Oireachtas Final Report on the Dundalk Bombing and other Atrocities in the 1970s
At the outset we bear in mind that the Dundalk bombing, the Castleblayney bombing and the Dublin Airport bombing were acts of international terrorism where terrorists from another jurisdiction entered this one to murder and maim innocent civilians. . .
The fact that collusion occurred in these acts of international terrorism raises profound questions as to our relationship with the United Kingdom. The fact that we are dealing with acts of international terrorism also raises the question about whether or not the UK can legitimately refuse to co-operate with the investigation.
(Quote from The Final Report of the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Bombing of Kay's Tavern, Dundalk.) - Excerpts begin here -
While the Oireachtas committee report on the murder of Seamus Ludlow led to no public inquiry and instead to a further garda murder investigation - which was still ongoing several months later - and a call for yet another private inquiry - which has yet to commence - there remained hope - if not much confidence - that the committee would do better with its fourth and final report on the work of Mr Justice Henry Barron.
The families of the murdered Jack Rooney and Hugh Watters, the victims of the Kay's Tavern bombing in Dundalk, and other victims of collusion, waited in hope that the committee would not disappoint. The report that finally emerged went much further than all three previous reports issued by the committee, with the UK's role in collusion finally exposed for all the world to see!
Dundalk Bombing Report Finds Collusion
Widespread collusion between loyalist paramilitary killers and the British forces in the Six Counties in the murderous bombing of Dundalk on 19 December 1975, and other deadly attacks in the 1970s, was confirmed on 29 November 2006 by the Oireachtas justice sub-committee report into the bombing of Kay's Tavern.
The killings of Jack Rooney and Hugh Watters in Dundalk and others elsewhere involved UVF/RUC/UDR personnel (the so-called Glenanne Gang) and, it is suggested, there was also involvement of state knowledge and direction.
The killers of Seamus Ludlow, from Mountpleasant, north of Dundalk, in May 1976 are known to have been members of a different gang (the Red Hand Commando, an offshoot of the UVF) from the Comber-Bangor district of north Down - though two of them were also members of the UDR!
According to the oireachtas report members of the then UK Labour cabinet and leaders of the main opposition party, the Conservative Party, certainly knew of the RUC/UDR involvement with loyalist killers in the 1970s and did nothing. By doing nothing they let it continue - an act of collusion in murder!
As the Irish Daily Mirror (30 November) editorial put it: "The findings are a damning indictment of the British Government, which has blood on its hands".
“It is our submission, first, that the fatal bomb attacks in Dundalk on 19 December 1975 and in Castleblayney on 7 March 1976 were carried out by loyalist paramilitaries acting in collusion with members of the Northern Ireland security forces. The gang was operating out of a base in Glenanne, County Armagh. Second, the British Government continues to provide incomplete and at times misleading information regarding the activities of this gang and the extent to which the authorities were aware of their activities. Third, there remains a legal and moral responsibility on the Irish government to establish all the facts surrounding these incidents.”
(This quote from the Oireachtas report is evidence given to the Oireachtas Committee by Alan Brecknell and Paul O'Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre, Derry. Alan Brecknell's late father - named Trevor - was one of those murdered by the Glenanne Gang at Silverbridge, south Armagh, on the evening of 19 December 1976)
It is revealed that the Irish government complained to the British government in August 1975 that four members of the RUC in the Portadown area were also members of the UVF! The Oireachtas committee report said it could not understand why the documentation in relation to this stops dead on September 3rd, 1975, given the gravity of the issue. Another case of files missing, files destroyed or files never maintained - a common thread in all previous Barron and Oireachtas reports into collusion in murder!
The Oireachtas sub-committee, of five TDs and two senators, had been considering the fourth and final report of Mr Justice Henry Barron which was finally published on 5 July 2006. In all the report deals with several loyalist gun and bomb outrages and a total of 18 deaths on both sides of the border.
This was now the second major report to raise the spectre British state collusion as a major factor in mass murder in Ireland during the 1970s.
an international panel of human rights experts, brought together by the Pat
Finucane Centre, Derry, released a 115-page report that claimed to have uncovered evidence of British Army and
RUC police collusion in dozens
of sectarian murders.
