Tuesday, 26 September 2006
Sub-Committee on the Barron Report DebatePage of 3
Chairman: I welcome everyone, particularly the families of the victims, the survivors and other witnesses, and thank them for attending. We hope that the publication of the fourth Barron report on the bombings of Kay’s Tavern, Dundalk, and the hearings which will be conducted by this sub-committee over the next two weeks will help you and all the other families to find closure to these tragic events. The nine atrocities which we will deal with today happened in 1975 and 1976 and claimed the lives of 18 persons with many others injured. In many of the cases the perpetrators have never been brought to justice.
The main purpose of today’s meeting is to hear from the families of the victims of the atrocities and from some of the survivors and witnesses. We will take the incidents in the order set out in the schedule circulated to everyone here today. I will make some brief opening remarks as we come to each incident so it will be in context in relation to Mr. Justice Barron’s report.
The contributions of the families and the survivors are invaluable to the working of the sub-committee and I again formally thank you for your attendance. We want to commence the hearings by hearing from you, the families and the witnesses, so we can place at the centre of the work we are doing your feelings and what you have to say on the matter.
On 5 July 2006 the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights was asked by the Dáil and Seanad to consider the report of the independent commission of inquiry on the bombing of Kay’s Tavern, Dundalk. This sub-committee was established for that purpose. We have been asked to consider the report in public session in order that the joint committee can report back to the Dáil and Seanad by 17 November for the purposes of making such recommendations regarding legislative or administrative provisions as the committee considers appropriate. This is the fourth set of hearings on inquiries made by Mr. Justice Barron. The first three have proved this kind of parliamentary activity to be vital and necessary for looking into events which have cast a long shadow over our country and the tragic history of this island during the past four decades.
The sub-committee is composed of seven members. I am Chairman of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights and also the Chair of this sub-committee. The other members of the sub-committee are as follows: Deputy Finian McGrath, who is the Independent Deputy from Dublin North-Central; Deputy Máire Hoctor, a Fianna Fáil Deputy from Tipperary North and the Government convenor on the joint committee; Deputy Kathleen Lynch, who is a Labour Party Deputy from Cork North-Central, is the Opposition convenor; Senator Maurice Cummins, the Fine Gael spokesperson on justice in the Seanad; Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Fianna Fáil, Kildare South; and Senator Jim Walsh, who is the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on justice in the Seanad. We are also helped and assisted by Paul Anthony McDermott in legal matters.
Over many years the Justice for the Forgotten, in particular, Margaret Urwin, has been very helpful. I welcome also Alan Brecknell and Paul O’Connor from the Pat Finucane Centre, both of these groups have played a pivotal role in supporting the victims’ families. They will make formal presentations at tomorrow’s meeting.
On the second day of proceedings tomorrow we will hear submissions from Justice for the Forgotten, the Pat Finucane Centre, the Garda Commissioner, the Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Sean Alyward, and former Detective Inspector John Courtney and former Detective Sergeant Owen Corrigan. The third day of proceedings will be held next week.
In respect of the procedures and for the benefit of those present, it should be noted that the sub-committee is bound by very precise terms of reference beyond which it cannot and will not stray. In particular, the sub-committee is not conducting an investigation on its own into the events that happened during the period concerned nor is it seeking to apportion guilt or innocence to any individual person or body. It has neither the jurisdiction nor the legal authority to perform any such function. We ask everybody appearing before the committee to respect the fact that we cannot stray beyond our terms of reference. Where, on occasion, people seek for us to do so and we would like to be able to do so, we cannot because we are constrained. I thank the witnesses for respecting that.
The sub-committee is very concerned that any person who appears before it is fully aware that he or she is not entitled to any form of statutory or parliamentary privilege. While the members of the committee enjoy certain parliamentary privilege in respect of these proceedings, those attending and assisting us do not enjoy that same privilege.
The first incident the committee will deal with today is the bombing of Kay’s Tavern in Dundalk. To put matters in context I will give a brief synopsis of what is in the report so that people can refresh their memories. On the evening of 19 December 1975, a car bomb exploded on Crowe Street, Dundalk, outside a licensed premises known as Kay’s Tavern. Two persons were killed in the explosion — Hugh Watters, aged 60, and Jack Rooney, aged 62. Both men were married with children. Many more persons were injured. The ensuing Garda investigation into the bombing was unable to find sufficient evidence to charge anyone in relation to the attack.
In his report, which this committee has carefully considered, Mr. Justice Barron concluded that the bombing of Kay’s Tavern was carried out by loyalist extremists most probably associated with the mid-Ulster UVF. He concluded that it was likely that the attack was carried out on the initiative of a group largely consisting of UVF members. He determined that the security forces in Northern Ireland may or should have known who was responsible for the Dundalk bombing. He further concluded that actions by the RUC were designed to limit information relating to security forces’s collusion in terrorist activity from reaching the public domain, which in turn did nothing to counteract such activity. He said that without proof as to who was involved in the bombing, allegations of collusion were impossible to prove or disprove. He said the forensic evidence was inconclusive but the nature of the explosives used suggested a possible link between the perpetrators of the Dublin-Monaghan and the Dundalk-Castleblaney bombings. He held that the security forces in Northern Ireland did receive advance warning of an impending attack on Dundalk and this warning was conveyed to the Garda Síochána. He said he was not able to establish whether the apparent sighting of the bomb convoy leaving Portadown on the day of the bombing was known to the authorities in Northern Ireland before the attack took place and in those circumstances it was impossible to say whether those authorities knew enough to have prevented the attack taking place.
The terms of reference of this sub-committee are to investigate Mr. Justice Barron’s report into the bombing of Kay’s Tavern in Dundalk for the purposes of making such recommendations in regard to administrative provisions as we consider appropriate, as I mentioned earlier.
With regard to the Dundalk bombing, present with us today are Margaret English, who is a daughter of Hugh Watters. I welcome Ms English and thank her for attending. Maura McKeever is a daughter of Jack Rooney. I thank Ms
McKeever for coming down. Both families are represented by Mr. James McGuill, solicitor. Before Ms McKeever, Ms English and Mr. McGuill make any comments, I wish to remind the witnesses that as a result of the Supreme Court decision in the Abbeylara case, we are prevented from making any findings or expressions of culpability against individuals who are not Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Mr. James McGuill: I intend to be brief but wish to make some observations which the family are anxious the committee members would be aware of at the outset of the proceedings. Deputies Finian McGrath and Hoctor, and Senator Jim Walsh were part of the review of the Barron report into the circumstances surrounding the murder of Mr. Seamus Ludlow and they would have a feel for from where we are coming on this matter.
From the point of view of Ms English, Ms McKeever and their families, the loss of their loved ones was a terrible tragedy but it was a pure happenstance that many more people were not killed. This no warning bomb went off in the middle of Dundalk on a Friday evening in December. It appears that good information was made available to the authorities here to the effect that there would be a bombing. This is a matter of concern to the families who found this out for the first time in the course of Mr. Justice Barron’s review. A serious issue for examination here is whether there was a failure to deal appropriately with intelligence that was being received.
There are some skeleton legal submissions which we prepared for the committee and we highlighted various references in the report which are germane to that topic. The members of the committee must appreciate how upset and hurt the families were to discover that in the manner in which they did so. One of the real benefits of this parliamentary exercise, to which the Chairman has already alluded, is the opportunity it presents for submissions to be heard in public and for members of the committee to ask questions. We had the experience of the Ludlow report in respect of which quite an amount of new material was extracted by committee members’ questioning and that elucidated information. We indicated in our submission some of the areas about which we are concerned.
We have three primary concerns. The first is one shared by all the family members from whom the committee will hear today, namely, the extent of collusion that was going on. Mr. Justice Barron has plainly stated there was collusion and he has also freely acknowledged that he has not the time or the resources to investigate that properly. Therefore, we urge this committee to put right at the top of its work consideration of how best the allegations of collusion can be examined. It is plain from the report that people knew about it and failed to act. That is item No. 1.
Item No. 2 is the need to examine what happened prior to the bombing in Dundalk. Were adequate steps taken? We know from other sources that very good level information was available in October, November and December to the effect that a bombing was to be carried out in Dundalk. It was not unusual for Dundalk to have checkpoints on approach roads, yet this bomb driven by known bombers, was parked in the middle of Dundalk without a single person intervening and it resulted in loss of life and the terrible injuries suffered by others. The fact that it was known that an attack was to take place yet there was never an arrest or a prosecution suggests to us that very close analysis must take place not only of the failure to prevent the bomb but of the failure to investigate. We have identified 19 separate criticisms of the failure to investigate aspect which we believe should be examined. We have also identified 12 incidents of the collusion aspect.
Therefore, the three areas the families are anxious the committee examine, particularly with a view to recommending a public inquiry into these issues, are the collusion issue, the failure to prevent the bomb issue and the failure to apprehend and prosecute. This must be viewed in the context of the appalling potential for loss of life were further no warning bombs to be detonated anywhere. That is the backdrop to the concerns of the family and their anxiousness that the committee apply its efforts to examining this matter. Ms English will speak on behalf of her family.
Ms Margaret English: I will let Mr. McGuill deal with all the legal aspects, but I want to talk about my father. My father, Hugh Watters, was a quiet, innocent man. Some of his greatest words were those of human charity and human dignity and, therefore, it was shocking that he was killed in this way. I hate to say this but I only realised in 1998 that there was such a thing as collusion. I always thought that nobody could be got for Daddy’s bombing; I thought the forensic evidence was not there. That is the way the family thought about it. When the peace agreement was made, I was so happy. I was delighted because at least then I could turn on a television. I would not look at the television because I was afraid of what I would see. Every time I heard about a bombing, I was taken back to my life, so I always kept that away. I would not look at the television.
I went to see John Wilson in 1998. I thought we were to talk about the peace we would have. I thought there would be rallies and everything. He asked me my story and I told him about Dad. His remark to me was: “Yes, that was the Robin Jackson gang that killed your Dad”. I said: “No, no. Nobody was got for Daddy’s killing”. He went on and said: “Yes, that was a known fact”. I said it was not. We talked. When I went home I wondered to myself where that had come from. He had said to me: “Did you never hear of that gang?” I had never heard of anybody. That left me thinking about what was going on so I tried to push it back in my mind. I thought that if I could zip it back in again, I would not have to think about it again but I could not get rid of it.
The Pat Finucane Centre talked to me then. I seriously thought all these people were headcases because I did not believe there was such a thing as collusion. I really did not believe it. I thought the Irish Government would look after its citizens. It is actually breaking my heart to think that it did not. My thoughts are — I hate to say it and I hope Daddy is not looking from up there and saying: “Margaret, that is awful”— that I really and honestly believe that the Irish Government committed a worse crime than the people that killed my Dad by covering it up. If it had, in the early 1970s, done something about what was happening with these bombings, my Dad would not be dead.
I am appealing to all the Members of the Oireachtas to put this in God’s hands and to go the road God would go — truth and justice. Truth and justice are all the families want. As Daddy used to say — he never got it in his life — I would love you to show each of the families Christian charity. All we are looking for is Christian charity, truth and justice.
Ms Maura McKeever: My mother was to come here today but she is unwell. I asked her last night what she would have said. She said that as two citizens of the State, two innocent victims, they should have been treated more fairly. Nobody wanted to know; nobody ever came near us to say anything. She is now 89 and she is still waiting for somebody to come and tell her there was collusion. She has always maintained there was collusion. It was well known in the town. But she wants somebody to come and say: “Yes, you were right”. I have watched that woman for 30 years and it is very hard. It is very hard for me and it must be worse for her. I am very upset.
Ms McKeever: When they got a warning that there was a bomb, they should have gone around all the Government buildings and given some kind of warning. They should have had some kind of checkpoints but they had nothing. It was like, “Oh well, there is going to be a bomb. It does not really matter about these lives”. There were children on the street shortly before that bomb and some of them were injured. It did not seem to matter. I think the gardaí really failed and should have given some sort of warning. They were told and they should have done something about it.
Then, when it actually happened, we got no support whatsoever. Nobody ever came near us and no garda even came to officially say this had happened. I have two aunts still alive and my father’s brother only died a couple of years ago. They were long lived so he would have been alive. He loved Christmas and was quite happy in his life. He was a great man for everything and loved his community. He collected in the chapel but neither the Government, Garda nor the priests — nobody — came near my mother. It was like saying: “We will ignore it and it will go away”. Nobody cared and I am living with that. I knew there was collusion and I still say there was but where were you to go to get any answers because no one wanted to know? Even when we had a ceremony at the town hall and we had a plaque unveiled, they would not even stop the traffic on the street so the man could talk. There was just no respect. Mammy got nothing — neither did Margaret’s mother. There was nothing and it is still the same and I would like to see that change. I would actually like to see somebody come forward and say: “Yes, you are right; this is what happened”. That is what I am really hoping for from today — that I will get some answers.
I want a public inquiry because I feel we should have it. After all, the guards were supposed to be doing their duty and the Government was supposed to be doing its. We are citizens of this State. We are supposed to be protected by the State. We are not being protected. We have been ignored. It is a case of if you just go away, it will be fine. I am asking for a public inquiry today. I really feel we should get better treatment and I hope we do. Thank you very much.
Chairman: Ms English and Ms McKeever are very courageous for coming in. Thank you very much. I will ask some questions which the sub-committee would wish to ask. We have divided the questions up among the members. In this case, Deputies Hoctor and Finian McGrath will ask some questions, if that is okay.
Deputy Hoctor: I welcome Ms English, Ms McKeever and all the family members and express my sympathy to them on this occasion as they meet the sub-committee on the Barron report. We thank them for their submission and would welcome any additional comments, which would be very helpful. As Mr. McGuill said, the sub-committee has found it very helpful when people have been able to come forward and make a personal submission. I wish to ask Ms English what it was like growing up in Dundalk in the mid-1970s and about her recollections of the time.
Ms English: My recollections of the time were that we were a really happy family. That is really how I feel. I always felt we were all so secure — really secure — and then when Daddy was murdered, it was like somebody got our little cocoon and just broke it. Then there was nobody there to help us after which was one hundred times worse, but we did not even realise it at the time. We just did not know.
Daddy was the main provider in the house. He was a tailor and he worked for himself. The most tragic thing about both of them was that both of them were reared in orphanages and this was their first real family. I think that is a tragedy because Mammy asked me where we were to go now and what we were to do now. This was her first family and then there was how she was treated. They would not even give her a pension. They said she was not due a cent, that she could not get a non-contributory pension. I will tell the sub-committee something which nobody really believed. They looked in her cupboards to see what food she had. That is the way she was left until she eventually got a pension.
The way my mother felt was that they never looked for anything. Daddy worked and they saved and that was it. They never got anything from the State or from anybody, and she found the way she was treated very degrading. It broke her heart and it was really horrible on us. When you would come home, you would know that day she had been crying and that they had been down again. That was cruelty. What really upset me and upsets me even more now is that at the time we should have had some photographers down in the house to let them see what was going on. She was treated really badly.
Deputy Hoctor: I appreciate it is very difficult to talk about the particular evening in December but I would like Ms English elaborate on and to tell us about it and the people who called if she can recall that.
