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Ard Fheis - Ó Caoláin - Blair must be challenged on collusion

28 February, 2004


Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin speaking during the peace process debate at the party's Ard Fheis in Dublin this morning said: It is not good enough for the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to throw up his hands and say that he has to believe the British when they claim they supplied all relevant information to Judge Barron. They most certainly did not. He needs to challenge Blair as we in the Sinn Féin delegation did in his presence in Downing Street last December.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

In supporting motions 68 and 69 on attacks and collusion in this State by the British government I want to assert first of all the right of Irish republicans to raise these issues. Let us be very clear. There must be no hierarchy of victims and each and every death in the conflict since 1969 was a tragedy. That includes combatants on all sides and civilians. However grievous the armed actions of republicans in that period they accepted responsibility for them. All those actions were pursued and investigated by the British state in the Six Counties and many hundreds of republicans were tried and imprisoned. Many were imprisoned for actions for which they were not responsible. But what of the participants in the armed conflict from the British side? The British state has never admitted responsibility for most of its armed actions resulting in deaths and injuries on a huge scale, including in this jurisdiction. Not a single one of them has served a day in prison in this State for their offences here.

The British made their intentions clear for anyone who chose to investigate. British Army Brigadier Frank Kitson described their strategy in his book Low Intensity Operations in which he said the law should be "just another weapon in the Government's arsenal" and "little more than propaganda cover for the disposal of unwanted members of the public". He brought to Ireland his experience in counter-insurgency in Kenya, Malaya, Oman and Cyprus and set out the strategy of using loyalist paramilitaries as the tools of the British armed forces. For nationalists in the Six Counties and the Border counties during the '70s and '80s such collusion was not a hidden hand -- it was obvious to everyone. The UDA was not even banned by the British government until 1988.

This is the background against which we must judge the failure of successive Irish governments to confront the issue of collusion and the responsibility of the British government for the deaths of at least 47 people in this jurisdiction and hundreds in the Six Counties. As the Barron Report on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings makes clear, the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition government of that time chose to turn away.

They showed little interest in the investigation. They would not face the implications of the fact that the government of what they described as a neighbouring friendly country could be responsible for an atrocity deliberately carried out against civilians in this State. Because of that refusal to confront reality and to confront the British government itself, successive Irish governments abandoned their own citizens -- the injured, the survivors and the bereaved of Dublin, Monaghan, Belturbet, Dundalk, Castleblayney, Kildare and Buncrana.

It is not good enough for the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to throw up his hands and say that he has to believe the British when they claim they supplied all relevant information to Judge Barron. They most certainly did not. He needs to challenge Blair as we in the Sinn Féin delegation did in his presence in Downing Street last December.

This May we will mark the 30th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the only fitting way for that anniversary to be marked is for the truth to be told.

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