The time is overdue for the two governments to tell what they know about the Dublin-Monaghan and the Birmingham bombings

Consider the latest developments about two atrocities, the Dublin and Monaghan UVF bombs in May 1974 and the Birmingham IRA pub bombs of November the same year. What they have in common is knowledge of the identities of what we must call the alleged perpetrators. The deep frustration caused to individuals and states has not gone away. Kieran Conway now a Dublin solicitor, then the IRA’s “director of intelligence.” has again confirmed what is so well known, that the identities of the IRA killers of Birmingham are in the public domain.

In different interviews he seemed schizophrenic. On the Today programme, confronted with the outrage of a victim’s relative on the day  a coroner decides whether to order new inquests, he said it was “an accident.. because the phones didn’t work.. .. horrible .. but part of a just war”. Yesterday he wrote off the IRA campaign as “completely futile…”

“A new trial is ruled out for lack of evidence unless the guilty men turned up at a UK police station and confessed but that isn’t going to happen..because the extradition rules ( of the 1970s) would apply today.”.

Indeed. One person’s legalistic evasion is another’s principle of justice.  Inquests are a option which have been deferred for grotesquely long periods in so many cases because – or under the pretence – that they may be superseded by a trial, But would anything less than naming names satisfy victims and survivors?  This is the question for any police reinvestigation of the Kingsmills massacre or any of the outstanding 50 or so  major legacy inquests in NI itself.  Expectations may be raised  that can’t be satisfied. That perhaps is  not enough reason for not trying.

But there are deep doubts that many inquests will yield major results. So  has the time come to change course and require the security services on both sides of the border and the Irish sea  to disclose what they know? Can this be done without identifying the killers, whose identities are protected  by natural justice without a trial?

But the other issue is the obvious foot dragging by the two states. The Northern Ireland senior judiciary has assumed control over legacy inquests and does not hide its impatience with the Ministry  of Defence and the Northern Ireland Executive.

It hardly helps if it isn’t clear which administration is responsible for funding. The whole legacy issue is a terrible muddle.

Irish foreign minister Charlie Flanagan is demanding that the British government open the files on the Dublin and Monaghan bombs for an international inquiry. But the south is still a bolthole for many killers. To what extent did the old extradition rules allow hundreds to get away with it? How for their part can the Republic make amends?  Despite the good faith shown in inquiries like the Smithwick tribunal, resentment still prevails over the erratic security cooperation during the Troubles.

Justice may be unobtainable but greater disclosure all round is a good second best. To achieve it would require an end to legacy prosecutions and an honest debate about “national security”

Why go through years of rigmarole  which  is likely  to end in worse  frustration, when the Gordian knot of disclosure could be so much more easily cut ? How long  do we have to pursue the search for  justice before we admit it is unobtainable and opt for more disclosure? Until that happens the two governments will hide behind legal process in refusing  release of security files.

Although the British and Irish governments seem joined at the hip in so many ways, they have not fully confronted their respective obligations on disclosure for dealing with the past. It’s disingenuous of them to claim that they  are powerless to act until the local parties agree on the legacy agenda. Until they do so themselves, how can they expect the same from Stormont?

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  • ted hagan

    Mlnor points but I believe the coroner decides whether to RESUME the inquest into the victims of Birmingham bombing rather than open a new one. The inquest was opened after the atrocity and stopped because of forthcoming prosecutions that led to the wrongful convictions of Birmingham Six.
    More seriously, in the BBC article referred to in this article, Mr Conway says that “the campaign by families of the victims for justice was futile”, not that the IRA campaign was futile.

  • Bridget O Donnell

    Last night on Channel 4 News Mr Conway said ‘In my opinion the whole campaign was a futile waste of lives’

  • ted hagan

    That may well be so but I’m going by the BBC story referenced by this article and which I have quoted.

  • Brian Walker

    Ted, fair enough. But he gave various interviews yesterday. I heard him say that in one of them but couldn’t find it online. In the Today interview he was clearly rocked by the passion of the relative and may even have meant to say that .they saw it as a just war at the time,not that he himself saw it as such now – hard to say. He said a lot of other things including that he found the charge that the security service knew in advance of the bombing plot was “very credible” and he endorsed the call for new inquests to the Birmingham Mail..