The fourth Barron report on the Kay's Tavern bombing of 19 December 1975, which killed two Dundalk men, Jack Rooney and Hugh Watters, and left several more injured, says the actions of the northern security forces allowed a climate to develop where loyalists believed they could attack Catholics "with impunity".
Members of the RUC and British Army's UDR probably knew of the plan to attack Dundalk on December 19, 1975 even though they may not have taken part themselves in planting the car bomb outside Kay's Tavern in Crowe Street which killed two men and injured many more.
That was the principal conclusion of the Barron Report.
In addition, said Justice Barron, the RUC may have kept information from gardaí investigating a bombing in order to hide security force collusion in attacks.
The Barron report repeats claims of links between members of the RUC, UDR and the UVF in the gang that perpetrated this and many other sectarian murders in the border area.
Justice Barron said the Dundalk bombing was carried out by loyalists, most
probably associated with the mid-Ulster UVF. The gang was led by senior
loyalists from the Portadown area.
As stated above, the Barron report singled out the farm of RUC reservist James Mitchell as a centre of operations for loyalist paramilitary activity at the height of the Troubles.
Mr Justice Henry Barron first referred to the Mitchell farm at Glenanne, near Newtownhamilton, in his earlier report on the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
In his final report, the former Supreme Court judge repeated his belief that the farm provided a base for the UVF men who carried out bomb attacks on both sides of the border in the mid-seventies, including the 1975 Dundalk bombing.
While Justice Barron did not find proof of collusion, the Oireachtas sub-committee had the benefit of overwhelming witness and documentary evidence which demanded such a ruling.
a press conference in the grounds of the Dáil in Dublin, 29 November 2006, the Justice committee
concluded that British security force members were involved in the attacks:
“We now have enough information to be fully satisfied not only that it
(collusion) occurred, but that it was widespread.”
he said it was absolutely essential the British government examine the findings
of all of the reports on collusion.
The Oireachtas Committee's report was highly critical of many aspects of the original garda investigation, the failure to follow leads and the absence of documentation.
The Committee report said it received contradictory evidence as to whether there are written records maintained by C3 - the garda intelligence section - on the knowledge of the participants in the Glenanne gang. Retired Garda Sergeant Eoin Corrigan stated he was aware of it.
The report says Mr. Justice Barron does not appear to have had the opportunity to establish when Mr Corrigan became aware of it or what families have lost people at the hands of the Glenanne gang on a date after its activities became known either to the authorities in the North or the South.
The Committee's report endorsed the following comments of Mr. James McGuill, Dundalk, solicitor acting for the Rooney and Watters families, speaking at the oral hearings into the fourth Barron Report into the Dundalk bombing:
“At what level was the information about the Glenanne gang known? If it was known by the ordinary Garda officers on the street in Dundalk that this gang operated and that there were UDR and RUC personnel in it, one of two things happened: it was either recorded in a file or was purposely not recorded in a file. If it was recorded in a file and nothing was done, that is a disgrace. If there was a purpose behind it not being recorded in a file, it is a scandal.”
Now that the Oireachtas committee has spoken, it is revealed for all the world to see that Britain colluded with the vile killers of Jack Rooney and Hugh Watters in the Dundalk bombing of 19 December 1975 and in the killings of other Irish people on both sides of the border in the 1970s at least.
The level of collusion uncovered by the Oireachtas committee was described by Irish Green Party leader Trevor Sargent as "deeply disturbing" as he supported the victims' families calls for a public inquiry. Unfortunately, the Oireachtas report fell short of that demand!
Speaking before the report's publication, Mr Sargent, who visited Dundalk the night before, called for Irish government action on the findings once the report was released next day:
"The Irish government had concerns in the mid-1970s that loyalist paramilitaries and agents of the British state colluded to cause harm to life in the south of Ireland.
"This confirms the pattern of behaviour that has been recently reported by international legal and human rights experts on behalf of the Pat Finucane Centre in Derry. The consistent reports of high-level collusion demand a public inquiry.
Mr Sargent was not exaggerating the gravity of the still unpublished report.
Next day the long-festering truth was revealed!
The Oireachtas report sensationally accused the British forces of widespread collusion with loyalists in 'acts of international terrorism'. It was the most categoric indictment yet of the role of British agents in murderous acts on both sides of the border in the 1970s.