Ms English: I can tell you about the full day, 19 December. It was a Friday. Mam went up the town on the bus every Friday morning to get the shopping. What would happen was she would get so much of it that she would bring it up to Daddy, who had his rooms — up four flights — on Francis Street, leave it there as she was getting stuff, and he would carry it over to the bus for her and she would get the bus home.
On that particular Friday, Mammy was in town and could not get across the road. The traffic was very bad on 19 December. She came home and said, “I did not get over to your Dad today. The traffic is really bad and I am wondering will he get home for his dinner. If he is not here after 1 p.m, Margaret, will you go up with his dinner and his tea?” and I said, “Yes, surely”.
There was no sign of Daddy after 1 p.m. and I headed up to his rooms with his dinner and his tea. When I went up he said, “Your Mum did not get up today. The traffic was very bad. I was afraid she would get knocked down crossing the road”, and I said, “No, she decided she would not”. He said, “Have you any time, Margaret? Will you work with me? I’m very busy.”, and I said, “Yes, no problem”.
He did all the repair work for the main shops around and, naturally enough, at Christmas there was plenty to do. I sat with him most of the evening and he asked me to run around and deliver some things to the shops, which I did.
As 5.30 p.m. was approaching, I said, “I think I will go down and meet Mary”— that is, my sister. Mary worked a couple of steps away from where Daddy was killed and we were all around the same area. At 5.30 p.m. I walked down to meet Mary — I would have walked past where the bomb had been planted — and we walked back up again. When we walked back up Earl Street we could see Daddy in the window — he was up on a height and he used to sit at the side of the window sewing. We waved up at him and we went on up to the shopping centre. That was the last time I ever saw my Dad. I never saw him after that.
Mary and I went up to the shopping centre. Mary said, “We will go upstairs and sit down for a while and then we will do a bit of shopping”, and then we heard a loud explosion or a loud bang. We really did not know what it was. I asked Mary, “What do you think that is?”, and she said, “I do not know”. We sat for another while and I said, “I think we will go home”. We headed out onto the road and an ambulance came past us, and there was no siren to be heard. I said to Mary, “Do you know what? I think there is somebody dead in that ambulance and we should really say a prayer for them”. I did not realise it was my own Dad.
We were not allowed to walk down through the town, so we had to go down along the back streets. I met a woman who said, “Margaret, your Mum is looking for you”. I said, “Sure why would Mammy be looking for me?” She said, “She heard the explosion in her kitchen, ran and got a neighbour, and left the house in her slippers”. That was not Mammy’s form. I said, “God bless us.” I went over and found her. “Thank God”, she said. “Margaret, you two are all right,” she said, “but I have an awful feeling”. She went over to the neighbour and said, “One of mine is dead”. However, the neighbour said, “Not at all, Agnes, what are you talking about?”
We went around looking and then we said to Mammy, “Listen, you go home.”, because Daddy was a great walker and he would walk for miles. We thought, because he was so quiet, he might go right around the long way. We got a car and we searched and searched. We got a loudspeaker and we went around the town with it.
Then we decided we would go up to the Louth Hospital. When we got to the hospital, we were not allowed in so Ruth, my other sister who was with Mary and me, said to me, “Go around to the back of the hospital”. She said, “I will tell you what, you two stay there in the car and I will get in the window”, and she got in the window of the maternity unit and ran up the middle of the hospital shouting, “Has anybody seen my Daddy, has anybody seen my Daddy?” They said, “Who is your Daddy?”, and she said, “Hugh Watters”. They said, “Come here for a second. Come here, come here, come here”. They took her into a room and handed her his photographs of us and his holy pictures and medals from his pockets. They said, “Does that look as if that is your Daddy’s?”, and she said, “Yes”. They said, “Okay, sit down here and take a tablet. Go on, just sit down”. She said, “No, no, I have to go”, and she ran out. I do not know whether she got back out the window or not. She came running out to us and she said, “I will tell you what, neither of you can cry. I have to tell you now that Daddy is dead and the most important thing is that we get a doctor for Mammy. But you are not to cry. Do not let Mammy see you crying”. We went and got a doctor and took the doctor down to Mammy, and after that it is a real blank. Nobody ever came. No guards or anyone ever came to the house. It never dawned on me that anybody would come but nobody came. Mammy knew in her heart it was one of us. She was not sure which one. God bless her, I am really thankful she was dead before all this started because she died thinking nobody could find anything or nobody knew anything, which was a nicer way to go. If she thought there was a cover up of my father’s death, it would have broken her heart.
That is how that day went but I can remember everything clearly until then. We were going around scrambling. That is why I would not watch the television when I heard of a bombing because I knew that feeling. One was going around scrambling and did not know where one was going with nobody to help.
Deputy F. McGrath: I welcome the families to the hearing and I express my deepest sympathy to them. I would like to ask Ms McKeever a number of questions about her father, Jack Rooney, but if the questions are too close to the bone, she does not have to answer them. I am trying to get an insight.
Ms McKeever: He was a great man for doing somebody a good turn. He loved life. He loved set dancing and music. He was an all-rounder and he would do anything to help anybody. He never hindered anybody and he knew an awful lot about Dundalk. He met and married Mammy in Dublin because she was a cook here for some judge. They went to Dundalk then and he was working with the fire brigade.
Deputy F. McGrath: One gets the impression from the Barron report that he was a warm, friendly, sociable guy. I refer to the Condel Bar, Roden Place. He brought a drink for his friends but did not have a drink himself before moving on.
Ms McKeever: Mammy never knew it but he was going home to take her out and he said he was going home to get changed. She never knew that and I never said that to her because it would probably just have annoyed her all the more. Brian, my husband, and I had gone in that day to look for him in the car to give him a lift home. I was in the post office posting a parcel to Mammy’s brother. She was from Roscommon originally and we could not find him in the bar. This was before anything happened.
Ms McKeever: I did not get any news. My husband was at a filling station getting petrol and somebody said, “I think your father-in-law was injured”. I did not even know. I thought the bomb was in Crossmaglen when I heard the bang. One would hear bombs and different things. He came back to the house and he asked me who was upstairs because there was a light on. I said, “There’s nobody upstairs”. We did not know at the time and he said, “I have to go back out”. I asked where he was going and he said, “Don’t tell your mother but somebody said that your father was injured in the bomb in Crowe Street”. He said he would be back.
He went up the town and he tried to get down Crowe Street but he was not allowed. He went up to the hospital and, although he was not allowed in, he got in. He met a Sister Ita and she asked what was wrong with him. He said, “I am looking for somebody I think was injured in the bomb, Jack Rooney”. She looked down the list and said, “No, there is no Rooney here”. He looked at the list and there was a Mooney. He said, “Do you mind if I look and see who that is?” When he went up, he knew it was Dad in there. I did not see him that night but they would not let me in because he was all black from the bombing but he was talking.
Ms McKeever: They gave us a 50-50 chance. To me, that was a wonderful chance. I did not realise how bad matters really were. Mammy brought him up pears and stuff and even she thought he was just injured, she did not realise the position at any time. Then one of the doctors said to me, “Do you think you could explain to your mother that I do not think your father is going to survive?” I do not know why I was asked to do that. I was only in my early 20s. What would I have known about anything? When I said it to her she went crazy. She said, “What kind of a daughter are you, trying to tell me your father is going to die?” However, I was only doing what I was asked to do. I did not know any better. It was an awful time; a dreadful time. When it happened Brian and I were going around looking for a coffin and we had to look at a grave. He is not much older than me. It was dreadful. There was nobody to take over or do anything.
Deputy F. McGrath: I wish to ask some questions regarding the Garda investigation. The Barron report refers, for example, to Mr. X on page 33, paragraph 7. What are Ms McKeever’s family’s feelings towards the handling of the investigation by the Garda and the RUC, particularly in view of the fact that unnamed people are referred to in the report?
Ms McKeever: We were hard done by. They should have come and said, “Look, we know the names but we can’t do anything” or “The British Government won’t hand them over” but they never came to say anything. It was a case of, “We will ignore them and they will go away”. The Deputy should put himself in our position. If his father or mother was murdered, I am sure he would like to know or see someone investigate it. In our case no one did anything. There was a complete failure all around.
Deputy F. McGrath: Ms McKeever raised the issue of collusion and said that her mother feels very strongly about that. When Ms McKeever and her family refer to collusion do they mean that a couple of renegade loyalist paramilitaries were working with a couple of renegade members of the British security forces or do they mean that there were serious players within the British security forces——
Deputy F. McGrath: In the sub-committee’s proceedings and in the broader debate, it is continually stated that there are a couple of renegade bad apples. Does Ms McKeever think there is a deeper and more sinister issue?
Ms McKeever: No. My father helped with the collection in the chapel every Sunday. Even the priests never bothered. They are supposed to be charitable but they did not bother either. We were just left to do what we pleased. My father was buried on Christmas Eve and Christmas was the most awful time for me. I always tried to get it over in a heave, just to get through it some way. I asked my three children about six months ago what kind of Christmas they had because I could never remember. I could not forget him during the year but Christmas time was terrible. My children said thank God they had a lovely Christmas. I do not know how I managed that, but I did.
The main body of Mr. Justice Barron’s report relates to the bombing of Kay’s Tavern in Dundalk, but there are also a number of other bombing atrocities referred to, some more comprehensively than others. One of those atrocities was the bombing at Castleblaney. To give it some context, at approximately 8.22 p.m. on 7 March 1976 a car bomb exploded outside the Three Star Inn on West Street, Castleblaney. One person, Patrick Mone, a 56 year old farmer, was killed and another 26 people were injured. Extensive damage was caused to the Three Star Inn and its immediate vicinity.
Mr. Justice Barron examined the Castleblaney bombing in his report, but did not draw any specific conclusions on the bombing. He noted that the Garda investigation report had concluded that someone from Northern Ireland was responsible for the outrage. However, no conclusion or opinion was offered by the Garda report as to which particular subversive group might have been responsible for the attack. He noted that in the statement dated 3 January 1999, former RUC Sergeant John Weir claimed to have information that the Castleblaney bombing was carried out by a named fellow-RUC officer and a named UDR officer and that the explosives had been provided by a named UDR officer and were stored in a farmhouse at Glenane before the operation.
I welcome Ms Anna Mone McEneaney, the widow of Patrick Mone and thank her for coming. We also have with us, Mr. Thomas Mone, a nephew of Patrick Mone. I thank them for coming and hope they can throw some light on the terrible event and let us know the position with regard to their feelings and the current situation.
Ms Anna Mone McEneaney: I thank the committee for meeting us. We have still been told nothing about who planted the bomb, where it came from or anything. A few years back I got a solicitor to go to the Garda Commissioner in Monaghan to see what he knew about it. He came out and spoke to us and said he would be in touch with me in six weeks, but I heard nothing from him. The solicitor wrote to him after three months, but he has still never heard from him.
When we were going into Castleblaney that night there was a checkpoint on the road and we were stopped. The garda knew Patrick and said “Goodnight Mr. Mone” and waved us on. We parked three times in the town until we got the right spot to park for the bus and parked beside the car the bomb was in. When it was close to the time for the bus, Patrick got out of the car and was standing with his hands in his pockets waiting for the bus. The first thing I saw was like a flash of lightning and a bang — the bomb. Our car was turned over. In a while the town was in darkness, the dust cleared and I got out through the windscreen. I saw he was lying on the street and his legs up. That was the first thing I saw about it. Then he was taken in the ambulance to Monaghan. He died on the way about 20 minutes later.
Nobody ever came near me. I had an aunt who was 84 at the time. She lived 11 years after. Nobody ever came near me to say who did it, where it came from or how I was getting on — one thing or another. Not until this day did I hear anything. I would like to know who planted the bomb. I always said I would like to meet the person who planted it and hear why they would do such a cruel thing. We were innocent people sitting there. Tommy’s father and mother were very good to me.
Mr. Thomas Mone: The investigation report states that under the circumstances, the only conclusion one can come to is that someone from Northern Ireland was responsible for this outrage. As a member of the family I think for a citizen of the Irish Republic to be let down by this is terrible.
Like Ms English and Ms McKeever, the family think the families were badly let down by the Irish Government. A lot of collusion went on. There is reference to suspect Q, suspect O and suspect P being noted on occasions in the vicinity of the premises before the bomb went off. They were even watching the Garda station in Castleblayney. They were not there watching to see if the Garda boots were all nicely polished. They were there looking for information, to find out what time the checkpoints were being set up because I believe they were set up at the same time every day. It is a terrible thing that there are only two lines.
Ms Mone McEneaney fought for 27 years just to get a plaque put up in Castleblayney outside the pub where it happened. She had no help from anybody, neither from councillors nor county council officials. It took her own efforts for 27 years to get the plaque put up. This is a terrible indictment of this country.
Reading the report I note that nobody even bothered to check. The bomb was supposed to have been left there in a car at 4 p.m. but then two other cars were seen at 6.10 p.m. From my reading of the report as a lay person it sounds as if the car that was there at 4 p.m. was a decoy car which was left there. A similar car of the same colour came in at 6.10 p.m. along with a white car. The dark car coming in had one person in it but it was very low on the ground because it was obviously carrying a lot of weight. The white car had three men in the back and the passenger front seat was unoccupied. I think that when they pulled in to the street, the blue car replaced the car that was there and this is the car that had the bomb. The Garda never even investigated this or said this could have been what happened.
I know that Mr. Justice Barron did the best he could but there are so many things left unanswered. Like Margaret and Maura, the families also believe there was complete collusion between the security forces in the Glenanne crowd. For instance, where did they get the explosives in the first place? Was it from a security source? There had to be semtex or other explosives used to make up these bombs. The family was really badly let down by the whole set-up here.
My uncle was a very quiet man. He would not go into Castleblaney on a Sunday night because at that time, I believe, one could not get a drink in the North and everybody would come up across the Border. There would be big crowds in the town and there might be a bit of trouble in the town. He would never be anywhere near that. It was an awful crime that he was there. The only other thing was that it could have been an awful lot more. That bomb was designed to kill a lot more people. As I said before, gardaí were watching these suspects and knew they were after a suspect in either Castleblaney or Ballybay. They did not watch them coming in, but they had a good idea. There should have been more security there. The families were badly let down in that way as well.
Deputy Lynch: I welcome the families today. I know it must be very traumatic for all involved. Having to go through the event minute-by-minute and hour-by-hour must be like reliving it again. I have heard them say they would like to forget it but they cannot.
Having read the module dealing with the killing of Mr. Patrick Mone, while the others were also killed by chance while walking by, very clearly it happened by chance. As it was March, was it a bright spring evening? They were leaving friends to a bus and parked three times.
Ms Mone McEneaney: No. I was taken by car to Monaghan Hospital. When I wanted to get home, your father and mother came. When they came in, I knew that Patsy had passed away. He was breathing when I looked at him on the street and I thought he would be all right, which was silly enough of me. However, when his father came, I knew he had passed away. I came home that night and did not stay because it was only my aunt who was at home. In case she would think the two of us had been killed, I wanted to get home. A neighbour of mine came and took me home. Everything went on from there, including the funeral and all that.
Deputy Lynch: While I do not want to inquire so much that I would upset anyone, I know families normally organise funerals and it can be very distressing. If it is the first time it can be confusing to organise and understand the timetable. Did anyone representing the State come to offer assistance?
