RENEWED FOCUS ON DUBLIN-MONAGHAN BOMBINGS AFTER CONTROVERSIAL PAISLEY COMMENTS

17 January 2014 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Comments made by former Northern Ireland First Minister and Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley about the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings generated considerable controversy in the past week.

A statement made by the 87-year-old on a BBC documentary broadcast on Monday night appeared to attribute some responsibility for the attacks – in which 33 people and an unborn baby were killed – to the attitude displayed to the political situation in Northern Ireland by the Irish Government of the time.

Speaking about the May 17 1974 bombings, Mr Paisley said: “I was shocked, very much shocked, that there was anyone going to be hurt in that way.

“But, I mean, who brought that on them? Themselves, it was their own political leaders…at that time the attitude of the south government to Northern Ireland was ridiculous.”

The 1974 bombings represent the greatest loss of life to have occurred on a single day in the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’.

Justice for the Forgotten, the advocacy group representing the relatives of the victims of the bombings, expressed its shock at Mr Paisley’s comments, which were made in the first part of a two-part documentary ‘Paisley: Genesis to Revelation’ in which he is interviewed by journalist Eamonn Mallie.

Spokesperson for the group Margaret Irwin said she was surprised and shocked by what Mr Paisley had to say.

“I think the most shocking thing about his remarks is that he was so candid in what he said. Obviously they are quite shocking to hear when this is the 40th anniversary year of the bombings.

“It certainly doesn’t surprise us that Mr Paisley would have held these views then, but it is very surprising that he is so willing to publicly express them so many years later.”

Sinn Féin TD for Cavan/Monaghan Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin criticised Mr Paisley’s comments as “deeply insulting and hurtful, especially to the survivors and bereaved”.

“While Mr Paisley seeks to blame the Government and the people in this State for ‘bringing it on themselves’, the irony is that the then Fine Gael/Labour Government attempted a similar shift of responsibility by trying to blame Republicans for the bombings,” Deputy Ó Caoláin commented.

“The only purpose served by Mr Paisley’s comments and the controversy now is to highlight the as yet unfulfilled obligation on the British Government to reveal the full truth of what occurred and the role of its agents in the bombing – and for the Irish Government to be pro-active also in that demand for truth.

“This is especially important given that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the bombings.”
In the documentary, Mr Paisley told Eamonn Mallie that the 1974 killings were not justified, and insisted that he never believed in killing.

“I not only had nothing to do with it, but I’d said I had nothing to do with it and denounced the people who had done it – what more could I do.

“I took my stand. I denounced what was wrong, but I could not say to the people, ‘Just sit down and let them put a rope round your neck’.”

Mr Paisley’s remarks also drew criticism from prominent Unionist politicians.
His successor as First Minister, Peter Robinson, said the only people responsible for the 1974 attacks were those who primed the explosives, placed them and killed 33 people. “The people responsible for terrorist actions are terrorists,” he stated.

Mr Robinson said Mr Paisley was “going down a dangerous road” with his comments.
He stated: “And of course there are things going on at a Government level, there always will be. And of course Unionists will have had a very different opinion about the position of the Irish Government than they themselves would have had.

“But that doesn’t make it responsible for it, no more than the British authorities are responsible for the acts of the IRA. So I don’t go down that road. It’s a very dangerous road to go down.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said he was absolutely shocked by the comments.
“When we criticise the re-writing of history,” Mr Nesbitt stated, “this is precisely the type of comments that we mean. The people responsible for the murder of 33 people in Dublin and Monaghan in 1974 were the terrorists who planned and planted the bombs.”

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, the Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister, said it should be taken into account that Mr Paisley is now retired and very elderly.

“The responsibility for the bombs that took place in both Monaghan and Dublin resides with those people who were directly responsible for them,” Mr McGuinness stated.

TANAISTE RAISES POSSIBILITY OF RENEWED PROBE

A renewed probe into the 1974 bombings in Dublin and Monaghan, for which no one has ever been charged, might be possible under the terms of current discussions in Northern Ireland about dealing with the legacy of the past.

This was suggested by Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore in Dublin on Friday when he was asked for his views on Mr Paisley’s comments.