The Irish Daily Mail (30 November) reported how the joint Oireachtas committee said:
'the spectre of collusion' at the height of the Troubles was widespread'.
Damningly, they accused British security forces of involvement in 'the butchering of innocent victims'.
The committee said it was 'fully satisfied' that there was collusion in a whole series of loyalist gun and bomb attacks - including several south of the border. . .
Equally damning is the committee's finding that the British cabinet of the day knew the full extent to which its security forces had been infiltrated by loyalist terrorists but failed to respond. . .
The previous Barron report and this Oireachtas report on the Dundalk bombing and other incidents were hampered by the British government's refusal to cooperate! As the Oireachtas committee itself said there was no valid reason why the British authorities should not assist in uncovering the full truth and extent of collusion.
The committee said:
"We are horrified that persons who were employed by the British administration to preserve peace and to protect people were engaged in the creation of violence and the butchering of innocent victims..
"We are of the view that these matters cannot be swept under the carpet. . ."
The report found abundant evidence to suggest that the Dublin authorities knew about the British state involvement in murders during the 1970s.
The relatives of Jack Rooney and Hugh Watters, and the relatives of 16 other victims of the so-called Glenanne Gang of UVF/RUC/UDR killers, who are covered by this report, are quite justified in their anger at the British government's refusal to hand over documents that might have assisted Mr Justice Barron and the Oireachtas Committee in their inquiries.
They are also justified in their anger at their treatment at the hands of the Garda and the Dublin authorities, who let them down at every turn throughout the last thirty painful years. Quite simply, the government and the garda washed their hands of them, hoping they would simply go away!
The Rooney and Watters families were ably represented by James McGuill, solicitor. Here is the report's account of his argument regarding the dramatic revelation of a prior warning, and the quality of information regarding the garda response to the warning being presented to the sub-committee:
96) Mr. James MacGuill, solicitor for the Watters and Rooney families, observed that one of the most important issues to emerge from the Barron report was the previously undisclosed information that the authorities had received a credible warning about the bomb either two days or four days before it happened depending on how one reads the report. He said that the families were entitled to expect that official witnesses appearing before the Sub-Committee would come before it with hard facts. Instead, he complained that members were treated to a series of “it would have happened” or “this would have been done”. He said that the evidence given has made the families’ feeling of utter astonishment at the failure to act on the warning even worse. He pointed out that it is clear that the warning, as people identified, came from within approximately 250 yards of the main church in the centre of Dundalk, practically pinpoint to where the bomb went off. He pointed out that Dundalk was a very small town back then and “You could not move as a stranger in the town of Dundalk and plant a bomb if someone was looking for you.” Yet it appears that whatever would have happened would have happened at another part of the town. Nobody went to the bother of establishing where the patrols where supposed to have been, whether the individual gardaí were interviewed or what steps were taken. Mr. MacGuill said that it is utterly astonishing that evidence was given on a would have basis to this Sub-Committee in relation to a very specific concern identified on behalf of the families and that this has not been addressed.
The report also quotes - indeed, it makes the point that it is worth quoting in full - the following passage from the very strong presentation made at the oral hearings by solicitor Mr. James MacGuill, who stated that:
“Again, from the families' point of view, it is now established a warning was received from the RUC and that it was considered so urgent it had to be communicated first by telephone and then in writing. It appears even to this day that Gardaí cannot establish when they received the warning. It is suggested that the warning was received on 15 December and confirmed in writing on 16 December. Yet, as of last week a statement claims it was given on 17 December. We have not been told, despite the fact that the committee has given him every opportunity to give the information, what steps were taken in reliance on that warning. Is there to this day a culture of secrecy and silence, an unwillingness to identify errors in the past? Is this something that could happen again? Failure by this committee to note that failure on the part of the authorities may support or contribute to failures in the future.
To suggest that the warning could not be acted upon because it was vague without at the same time indicating whether any efforts were made to firm it up or to get more detail on it, is quite simply an affront to the families. If somebody warns you that something is about to happen but you do not feel there is enough information to prevent it, you ask questions such as ‘who do you think are plotting it?’, ‘can we have photographs of them?’ and ‘can we put the Army, the Garda, the Civil Defence, the FCA on alert?’ None of this was done. The people responsible do not believe they owe it to this committee to explain that failure. It is astonishing that lives could have been saved if action had been taken. The fact that people do not believe they have to account for this is, unfortunately, an affront to the families who are anxious that their personal concerns be put on record here today. They do not expect the committee to hold a public inquiry into their case only. They are however anxious to address the committee in detail on why there should be an inquiry to address all the questions of the families who have lost people through collusion whether by omission or by commission.”