Deputy Lynch: The Garda must have had some connection. I am considering this on a very superficial level, based for example on my experience of a house being burgled. Did the Garda come back afterwards?
Senator Cummins: I welcome Ms Mone McEneaney and Mr. Mone. I offer my sincere sympathy to them. I would like to refer to the issues raised by Deputy Lynch. Do I understand correctly that after the Garda took the statement, it made no further contact with Ms Mone McEneaney?
Ms Mone McEneaney: No, the Garda made no other contact whatsoever. When I went to Monaghan, Garda Colm Rooney told me nothing. He came out to me with a file in front of him, but he did not open it. He said he would get in touch with me.
Ms Mone McEneaney: No. The first person who came to me was Joe Tiernan, when he was writing a book. He was the first person to come to me to ask me anything about it. He wrote a book about Northern Ireland and the bombs.
Senator Cummins: Mr. Mone spoke about the conclusion in the Garda report that two people from Northern Ireland were responsible. That was the conclusion. What does he think? Does he think more should have been done at that time with the RUC to pursue more forcibly the people who may have committed the crime? What does he think about the investigation?
Mr. Mone: I think the investigation was a sham, more or less. Nothing was really done at the time. Nothing was followed up. Very little was done. That the result of the investigation was two lines in a report shows the extent to which the security forces in the Republic took the thing seriously. They never followed up anything. They did not ask for any people to be taken from the North of Ireland. Nothing like that was done at all. It was very badly handled.
Ms Mone McEneaney: Yes, there was a checkpoint. When we were coming into town, there was a checkpoint. I could never understand that. The bomb was already in Castleblayney when the checkpoint was out the road.
Mr. Mone: Yes. I think the conclusion many people came to at the time was that the checkpoint would be in place from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., for example. Having read the report, I think the suspects were watching the Garda station to learn about the times at which the gardaí would emerge to set up the checkpoints. It was easy for them to figure out a time when it would be safe for them to take the bomb into the town.
Ms Mone McEneaney: At that time, there was mass in Castleblaney on Sunday evenings. Many people were coming out of mass. The bus was due around the same time. Whether it was meant for that or what, I do not know. We were just unlucky to be there.
Mr. Mone: The reason they moved the car three times was because they did not know which direction the bus was coming, either from Keady or from the Monaghan direction. When they found out it was coming from the Keady direction, they moved it three times to be near the bus stop. That is why they were there.
Chairman: I thank Ms Mone McEneaney very much. It is not easy to come here and talk about this. She has been very courageous and I thank her very much. I thank Mr. Mone very much. The meeting will suspend briefly to change the seating arrangements.
Chairman: The next tragedy we are to consider is the Dublin Airport tragedy. To put it in context, at approximately 1.20 p.m. on Saturday, 29 November 1975, a bomb exploded in a cubicle in the gents toilet adjacent to the public bar on the ground floor of Dublin Airport. John Francis Hayes, a 38-year-old married man from Balbriggan, County Dublin, was killed in the explosion. Five other persons who were in the toilet and three transit passengers were injured, although not seriously. It appears that nobody saw the bombs being planted. A claim of responsibility was issued to the Press Association in Belfast by the Belfast brigade of the UDA. The Garda investigation report concluded it could only be assumed that some organisation from the North, such as the UDA, was responsible for the act. Nobody was prosecuted and no further developments seem to have taken place.
We are joined today by Ms Monica Hayes, who is John’s widow, and Mr. Brendan Hayes, who is John’s son. I thank them for coming along. I know it is a difficult time for them and we appreciate their attendance very much. Will Ms Hayes say a few words on the matter?
Ms Monica Hayes: What could I say about John? He worked at the airport since 1969. He worked on a part-time basis during the summer. He would go to England and come back in the summer. In 1969 he was put permanently into the airport, which he loved. He loved working at the airport and worked away. He was not supposed to work on the Saturday but he had swapped shifts with somebody and went into work. The last thing I said to him was, “I hope you are safe on the road”. We lived in Balbriggan at the time. On the drive to the airport I said, “I hope you get home safe”. That was okay and he was due in at about 4 p.m.
I heard on television that there was a bomb at the airport and I did not put much thought on it. It was getting later and there was no sign of him. I looked out and saw about eight cars outside the door. The first person I was aware of was David Kennedy, the chief executive of Aer Lingus at the time. He told me there had been a bomb and that John had been killed, and that he was the only man who was killed. He had been killed at 1.10 p.m. but his body had not been found until about 8 p.m. until they had everybody out of the airport and found there was one man missing. He had been on his lunch break, went into the toilets to wash his hands and as he lifted up the toilet tissue the bomb went off. Apparently the toilets just fell in on top of him. I think he stayed alive for about an hour but he was not conscious. They found him at about 8 p.m. and they came and told me he was dead.
Brendan was only three and the twins were 11 years. We had only just moved into a nice new house and got it all as we wanted it. What did we do? Like everybody else who has spoken, we had nobody near us — only for Aer Lingus and it did for us. It absolutely arranged everything, even down to the man’s shroud — what you wanted — and were brilliant. Apart from Aer Lingus, the guards, collusion and everything were exactly the same as everybody else is saying — it did go on. Even today Aer Lingus is very good to me. I do not know what I would have done without it.
As I say, we had no help. We did not even know Justice for the Forgotten existed until I met Margaret within the last four or five years. Then we had the help from them, which we are most grateful for. If there is anything the members can think of asking, I can tell them the answer.
Deputy Ó Fearghaíl: I join my colleagues in welcoming the witnesses. I thank them for attending to assist us in our work and I sympathise with them and all the other victims on what they have suffered and continue to suffer and on the lack of closure.
Ms M. Hayes: He was born in Kilkenny. He was a countryman, a big countryman. He loved his hurling, he was quiet and liked to go for his pints. He did not drink that much; it is just that he had his friends at the airport. He loved the job at the airport. He always liked to be out in the open and that was probably because he was brought up in Kilkenny. He was used to being in the open all the time. He had been in England eight years before I met him and we got married in England. He always wanted to come back to Ireland. I had the twins in England and then we came back to Ireland. Eight years later, I had Brendan in Ireland.
Ms M. Hayes: As I said, Aer Lingus was very good. I was lucky financially — let us put it that way — and I did not have to work. On the night they came to tell me about my husband’s death, I can remember the children were sitting on the sofa and I said to myself, “You have either got to look after those children or give up.” You have to look after your children.
Ms M. Hayes: As I say, we did not know about Margaret English until about five or six years ago. We knew none of this and it is only when we heard about Margaret and Justice for the Forgotten that we got involved.
Ms M. Hayes: Yes, what could we do about it? You could nearly see people and their children pointing at you going down the road and saying things such as, “That woman’s husband was killed by the bomb”, but you just had to get on with it. There is nothing else you could do.
Ms M. Hayes: No, because we did not know there was anything. We thought of the people being killed and just thought it was a natural thing actually. Funnily enough, we were in Guiney’s on 17 May 1975, the day the bomb went off. We went in to buy Brendan’s shoes and when we came home we looked at the Evening Press and I said to John, “Look at this, Guiney’s has gone up”. We had been in that day to buy the shoes. He kept saying to me, “Don’t go into town”. Six months later, he went to work and he was killed.
Deputy Ó Fearghaíl: Could Brendan Hayes say what it was like for him growing up knowing this had happened to his father and that there had been no outcome and no solution and that nobody was brought to justice?
Mr. B. Hayes: Initially, in a perverse way I was quite lucky in that I had no recollection of anything, so it did not affect me that badly psychologically. My mother did a fantastic job with my growing up. She more than replaced my father. I know he will never come back but I think she more than made up for him. I was quite lucky and I grew up very well.
Deputy Ó Fearghaíl: There is somewhat of a disparity between what Ms Hayes said to us and what is included in the report. The report states the bomb went off at 1.20 p.m. but Mr. Hayes’s body was only discovered at 6.40 p.m.
Ms M. Hayes: Yes, I heard about it at 8 o’clock. It was on the news on television that there had been a bomb at the airport. I did not put much on it but David Kennedy, who was the chief executive of Aer Lingus, came in and turned the television off. A whole load of people from Aer Lingus came, such as doctors.
Ms M. Hayes: I knew something was wrong when he was not in at 5 o’clock. We did not have a phone in those days. I did guess that something was wrong. John was like clockwork. He would go out at a certain time and he would be back in at exactly the same time every night.
The next item is the atrocity at Donnelly’s Bar in Silverbridge. On the same evening of the Dundalk bombing outside Kay’s Tavern, 19 December 1975, a gun and bomb attack was carried out at Donnelly’s Bar, Silverbridge, County Armagh, in which three persons were killed. They were Patrick Donnelley, aged 24 years, Michael Donnelley, aged 14 years, and Trevor Brecknell, aged 32 years. The police on both sides of the Border believed the two attacks were linked. The Silverbridge attack was initially claimed on behalf of the Red Hand Commandos, an organisation affiliated to the UVF, and also a cover-name used by mid-Ulster loyalist subversives for attacks undertaken without the sanction of the UVF leadership.
The attack was said to have taken place at around 9.20 p.m. A car drove up and a man got out with a gun. He started shooting across the top of the car. According to witnesses, one or two gunmen then went into the pub and started shooting for approximately 30 seconds. They then withdrew on the instructions of one of them, who shouted, “Back out, back out”. As they were leaving, one of them threw a bomb on the floor of the bar which exploded, causing numerous injuries.
Much of the information Mr. Justice Barron had on this bombing came from the Pat Finucane Centre. An RUC investigation file was submitted to the Northern Ireland DPP on 5 April 1976. This appears to have been for information purposes only as no person had been made amenable for the attacks. It appears an RUC officer and another person were charged with withholding information regarding the attack but were not prosecuted after the DPP entered a nolle prosequi in their case.
We are joined by Ms Ann Brecknell, the widow of Trevor Brecknell, and his son Mr. Alan Brecknell. Alan is also from the Pat Finucane Centre For Human Rights and Social Change. Will Mrs. Brecknell recount her recollections of the awful atrocity?
Ms Ann Brecknell: I was in hospital when Trevor was killed. My third child had been born a few days previously and he had been to visit me that evening. He said that he would call at Silverbridge on his way home to buy his mates a drink. He worked at a nearby factory. I was listening to the radio and heard about the attack on Kay’s Tavern. At the end of the news, there was a report about an explosion at Donnelly’s in Silverbridge, south Armagh. I knew immediately that Trevor had been killed; I do not know how, but I simply knew. It approximately midnight before the chaplain and a consultant came to tell me because all the casualties had been brought to Daisy Hill Hospital, and they had to sort everything out.
The next day I was allowed to return home because my two other boys were there. People were coming to visit us all day, but I had to go back into hospital that night. I was released on the Sunday to bring the remains home for the funeral. The police did not come to me until the day after the funeral. A sergeant brought me some of Trevor’s personal belongings, including his ring, watch and chain. He said that they knew who was responsible but that they had an alibi of having been playing pool in Markethill with their mates and that nothing could be done about it.
That was it; no one came to me thereafter, and I really knew very little. Local people spoke of collusion but I was in no state even to understand about what they were talking. I was too busy trying to bring up three children on my own. My son Alan visited the Pat Finucane Centre one day when he was in Derry and afterwards we began to hear more regarding collusion. That was how matters progressed as far as they did. However, nobody else had bothered to help us.
Mr. Alan Brecknell: I was seven years of age when it happened and, unfortunately, I remember it very well, for both good and bad reasons. My sister was only two days old and we had the excitement of having a new baby sister in the house. The attack took place on the Friday night and on the Saturday morning we woke up and knew that something was wrong in the house. People were present who should not have been there. I recall our parish priest, Father Doogan, sitting me down on the stairs together with my brother, who is only 11 months younger than me, and our laughing at him when he told us what had happened because we found the idea farcical. As my mother has said, many people visited the house at the time. The next thing I remember is the day of the funeral. We had been taken out of the house by family friends, who looked after us until that time.
As my mother said, we grew up. There was always talk locally of some sort of security force involvement, but to be honest I did not pay much attention to it. Brendan Hayes said that his mother had done a great job bringing him up, as did our mother with the three of us. We got on and lived our lives until approximately six years ago. With the advent of the ceasefires, various members of the three families affected started asking questions. That was when, as my mother said, I ended up in the Pat Finucane Centre. Matters have moved on from there regarding what we know about the events of that night. The information we possess we owe to those at the Pat Finucane Centre. For his first report into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and, in particular this report, Mr. Justice Barron enjoyed access to information that was never available to use. It may not be complete, but it paints a bigger picture. When Mr. Justice Hamilton started his report we decided to try and give him relevant information that he might be able to use. Thank God, both of them did use the information and it has helped us to get to a point we never would have reached before. If we had been waiting for the security forces or the British Government to tell us things, we would never have happened. While Judge Barron’s report has been useful and goes some of the way, it obviously does not deal with all the questions we have.
Deputy F. McGrath: I welcome Mr. Alan Brecknell and Ms Ann Brecknell. On behalf of my colleagues I express our deepest sympathy to the family on the murder of Trevor. I want to ask a few personal-type questions first as regards the type of person Trevor was. Will Ms Brecknell describe him for the committee?
Ms Brecknell: He was a very outgoing person. He loved life and his family. He loved mixing with people and he played darts. He loved watching football. He was just a great family man, very good-natured and he would have done anything for anybody.
Ms Brecknell: He was an Englishman. I met him when I was on holidays in England and he came to live over here. We lived in Belfast, first, and the Troubles got very bad. We moved to the country because that is where I was from originally. When we moved first, he said that was the best thing we had ever done and that we should have done it sooner.
Ms Brecknell: On the Monday after the funeral I had to return to the hospital because my daughter was still there and a police surgeon came that day. However, that is the only time they ever came and that I was talking to anybody.
Ms Brecknell: He had brought Trevor’s personal belongings. He told me they were very sorry about what had happened. I asked what was being done about it. He said they knew who had done it but there was an alibi in that they claimed to have been playing pool in Market Hill with some of their mates. Nothing more could be done about it, he said, unless somebody came forward with more information. That was it.
Deputy F. McGrath: It broadens out then, as regards the actual attack. On page 80 of the Barron report it says that about six days before the attack there was a raid by the RUC on the particular pub——
Ms Brecknell: Yes, I was. Later on the Donnellys told me about that. They had gone in and were supposed to be charging them for after-hours drinking. Three or four people were still there and they were playing pool. They went around the whole building and examined where all the doors were, including entrances and exits etc. The Donnelly family thought they were acting very nervously and were very strange. Afterwards, when the explosion and everything was over and when they asked questions about those people who had come for the after-hours drinking, there was no record of it in the police files at all.
Deputy F. McGrath: Was Ms Brecknell aware, not immediately following the atrocity perhaps, that one of those police officers on the raid that night as regards the so-called after-hours drinking, allegedly was involved in the attack six days later?
Deputy F. McGrath: At that time there was a group within the RUC known as the Armagh special patrol group, the SPGs. Was Ms Brecknell and her family conscious of that group in any way in a positive or negative sense, or did it make an impact on their lives?
