 and January 1973 in which three bus workers were killed - George Bradshaw, Thomas Duffy and Thomas Douglas.

· The killing of Briege Porter and Oliver Boyce by the UDA near Burnfoot, County Donegal in 1973.

· The Dublin and Monaghan bombings of May 1974 in which 33 people died - 26 in Dublin and 7 in Monaghan.

· The killing of IRA Volunteer John Francis Green in Co. Monaghan in January 1975, probably by a British Army operative.

· The stabbing to death of civilian Christy Phelan near Sallins. Co. Kildare in June 1975.

· The explosion at Dublin Airport in November 1975 in which John Hayes was killed.

· The Dundalk bombing of December 1975 in which two civilians were killed - Hugh Watters and Jack Rooney.

· The Castleblayney bombing of March 1976 in which one person, Patrick Mone, was killed.

· The killing of Seamus Ludlow in Co. Louth in May 1976.

· The killing of Sinn Féin Councillor Eddie Fullerton in Donegal in May 1991.

· The killing of IRA Volunteer Martin Doherty in May 1994, having foiled an attempted bombing and mass murder at the Widow Scallan's pub in Dublin.

To these tragedies in this jurisdiction should be added the killing of three members of the Miami showband near Newry in July 1975. The web of collusion links their murders to that of the Dublin and Monaghan May 1974 victims and to John Francis Green. The link with British Army Captain Robert Nairac and the Portadown UVF is also well known and is but one facet of the long history of collusion.

Under-stated as it was the McEntee report highlighted a massive failure on the part of this State to properly investigate the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of May 1974. The only logical explanation for what took place is a cover-up of collusion. Gross incompetence is not enough to explain the failure to investigate and the apparent destruction of records. The report again exposed the refusal of the British authorities to co-operate with a Commission of inquiry established by the Oireachtas.

Prior to the publication of the McEntee Report we in Sinn Féin published a Dáil motion on collusion that was drafted in consultation with groups such as the Pat Finucane Centre, the Justice for Eddie Fullerton Campaign, Justice for the Forgotten and Relatives for Justice. Such a motion should have formed the basis for this debate.

I want to restate some of the key points we made in that motion.

The findings of a variety of Reports justify the demand for full, independent, public judicial inquiries including:

- the Barron Report which concluded in relation to the Dublin-Monaghan bombings that a cover-up involving British forces, Gardaí and the Irish Government could not be ruled out;

- The Cory Report into the Murder of Pat Finucane and the involvement of at least five agents of the British State in that one particular killing;

- the Report of the Independent International Panel on Collusion in Sectarian Killings which concluded that in 24 of the 25 cases examined, including the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, there is "significant and credible evidence of involvement of police and military agents of the United Kingdom, both directly and in collusion with loyalist extremists";

- The various Oireachtas Committee Reports on various acts of collusion;

- The former Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan's Investigative Report into the circumstances surrounding the death of Raymond McCord Jnr and related matters which exposed the systemic reality and extent of collusion including collusion in attacks undertaken by loyalist paramilitaries in the 26 Counties.

Both the British and Irish governments have failed to establish the inquiries repeatedly sought by relatives seeking truth and justice. This is despite statements such as those by the Taoiseach as recently as 10 December 2007 when he said that the suffering of victims had been sharpened "by the clear evidence of collusion by the security forces in many murders".

It is now nearly two years since the All-Party Dáil motion of 8th March 2006 which called for the immediate establishment of a full, independent, public judicial inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. The British government has refused to establish such an inquiry. It persists in proposing a flawed form of inquiry which would be under the effective control of a British minister. The Irish government's case in calling for a full inquiry has been undermined not only by its own failure to establish collusion inquiries but also its own Tribunals of Inquiry Bill.

No one can deny we are in need of new legislation to govern the work of tribunals. The existing legislation dates back as far as 1921. And it must be clear to everyone that spiralling legal costs and the refusal of witnesses to co-operate with tribunals needs to be addressed. However, as the Tribunals of Inquiry Bill is currently drafted Sinn Féin must oppose it. We believe the proposed legislation could be used by future governments to stop public inquiries from delivering the truth to the public and to the families of victims of collusion in particular.

The Bill as currently drafted is very similar to the British Inquiries Act. That Act is widely viewed as having been constructed to act as a barrier to a full public inquiry taking place into the murder of Pat Finucane. This Bill if passed would not only jeopardise the ability of any future tribunal to uncover the truth surrounding the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the murders of Seamus Ludlow, Cllr. Eddie Fullerton and Martin Doherty amongst others. It would also undermine the cases of all those in the Six Counties who are seeking inquiries into state collusion because the British government could point to this legislation in order to justify their own.

This Bill would effectively give the government power over whether to establish a Tribunal of Inquiry at all, its members and crucially its terms of reference. It would also effectively give the government the power to suspend or dissolve a Tribunal for unlimited reasons and to prevent the publication of a Tribunal's report. In our view this is completely unacceptable and will not instil any confidence amongst either the general public or more crucially those who have been specifically affected and are seeking the full truth about events.

The relatives and those representing victims of collusion have long sought full, independent and public inquiries. I believe we must work together to ensure that no legislation is introduced that would jeopardise and compromise the independence of future inquiries that we have been seeking for so long.

Two months after the Dáil unanimously passed the all-party motion calling for an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane, Ken Barrett, the only person convicted in connection with the murder, was released after serving three years. He was brought by the British Ministry of Defence to a secret hideout outside Ireland.

In the case of Ken Barrett, a deal was done and a guilty plea ensured that there was no trial and no exposure of the central role of British forces in the murder. The same thing happened with the other British agent involved in the Finucane murder - Brian Nelson. So collusion is ongoing. The British are still protecting their agents. They have refused the demand of the Oireachtas for an inquiry.

I want to repeat Sinn Féin's demand for the Taoiseach to hold a special summit meeting with the British Prime Minister solely focused on the issue of collusion. The Taoiseach should create such an opportunity to demand of the British government that they provide access to all the original documents relating to the acts of collusion carried out in this jurisdiction that I have cited and indeed to the whole record of collusion in their possession. The search for truth and justice is far from over.

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