16 May 2014 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The terrible event that happened in the centre of Monaghan Town on May 17, 1974 will, assuredly, never be forgotten.

But the manner of its remembering has changed over the years in significant respects.

This evolving process reaches another stage this Sunday, when the civic leaders of the town and county councils will lay wreaths at the memorial erected in Church Square to those who lost their lives in the bombing, as part of an inter-denominational service marking the 40th anniversary of the event.

As the people of Monaghan prepare to remember those they lost, and those who died in the Dublin bombings of the same day, and accord Sunday’s occasion its due solemnity and respect, is can easily be glossed over that it took a very long time before these events received appropriate commemoration.

Although a small plaque was erected at the site of the Monaghan bombing in 1978, it was many years before anything more significant was done to mark what had been the single worst day of atrocity among the many dark days of the Troubles.

It took seventeen years before a memorial stone was unveiled to the Dublin victims and it wasn’t until 1997 that a monument bearing the names of all 33 of the people who died in Dublin and Monaghan that day was established at Talbot Street in the capital.

And it perhaps took until Sunday, May 14 2000, with a wreath-laying ceremony and inter-denominational service at St Macartan’s Cathedral, for the people of Monaghan to find a means of fulfilling in full the commemorative need that had grown in their midst over the preceding 26 years: a dam burst moment that created the impetus for the commissioning and erection of Ciarán Ó Cearnaigh’s memorial sculpture at Church Square and the publication of the ‘Later On’ anthology of recollections and reflections for the 30th anniversary in 2004.

The delay in according the events of May 17 1974 their due reflective respect can be hard to fathom now, and hard to forgive, for it undoubtedly exacerbated the suffering of the victims’ relatives.

Some factors are mitigating – the repression of memory often salves trauma, and it can never be overestimated how profoundly traumatic these events were for the communities they impacted. A coming to terms could only begin and progress slowly, and is not done yet.

But it is hard to refute the view that appropriate commemoration was also retarded for a time by the influence of those who perceived an interest in obstructing the investigation of these crimes and the attribution of responsibility – a denial of justice that has scandalously continued until this day.

The efforts of good people eventually overcame this obstacle to ensure the memory of the victims was honoured – but it is an obstacle that continues to impede the need of relatives for answers and closure, one that despite a number of exercises of inquiry remains defiant of the objective enshrined in the name adopted by the advocacy group Justice for the Forgotten.

That is why events such as those taking place in Dublin and Monaghan Town this weekend continue to be another step in our coming to terms, a stopping off point rather than a destination.

The importance of these actions of commemoration are not merely in the respectful light they let fall on the darkness of the past – they should urge those who can exert the necessary influence on to the realisation of a future objective when some of that darkness can be swept away by the full truth behind the Monaghan and Dublin bombings finally being told.


As we went to press the Government was preparing to announce its plans to revitalise the moribund construction sector of our economy and address the housing need that remains a pressing social problem.
Whatever devils might haunt the detail, the preliminary spin seems designed to convince those in the building trade, which has borne a significant portion of the brunt of the economy’s collapse, that the initiative will be an answer to their prayers.
When the property bubble popped, it put many contractors out of business and left others clinging on to viability by their fingertips – the sector certainly needs some assistance if the economy is to get back on its feet.
Construction stands at roughly 6% of national economic output – a level of double that would be desirable for the health of our finances.
Growing social housing lists are a problem for every local authority, but the recent trend of policy in this area has been for funding for construction to be reduced to a trickle, with Councils encouraged instead to involve themselves in various leasing arrangements with the private sector.
If the Government plan to release more funding to local authorities to build schemes to reduce the housing lists, many local economies stand to benefit, as do families paying high rents to private landlords for sometimes poor quality accommodation.
It seems a win-win situation, but what about the sea of unfinished housing developments that stand as the recriminatory legacy of the unrestrained development practices of the recent past?
Dealing with them is proving a protracted and patience-sapping process for Co Councils – and some aborted schemes are in such a state of incompleteness or dilapidation that their demolition is under active consideration.
Rather than sanctioning a spree of new house building, should the Government’s plan not concentrate on directing the construction sector to the repair and completion work necessary on the “ghosts” in our midst, preparatory to this accommodation being acquired by local authorities to cater for the genuine cases of need on their housing lists?

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