Deputy F. McGrath: Ms Brecknell and her family, with the assistance of the Pat Finucane Centre, met the investigating officer who said he believed the attack was the result of collusion between members of the RUC, UDR and Portadown UVF. He suggested the perpetrators included one RUC man, possibly in the RUC reserve, and two from the UDR, with the remainder from the UVF. In so far as Ms Brecknell was concerned, this was an RUC officer who was calling it as he saw it.
Deputy F. McGrath: On page 87 of the Barron report, he stated that he believed that members of the gang responsible for Silverbridge were involved in a number of other attacks which included Seán Farmer, Colm McCartney, the attack on the Reavey family, the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the bombings at Kay’s Tavern. That is a serious suggestion when it comes from a police officer.
Mr. Brecknell: I was not at that particular meeting, but I met a detective chief inspector. I can only judge the man as I met him and he seemed a genuine person. Judge Barron also met him. I can remember Mummy saying in later years that she thought that this particular police officer was genuine and that he intended to do his best. I spoke to Gerry Donnelly, who owned the bar. He met this police officer a number of times and said the same thing. The police officer once told Gerry Donnelly not to call him at the RUC station in Newry and that he would arrange to meet him elsewhere as he had to watch his back as well as his front. That would make one suspect that he was worried about his own colleagues. I can only judge the man as I saw him and he seemed a genuine individual.
Deputy F. McGrath: The reason I mentioned this man was in relation to the Armagh special patrol group, which seems to pop up quite often, even in regard to intimidation within the force. Other police officers who tried to be honest and fair came under pressure and were threatened by them, which is a major concern in any police force.
Mr. Brecknell: Of course it is. The Armagh special patrol group was supposedly an elite force created to deal with terrorism. The members of that group took their elitism too literally. I believe that this is possibly the group the police officer was talking about when he said that he had to watch his back as well as his front.
Deputy F. McGrath: What is the response of the Brecknell family to the comment that the attack was not sanctioned by the UVF leadership? Is it a question of rogue elements within the security forces and the UVF? I do not go along with that theory, but I would like to know the family’s opinion.
Mr. Brecknell: Yes, it was part of a plan to intimidate the Nationalist community of south Armagh at the time. That is my personal opinion. If one looks at some of the other incidents, there were attacks on céilí houses, on bars, on well respected and known families. We are not talking about attacks on the republican movement.
Deputy Hoctor: I welcome Ann and Alan Brecknell here today and I thank them for their elaborate contribution. Ms Brecknell mentioned that while she was still in hospital, an RUC officer came to visit her and brought her watches, chains and other personal items. Can she recall his name? What is his name and the other officer? Are they the same person?
Deputy Hoctor: I am sure the name is available to us if we need it for the committee’s deliberations afterwards. Some 24 statements were gathered by the Pat Finucane Centre which contained detailed descriptions of the attackers. I understand one person offered to view an identification parade but was never approached after making that offer of help or after the other information emerged. What does Ms Brecknell make of this?
Mr. Brecknell: I have obviously been involved and met each of the 24 individuals who gave statements to the Pat Finucane Centre. For a lot of them, it was the first time they had given a statement to anyone. The police had not followed them up to any great degree to find out who was in the bar that particular night. Two people had looked at a photofit and said they thought they recognised someone off it. The same investigating officer had shown them this photofit and he said to us in the same meetings that the person who had fairly distinctive facial hair had it removed within a number of days of this photofit being circulated around the RUC stations in Portadown. To me, there is definitely something suspicious, at the very least, in that.
Ms Brecknell: I would like to find out why it was done and who did it. I know at this stage that nobody is ever going to be brought to justice but I would like, for our peace of mind and for my family’s peace of mind, and for my grandchildren, to know exactly why it was done to innocent people.
Mr. Brecknell: From my point of view, I suppose we are probably in a better position than most people because we know more about what happened on that particular night than some of the other people who will speak to the committee later. This has been a useful process but it should not end here. There is enough information here, in my opinion, to say there are questions that still need to be answered. I know it is in a different jurisdiction as far as the committee is concerned but we all class ourselves as Irish citizens and I think it is incumbent on this committee and on the Dáil in general to ask the hard questions where they have to be asked.
Senator J. Walsh: Like the other members, I extend my sympathy. It is difficult to rear a family when one’s husband dies so young. From listening to Alan, he is a credit to Ms Brecknell, as I am sure the other members of the family are also.
With regard to correspondence the family had with members of the British Government, when they inquired as to what progress was being made, the family received a letter from Adam Ingram dated 21 February 2001 which gave incorrect information, as noted in the report. That information was subsequently corrected by Mr. Ingram’s successor at the Northern Ireland Office, Ms Jane Kennedy. What information does the family have in this regard?
I also wish to refer to the case of 28 June 1980, where a nolle prosequi was entered at the direction of the judge. This is important to us because, apart from the cases involved, the issue of collusion is a very significant factor and is a thread running through this matter. Indeed, there is a common thread with regard to the suspects in the cases we are discussing today and the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. It is important we get as much information from the Brecknell family as they possess. It would be of help to us.
Mr. Brecknell: In relation to the misinformation, if that is the way you want to call it, from Adam Ingram, he sent a letter — it was sent on his behalf — saying two people had been charged and convicted, as far as I can remember, and then Jane Kennedy corrected that — I think he also said they were both RUC officers — and then she wrote back and said one was an RUC officer, one was a civilian, and they were not convicted. I think over that period of time we received three different answers from the British Government in relation to one question. This simple question was whether anybody was ever charged or convicted in regard to the attack on Donnelly’s Bar.
I understand nolle prosequi is a legal term. In the Northern Ireland jurisdiction, only the Attorney General has the authority to enter a nolle prosequi. On 28 June 1980, however, a nolle prosequi was entered at the behest of the Director of Public Prosecution and with the authority of the presiding judge in the case of several RUC officers charged with various offences. We have followed this question up because, in our opinion, given that the only person who can enter a nolle prosequi is the Attorney General, this case must have gone all the way to the Cabinet Office in London.
Mr. Brecknell: As far as I know, yes. The answer that has come back is that the DPP’s office in the North was offering a nolle prosequi, which it should not have done. It was basically saying it was going to enter a nolle prosequi as opposed to no prosecution. The Attorney General’s office has written to the Pat Finucane Centre and basically said that this is what was happening and that there was no documentary evidence that the Attorney General at the time was ever informed of what was going on. There were, however, five RUC officers in court charged with serious offences and, to me, if the Attorney General did not know about that, there is something seriously wrong with their reporting system, at the very least. The current situation in regard to this case is that the Attorney General is saying that the DPP was offering a nolle prosequi in regard to these offences even though he did not have the authority to do so.
Mr. Brecknell: A judicial review was lodged against the DPP’s office, the Secretary of State and the RUC. At an early stage the one against the RUC was withdrawn because it would not stand after some of the judgments made after the Jordan case in Europe.
Mr. Brecknell: The family withdrew the action against the RUC. The case against the Secretary of State was also withdrawn at a fairly early stage. The one against the DPP’s office was pursued and the outcome of that is detailed in the Barron report. This related to the fact that no reasons were given by the DPP’s office for not prosecuting a named RUC officer and civilian in regard to the attack on Donnelly’s Bar. We will discuss the Pat Finucane Centre’s submission tomorrow, which elaborates on this incident.
Chairman: I thank the witnesses. We will now discuss the attack on the Reavey family but we will not move on to the O’Dowd family tragedy until after lunch. We will break for lunch after Mr. Eugene Reavey has made his contribution and been questioned by the committee. I thank Mr. Reavey for his attendance.
I will begin by outlining the context of this case, as set out in the Barron report. The Reavey family lived at White Cross near Market Hill, County Armagh. At 6.10 p.m. on Sunday, 4 January 1976, three Reavey brothers were watching television in the living room when three men wearing balaclavas entered the house, one of whom began firing a machine gun. John Martin Reavey and Brian Reavey were killed at the scene, while Anthony Reavey survived the attack but died of a brain haemorrhage a month later.
This was generally believed to be a loyalist attack. The nearest UDR base was in Glenanne. The family was of the view that it was harassed by the RUC. Mr. Eugene Reavey told Mr. Justice Barron that an RUC officer had identified three persons as having being involved in the attack and also described how he had acquired the same names from other sources. Mr. Justice Barron noted that despite Mr. Eugene Reavey’s raising of the matter with the RUC and despite the fact it already had that information in whole or in part, the investigation was not progressed.
I again remind sub-committee members that because of the Supreme Court ruling on the Abbeylara case, we are prevented from making any findings or expressions of culpability against individuals who are not Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas. I thank Mr. Reavey for coming before the committee. He might wish to make some remarks regarding the awful tragedy that befell his family.
Mr. Eugene Reavey: At 6 p.m. on 4 January 1976, my mother, father and three younger members of my family left their home to visit my aunt in Camlough, which is approximately three miles away. While John Martin and Brian initially offered to leave them over, ultimately Oliver did so. He left home at approximately 6 p.m. and had not far to go. On his return to the house at 6.20 p.m., he encountered this massacre.
Apparently, three men came into the house at 6.10 p.m. It was only a week after Christmas, all the decorations were still up and the boys were watching television. We had an armchair in the corner and everyone used to fight to get into it. On a Saturday night, if any of the older fellows were in the chair and needed to get their shoes polished, they were obliged to pay 6p to get some of the younger ones to polish them, to avoid leaving the chair. Two boys were sitting in the chair, one in the chair itself and the other on its arm. John Martin was sitting in another chair by the fire. He was riddled with bullets and died instantly. Brian was shot once through the back and the bullet went through his heart. He stumbled into the room and was sitting in the fireplace with his arms folded. Anthony had dived under the bed. They came up and riddled his legs, lower abdomen and groin with eight to ten bullets. He kept very quiet and listened.
They went to every other room in the house and shot off the doors, shouting: “Where are these bastards? They’re not here”. There were 12 children in the family, eight boys and four girls, and the attackers thought there would be a houseful of people. On the previous Sunday, our annual GAA meeting was held at the hall and everyone came to our house after the meeting. It was known as a ceilí house and there may have been 40 people or more in the house on the previous Sunday night.
Anthony managed to crawl out after there had been silence for a minute and he knew they had left. He crawled out from under the bed and crawled up to the neighbours’ house, which is 400 or 500 yards up the road. When he rang their doorbell, Mrs. O’Hanlon answered the door. He fell into her arms and told her: “The boys have been shot and I have been shot too. Everyone is dead.” As they did not know what was happening, they telephoned the police and the ambulance service. The parish priest, Fr. Hughes, and another priest came down and offered them the last rites. Someone came for me and brought me over to the house. I lived nearby, across the road. When I arrived, the boys were lying in the house. The ambulance came and we went to Daisy Hill Hospital. When we returned from the hospital, the police had entered the house and one guy was searching through the drawers. I should not mention his name. He was a neighbour who would have been known to me. I asked him what he was doing and he replied he was looking for ammunition because that they had received a tip that there was a considerable amount of ammunition in the house. A cousin of mine caught him by the back of the neck and threw him out on to the street.
We then went to Daisy Hill Hospital where my father and Seamus identified the bodies. On our way back from the hospital, we were stopped by the police and the army. We were taken out of the car and put up against a land rover. They began to abuse my mother. They told her that it was as well that she did not have any trouble on their side on such a bad and cold night and asked her how many noses she had. They then expressed surprise that she had only one nose and two ears and asked her where her other nose and ear were. Then, one, for the want of a better word, bastard began to put his hand up my mother’s clothes. I can never live with the fact that I did not do anything. This man was pressing his gun into my back and would have shot me if I had done anything. I have no doubt they would have shot all of us on that road. I have never recovered from that incident. I apologise to the committee for getting upset.
Mr. Reavey: When I arrived home, one helicopter appeared. It turned on the light and circled around and then went away. No more helicopters or members of the police or army were seen that night. The question that always stayed with me was who gave the orders. Normally in south Armagh at that time, soldiers were found on every corner during the night. I often wondered who gave the order for the withdrawal of the soldiers. It was certainly not given by the soldiers on the ground.
We made arrangements for the funeral the following day. We had never had a funeral before and did not know how to proceed with one. We had to buy black ties and shirts. We did not know what happened to us the following day. My father gave an interview to either the BBC or UTV in which he stated he did not want anyone else to be shot or murdered in retaliation for his sons’ deaths. He said that if their deaths put an end to the violence in south Armagh, they would not have died in vain. We watched this five-minute interview, which was a short news bulletin, at 5.40 p.m. We left home and travelled approximately half a mile or more before running into what is now known as the Kingsmills massacre, which involved the murder of 12 men. Bodies were lying all over the road. We thought they were cows belonging to one of our neighbours because that was the route they always took. It was now 6 p.m. and there was pandemonium at the scene. All the cars were at the brow of the hill and the police or ambulances were not present. Cars were coming to and from Newry. There were possibly between 75 and 100 cars in our cortege so we had to push them back and take a different route. When we reached Daisy Hill Hospital, took possession of our boys’ bodies and got ready to set out for home, all the bodies of the victims of the Kingsmills massacre were being brought into the hospital. There was pandemonium and considerable anger and fear at the hospital. It was a dark January evening and I remember it very well. Members of the Kingsmill family were in an adjacent room. I went in and said that I was a member of the Reavey family and wanted to offer our condolences to them on the loss of their loved ones. I had no idea at that time about whether they were Catholics or Protestants. No one knew.
We proceeded out the road with the cortege and two hearses — Anthony lived for nearly a month — but those boys, the police and the army, were sitting and waiting for us again. They were out of their cars. My brother, Seamus, was in front of me and had the black bags containing the clothes my brothers had been wearing, which had been given to him by the mortuary attendant. They were a mass of blood. The soldiers and the police took the bags out of the back of the car and danced on them on the road. I do not know how one could cope with that. They took my mother and abused her again on the roadside. Some of the younger soldiers were more afraid than we were, but there were a few hardy boys — at most checkpoints one would come across, there is always one paratrooper or someone like that who would not be an ordinary soldier and would usually wear a different cap — who displayed bad manners.
We proceeded home. The funerals came along and we got them over and done with. We had been doing fairly well. There was a great deal of hassle from the police and soldiers. I do not know why because we never had any hassle with them before then. We did not even know that the police were there. Anthony was doing well. We did not mention much about the shooting to him and we let him take his own time. He had been in Daisy Hill Hospital with Alan Black, survivor of the Kingsmill massacre, and they became very good friends. Mr. Black is still a good family friend and he visits my mother after all these years.
On a Sunday morning at approximately 11 a.m., Anthony took ill and went to hospital. He was lost in Daisy Hill Hospital between 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. that evening. No one knew where he was. He took ill at 11 a.m., when a doctor was sent for, and it must have been close to dinner time when he went to hospital; I forget. He was supposed to have been put into a ward to wait on a doctor, but no one saw him until 4 p.m. He fell into a coma and was shipped to Belfast, where a neurosurgeon told us that he was effectively dead and, with the approval of the family, the machine would be switched off. None of us was in a fit state to make that decision. Fr. Hughes, the parish priest, spoke to my mother, who came to the decision to switch off the machine.