Again as to prior warnings, mentioned by Mr McGuill, that an attack in Dundalk was being planned and the Gardai's failure to prevent it, the Sub-Committee's report makes the following comments:
99) The Sub-Committee is deeply concerned that in light of the warnings given the Gardaí were not in a position to take more effective steps to prevent the atrocities occurring. While it is never possible to stop all attacks by determined terrorists, given the nature of the warning and the relatively small size of the target towns it is surprising to say the least that persons from another jurisdiction were able to arrive, plant large lethal devices and leave again without being detected. It is even more surprising when one considers that the persons who planted the devices either were or should have been well known to the Gardai, given what appears to be their multiple participation in terrorist atrocities. We do not accept any attempt to minimise this issue by suggesting that there were continuous warnings issuing at the time and so it was difficult to deal with them all and this warning was nothing different. This warning was different. It was sufficiently clear and it was sufficiently specific.
100) The Sub-Committee is of the view that the specific nature of the warning shows that it came from someone who was close to the perpetrators. One question which arises is whether whatever informant was the source of the RUC’s information about the Dundalk bombing also passed on information about other atrocities and, if so, what steps, if any, were taken on foot of that information.
It was revealed that Mr Justice Henry Barron, the retired judge who in 2003 published his report on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of May 1974, had in 2001 requested the publication of a British bomb disposal expert's report on the bombing of Kay's Tavern.
The report had been commissioned by Justice for the Forgotten. It stated that IRA methods of crystallization for extracting nitrates when making bombs were not learned by loyalist groups until the end of the 1970s.
The Oireachtas report found that the bomb detonated at Kay's Tavern was most likely made from from explosives seized from the IRA. A second bomb which exploded on the same day outside a bar in Silverbridge, Co Armagh, killing three people, was found to contain similar materials.
The British bomb expert concluded that only five people, all British soldiers, would have had access to both the seized explosives and the loyalist killer gangs.
The committee had harsh words for successive Dublin governments which it accused of ignoring clear evidence of collusion at the time.
'The fact that little or nothing was done to address this is, to put it mildly, alarming', the report stated.
The Oireachtas committee based part of its research on official British files obtained from the national archives in London, including documents about loyalist paramilitary infiltration of both the RUC and the UDR. The latter was the locally-recruited and mainly Protestant/loyalist reserve military force that replaced the notorious B Specials.
The British document, entitled 'Subversion in the UDR', was written in 1973 by British military intelligence, and it estimated five to 15 per cent of UDR soldiers were linked to loyalist paramilitary groups like the UVF. The UDR was seen as the 'best single source of modern weapons, for Protestant extremist groups'.
A memo from a British civil servant recording a meeting in September 1975 between British premier Harold Wilson, opposition tory party leader and future premier Margaret Thatcher and the then Northern Ireland Secretary of State Merlyn Rees, shed further light on the issue.
The memo concluded 'there were certain elements in the police who were very close to the UVF, and who were prepared to hand over information, for example, to Mr Paisley'.
As to how early the British state was made aware of the existence and true extent of collusion, the following passage from the report referring to evidence of Mr Paul O'Connor, of the Pat Finucane Centre, provides startling reading
76) In response to Mr. O’Connor’s submissions Deputy Lynch asked how early the British Government knew of infiltration of the UDR. The Pat Finucane Centre outlined that in the Public Record Office it had discovered a number of documents marked ‘weapon losses’. They detailed each occasion on which weapons were lost, beginning in 1971. Behind a significant number of those documents on the right hand side the words ‘collusion suspected’ were marked.
So here we have vital evidence that leaders of the British military and the two main British parties, who between them have governed the UK (and the Six Counties) throughout the Troubles, had certain knowledge of collusion between elements within the RUC and the UDR and the loyalist death squads - and they did nothing about it!
