The victims of a 1974 bombing campaign allegedly carried out by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) are to sue the British government, according to the BBC. They claim there was collusion between British forces, the government and the terrorists who carried out the attacks.
Thirty-three people who killed by the bombs in Dublin and Monaghan, including a pregnant woman. The action is being taken through the High Court in Belfast by Derek Byrne, who was injured in one of the Dublin bombs and Paddy Askin, whose father was killed in Monaghan.
There were a total of four bombs detonated on the 17th May 1974, three in Dublin and one in Monaghan. They represented the biggest loss of life in any one day throughout the Troubles.
The families are suing the Ministry of Defence, the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the Northern Ireland Secretary. Although it is widely believed the attacks were carried out by loyalists – not least because they targeted the Irish Republic – no one has ever been charged in connection with the crimes.
The central allegation is that the UVF carried out the attacks with the assistance of the British intelligence and security services. Whilst this sounds like a very serious allegation it is not unique. The security services of Northern Ireland had the same aims as the loyalist paramilitaries: namely to destroy the IRA and maintain Ulster as part of the United Kingdom.
Renegade elements did offer assistant to the loyalists, the favoured method was to pass names and addresses of IRA suspects to the loyalists in the knowledge they would assassinate them.
Kevin Winters, the solicitor who represents the ‘Justice for the Forgotten’ group, said: “The families for many years have made the case consistently that the authorities went out of their way to protect individuals, suspects who were involved in these killings, involved in planting the bombs in both Dublin and Monaghan and at the root of the case is the families’ desire to expose that.
“At least two known agents were protected and given, if you like, a de facto immunity from prosecution. That’s a very serious allegation, it’s an allegation which has never been ventilated in a proper criminal process or proper investigation.
“The investigation that should and ought to have taken place didn’t take place – and that’s an appalling travesty for these families.
“This civil action in part is designed to try and compensate for that ultimate failing on the part of the government and the various authorities and agencies who were tasked with the investigation into Dublin-Monaghan and didn’t do it.”
The relatives see this action as a last resort to get justice, not least because the attacks took place 40 years ago. There is a risk that those responsible, particularly at the top level of planning, will have died of old age.
A court action will also give lawyers the opportunity to subpoena documents from the police, government and military related to the attacks. These may help shed more light on exactly what happened, and who was involved.
One survivor, Bernie McNally who lost the sight in one eye at one of the Dublin blasts said: “It’s so important to get answers for all the families particularly those who lost their loved ones.
“I know it’s not going to bring back family members and loved ones. But it just will give some source of comfort maybe to people. I don’t know, I haven’t lost anybody, but I just imagine you need to find answers. I would like answers for myself.”
The 2003 Barron report into the circumstances surrounding the bomb attacks made it clear that there were allegations of collusion but could find no concrete evidence that it had happened.
Today the British authorities are unlikely to be phased by the legal action as the prevailing view in London is that all wrongdoing ought to be exposed to help the healing process. The action also comes after the watershed arrest of Gerry Adams in connection with the murder of Jean McConville.
For years some Republican leaders had been seen as ‘untouchable’ because of their pivotal role in the peace process. However, there is now mounting pressure to for the authorities to stop protecting people who engaged in the Troubles, despite their status.