Anthony was buried, then the inquest began. The coroner said that the shootings in which Anthony was involved had no bearing on his death at all. He was not included as a victim of the Troubles until very recently, four or five years ago. He would have done my mother out of any compensation due to her. The Northern Ireland Office sent her a cheque for £450 to bury her three sons but the cheque was returned. The law case that day was the first time my mother was in a court. She was never in a court before. The law at the time was that to enable you to be eligible for compensation you needed to be at the scene of the incident. My mother was not at the scene of the incident. The solicitor on the other side was very adamant that she did not suffer shock because she was not at the scene. The judge said, “Excuse me Mrs. Reavey, I want to ask you a question. We are getting nowhere here”. Mummy was crying when she was in that box. She was on 20 tablets a day or whatever she was on. The judge said to her, “Mrs. Reavey, can I ask you if you suffered shock when Fr. Hughes and Dr. Stewart went to see you at your sister’s house? Did you suffer the shock when you came to your home and you saw ambulances and police and lights all around or if it was when you see your two sons lying on the slab in Daisy Hill Hospital?” At that stage we all got up and walked out of the court and we took her with us. We do not know what way it was going to work out. There was absolutely no justice that day.
There is a wee bit of confusion in my mind about this, whether it was after Anthony died or after the two boys died. There was a publican came up from Market Hill. He was friendly with my mother and father. He took my father into the bottom room and said, “Jimmy, I want to tell you who shot your sons”, and told him. My father died in 1981, which was five years after that. He told me that conversation two weeks before he died. I had to carry that burden with me all the years that I was going around because I dare not list those names or the Provos would have shot everyone in sight. I had that burden with me all those years about who shot my brothers.
At the time we went to Newry to make a statement after the boys died and the police sneered, jeered and laughed at us. We had to leave the police station without making a statement. I made a statement this year to the Historical Enquiries Team. It took me almost five weeks to make that statement, two or three days a week. I must say I found it very difficult to do this and they took me to places I never thought I would have to go. The police know who shot my brothers and they have known it for years. The names are in that book. I meet them every day on the road and I cannot say, “You shot my brothers”, or “You didn’t shoot them”. There is never going to be anything done about it and you have no intention of doing anything about it. It is very fine to come up here and sit here but that is the fact of the story. Excuse me. Just give me a minute. A policeman in Newry met my brother. He knows who shot my brothers. He tried his best but was taken off the investigation and sent wherever somebody who knows too much is sent. I do not know what happens. That man lived his life in fear. He is still a policeman but, as Mr. Brecknell also knows, he was sent away somewhere.
Judge Barron phoned me to ask whether I would give evidence. I understand we are not allowed to name people here. However, the names Alec Robb gave my father five days after the incident are the same names as those in this book. I do not know how many murders those people committed. It is all connected to one base at Glenanne. I do not seek the jailing of any of these men. Jailing them will do me no good. All I want to know is that they will not get away with these heinous crimes. They were involved in many crimes apart from those against my brothers. In their statements, they admitted involvement in the Silverbridge massacre. However, they have still not been lifted. Guns belonging to the UVF brought from South Africa were found on their farms. However, when it went to court they were left off. They will never be charged because they were in the pay of the State.
I must give the Historical Enquiries Team the highest praise. They were the most professional officers I have ever met. I told them they were welcome to visit me but that I would not talk to them if they brought police officers. They met with my mother and told her they believed neither the police nor any Government official spoke with her in 30 years. They apologised for the fact that no one acknowledged the loss of her sons. They also apologised for the conduct of RUC and army personnel on the nights after her sons were murdered and confirmed that her sons were innocent victims. They stated they read every note on the matter and not the slightest hint of evidence existed to suggest her sons were involved in any paramilitary group. We always knew that. All we were interested in was football and working.
Ian Paisley stood in the House of Commons and accused me of being a leading republican in south Armagh and organising the Kingsmills massacre. He did that under the privilege of the House. When he was challenged to repeat it outside, he failed to do so. I took him to court on a different matter. I lost the case and was obliged to pay his fees. I was not in very good form about all of that.
Chairman: I thank Mr. Reavey for that information. I know it is very difficult for him but this is very helpful to us because we are hearing a side of the story that we have not heard before. To date, we have heard about events on this side of the Border rather than on the other side.
Deputy Lynch: I thank Mr. Reavey. This was clearly not easy for him but he has provided us with a backdrop to the events. He has made an invaluable contribution today which — with the exception of those of the victims and relatives — is far greater in value than those made by people who were charged with doing so. Members are very grateful for that and for the background information provided. Clearly, the events had a traumatic and lasting effect on Mr. Reavey and his family.
Senator Cummins: I also thank Mr. Reavey for his moving account of what happened at the time and also what has occurred since. Can Mr. Reavey see any end to this? Does he believe there is any chance that those involved will be charged with the murder of his brothers? Is there an end in sight? Will the Historical Enquiries Team do anything about this case?
Mr. Reavey: I asked members of the Historical Enquiries Team, HET, if they would arrest the people involved and they said they would, once they had all of the necessary information. I told them that I did not believe they would arrest them but they assured me they would because they have powers of arrest up to and equal to those of a chief constable. They said they would arrest them when they had all the information required. They said the picture was wider than originally believed and involved more than the murder of my brothers. They said they did not want to arrest those involved for one matter and miss out on catching them in respect of others.
Those people were allowed to carry on their campaign of murder and I do not believe they will ever be arrested or charged. Somebody sanctioned their behaviour. They were members of the security forces and not just people running about who knew nothing.
Senator J. Walsh: I thank Mr. Reavey for his contribution. He appeared before this committee during the hearings on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and provided very clear evidence. Mr. Reavey’s job used to take him to James Mitchell’s farm weekly. Subsequent to these atrocities, he was advised to discontinue his visits to the farm for security reasons. While we can all see the reason for this in hindsight, did he have any information at the time why he should not visit the farm?
Mr. Reavey: It was the first week in February before we got ourselves straightened up. Just before I returned to work for Ross Poultry in the middle of February, my employer brought me into his office and told me that the company would pay me one year’s wages and allow me to keep my company car if it did not suit me to return to work. However, I told him I was not interested, my brothers had done nothing and were not involved in any organisation, and that if I did not go back to work, it would be seen that they were involved in something. I said to him that I had nothing to hide and was going back to work. I thanked him for the offer but was not going to take it. My employer seemed a bit uneasy at my reply because he thought I would take the money and the car.
I went away home and he rang me and he said that he wanted to bring me into the police station in Portadown. He said the detective sergeant or whatever he was wanted to speak with me. I do not have that man’s name and I never had his name. I might have had it on the day but I can never remember his name and I never found it out. He said to me they could not guarantee my safety in going to work and that what I was going to have to do was to go a different route every day. He also said that he had been speaking to my boss and that they were going to take me out of all these different places and were just going to base me in south Armagh alone. They would not let me go into north Down or elsewhere. He said I would not be going back to this farm at Glenanne. It was to be out of bounds. That was the first time the penny dropped for me.
Senator J. Walsh:
May I rephrase the question? If we are dealing with collusion, which is a major theme in all the reports brought before us, we should not shy away from the issue. To Mr.
Reavey’s knowledge, were the other two named suspects in either the RUC or the UDR?
Mr. Reavey: I have tried very hard not to. The man who lived next to the Glenanne farm, and continued to do so for a long time afterwards, was in the RUC reserve. A man was charged at the court in 1978 and served 15 years in Crumlin Road Jail. On the day he died he received his RUC pension. That should tell the committee something.
Senator J. Walsh: On a point of clarification and without mentioning names, three names appear in the middle of the penultimate paragraph near the bottom of page 101, attributed to information obtained by Eugene Reavey. Which of the first two was in the UDR and in the farm adjacent to Glenanne farm?
Mr. Reavey: The other man lived in Newtownhamilton, which is a short distance along a back road from there. The gang left the farm at Glenanne, carried out the atrocity on our house and returned home. They could have completed it in some 13 or 14 minutes. We lived at the far end of south Armagh and were the last Roman Catholic family, so were an easy target.
Chairman: I thank Mr. Reavey for his help and co-operation today. If there is any other matter he believes would assist the committee I would be obliged if he made contact with Mr. Ray Treacy, the clerk, who would be delighted to hear from him.
We will suspend until 2.30 p.m. If anybody in the remaining groups, who are concerned with the O’Dowds shootings, the Step Inn Bar in Keady, the Rock Bar in Tassagh and the Miami Showband, have problems with time can they speak to Mr. Treacy so that, if necessary, we can rearrange the afternoon schedule accordingly?
Chairman: I welcome everyone to the afternoon session of our hearings on the fourth Barron report. I understand that here has been a slight change in arrangements and that, because of the time constraints involved, Mr. Barney O’Dowd has facilitated some other witnesses.
We are now going to consider the atrocity that occurred at the Step Inn in Keady. To provide some context, Mr. Justice Barron briefly refers to an attack on the Step Inn in Keady on page 97 of his report. As I have said, it is a very brief reference.
We are joined by Mr. Paddy McGleenan, who is very welcome. We thank him for attending. Paddy is the father of Gerard McGleenan. We are also joined by Mr. Malachy McDonald, the husband of Betty McDonald. He is very welcome and we thank him for attending.
I remind witnesses that the terms of reference relate to Mr. Justice Barron’s report on the bombing of Kay’s Tavern in Dundalk. We are prevented from making any findings or expressions of culpability of any individuals who are not Members of the Houses.
Mr. Paddy McGleenan: On 16 August 1976, we were in our house on St. Patrick’s Street in Keady. There was a film entitled “Jaws” showing in Dundalk at the time. All the rest of our family were going to it with friends who were over from England. My son Gerard did not want to go because he had a rough time the previous day playing hurling. He played for the county, Armagh, and for the local club. He had a rough day and he was very sore.
He decided he would go over to Malachy’s for a pint before retiring. On his way over there was a flash and, according to people that were on the street, he got down on his hunkers and stayed like that for a while. The entire front of our house was blown in and roof was blown off. My wife and I were in the kitchen with my sister-in-law. Ger came in shouting “Mummy, Mummy, Mummy”. They were the last words he spoke. My oldest son, Robert, and a friend carried him out onto the street and he died there. It was a no-warning bomb.
A lady who lived opposite us went down to her son’s grave every night as the graveyard was only 100 yards from her house. She had not great eyesight, but a week afterwards she called me and said she saw soldiers in the graveyard, on her way there, when the bomb went off. They did not have English accents. I do not remember much after that except that Malachy McDonald’s wife died in that explosion.
About four weeks later a sergeant from the barracks along with another policeman came to take statements from my wife and I. I discovered afterwards that the policeman who wrote the statement was removed from the police force because of something to do with the bomb at the Rock Bar. This happened to a few policemen. I was a bus driver for Ulsterbus for 30 years and he would also be on the buses. He was a good friend of mine because he lived in Armagh and we travelled in the mornings in each other’s cars to save petrol and money. I did not know that he was involved in this until I read that he had been put out of the police due to the carry on at the Rock Bar.
The lights were off in the street for three nights. I phoned to find out why this was so and was told by whoever answered that it was for security reasons, so I was on the street for the whole week keeping my eye out. Malachy and his wife did the same. At that time, around our part of the country, things were very rough, but we missed the bomb they put at Malachy’s pub door. The front of our house was blown down. My oldest son, Robert, was hurt a bit but not too much. He was taken to hospital, then released after a day or so.
Mr. Malachy McDonald:
On 16 August I had workmen in Armagh so Betty was serving in the bar all day. I made a rough outline this morning on the way down. I was back home by around 6.30 p.m. It had been a very warm, sunny day. She came downstairs at around 10 p.m. and there was more than 32 customers in the bar. My wife had just put our four year old second son,
Laurence, to bed.
I had borrowed a trailer from Robin, the previous owner. He had not been home earlier so I went to get it. When Betty came down she suggested I call over to him again. I went out onto the street. The street was in darkness, which was unusual. Cars were parked on both sides of the street. I had run across the street about 60 or 70 ft. when I heard the bang. I looked back and heard a second bang go off. I picked myself up from the road and people were running about. I went up and into the yard, it was known as ‘The Back’. There were people coming out. There was a front bar and a lounge and I went down to the lounge and heard somebody shouting that they had lost their eyes. I went down between the public bar and the lounge bar and found Betty lying on the floor. I found out later that she had been pulling a pint for Justin McElvanna.
Laurence was upstairs. I do not know how he got downstairs as he was only four years of age and the staircase was narrow and the door was locked. He got down somehow. Betty was lying with her eyes wide open. She was dead. I picked her up and said an act of contrition into her ear. I still did not know what was going to happen or whether there would be another explosion. I managed to open the front door and Robert Campbell was there. I handed Laurence to him and he took him away. They got Michael Courtney from across the road and he helped me to carry Betty across to their house. Everyone was panicking because they did not know if there was going to be more bombs. I was worried about Laurence; I could not remember where he had gone. Robert Campbell came back and told me that he had him with his children. The doctor came and spoke to me but I would not take anything. The next thing I remember is sitting in a police car with an inspector.
Our other two children, one of seven and one of one and a half years, were down in Wexford on their holidays with their aunt and uncle. I spoke to them. It was a bit hazy after that. I had to borrow the clothes to go to my wife’s funeral. I must say that the people of Keady were more than good. I got a letter on the Wednesday morning, most unusual. I think I showed it to Paddy McGleenan. I thought it was from a crank, but I have an idea it came from Sergeant McCaughey; it was a kind of religious thing expressing regret. It was written in small letters and big letters; it was not a straightforward letter. It ran to three pages. I showed it to Canon Moore but he did not think much of it.
My children had no home, no toys, no clothes. To top it all off, there was an inquest in February. The wrong death certificate was issued; the only part of it that was right was the name, Betty McDonald. They wanted me to say that I had given the wrong information. The solicitor tried it, Frank Maguire the MP tried but the only man that seemed to get any joy was Father Denis Faul. An RUC officer, Constable Elder, admitted he just made the thing up. I do not know where he got it from. We then went to the court to see if we could get any compensation. That was completely dismissed; not even an ex gratia payment was made. I thank most people including the convent, the priests of the parish and the people of the parish who — Paddy may not have mentioned this — kindly collected money for the erection of two holy water fonts in the chapel, one for Betty and one for Gerard.
I should also add that trying to get the death certificate rectified — the coroner solicitor was the chairman of the Armagh police board. In his letter — I do not know if I have it here but I have it some place — this troublesome thing should go away I should have signed up to say that I gave the wrong information such as that I am known as Malachy James McDonald but they, and this is in the statement which I got a copy of, they just put down James McDonald. He made a big thing of that but Fr. Faul got that rectified. That is all I have to say.
Deputy Hoctor: I welcome the families and thank all of them for their contributions. If I may I will direct my questions first to Mr. McGleenan. I thank him for his contribution. Mr. McGleenan told us earlier that living life was tough in the mid-1970s. Can he elaborate on that in terms of what it was like living there at that time?
Mr. P. McGleenan: It was very bad for the young people because there was nothing other than harassment by the police. In fact, when my two other sons would go to Monaghan on a Saturday night to dance or something, they would be taken into the hut or whatever it was the police were in when they stopped them and they would say, “Was your brother carrying a bomb?” They would ask them if he was carrying the bomb that blew up. They were sort of blaming him for carrying the bomb and that was very annoying to the boys.