    He doesn’t come across as an apologist for the IRA though naturally enough he argues for some understanding of what they did and why.The essential point for my case is that few if any inquests are likely to turn up new evidence leading to a prosecution. This will not ease public frustration with the system to put it mildly. If new or resumed inquests fail to provide significant new information, will pressure increase on the governments to open their files? We shall see, but not I suspect, in under five years.

  • ted hagan

    I don’t think the legal process is going anywhere. But on the subject of Mr Conway, I find him hard to read,
    He was against the Good Friday Agreement, regarding it, it seems, as a sellout, and therefore his comments in different interviews about the IRA campaign being a ‘futile waste of lives’ takes on a different slant. In other words, would it have been a ‘futile waste’ had a united Ireland been achieved by the campaign. His words are often nuanced. Surprise, surprise.

  • chrisjones2

    Its a muddle with a huge bill attached.

    The Executive might be well advised to steer clear until there is clarity who will pay and will the Irish and British agencies cooperate. There is lots to hide in the North and South as the Breen Buchanan inquiry showed and many politicians who will not want their roles exposed

  • Thomas Barber

    This thread is a bit confusing,

    The IRA murder people in Birmingham, an atrocity that victims now claim the British government had prior knowledge of, the British government then convict 6 Irish men knowing they were innocent. The Dublin Monaghan bombing were carried out by British state agents killing 33 people and the perptrators have been shielded by the British government for decades refusing to allow the Irish government or international observers access to files they have in relation to the bombings while at the same time demanding access to the Boston tapes in America. The hypocrisy is shocking but predictable yet you claim the Irish government is in some way twarting justice and closure for victims.

    For you Brian to lump the Irish government and the British government together as if they were two sides of the one coin in relation to their conduct regarding past misdeeds is not only mischievous but gives a misleading narritve on the past conflict.

  • Granni Trixie

    I didn’t see any media interviews with Conway over last few days (wish I had) but from reading his account of time in the IRA my reaction also was that he is hard to ‘read’. Given him going public with his views and actions I would love to be a fly on the wall to see interactions with him in legal circles given the upper classes tend not to get their hands mucky in the troubles.

    What I would say with confidence is that Conways book will be of interest particularly for those interested in “what kind of a person joins a terrorist organisation”, in this case in context of NI/Ireland. Despite moral ambiguities, he writes with clarity and unravels influences and events leading him to join the IRA. Theres a movie in it certainly.

  • Granni Trixie

    A pattern I pick up from listening to various victims/survivors is that they believe that what will help their situation is additional knowledge of the facts to help them make sense of what happened. Recognition of the wrong and how it impacted on their families too. So you could be right Brian – an inquest might fit the bill for many. That said alongside that I am convinced that we need to resource various ways of storytelling as therapy for us all.

  • Granni Trixie

    But a muddle it is…which we are trying to unravel!

  • Thomas Barber

    “A muddle we are trying to unravel”

    Could you be a little more specific Grannie what are we trying to unravel ? Almost everyday new information is emerging about the roles of British intelligence or RUC special branch involvement in hundreds upon hundreds of murders of not only innocent people but their own colleagues by thousands of state agents in all paramilitary groups involved in the past conflict.

    Do you believe or do you know of “any” evidence that would link or reveal that the Gaurds or the Irish government were complicit in hundreds of murders with thousands of state agents in a similar fashion as the British ?

  • ted hagan

    Is every single loyalist and republican atrocity now going to be laid at the doors of MI5? Yes, it was deeply involved in all sorts of dirty deeds, and we need to find out how deeply it was involved, but isn’t this rather too convenient and lets too many off the hook?
    The fact is the Birmingham bombing atrocity, with its high death toll, and despite all the claims of bungling and late phone calls, was a massive coup for the IRA with a huge backlash among the British media led by headlines calling for ‘Brits Out’. The IRA surely couldn’t have been wished for more and must have fuelled their appetite for further attacks on Great Britain, where their campaign had greatest effect.
    Journalist and former MP Chris Mullin has said he doesn’t believe there was any British secret service involvement in the Birmingham atrocity and I would take his word much more so than that of Kieran Conway.

