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Kenny must continually press Cameron on Dublin Monaghan files – Ó Caoláin

17 May, 2011 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD


Speaking in the Dáil this evening on a Sinn Féin Private Members’ Motion on the Dublin Monaghan Bombings Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the scheduling of the first day of the visit of the British Queen on the anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings showed gross insensitivity.

Deputy Ó Caoláin criticised Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s record on the issue describing it as less than satisfactory and said British Prime Minister David Cameron should take the opportunity while in Ireland tomorrow to give a commitment to release all files in Britain’s possession relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

He said:

“The purpose of this motion is firstly to reaffirm and reiterate the call made unanimously by the Dáil on 10 July 2008. That resolution, as set out again in our motion, urged the British government to open all relevant files on the atrocities inquired into by Judge Henry Barron.

“The responses of the current Taoiseach Enda Kenny have been less than satisfactory. I accept that he has not been long in office. Nonetheless this should be a priority item in any meeting on Irish-British relations between the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister until the request of the Dáil motion is complied with.

“It is especially frustrating that successive Taoisigh have failed in this regard in the context of the current visit of the Queen of England. Scheduling the first day of that visit on the very anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings showed gross insensitivity. Clearly, this major outstanding issue, this legacy of the conflict, was far from the minds of those who initiated, planned and organized this visit.

“Does the British government really recognize the suffering of the victims of collusion? Does it acknowledge the legitimate attempts of the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, and other fatal, cross-border acts of collusion, to seek redress?

“If it does, then let David Cameron act accordingly.

“He should do it tomorrow when he is here in Ireland by making a commitment to release the files. If he fails to do so then he must be continually pressed on this matter by the Taoiseach, as mandated in this further all-party motion.

“The unanswered questions remain. Now is the time for answers.” ENDS

Full text of Deputy Ó Caoláin’s contribution follows:

Sinn Féin Private Members Motion 17.5.11

Caoimhghín O Caoláin TD (Cavan-Monaghan)

I wish to formally move the motion on behalf of the Sinn Féin Teachtaí Dála and I welcome the co-signing of this motion by An Taoiseach and the other party leaders.

The purpose of this motion is firstly to reaffirm and reiterate the call made unanimously by the Dáil on 10 July 2008. That resolution, as set out again in our motion, urged the British government to open all relevant files on the atrocities inquired into by Judge Henry Barron.

It should not have been necessary to put this motion before the Dáil. The motion and the debate reflect the frustration of the survivors and the bereaved of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 17 May 1974 and of the other atrocities inquired into. They have waited for almost three years now for the British government to act on the motion. They have also waited for the former Taoiseach to press his British counterpart to act. On both counts they have been deeply disappointed.

The motion also reflects the patience and endurance of the survivors and the bereaved. The unanimous call of the Dáil on 10 July 2008 was not a one-off event.

It was the latest step in a long process in which the Oireachtas engaged with the families, initiated investigations, established committees, held public hearings and published reports.

Through all of this the Oireachtas received no real co-operation from the British authorities. The reports themselves expressed frustration at this lack of co-operation.

It was a logical step then for the Dáil to adopt the motion of 10 July 2008 calling on the British government – and I stress the British government – to act. I regret that successive Taoisigh in answer to questions from myself and others have attempted to present this as somehow a matter for the Clerk of the House of Commons or even for the Whips in this House. The July 2008 motion stated clearly, as quoted in the motion before the Dail now, that it called on the British government to release all the relevant files to an independent, international figure.

It would be difficult to count the number of times I questioned former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern on this matter. Again and again I urged him to press the case for openness, truth and justice with the British government. While not often enough, nor vigorous enough, I can and will say that in fairness to Bertie Ahern he did raise the matter with Tony Blair. The motion of 10 July 2008 gave a strengthened mandate to the Irish Government to pursue this matter. I regret to have to say that they failed to take up that mandate. Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen showed no embarrassment whatsoever when he admitted that he had not raised the issue with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a failure he repeatedly confirmed.

The responses of the current Taoiseach Enda Kenny have been less than satisfactory. I accept that he has not been long in office. Nonetheless this should be a priority item in any meeting on Irish-British relations between the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister until the request of the Dail motion is complied with.

It is especially frustrating that successive Taoisigh have failed in this regard in the context of the current visit of the Queen of England. Scheduling the first day of that visit on the very anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings showed gross insensitivity. Clearly, this major outstanding issue, this legacy of the conflict, was far from the minds of those who initiated, planned and organized this visit.

I salute the fore-bearance of the relatives who turned the insult into an opportunity. They have asked that the British Prime Minister David Cameron take this opportunity to agree to release the files. He should do so without further delay.