Several other things happened that do not come to mind at the present time. My daughter was a nurse in Musgrave Park Hospital and there was a policeman there whom she got to know from speaking to him. He was guarding somebody in Musgrave. He mentioned her name to her and he could tell her the number of each of my two sons’ cars. He passed a remark to the effect, “I wonder where the other boy is now that was killed”. That was the kind of treatment they were getting but around the town there was an awful lot of harassment by the police of the younger people like our Gerard who was killed. They were going through an awful lot. That is all gone away but at that time it was pretty bad. They gave Malachy a lot of trouble too in the bar. That is all I can say.
Mr. P. McGleenan: Yes. A lump of steel went through Gerard and it stuck in our door, which my brother-in-law pulled out afterwards. It was a lump of steel about that length. The doctor said it went through an artery and severed the flow to his heart or from his heart but he did not die for a few minutes. He walked down into the house and the only words he said were “Mammy, Mammy, Mammy”, and that was that. My son and a friend of his took him outside and he died there.
Mr. P. McGleenan: No. I saw him occasionally in Armagh but he has never looked at me. He was removed from the police force — I believe it was over the incident in McGleenan’s bar, the Rock Bar. Three or four individuals were removed from the police force at that time.
When my daughter was coming out of work in the hospital one morning she noticed there was a checkpoint at Musgrave Park Hospital. As she walked past it, a fellow stepped out and when he saw her he stepped back in again. She recognised him as the man who took the statement from me. Those men were supposed to be removed from the police force but that man was manning that checkpoint.
Deputy F. McGrath: I welcome Mr. Paddy McGleenan and Mr. Malachy McDonald to this hearing as, as my colleagues did, I express my deepest sympathy for their loss. They are very welcome. I will ask Mr. McDonald a few questions to gain more an insight into what happened. I wish to ask him about his wife, Betty, about the type of person she was, her age at that time and generally how things were with her.
Mr. McDonald: She was one of ten girls and a nurse by profession. We were married for eight and a half years. She was 38 years of age at the time. Being in that profession she was a very good and kind-hearted woman. We worked together 24 hours a day and when one does that, one gets to know a person very well. It was a big blow when it happened. If she was in the bar and one of the elderly people who used to come into the bar, who wished to buy a present for a daughter or someone else, would give her money to go up the town. What more can I say. She was a lovely person.
Deputy F. McGrath: That was the kind of person she was. We are talking about 1976 and there was a lot of trouble at that time. Did Mr. McGleenan mention that there was also trouble in the bar or connected with the bar?
Mr. McDonald: Not really. After Kingsmills, the paratroopers came in. We did not have any trouble in Keady before that, it was a quiet place. Some people would have been trying to get a drink in the bar. My place was on the corner with a front door to the lounge and there was a side door and a back door. It was on a corner opposite Mr. McGleenan’s place. There was a wee fair-haired guy who used to come in and when these people came in there would have been a fair crowd of people in the bar. These people would go to all the bars. They came in and stood and had a drink while asking one one’s name, age, date of birth and everything, trying to embarrass people, but it did not work. On the day of the bomb a wee girl Majella O’Hare was shot on the Saturday in controversial circumstances. You would know about that. She was buried on that day. I have a letter here; Frank Maguire had asked about whether the lights had been switched off and about the patrol. It is by Roy Mason and says: “The street lights were indeed inoperative on the night in question. The absence of lighting was apparently due to a cable fault which had not been traced at the time of the incident. There is no substance in the application that the lights had been turned off at the command of the army”. That is all I can add on that.
Mr. McDonald: He sent for me and asked me if I had made a claim or report. The RUC knew it but I had to report it officially. This was in October and one was supposed to do it within six weeks. I was not thinking right. I am not actually from Keady. My wife is a Rosslea woman and I am from the Carrickmore side. But that made no difference because we were up there for ten years. The police never came near me and that is how the death certificate is wrong.
Mr. McDonald: After the explosion. I had to contact the brother-in-law, for the children and my sister. I remember talking to the two brothers, one in America and one in Enniscorthy, who is actually a garda. The other is an NYPD man. Possibly that is why I got this expression of guilt or whatever on the Wednesday morning. I remember that anyhow.
We will now proceed to the attack on the O’Dowd family. The O’Dowd family lived at Ballydugan, Gilford, County Down. At 6.30 p.m. on 4 January 1976, about 16 members of the family were in the house. Three masked men arrived without warning. One of them had a gun and immediately started shooting. Barney O’Dowd was wounded and three of the male members of the family, who were in the living room, were killed. They were Barry, Declan and Joe O’Dowd. Mr. Justice Barron said the family feels it was targeted because some of its members were workers in the SDLP. In a statement dated 3 January 1999 a former RUC officer, John Weir, alleged that the O’Dowd family had been shot by a named person.
We are joined today by Mr. Barney O’Dowd, who was wounded in the attack and who lost three close members of his family. Thank you, Mr. O’Dowd, for attending. Will Mr. O’Dowd tell us the story in his own words, how he feels and what happened?
Mr. Barney O’Dowd: Yes. It was on the same night as the Reavey family — we lived about 20 miles from them — and about the same time, there was a knock at the door. My wife answered the door and three fellows burst in. They had camouflage of a sort of cheesecloth mask on them. They immediately started shooting and I was shot first, but by the time it was over, my two sons and my brother were dead. My brother had been down visiting us for a new year’s party, and his family too. I was rushed to Craigavon hospital and was in intensive care for a week.
After that I was visited by a detective who took a statement from me and asked did I know who shot us. I said, “The man with the gun looked like a certain person in our vicinity”. He told me it was not that person but he said he would bring him in for questioning anyhow. He brought this man in for questioning but it was not him. I recovered and came home.
Some time after I came home, this man came out again. There was practically no contact between the police and us but some time after — maybe in June — this detective arrived out with the photograph of a gun and he asked me if I had ever seen anything like that before. This gun to me — I know nothing about guns — was a strange type of gun because it was about that length and had something on the end of it which, it seems, was a silencer. I said it was like the gun that shot us and that he used. He said, “Well, it is not only like the gun that shot you, it is the gun that shot you. It also shot the Miami Showband, it shot Devlins, a family in Tyrone”, and some other family he mentioned. I asked, “Where did you get that?”. He said, “We got it off a man near Lurgan”. I said, “You are going to charge him then are you not”. “No”, he said, “You identified him as this other man in your vicinity”. I said I did not identify him. I said he looked like him in stature and the shape of his face which you could see under the cheesecloth mask.
He said, ”This is a hard man. We have had him in before. He is head of the UVF“. He did not tell me his name. He said, ”He is head of the UVF and we have tried to break him but we cannot“. He said, ”Even if we did, we could not charge him because the UVF had said that if ever this man was charged with murder, they were going to start shooting policemen the same as the IRA were doing. “Therefore” he said, “our hands are tied; we cannot charge him with the murder of your children”.
I left it at that and hoped for some developments, but in the meantime we had decided to leave Northern Ireland to come to Éire, the South of Ireland. We had arrangements made to come to Navan. We rang the local barracks and informed them what we were doing and asked them if someone could come out to talk to us about developments and how we could get in contact and so forth. Two detectives came out. Neither was the original detective who was taken off the case altogether. I think the reason he was taken off the case was that he wanted, personally, to take this fellow out, this head gunman of the UVF. He told me he wanted to take them out and I believe he was genuine.
Regarding the two detectives who came, we brought them in, had a cup of coffee together, started chatting and then started inquiring about what developments there were. They told me I had no right to know what developments there were. They would not answer any questions about the matter. They said that was none of my business; that was their work. Naturally, I dismissed them as quickly as possible. There was no effort made whatsoever to have it investigated. We left Northern Ireland in August then and that was the end of it. We heard no more.
That night when that gang came in, as with the Reavey family, they meant to take out our whole family. As with the Reavey family, we were lucky enough that there were only four of our family present — myself, my brother and my two sons. My son Noel and the other two boys were not at home at the time. This is what it was. It was a calculated attempt to wipe out an entire family.
Mr. Noel O’Dowd: It is just as my father said. That is exactly what happened. There was no investigation whatsoever. We were completely forgotten about. We went to Navan in August 1976. The first time we got any contact about it was when Paul from the Pat Finucane Centre rang us and we started to get answers then.
The name of this certain gunman was in our knowledge from about 1984. It was quite common knowledge. It has been quoted in the newspapers many times that he was the top man involved. At least we knew that bit.
This was an attack on us. Other people here have been very unfortunate victims. They were people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. This was actually an attack on our home, as Barney says, to wipe out the entire family. When someone sets out to kill you, it is very hard to take. It is like rabies; you really want answers and to find out exactly where this came from, how far did it go and obviously whether there was local involvement. We lived in a very remote area, down a long lane. The top man from the UVF did not know us from Adam. He had to be brought there.
Mr. B. O’Dowd: He had to have the knowledge on how to get to our place because they did not even use our driveway down to our house. They used a laneway further down the road that led up to our land and came across our field. I think the idea of that would have been that if they had used a car to come down our driveway, it was not wide enough to take two cars and if any other car had been coming down, they would have been jammed.
We were widely known because we were in business: in milk business and coal business. The Protestant community, mostly in our own area, were very good but there were a few bad apples all right who, if not in the UVF, were informants for the UVF, and we know that they never were even questioned. We told them that we suspected these people of having an involvement but they never were questioned.
Mr. N. O’Dowd: Like Mr. Reavey, we went to the historical inquiries team a few months ago and they were absolutely gobsmacked about the level, quality and lack of police work. These were top men from England who had investigated murders all over the UK and they openly admitted that the level of police work, intelligence and follow-up was pathetic. It just was not done.
Mr. N. O’Dowd: Everybody else who has been here today has said the same, but these guys confirmed it. They could not believe in Northern Ireland that the lack of work was so pathetic. Those are the words they used.
Mr. N. O’Dowd: We fairly well know some of the background to it — who was involved as regards the gunman and some of his allies — but it goes deeper than that. We would like to know why we were pinpointed. We are a big family. There were six boys and two girls, politically involved with the SDLP. If one was involved in Gaelic football in those days, one was IRA. If one was involved in Irish music or dancing, one was IRA. If one wore one’s nationalism on one’s sleeve, one was an obvious target. It was a systematic attempt to wipe us out completely. We were fairly well known in the area in business. It was happening in south Armagh and it has also been well proven following inquiries by the Pat Finucane Centre that it was a co-ordinated attack. It was not just two families attacked on one night by coincidence. The people who attacked us came from Portadown and the people who attached the Reaveys came from Glennane. This was a co-ordinated attack by two different units of the same brigade. There are an awful lot of questions to be answered. These people were allowed to run around Northern Ireland with impunity. There was an IRA ceasefire in 1975, yet between 1975 and January 1976, these guys were running around systematically murdering Catholics all over south Armagh and mid-Ulster. It is amazing that this was happening at that time and nobody gave a damn. There were never any questions and nobody ever gave us answers. Only for the Pat Finucane Centre, we would still be completely in the dark.
Mr. B. O’Dowd: One man was charged with the possession of a gun. There was no mention of how many people that gun had killed. He got seven years and he was out in three and a half. He went to Australia, came back and took up his work again. He died of cancer. He had full access to the police barracks. It seems his car was filled every weekend at the barracks. Whenever there was a checkpoint on his route, he was waved through. He was not even stopped at any time. There was definitely police collusion even though we had a clear record. None of us was involved in any crime, not even motoring offences.
Mr. N. O’Dowd: I do not know what was its thinking behind this. We have discussed this many times. The British always left mayhem behind them wherever they were. It was a doomsday situation. If they were going to go, they were going to leave maximum carnage behind them. That is a personal view and many people might not share it but the IRA was almost dormant at that time. There was not much happening, yet Catholics were being slaughtered throughout 1974, including the Dublin bombings, up to January 1976. Unfortunately, for the Kingsmills people, that was nearly the end of it. It was unfortunate that had to happen. They were innocent victims too.
Mr. N. O’Dowd: Barry was 24 and worked on the oil rigs in the Orkney Islands. He was a very happy-go-lucky chap. He was a little reckless with cars and so on. He had broken his arm in October 1975 and was due to return to the Orkneys on the Tuesday but he was shot dead on the Sunday. Neither of them was married. He was involved with a girl from Newry. Declan was 19 and was very happy-go-lucky and popular. He was good at sport and a very hard worker. At that stage he had been working in a quarry and was due to go and see his girlfriend in Belfast that night. When he was lying dead beside the phone his girlfriend rang to talk to him. He did not even make 20; he was only 19. These were two young fellows.
My uncle, Barney’s brother, was a successful farmer and businessman in Ballynagarrick, County Down. He was shot dead in front of his two daughters, one 22 and the other 18. They watched him die. Those girls were badly treated when it came to compensation. They were very nervous and were badly treated by their solicitors and were fobbed off with £800 and £600 each. It was just as if to say “Get out of here” or sweep it under the carpet.
We took a landmark case, which was mentioned by Eugene Reavey earlier. It was the case that if a person was not at the scene of an incident, he or she was not entitled to any compensation. I, my two brothers and a cousin fought that on the basis that we were stressed as a result of coming across the incident. We won that case in 1983 in Belfast and the case subsequently became known as the O’Dowd case. As a result, anybody involved does not necessarily have to have been at the scene of the crime.
Mr. B. O’Dowd: The Reavey family was treated worse than us. That family suffered. We could understand why Eugene was in such a bad way because we could not have come through what the Reavey family came through. We just could not have come through it. They harassed that family and would not even let the mother go to see the lad who was wounded and in hospital. The inquest brought out that the lad did not die because of gunshot wounds. He died of gunshot wounds; he would not have been in hospital if it was not for those gunshot wounds.
Senator J. Walsh: Mr. O’Dowd mentioned that the UVF leader from Lurgan would not have had local knowledge and that the killers did not use the driveway because it was too narrow and could obviously pose difficulties for an escape. The report states they probably came across a field beside the house which was used by the UDR. Would you elaborate on that?
Mr. N. O’Dowd: I am glad you asked that question. I am sure that many here would agree it is a common thread among murders in Northern Ireland that before a certain atrocity is committed, there is a big security force presence in the area. Subsequently, just before it happens, the security forces disappear for some unknown reason. Our fields were checked the day before the murders by the UDR who were in the fields the whole day. Our thinking is that they were in the field where the getaway took place, because the killers had to cross the field into another field and down a laneway. They were obviously clearing the way for these people. This is common among people who have been victimised in Northern Ireland.
Mr. N. O’Dowd: I do not know. Ironically one of his relations was killed a few days previously in a bomb attack in Guildford. My personal opinion of him would not have been good, but I would not know how deeply he was involved.
Mr. N. O’Dowd: That was the same man. He was the only guy who really investigated the case. There were 16 people in the house — I am not sure how many there were between family and cousins and neighbours — and nobody was asked to make a statement. There were no statements made this year until the historical inquiries team. I was never asked to make a statement. I went to mass at 6 p.m. and came back at 6.50 p.m. and I was the first person on the scene. I was never asked whether I saw anything or anything on the roads or whether I knew anything. Nobody was asked any questions.