“The people who were on Talbot Street and Parnell Street that day did not bring it on themselves,” Mr Gilmore said.

“They were innocent victims of a horrific act of terrorism, and the responsibility for that act rests squarely on those who planted the bombs.”

The Protestant paramilitary group the Ulster Volunteer Force or UVF are believed to have planted the bombs that exploded in Monaghan and Dublin in May 1974.

Persistent accusations of involvement in the incidents by rogue elements in the Royal Ulster Constabulary and by covert British security operatives have been made.

Two private, non-judicial enquiries by the Irish Government, which produced the Barron Reports of 2003 and 2004, and a 2007 Commission of Investigation into the bombings, headed by Monaghan Senior Counsel Patrick MacEntee, produced what the Justice for the Forgotten Group has described as “a significant amount of disturbing information”.

On their website, Justice for the Forgotten states: “The MacEntee Report highlighted the huge amounts of relevant documentation that have gone missing from the Garda files and the fact that it is impossible to determine whether further documentation may also be missing due to massive failures in the Garda document management system of the time.

“It is therefore impossible to ascertain with any degree of certainty from Garda records why the Garda investigation into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings was wound down less than three months after the bombings. Serious questions thus remain regarding the investigation.

“Most disturbingly, however, it was acknowledged by the authors in all the inquiries that they had been significantly restricted in their investigations by the non-co-operation of the British authorities.
“Without accessing crucial documents held by these authorities, deeply worrying questions remain unanswered for the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, for victims of other collusion-related incidents and for the citizens of both states.

“British state collusion with Loyalist paramilitary organisations has been well documented in several high profile cases from the late 1980s such as the murder of the human rights lawyer, Mr Pat Finucane and the killing of Raymond McCord.

“Justice for the Forgotten believes there is compelling evidence that collusion occurred in the perpetration of many other appalling atrocities across the island of Ireland including the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.”

The group are involved in joint research with the Pat Finucane Centre into the activities of a group of security force members and Loyalists who are believed to have operated out of a farm at Glenanne, Co Antrim in the 1970s.

They claim this group – comprised of RUC, UDR and British Intelligence personnel along with Loyalist paramilitaries based in Armagh and Tyrone – were responsible for over 100 murders and a series of gun and bomb attacks on both sides of the Border.

“There is significant evidence…that this loose grouping operated as a semi-official death squad at the behest of certain British state agencies, and further, that it was instrumental in carrying out the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and many other atrocities across the Republic of Ireland,” Justice for the Forgotten states.

“We are continuing to campaign for the establishment of a mechanism that can persuade the British Government to provide us with the documentary information – currently being withheld – that can carry these investigations further. Such a mechanism must be able to accommodate the additional problem of cross-jurisdiction.”

CLONTIBRET “INVASION” RECALLED
Interest in Co Monaghan will also be generated by remarks made by Mr Paisley in relation to the August 1986 incident in which a large group of Loyalists, led by his then DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson, marched into the village of Clontibret in Co Monaghan.

The incident, which led to Mr Robinson’s arrest by the Gardaí, was designed as a protest against what some Loyalists of the time saw as inadequate security measures along the Border, and was regarded as an act of defiance against the signing by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

In the documentary, Mr Paisley said the protest, which resulted in disorder, damage, and injury to Garda personnel, and led to a conviction and fine for Mr Robinson, “shouldn’t have been done”.
When asked if there was a feeling within his family then that Mr Robinson was making a leadership challenge, as Mr Paisley was out of the country at the time, he replied: “Everybody has a right to decide for themselves what their answer to that is.

“I think he [Mr Robinson] thought there was going to be a tremendous uprising as a result of all that, and that didn’t happen.

“He did it and he must take account for it, and it’s so unimportant, you know, in the light of what was happening. It was only like a fella scratching a match and the match burns out, and that’s when he throws it away.”

When asked in Dublin last Friday about the Clontibret incident comments, Mr Robinson said Mr Paisley’s account was “a failure of recollection”.

Mr Robinson claimed Mr Paisley was the one who agreed to go to Clontibret.
“He had to leave to go to a funeral in the US and I stepped in as his deputy into the Clontibret arrangement.”

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