Commenting on the Oireachtas report, Margaret Urwin of Justice for the Forgotten, said: I think the findings are absolutely brilliant and powerful. Nobody could have asked for more and I want to congratulate the committee on doing that".
But she did go on to criticise the committee for its failure to call immediately for a public inquiry.
The Irish Daily Mail in its editorial commented: "It has long been suspected that, at least on a number of occasions, British undercover agents did indeed collude with loyalist terrorists - on both sides of the border. That suspicion has now been replaced. In the eyes of a respected Dail committee and by extension in the eyes of the Irish Government, by a near-certainty.
"A series of gun and bomb attacks during the 1970s that were investigated by Mr Justice Henry Barron, and subsequently by the Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality, all show prima facie evidence of collusion. So too, it appears, do inquiries into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
Readers are encouraged to download the Oireachtas report from the Oireachtas website using the links on this page.
Meanwhile, an excerpt from the Oireachtas report begins below. The excerpt continues on other pages which can be accessed by links at the bottom.
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Excerpt from the Oireachtas Report
Introduction and Victims’ voices
1) By motions of referral by Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann dated 5 July, 2006, as amended on 9 November 2006, both houses of the Oireachtas requested the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, or a Sub-Committee thereof, to consider, including in public session, the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the bombing of Kay’s Tavern, Dundalk and report back to the Dáil and Seanad by 1 December 2006 for the purposes of making such recommendations regarding legislative or administrative provisions as the committee considers appropriate.
2) These are the circumstances, which led the Joint Committee to establish the Sub- Committee on the Barron Report. The Committee was empowered under the motions of referral to accept, including in public session, submissions on the Report from interested persons and others, and to report back to the houses, and analogous powers were conferred on the Sub-Committee. This report has been issued accordingly.
3) During the course of his work on the Dundalk bombing Judge Barron received and considered additional information concerning other subversive attacks and incidents that occurred in the State between 1974 and 1976. This was in line with a specific request from the Government that the inquiry take into account other bombing incidents that coincided with the relevant period. The Sub-Committee therefore, also included these incidents in its agenda for consideration.
4) It is necessary to outline how the Sub-Committee approached its review of the Barron Report and the legal boundaries within which they conducted their inquiries. At all times the Committee was bound by its very precise terms of reference. In particular, the Sub-Committee was not conducting an investigation of its own accord nor was it the function of the Sub-Committee to reach its own findings of fact. The Committee is both legally and constitutionally bound to follow the decision of the Supreme Court in the Abbeylara case (Maguire v Ardagh  1 IR 385). In that case Mr. Justice Hardiman stated that:
“If the Oireachtas were enabled to send for any citizen and to reach findings of fact or conclusions which could be adverse to him and affect his reputation and employment, it would indeed be functioning as a ‘High Court of Parliament’ and its members would indeed be ‘general inquisitors of the realm’, to use the archaic language employed by the English courts to describe the former powers of the Westminister parliament. I have not heard anything which confers such a power on the Oireachtas, either in relation to civil or public servants or in relation to citizens generally”.
Mr. Justice Geoghegan stated:
“Any kind of inquiry by an Oireachtas committee or sub-committee for a direct and express legislative purpose and which would not be intended to result in findings of blameworthy conduct on the part of identifiable individuals is constitutionally and legally permissible.”
As a result of this decision, the Sub-Committee is prevented from making any findings or expressions of culpability against individuals who are not members of the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Sub-Committee asked that those involved would bear this in mind at all times.
5) At the outset we bear in mind that the Dundalk bombing, the Castleblaney bombing and the Dublin Airport bombing were acts of international terrorism where terrorists from another jurisdiction entered this one to murder and maim innocent civilians. We also bear in mind the words of Mr. Paul O’Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre who suggested that one of the ways of ensuring that incidents such as those discussed in the report do not happen again is to have full acknowledgement and accountability and that this can only occur where there is complete public knowledge of what actually happened. In particular if the persons responsible for facilitating those acts of terrorism or of closing their eyes to them are made accountable (even if a criminal prosecution is unlikely at this remove in time) then in the words of Mr. James MacGuill, solicitor for the Watters and Rooney families, it will serve as “an indication that no other State official can hope to conduct himself in this way in the belief that his conduct will be condoned by secrecy or otherwise”. In the era of 9/11, Madrid and London the lessons to be learned from the acts of international terrorism that occurred in this country are a matter of urgent and pressing concern. Thus the Sub-Committee believes that it is engaged in something far more serious and pressing than a historical exercise.