Mr. N. O’Dowd: At that stage we were living in the Republic. I have forgotten. There was no recourse and nothing could be done. I reiterate it was only that the Pat Finucane Centre contacted us in 2000 that the case was resurrected.
Mr. N. O’Dowd: They were very good. They were going to check a couple of witnesses again. A couple of things had happened in the meantime. We found the payslip of a UDR man in the lane about four to five weeks later. Barney was walking up the lane one day, trying to recuperate and he came across a piece of paper in the hedge. Being a meticulous person he picked it up and it was the payslip of a UDR man. It appears he had an alibi.
Mr. N. O’Dowd: I do not think it blew from Portadown to our lane, so he had to be there. There was another case. I worked in the Northern Ireland Civil Service at the time. A girl mentioned our name. I did not arrive for work the next day and she said she knew it was going to happen, that there was a pub called Harry’s Bar in Banbridge and they were discussing a bomb attack in Guildford and incredibly, our name was mentioned in relation to that. She was never interviewed. Harry’s Bar has been known as a well-known haunt for——
Mr. N. Dowd: ——for the UVF in that area and it is well-known that UVF men have been drinking there. She was never questioned. They said they would go back and question her but what good it would do I do not really know.
Mr. N. O’Dowd: No, he was arrested in connection with an attack on the Bleary minibus in August 1975. The minibus was full of our neighbours, pensioners, coming home from bingo. They were all Catholics. The RUC tried to put it out that it was an attack on an RUC bus. In fact the minibus was red and white. All the minibuses of the RUC at the time were flat grey. Declan’s name was mentioned regarding the fact that there was a green mini seen speeding from the scene. We had sold the same mini on the same night. The original owner of it was questioned and he gave Declan’s name. He was arrested among——
Mr. N. O’Dowd: He was brought in for questioning and released the same night without charge. However, it was ridiculous as three other Catholic people in the area were arrested with him. They were supposed to be four men doing a job on an RUC vehicle, while driving a 1965 mini. It was put out at the time that it was an IRA job and it has subsequently been proved-----
Mr. N. O’Dowd: From that time on, we suspected that we were in danger. As the other members have said it was a very volatile area. There were three Catholic darts players murdered in a darts club earlier in the year. The attack on Donnelly’s Bar happened. The attack on the Miami showband happened and there was the Bleary incident. We were alert after that and suspected it was a possibility.
Deputy Lynch: I appreciate that this questioning must be tiring if nothing else. Will the historical inquiry only deal with the cases themselves or will it deal with the systems failure, which is a polite way of putting turning a blind eye? What is its function?
Mr. N. O’Dowd: That is a very good question. It is looking at every murder apparently. It is being done with a proper approach to police work which was never done before. It is looking for links and clues, which is obviously proper police work. That is what they have said.
Mr. N. O’Dowd: I am not quite sure about that. It will report back. I am not sure if there will be any prosecutions. In fact some of the perpetrators are dead. We really do not want anybody to spend time in jail as the time lapse is too great. If we could get somebody to admit what happened to us, we would be very happy.
The sub-committee will now consider the atrocity at the Rock Bar in Tassagh, Keady, County Armagh, on 5 June 1976. A gun and bomb attack was carried out there on that date. While nobody was killed, a number of persons were injured by gunshots which came from a car full of gunmen. A bomb planted by the attackers at the pub failed to explode. Having fired a number of shots at Mr. Michael McGrath and through the window of the bar, the attackers returned to their car and made their escape. A number of people were arrested and interviewed by the RUC following the attack. Two RUC officers made statements admitting their participation in the attack. Another serving officer was also prosecuted and convicted in respect of the attack.
Mr. Joe McGleenan: I am the owner of the Rock Bar, which was attacked at 10.40 p.m. on Saturday, 5 June 1976. The case should be straightforward because the perpetrators of the attack were subsequently arrested, charged and sentenced. When one examines the manner in which the people in question were arrested, interviewed and sentenced, one must give a great deal thought to what was happening at the time.
The perpetrators arrived at the bar at 10.40 p.m. — closing time was 10.30 p.m. As I was on holiday in Majorca on the night of the attack, I had asked my cousin, Mr. Francis Powell, to manage the bar while I was gone. That was fortunate for me because I would have run the bar in a more relaxed manner than Mr. Powell. He was more conscious than me of security matters, possibly because it was his first night behind the bar. He wanted people to go home early.
During those troubled times, members of the army and the police were, as previous speakers stated, around much of the time. They had visited the bar on a number of occasions, just as they had visited other bars. The Christmas prior to the incident under discussion, the paratroopers closed off the area and searched our house and the bar. They took the bar apart — pulled out fireplaces, etc. — for no reason at all. When I questioned them about why they had done it, they said they did it on foot of information they had received about something on the bar. When I laughed and asked what it could be, I was told “it probably could be boxes of chocolates”. That did not make sense. On the night in question — nothing had happened since the incident the previous Christmas — a car was stolen by an RUC reserve constable from the car park of the Ritz picture house in Armagh. Can I name the people who were charged for what they did?
Mr. McGleenan: I will not name the actual people. They were all charged with and sentenced for what they did. The constable in question stole the car and collected his RUC colleagues, some of whom were actually on duty on the night. They drove up to the bar and arrived, fortunately or unfortunately, just as Mr. Mick McGrath was leaving. If it were not for that coincidence, the front door might have been open. The plan, as Mr. McCaughey said, was to enter the bar, open fire on everyone inside, plant the bomb and blow the place up. Some 17 people, between the ages of 16 and approximately 60, were in the bar on the night in question. On looking back, I think Mick was the saviour of them all because it could have been a serious atrocity if they had been able to enter the bar. In one of the books — I think it is “Bandit Country”— Sergeant McCaughey stated that his intention was to go in. He had been in the bar before and knew the lay-out. He said he knew to walk through the front door and down a corridor into the actual bar so he had been there before to be able to know that.
Mr. McGleenan: It was part of the statement he made. When they arrived Mick was walking out through the door and one of them — he said he did it — shot Mick a number of times. In the trial he said he shot him in the legs. The judge never questioned that. Mick was shot in the stomach and still has the bullets in his back but it was never questioned. We were never called to the trial. I never knew there was a trial. Mick was never called. A number of times, both Francis, who was in the bar on the night, and Mick were informed that they would be asked to come as witnesses by a policeman who visited them but then a few days later he would come and say the trial had been postponed or something and he would let them know at a later date. The first we heard of it was whenever we read in the newspapers some time in the 1980s that a trial had been held and that these serving RUC officers had been sentenced for the crimes. All of the crimes that they had been charged with at the start were reduced from actual bodily harm or shooting with intent to murder to menial types of crime and they were all sentenced. One of them was given a sentence of seven years, while the others were suspended sentences. One of the things that the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lowry, said during the case was to praise the group for ridding the land of pestilence. I question how he came up with that statement.
On one of the other things mentioned previously — Paddy McGleenan talked to you earlier about the Step Inn — one of the people who was charged with the Rock Bar was the policeman who interviewed him. This case was never brought forward as to why he was allowed to do this and how come it could have gone on like this. This person was never charged either. Actually, in his case a nolle prosequi— I think that was the term used — was entered and he was never actually charged with anything. For this to happen I believe it was not at the RUC level but went much higher. They talk about securocrats and all this now but we did not know what that meant at that time. I believe the whole thing came down from higher authorities than just the level of Northern Ireland in the whole trial.
I believe it is possible that the people who were charged and sentenced had admitted that they were involved in other, more serious atrocities during that time and that if they were charged with this crime and sentenced that these other sentences would never be brought forward and they would never be charged with them. It is my belief that that is part of what happened at the time because, as I say, we were never interviewed and never told about anything that was going to happen. Whenever I questioned the police about what had happened I was told, “You can read it in the papers.” I asked for the trial transcript and I got a photocopy of it. I did not, it was actually the Pat Finucane Centre. I must thank Alan Brecknell and Paul O’Connor for the work they did because we were never, ever informed of anything that was going to happen, happened subsequently or the trial. It should have been a straightforward case of people being sentenced for what they did but it was not.
Mr. Hugh Mohan: A nolle prosequi is a legal term. When a case is not being proceeded with by the prosecuting authorities — in this jurisdiction the DPP and in Northern Ireland, the DPP — counsel will then apply to the judge to enter a nolle prosequi which means at that stage they are not proceeding with the charges, and the charges are at an end. The judge must accede to that request if it is applied for because the prosecuting authority is electing not to proceed for whatever reason — there are many different reasons that is so, but that is the effect of that term.
Mr. McGleenan: Yes, there is a lot more. The case should have been straightforward but it never was. From the facts I believe that from on high this case was going to be brought because no one was actually killed on the night. If, by the fortunate example of Michael McGrath walking out and being shot, if he had not done that up to 17 people would have been killed. Some of those in the bar at the time now have children and grandchildren. It is remarkable the number of people who would not be here if that had happened on the night.
Mr. Michael McGrath: The barman left me out of the bar. As I stepped out of the bar, a car came down the road. He said, “I will not let them in, it is too late”, and he closed the door. Only for that many more people would have been killed. That is all I can say.
Mr. McGrath: I was, I was going home and I walked into them. The barman had already shut the door and I could not escape. I was like a rat in a cage. I could not get away. He came with a gun straight at me and never asked who I was.
Mr. McGleenan: Michael McGrath was 54 years at the time. His sister was home from America. He had come up to the bar for a carry-out of a few bottles of Guinness for the house. He happened to stay five minutes to talk to someone in the bar. He had walked out through the door. There is a pathway down from the bar to railings — the road is very steep at the side of the bar — and he had just reached the railings when this car pulled up beside him. He was on a height so they fired up at him, shooting him in the stomach two or three times. He fell and rolled underneath the car. They got out and went over to the bar. One of them placed a bomb and, because the door was closed, he fired shots through the window. On the wall of the window of the bar, there was a dartboard and ten or 12 people were standing around it. He fired in the direction which riddled the dartboard. Lucky enough, no one was hit. If he had fired in the opposite direction he would have hit everyone.
He ran back and shot Michael McGrath again as he got into the car. They drove down the road afterwards and about half a mile down the road there was another car waiting for them. They burned at the scene the car they had stolen from Armagh and went off in this other car. Even in one of the statements they made, they were back in the barracks before the alarm was raised, so they were then able to get back in a police car and come out to investigate the happening. There was a gun burned in the car. I believe the guns used in the attack on the bar were subsequently found to have been used in a number of other attacks in the area, such as the O’Dowd and Reavey cases. There seems to have been the same number of guns and therefore it is presumed the same people were involved but were never charged with those things.
Mr. McGleenan: As I said, I had gone on holiday that morning and came home two days later. At that time it was difficult to communicate anywhere. My aunt had the only telephone in the surrounding country in the shop just up the road from the bar. They eventually got through to me in Spain after two or three calls, after which I came home. The bar was closed and remained so for a long time after that.
No one ever came to question me, and the police never visited the area to ask what had happened. The components of the bomb — shrapnel or confetti — were spread around the street where the bar was for several days afterwards, but the police did not cordon off the area or look to do anything. I believe that someone simply tidied it up, and that was it. I have never been questioned or met any police.
It was only two years ago, after I got talking to Paul O’Connor in the Pat Finucane Centre, that I did go to a meeting with some policemen in Banbridge who questioned me. Many times Mick, Francis and my aunt, who had the shop above, were asked to give witness at trial only to be informed two days later that it had been postponed. They were never actually asked to go anywhere. The only time that I questioned that was when I asked after the trial what had happened. I was told that I could find out everything I needed through reading the local newspaper.
Deputy Lynch: Perhaps I might ask one more question. I know that it has been a long day, especially for Mr. McGrath. I share Mr. McGleenan’s amazement about the trial. The report shows that four people made statements about their involvement, yet in the case of two of them, the case never proceeded to trial. Did Mr. McGleenan ever receive an explanation for that?
Mr. McGleenan: Never. We questioned it but we were told that it had come from on high and that the nolle prosequi was there. When I asked, I was told that it had come from the Attorney General in England. That was all that I was told, so there could be no question of asking. The trial was over and the people who had admitted responsibility were serving their time for the heinous crime that they had committed. Most of the sentences were concurrent or suspended.
Mr. McGleenan: Yes, as far as I know. The others sentenced continued to receive their police pensions, in the case of one until his death. I do not know what became of the other. They never really lost anything through their actions. People talk about collusion, but it seems that a whole mishmash of things were going on at the time and that everyone was involved with everyone else. They were fall guys for the bar because no one was actually killed. It was a very easy way of getting people off the hook.
Senator Cummins: There was a point into which I wanted to inquire. In all the cases we have had to date, this is the only one in which no one was killed. Luckily, Mr. McGrath was not killed on that night, and it is ironic that this is the case in which arrests were made, charges proffered and sentences, which left much to be desired, handed down. In that context, has the case now been closed? Did the Historical Enquiries Team, HET, question Mr. McGleenan about this incident?
Mr. McGleenan: They questioned me. They did not say what happened with it. As he said, it is a closed case and they might have difficulty doing something with it. However, in his own words, he was completely gobsmacked. He had been a serving policeman for so many years in England. He found it impossible to believe. He said that had I told him this ten years before, he would have thought I deserved to be locked up, since no policeman would do something like that. He found it impossible and just could not believe it, he said.
Even the fifth policeman named in the Barron report was not charged at all. Who made the decision that he was not going to be charged? It is beyond me. I believe it came from high up the chain of command. It even seemed to stretch to the Attorney General who is supposed to have put forward the nolle prosequi.
Chairman: I thank Mr. McGleenan for coming and for providing more insight into the prosecutions or non-prosecutions of various people. I am delighted Mr. McGrath is looking so hale and hearty. Long may he stay that way. I thank him very much for coming.
On 30 July 1975 the Miami Showband played a gig at the Castle Ballroom in Banbridge, County Down. It was one of the most successful bands in the country and had played at various places in Northern Ireland on numerous occasions. The band was well known on both sides of the Border. In the early hours of the morning of 31 July, five members of the band left Banbridge and headed towards the Border in a minibus. Some time around 2.30 a.m. on 31 July the band’s minibus was flagged down by a group of armed men wearing army-type uniforms. The driver assumed it was a legitimate checkpoint and pulled into a lay-by. The band members were told to stand outside the van with their hands on their heads. A number of armed men were in the vicinity of the minibus. A few seconds later there was a loud explosion from the rear of the van and two of the armed men were killed instantly. There were then a number of bursts of gunfire. Three persons were killed in the attack, Mr. Francis O’Toole, Mr. Anthony Geraghty and Mr. Brian McCoy. Mr. Stephen Travers was badly injured and Mr. Des McAlee managed to evade the attackers by fleeing across a field.
Two members of the UDR were subsequently charged with murder, were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum recommendation of 35 years. Subsequently, a former UDR member was charged with the attack and sentenced to life imprisonment. Mr. Justice Barron noted that John Weir, a former RUC officer, alleged that the bomb used in the Miami Showband attack had come from the farmhouse at Glennnane, which was frequented by army intelligence. Mr. Justice Barron drew no particular conclusion in respect of the Miami Showband attack.