  • Jollyraj

    “Theres a movie in it certainly.”

    And sure that’s what, in the end, for many in the Republican movement it was all about. Making money.

  • Chingford Man

    How on earth does a terrorist be admitted as a solicitor in the Republic?

  • ted hagan

    Well Edward Carson was a barrister and judge, and to all intents and purposes, a terrorist to boot.

  • Chingford Man

    Stupid remark, even for you.

  • ted hagan

    Explain rather than insult.

  • Chingford Man

    No, I’m not going to explain. I’ve got better things to do with my afternoon that get into a turgid exchange with someone who doesn’t get the difference between Edward Carson and a top IRA terrorist. Besides, it’s off-topic.

  • ted hagan

    What a copout.

  • Thomas Barber

    If the British government or the British police havew nothing to hide in relation to the Birmingham pub bombings just why then did they put a 75 year embargo on access to an inquiry into the West Midlands Police forces investigation of those bombings ?

  • ted hagan

    Well we all know the West Midlands Police were corrupt at the time. That goes without saying. So it’s no wonder.

  • Ryan

    “But the south is still a bolthole for many killers” And Britain isn’t? Thousands of Republicans/Loyalists went to prison over killings, hiding weapons, etc how many RUC/British soldiers went to prison? The amount can be counted on one hand and they alone directly committed over 300 killings, which includes women and children the vast majority being from the Catholic community. How many have gone to prison over collusion? None. The British Government likes to act neutral in all this but the facts clearly show they were anything but. If it was English people being murdered by their own government there would be outrage but Irish people, from both communities by the way, seem to be 2nd or 3rd class. Its a disgrace.

  • Brian Walker

    The point is simple. Both governments are sitting on information that could shed light on Troubles cases but do not disclose in case needed for future court cases. That, and fears that disclosure may seriously embarrass both states, lessen rather than increase public confidence and set precedents for future disclosure about, say, jihadists. The particular offences are irrelevant to the point.

  • John Collins

    So a police force is corrupt and the Government insists their behaviour cannot be investigated for 75 years. Is it any wonder there is a growing disrespect, if not downright contempt, for the Establishment

  • John Collins

    In the Ulster Covenant it is said that the wishes of the democratically elected government would be resisted by all means possible. That is near enough to terrorism to be going on with.

  • Ernekid

    Eddie Carson basically tried to stage a coup. He’s a true Irish rebel.

  • chrisjones2

    You mean he broadly succeeded in his campaign whereas republicans have consistently largely failed

  • 90sKid

    26 out of 32, just over 81%. Thats a first class honours Chris.

  • murdockp

    draw a line under the whole sorry affair let’s have a truth and reconciliation forum and lets move on.

  • tmitch57

    With all the uncertainties and risks involved in being a terrorist wanted by the state, I doubt that many went into it on the republican side in order to make money. This is not to say, however, that those who made their way up the ranks didn’t take advantage of it financially. The loyalist side is different as The Troubles were basically used as a smokescreen after 1974-75 to justify and excuse protection rackets. This occurred much later on the republican side with the INLA/IPLO and the Official IRA.

  • Joe Jitsu

    And this is coming from a person whose society military, government, intelligence services etc are loaded from top to bottom with terrorists.

  • Joe Jitsu

    “I was in earnest. What a fool I was! I was only a puppet, and so was Ulster, and so was Ireland, in the political game that was to get the Conservative Party into power ” Carson 1921 in his House of Lords maiden speech.

  • Chingford Man

    You have just wasted 1 minute of your life typing such a stupid comment.

  • ted hagan

    Yea that’s why truth and reconciliation is pointless

  • Joe Jitsu

    Stating the blatantly obvious.

  • eireanne3

    here’s a wee video explaining how the Gardi investigated the Dublin-Monaghan bombings and what happened to their investigation https://eurofree3.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/hidden-hand-the-dublin-monaghan-bombings/