There are some who argue that all this should be forgotten or set aside. It was forgotten by most except those immediately affected by it. It was set aside. That was why the group representing the survivors and the bereaved was called Justice for the Forgotten.

This was for years the tragedy that was deliberately forgotten by official Ireland.

The Garda investigation was closed down within a matter of months. In the aftermath of the tragedy the then Fine Gael/Labour Government attempted to place responsibility for the bombings on the shoulders of Irish republicans. In fact they effectively parroted the argument of the unionist paramilitaries that it was provocation from republicans that led to the bombings.

The rationale for the massacre was obvious. It was designed to ensure that the Irish Government was put in its place and that the public in this State were terrified.

The spectre of the backlash was created in order to suppress any expression of solidarity with the plight of nationalists in the North, any expression of the legitimate republican demand for an end to partition and British military withdrawal. Within the British state system there were clearly forces, closely allied with unionism and with loyalist paramilitaries, who had a common interest in toppling the Stormont Executive. If this also destabilized the Labour government of Harold Wilson, then well and good as far as many of them were concerned.

There are those who will accuse us of raking over old issues and opening old wounds. But these are unresolved issues of truth and justice. Wounds are still open.

It is quite galling that many of those who make such statements did little themselves to aid the search for justice or, worse, actually impeded that search.

Similarly, we are being implored, in the context of the current State visit, to set these matters aside, to ‘move on’ even to ‘grow up’ as a nation. These are patronizing and insulting attitudes. They might have some shred of credibility if those who uttered them had any kind of track record in challenging the British state on its role in Ireland. But their record is mostly blank. In fact, many of them would have welcomed the current State visit even at the height of the conflict.

We make no apology for returning to this issue of justice. We do so conscious of the fact that there are victims on all sides of the conflict and many unresolved issues. We have called for an international truth process and we have said that Irish republicans would be prepared to play their part in such a process. But there is no such process in place and it is only right that those who seek the full facts on events such as the Dublin and Monaghan bombings should be accorded their right to truth by the British government.

I recall the 17th May 1974 when tragedy visited my home town of Monaghan and seven of our citizens lost their lives. That left a deep scar in our town and a memory that is still vivid. More than three times that number were killed in Dublin where 26 people lost their lives on that day – 10 in Parnell Street, 14 in Talbot Street and two in South Leinster Street.

And our focus is not only on 17 May 1974. The investigative process initiated by the Oireachtas and which led to the publication of the Barron reports had a wider remit in terms of other incidents.

As well as his inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974, cases Barron examined, to a greater or lesser degree, the bombing of Belturbet, County Cavan in December 1972 in which two teenage civilians were killed, the Dublin bombings of December 1972 and January 1973 in which three bus workers were killed, the killing of IRA Volunteer John Francis Green in County Monaghan in January 1975, the Kay’s Tavern, Dundalk bombing of December 1975 in which two civilians were killed, the Castleblayney bombing of March 1976 in which Patrick Moen was killed and the killing of civilian Séamus Ludlow in County Louth in May 1976.

In a process arising out of the Barron reports, Senior Counsel Patrick McEntee carried out a probe of the Garda investigation of the 1974 bombings.

While the process, from the beginning, fell far short of the public inquiry demanded by justice campaigners, it did throw a spotlight on these events. It is clear from all the reports that there was collusion between agents of the British state and those who carried out those bombings. All the evidence and experience of that time and of later years points to extensive use of unionist paramilitaries as a key component of British counter-insurgency strategy in Ireland.

Hard evidence for that lies somewhere in the archives of the British state. It must be brought to light.

In other circumstances the British government itself has been quick to point out the need for truth and justice and support for the victims of violence and conflict.

It was reported last week that a group was proposing to travel from the North of Ireland to Libya, reportedly to represent relatives of people killed by the IRA. They were advised by the British Foreign Office to speak to the Libyan Transitional Council in London. The Belfast Newsletter on 13 May reported the following comment from the British Foreign Office:

“It is clear that if the Libyan people choose a new future for themselves and their country there might be huge opportunities to find out about the support for terrorism that did so much damage to the UK.

“The government attaches huge importance to acknowledging the suffering of victims and to their legitimate attempts to seek redress.”

Does the British government really recognize the suffering of the victims of collusion?  Does it acknowledge the legitimate attempts of the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, and other fatal, cross-border acts of collusion, to seek redress?

If it does, then let David Cameron act accordingly.

He should do it tomorrow when he is here in Ireland by making a commitment to release the files. If he fails to do so then he must be continually pressed on this matter by the Taoiseach, as mandated in this further all-party motion.

The unanswered questions remain. Now is the time for answers.

ENDS

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