I welcome Mr. Stephen Travers, a survivor of the atrocity, as well as Helen McCoy, the widow of Brian McCoy. I call on Mr. Travers to tell us his memories of that event and to raise any other matter he wishes to discuss with us.
Mr. Stephen Travers: It is a very humbling experience to be with these people today. There are a few small inaccuracies in the report that I would like to correct. They may look small, but they are important to me.
I was in the Miami Showband. We played in Banbridge and on the way back from the gig we were stopped by what I believed to be a British army checkpoint. This incident has been reported many times and, because of that, people get things wrong and the inaccuracies perpetuate themselves. The man in charge of that particular operation was undoubtedly a British army officer. The report states that we identified him from the van. Our trumpet player Brian McCoy, who was born and reared in Northern Ireland, who was a member of the Church of Ireland and whose relatives had been in the security forces — his brother-in-law was a member of the B Specials — stood beside me in the line up just before he died. To comfort me, he said, “Don’t worry Steve, this is British army”. I have no doubt about that. I was told afterwards that the accent I heard and identified as a British accent was put on to confuse us or to give authenticity to the checkpoint. A British army officer would be in charge of a checkpoint like that in nine cases out of ten. When I left school I went to London and became a trainee broker at Lloyds in the City, so I know the difference between a mock British accent and a real one. The accent I heard was definitely that of an Englishman.
When he arrived on the scene, when we were being questioned by the UDR, everybody jumped to attention. This man was in charge. He was a professional and I actually admired him because I thought the whole thing would be done and dusted and we would be away. I have no doubt that this was a British army checkpoint. Everybody I know who was there was a member or part-time member of the UDR, so if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck. It is my opinion that this was a British army checkpoint. We were told to put our hands on our heads and to give our names and addresses. When this man appeared, he changed the order to give our names and dates of birth, which I know is the proper procedure. He was about a foot away from us, so I had a clear view. The report states that I was shown a picture of him afterwards. It states: “He was shown a photograph of English Army Captain [I do not know if I am allowed to say his name but he is dead] but did not believe him to have been the man at the scene.” That is incorrect. I did not say I did not believe. I said I could not identify him. Will you take that into consideration, please?
I was very naive during the interrogation. I really did not take it seriously. I had not been in the band for very long and when I heard them at the back of our personnel van, I thought this was out of order. The only equipment carried in our personnel van would have been our guitars — Tony Geraghty’s and mine — which were very personal to us. I took my hands off my head and turned back — a very foolish thing to do — and asked them what they were doing with my guitar. They were in fact planting a bomb in the back of our van. They would have covered it up, perhaps with coats, and told us to be off on our way. It would have blown up and nobody would have known about this checkpoint.
I was concerned about my guitar and they questioned me. They asked me whether there were valuables in this, which I thought was not something that they should ask. I said no and they punched me back into line. I was originally on Brian’s left. They punched me back into line and I was now on Brian’s right. While they were at this device, it blew up and instantly killed two of these people. They were close enough to be able to push me and yet — I am told a bomb goes off in a sine wave — I am not quite sure if that is correct but they were in the negative part of it. They were taken off the road with shovels afterwards. I was caught as it rose up into the positive side and I was thrown into the air, and shot while I was in the air. I landed in the field and somebody took me underneath my arms and tried to drag me out into the field — I think that was Tony and Fran. I believe Brian had been killed at this stage — he was shot at the same time as me. I collapsed and they ran over to the side of the field. I heard them being killed. I heard them beg for their lives.
After a while there was a second explosion on the road — it was the petrol tank or whatever. I heard a man walk over towards me. He stopped at Brian’s body and kicked Brian. He proceeded to walk over towards me. I just kept my face in the grass, looking down, and trying to decide whether I would get up on my knees and beg for my life or just pretend to be dead. For some strange reason, I did the latter. Just as he approached me, somebody on the road shouted, “Come on. Those bastards are dead. I got them with dum-dums.” It was the first time I had heard the term “dum-dums”. I did not know what they were. He decided to walk away and he did walk away.
Eventually, the police came. I think I heard helicopters first and then I heard the nasal-type voices that would come from walkie-talkies. I thought it was the terrorists back again to finish the job. I stood up. I looked as if I was nine months pregnant. I was bleeding internally and my lung was punctured. I put my hands up and just shouted “Help”. I was afraid. Somebody shone a light into my face and said, “Its the police, son.” They helped me get over a fence. I wanted to climb it myself but I could not. At the time, we used to wear these platforms, seventies-type shoes. They would not fit into the little lattice wires. I saw Fran in the field but, thankfully, the mind does not allow one to remember those things one should not.
I was taken to Daisy Hill Hospital and, when I was brought into theatre, I was questioned by the medical staff. I got the distinct impression that they were more interested in who we were and what we were doing there than in trying to sort me out. They asked me who we were and what we were doing in the North. I said we had been playing. One of them asked me, rather cynically, “Playing at what?” I believe they thought we were terrorists. However, I believed they knew who we were; I thought the others would have told them. I replied that we had been playing music and they eventually realised we were in a band. They asked me the name and I told them it was the Miami Showband. It seemed then that everything changed; everything swung into operation. I awoke six hours later to see my 22 year old wife who had been brought up from Dublin crying as she looked at me. Those were the events of that night.
Ms Helen McCoy: I am a little nervous. I was woken at 7 a.m. that morning by a relative in the North who was looking for Brian. Obviously, he was not there. This man said he had heard there had been an incident close to the Border near Newry involving one of the showbands. He told me not to worry and that it was probably not the Miami Showband. However, I quickly realised Brian should have been home at approximately 3 a.m.
I immediately rang a member of the band’s management team. His wife answered the telephone and said there had been an incident, that she had no information but her husband had gone up to investigate what had happened. At approximately 8 a.m. a neighbour came in; he had heard something but did not tell me what it was, asking me instead to turn on the television news. The details of what had happened were announced on the 8 a.m. bulletin, including the names of the three men who had died.
I was totally devastated, left with two small children, one five years old and the other one year and ten months. It was almost two years before an inquest was held. The reason given was the backlog in the North. A death certificate was not issued until the inquest was complete. With neither death certificate nor will, I received no moneys from anybody but I survived with the help of my family. I was in Dublin for eight years but had not worked here because I was rearing my children. As a result, I was not entitled to a pension. I eventually received what was called an EEC pension. The management of the band did not seem to care and said it did not have any money coming in either.
As for the investigation into the incident, the word on the street was that a higher force was involved. The Government did not seem interested and did not care. Now, 30 years later, owing to the dedication of Margaret and Justice for the Forgotten, there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps we will get the answers we have longed for. It is not really justice my family and I crave at this stage; perhaps just an apology and an acknowledgement of what happened. This apology, however, would have to come from the right people.
Deputy Ó Fearghaíl: I concur with the Chairman in the expressions of sympathy and thank the witnesses for their attendance. Their statements have been deeply moving. Perhaps they can tell the sub-committee how their lives have been affected since the atrocity and whether they believe the band’s celebrity status affected the way matters were handled subsequently.
Mr. Travers: As for my career, until then I had taken myself seriously as a musician, one of the most coveted jobs available. Subsequently, however, as people like to pigeonhole or label a person, I was stigmatised and my career as a serious musician effectively came to an end. I was always known and as the incident always followed me around, I was not really a candidate for anything else. At the age of 24 years, I was obliged to do background work such as producing, writing and similar activities.
As for my normal life, I had been married for almost one year when this happened. It is strange to have to examine the underside of one’s car every morning for wires and traces of a bomb. I did so, even though I was living in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, where I was born and reared. My wife could not bear for me to be away because she did not know whether I would return. People ask whether one’s life changes. It does not, in that one has only one life. I hope it is not a life of cynicism and fear and I tried to get on with it. I was lucky that my wife was a strong person.
I have always felt let down by the State. No counselling was provided and, as far as I was concerned, no one from the Republic ever tried to give me answers. I believe recent Irish history is being airbrushed and the lessons of the past have not been learned, which is extremely dangerous. In the course of researching a book due for publication next year, I have met the UVF and people with answers and things to say. Obviously, such people have an agenda, which may even be to hijack my book and put their own views forward. Hence, it is difficult not to be cynical. The short answer to how this has affected my life is that I have tried hard not to be that person. When I think and talk about it before the sub-committee, it is like talking about someone else who is not really me. Sometimes, however, the realisation comes that this has been one’s life, which is difficult.
Ms McCoy: Life for me has been simple enough because I had two small children to rear. One was five and a half years old and the other a year and ten months. Hence, it was a long struggle. I found it very hard to return to the North of Ireland, where I was born. I came from a very small village in which nothing like this had ever happened. It was the first time it had been brought close to it. I have always had a fear of returning to the North, where I still have family who want to know whether I will retire or return home. I cannot give that answer, although I cannot say why. I do not suggest it is out of fear or hatred of the people, as it is possible to have a bad apple in the barrel. However, I find it hard to leave the home I shared with Brian. One of my children has married, while the other still lives at home.
Deputy Ó Fearghaíl: From a number of the other people we met today, we get the sense that there cannot be any closure because nobody has been brought to book. However, three people have been convicted in connection with Ms McCoy’s case. Is there some element of satisfaction for her in that? Does she feel that something more was achieved in her case than was achieved in the cases of many other people? She has stated that she is perhaps looking for an apology to emerge from this process. Could she elaborate on this?
Ms McCoy: I know we will not get justice. We must face this because it has been 31 years since the events took place. We have heard all the stories but we would like someone to admit what happened and apologise. However, we will not get justice at this stage.
Mr. Travers: When I heard that these people were being released under the Good Friday Agreement, I was very happy for them. All I hoped for was that they would go home and be decent people again. The danger is that unless we learn the lessons of this, it can happen again. Having met these people in an effort to make some sense of it, I believe that the leaders and members of the UVF understand that violence is not the way forward and that it has not been successful. Having said this, I believe it can happen again. The old fears and prejudices definitely have not gone away. From talking with these people, I know that they still have matters to worry about, although there are less of them.
Recently, we attempted to have a memorial erected. We held a very successful concert last year which raised a considerable amount of money. We could not find a politician who would give us a decent spot upon which to erect the memorial. We came up against a brick wall on every occasion, which further galvanises my belief that they just do not want to know. They want to put the matter behind them and pretend that the success this country enjoys today did not come at any cost. The greatest success we can have in this country is peace and tolerance. I do not care whether the person who governs me has a Northern or Southern Irish accent as long as we are united in tolerance and peace. This is very important to me. I am 55 years of age but I hope my child will live in a better country. I was reared in south Tipperary. My father had been in the Second World War and everyone I could think of had lived through some sort of political crisis. I am sure they believed that I was part of perhaps the first generation that would not have to put up with anything like that, just as we believe today that our children will not have to face them. However, I would caution that it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that this violence can happen again unless we learn lessons from it.
Deputy Ó Fearghaíl: In conclusion, does Mr. Travers have concerns about the level of co-operation given to Mr. Justice Barron by the Northern Ireland Office and the British authorities when he compiled this and previous reports?
Mr. Travers: Of course I have. The RUC investigation into the Miami Showband incident put a ceiling on it and was a damage limitation exercise. The foot soldiers were arrested and shown the full rigour of the law, but I believe somebody was issuing orders to this British officer and that it went all the way to the top. Even listening to the previous speakers, I believe there is a convenient cover-up. I hope the committee will give us some answers. I do not expect or want anyone to go to jail or be prosecuted for this, as that would not serve any purpose for me. We cannot live in a state where it is all right to do something like this and eventually it will go away. That is not the way forward for any civilised society. I hope this investigation will give us some answers and perhaps teach us how to go forward without allowing it to happen again.
Deputy Lynch: I welcome the witnesses. While this cannot be easy for them, it is very important. Ms McCoy and Mr. Travers said that they wanted an apology or an acceptance that something went seriously wrong. While there is a desire for openness, an acceptance that awful things were done and questions about why they were done and who did them, everyone present has said that retribution is not wanted at this stage. More than anything else, people want a recognition of the mechanism that could have allowed this to happen. Mr. Travers is correct that the situation must be exposed, we must accept that it happened and the people responsible must lift their hands and explain how it happened and how they felt about it at the time. From whom do Ms McCoy and Mr. Travers want an apology? This matter is important because it goes to the heart of the system’s failure, not that of the foot soldiers. Who should make the apology?
Ms McCoy: As Mr. Travers said, we know who pulled the gun, who shot them and who planted the bombs. We know all those names, but we want to know who sent those people. We have an idea and have heard stories. We want those names. Obviously, we think the British Government had something to do with it, but we cannot say for certain. This is what we want to know. We want closure. I have lived with this for 31 years. I never remarried — I did not want to. I still live with the memory of Brian every day. I would like to know who sent those people to do that job.
Deputy F. McGrath: Ms McCoy is entitled to know. Why does Mr. Travers believe so strongly that members of the security forces wanted to plant a bomb in a minibus run by a showband that played music to a non-sectarian audience and brought a message of peace, hope and enjoyment? Why would the security forces want to do that? What is the bigger picture?
Mr. Travers: Showbands played a very important social role. Basically, while a young Catholic boy might see a young Protestant girl across a dance floor, neither would wonder what religion the other was. They just fancy each other and want to dance. That is human nature. Framing people who are obviously innocent, a mixed band of Protestants and Catholics — at the time, we did not know or care — is in the interests of people who want to drive a wedge between the communities and perpetuate a war that they feel follows their agenda, however bizarre it is. There were people who did not want certain aspects of politics or whatever to succeed and they could have driven in a wedge if they framed the Miami Showband. If we had driven off and no one had known about the checkpoint, those people could have said that we were carrying arms or playing a part. Therefore, you cannot trust anybody — from the South, or wherever they come.
Mr. Travers: We received no support. Judge Barron was the first person in this country to take an official statement from me. In fact, there had been an opportunity when the RUC came down to talk to us before the preliminary trials. It was afforded a room in Dublin Castle. The Garda Síochána had every opportunity to take a statement from us at that time. It sat idly by while I was shown pictures of what looked like pieces of liver but which were, in fact, torsos burned beyond recognition, with no heads or hands, while RUC detectives carried out their shock treatment on me in Dublin Castle. One minute they were showing me a picture of a field and asking if I knew what it was and the next they were throwing this thing at me that looked like a white slab with a black piece of meat on it, just to observe my reactions. I believe the State, my country, my Government, was seriously remiss in not giving me at least the impression that they were concerned about me but we received nothing like that.
Chairman: I thank Mr. Travers and Ms McCoy for telling us their stories. It has been an amazing day. We will be putting together the stories we have heard and the evidence given. It cannot but have a profound effect on people’s thinking about that period. I hope it will all help to heal the suffering everyone, the victims of these atrocities and their relatives, has endured during the years. I again thank the witnesses whose contributions will be helpful to the sub-committee in its deliberations. They will also be helpful to the nation in trying to comprehend the sense of loss and injustice in order that people will care and something will be done. If we can be of help, I encourage the witnesses to contact the clerk, Mr. Ray Treacy, or his staff.
A number of victims and their relatives were unable to attend today. On behalf of sub-committee members, I express our deep sympathy to them for the suffering they have endured during the past 30 years.
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