A RULING BY a senior judge in the Belfast High Court last month has serious implications for the investigation into who was behind the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings that killed 33 people.
The ruling has barely caused a political ripple despite the potential enormity of the judgment for Anglo-Irish relations.
The Glenanne Gang – a unionist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force death squad that included serving members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary police force and the British Army’s Ulster Defence Regiment – is believed to have been directly responsible for the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and more than 120 sectarian murders. But what the extent of the British State’s involvement?
State collusion with a loyalist gang
On Friday July 28, Mr Justice Treacy ruled in the Belfast High Court that families of the victims of the 1976 Hillcrest pub bombing in Dungannon had a legitimate expectation that the Historical Enquiries Team would publish a comprehensive report on the case and its links to other murders and offences carried out by the Glenanne Gang through forensics and the weapons used.
One newspaper summed it up thus: “Police chiefs unlawfully frustrated any chance of an effective investigation into suspected State collusion with a loyalist gang behind more than 100 murders, the High Court in Belfast ruled today.”
The Belfast High Court judge’s ruling is of huge significance. It directly affects the campaign for truth and justice for those killed and injured in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 17 May 1974. Justice Treacy’s ruling was arrived at following a case taken on behalf of families bereaved.
This includes relatives of those killed in the bombings in Dublin/Monaghan (1974), Dundalk (1975), and Castleblayney (1976) and the murder of John Francis Green (1975) in this jurisdiction, as well as many cases north of the border, including the Miami Showband Massacre (1975).
Frustrating the quest for justice
Since the 1970s, every effort has been made by British security agencies, the military and the police to frustrate the quest for truth. Justice Treacy’s ruling details how the PSNI began the process of dismantling a “package of measures” designed to address the exemption by the British government from their obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights for “independent, prompt and effective investigations into conflict-related deaths and to prevent such failings from happening again”.
The British government had only agreed to this “package of measures” after coming under intense pressures from the Council of Europe.
The ruling highlighted that the PSNI’s treatment of families had been “unfair in the extreme” and added that there is a real risk that this will fuel in the minds of families the fear that the State is not genuinely committed to addressing the unresolved concerns that the families have of state involvement in the killings.
Justice Treacy also detailed how the May 2014 terms of reference ratified by the PSNI for the Historical Enquiries Team prohibited its successor, the Legacy Investigation Branch – an internal PSNI unit – from undertaking an effective, comprehensive investigation.
Justice Treacy ruled in favour of the families and ordered that an effective Article 2 compliant investigation should now take place.
Links to other Glenanne cases must be pursued
On Tuesday August 8, I met the Chief Constable of the PSNI, George Hamilton, with my Sinn Féin party colleagues, Assembly members Michelle O’Neill, Gerry Kelly and Linda Dillion. I told him that he must address the issues raised in this judgment and that links to other Glenanne cases must be pursued and should not be sacrificed because of a supposed lack of resources or some other reason.
The Irish government has also been very silent on Justice Treacy’s judgment. I am calling on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney to urgently raise this judgment with his British counterpart and voice his concern about the clearly systemic failings by the PSNI in relation to collusion and the Glenanne Gang in particular. Justice Treacy also ruled that the PSNI is not sufficiently independent.
The Irish government is a joint guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements. As such, it must ensure that the British government abides by its obligations on legacy issues. The Irish government needs to ensure that the authorities in the North engage with the families and their legal representatives.
The families of those killed and injured in the Dublin/Monaghan bombings and the other attacks linked to the Glenanne Gang deserve to know the truth and the extent of the British State’s involvement.
Seán Crowe is a Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West.
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