The fact that collusion occurred in these acts of international terrorism raises profound questions as to our relationship with the United Kingdom. The fact that we are dealing with acts of international terrorism also raises the question about whether or not the UK can legitimately refuse to co-operate with the investigation.
6) The Sub-Committee also notes that its work in respect of these acts of international terrorism cannot be separated from its consideration of other terrorist acts. As Ms. Margaret Urwin of Justice for the Forgotten clearly explained:
“… on the completion of the fourth Barron report we can confidently make links between four attacks in the South in the two year period from May 1974 to March 1976: the Dublin-Monaghan bombings of May 1974, the shooting of Mr. John Francis Greene in January 1975, the Dundalk bombing of December 1975 and the Castleblaney bombing of March 1976.
In three cases bombs were placed without warnings. These cross-Border attacks claimed the lives of 38 people.”
7) During the course of this inquiry, the Sub-Committee also considered a number of atrocities that occurred in Northern Ireland during this period in particular; the gun and bomb attack at Donnelly’s Bar, Silverbridge, County Armagh; the Attack on the Reavey Family at their home at Whitecross near Markethill, County Armagh; the attack on the O’Dowd family at their home in Ballyduggan, Gilford, County Down; the gun and bomb attack at The Rock Bar, Tassagh, Keady, County Armagh and the attack on the Miami Showband in Banbridge, County Down.
8) It is suggested that this report should be read alongside our three previous reports and, in particular, the issue of collusion should be considered across all four of our reports. The three previous reports we have conducted are:
(i) Final Report on the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings (March 2004).
(ii) Final Report on the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin Bombings of 1972 and 1973 (February 2005).
(iii) Final Report on the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Murder of Seamus Ludlow (March 2006).
9) The examination of the Report of the Independent Commission (hereinafter referred to as the Barron Report) commenced with oral submissions from surviving victims of the atrocities and bereaved relatives. The Sub-Committee wished to hear from these people at the outset of the hearings in order to place them at the centre of its work. It was also felt that hearing from the victims and their relatives would focus attention on the grief and distress which these people since.
10) The chairman of the Sub-Committee, Deputy Seán Ardagh, highlighted how invaluable the contributions of the families and the survivors are to the working of the committee and formally thanked them for their attendance and the immense courage that they displayed in sharing their stories.
11) A selection of quotes from the victims and victims’ families have been included in order to give an insight into what the Sub-Committee heard. In order to uncover further details of their stories it is necessary to read the full transcripts, which are available on the Oireachtas website.
The bombing of Kay’s Tavern in Dundalk.
12) On the evening of 19 December 1975, a car bomb exploded on Crowe Street, Dundalk outside a licensed premises known as “Kay’s Tavern”. Two people were killed in the explosion, Hugh Watters, aged 60, and Jack Rooney, aged 62. Both men were married, with children. Many more persons were injured. The ensuing Garda investigation into the bombing was unable to find sufficient evidence to charge anyone in relation to the attack. In his report, which this Committee has carefully considered, Judge Barron concluded that the bombing of Kay’s Tavern was carried out by Loyalist extremists, most probably associated with The Mid Ulster UVF. He concluded that it was likely the attack was carried out on the initiative of a group largely consisting of UVF members. He determined that the security forces in Northern Ireland may or should have known who was responsible for the Dundalk bombing. He further concluded that actions by the RUC were designed to limit information relating to security forces collusion in terrorist activity from reaching the public domain, which in turn did nothing to counteract such activity. He said that without proof as to who was involved in the bombing, allegations of collusion were impossible to prove or disprove. He said the forensic evidence was inconclusive but the nature of the explosives used suggested a possible link between the perpetrators of the Dublin/Monaghan/Dundalk/Castleblayney bombings. He held that the security forces in Northern Ireland did receive advance warning of an impending attack on Dundalk, and this warning was conveyed to An Garda Síochana. He said he was not able to establish whether the apparent sighting of the bomb convoy leaving Portadown on the day of the bombing was known to the authorities in Northern Ireland before the attack itself took place and in those circumstances it was impossible to say whether those authorities knew enough to have prevented the attack taking place.
13) Ms. Margaret English, whose father Hugh Watters was killed in the Dundalk bombing spoke of the shocking killing of a quiet and innocent man whose:
“greatest words were those of human charity and human dignity”.
She continued, reflecting upon the impact that the tragedy had on her life:
“I would not look at the television because I was afraid of what I would see.
Every time I heard about a bombing, I was taken back to my life so I always kept that away. I would not look at the television.”
Ms. English went on to describe the anger that she feels towards the Irish Government:
“I thought the Irish Government would look after its citizens. It is actually breaking my heart to think that it did not. My thoughts are - I hate to say it and I hope Daddy is not looking from up there and saying: ‘Margaret, that is awful’ - that I really and honestly believe that the Irish Government committed a worse crime than the people that killed my Dad by covering it up. If it had, in the early 1970s, done something about what was happening with these bombings, my Dad would not be dead.”
Ms. English concluded by appealing to the Members of the Oireachtas:
“to put this in God's hands and to go the road God would go - truth and justice. Truth and justice are all the families want. As Daddy used to say, justice.”
14) Ms. Maura McKeever is a daughter of Jack Rooney who was also killed in the Dundalk Bombing. Ms. McKeever began by mentioning that her mother was supposed to address the Sub-Committee but had been too ill to attend. Ms. McKeever said she had asked her mother the previous night for her thoughts. Ms. McKeever recounted her mother’s reply:
“She said as two citizens of the State, two innocent victims, they should have been treated more fairly. Nobody wanted to know; nobody ever came near us to say anything. She is now 89 and she is still waiting for somebody to come and tell her there was collusion.”
Ms. McKeever went on to speak of how she felt abandoned by certain sectors within the community following the tragedy. She spoke of her father as:
“a great man for everything a man who loved his community and collected in the chapel.”
“but neither the Government, Garda nor the priests - nobody - came near my mother. It was like saying: ‘We will ignore it and it will go away’.
Nobody cared and I am living with that.”
Ms. McKeever explained what she was hoping for from our hearings:
“I would actually like to see somebody come forward and say: ‘Yes, you are right; this is what happened’. That is what I am really hoping for from today - that I will get some answers.”
“I want a public inquiry because I feel we should have it. After all, the guards were supposed to be doing their duty and the Government was supposed to be doing its. We are citizens of this State. We are supposed to be protected by the State. We are not being protected. We have been ignored. It is a case of if you just go away, it will be fine. I am asking for a public inquiry today.”
15) Deputy Máire Hoctor reiterated the expression of gratitude towards the victims’ families for their involvement and proceeded to ask Ms. English about growing up in Dundalk in the mid-1970s and about her recollections of the time. Ms English replied: “I always felt we were all so secure - really secure - and then when Daddy was murdered, it was like somebody got our little cocoon and just broke it”.
Ms. English went on, describing the anguish of the year that her father was killed:
“That year we went around in circles but nobody ever came to ask if we wanted to talk about it. We were just pushed aside. It destroys families but nobody helped”.
16) In response to Deputy Finian McGrath, Ms. McKeever described her father: “He was a great man for doing somebody a good turn. He loved life. He loved set dancing and music. He was an all-rounder and he would do anything to help anybody. He never hindered anybody and he knew an awful lot about Dundalk”.
Ms. McKeever’s father survived for three days, despite his injuries. Deputy McGrath enquired as to whether Ms. McKeever ever held out any hope for her father’s recovery. She recounted the day she had to tell her mother that there was no hope:
“Then one of the doctors said to me, ‘Do you think you could explain to your mother that I do not think your father is going to survive.’ I do not know why I was asked to do that. I was only in my early 20s. What would I have known about anything? When I said it to her she went crazy. She said,
‘What kind of a daughter are you, trying to tell me your father is going to die?’ However, I was only doing what I was asked to do. I did not know any better. It was an awful time, a dreadful time.”
Ms. McKeever described the lingering effects of such a tragedy:
“My father was buried on Christmas Eve and Christmas was the most awful time for me. I always tried to get it over in a heave, just to get through it some way.
I More I
Download the Barron Report on the Dundalk bombing from the Oireachtas website.
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