| 20th JAN 2004 | 27th JAN 2004 | 18th FEB 2004 | 9th MAR 2004 | HOME |
Printer Friendly Version
for all 20 January 2004
Opens in a new window

Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights
Sub-Committee on the Barron Report

Dé Máirt, 20 Eanáir 2004 - Tuesday, 20 January 2004

Public Hearing on the Barron Report

      | PAGE 1 | PAGE 2 | PAGE 3 | PAGE 4 |
Printer Friendly Version
for this page
Opens in a new window

Deputy F. McGrath: I welcome Tim, Marie, Michelle and Edward. I sincerely hope they will find that this exercise is not pointless. We were adamant that we should listen carefully to their views. This is a listening exercise and it is part of a process, so people should not get the wrong impression.

Tim raised a number of points about his situation. Did I hear correctly that it was the following morning, after the bombs went off, that he identified his wife, Breda?

Mr. Grace: There was terrible confusion. I went to the various hospitals as the night wore on. My brother joined me at 10 o'clock at Doyle's Corner. I had been to three hospitals at that stage. Her name was not on any list. I knew she was not one of the bodies in the Mater Hospital, so it was a matter of elimination. I cannot remember whether I went back to Jervis Street or to the morgue. I think I went to the morgue, but there were no bodies there. They moved the bodies to the morgue, but there was so much confusion in the morgue they took some of the bodies back to Jervis Street. I do not know exactly what happened. I went to both places, but her body was not there. I was still hoping; I know I was grasping at straws. I knew she had been close to the explosion because the car was only around the corner from the explosion. I had worked it out that she would have been near it. If she had been close to the explosion and had seen the terrible mayhem and the bodies on the streets, which some of the people here described, I thought she might have got a mental block and that she did not know where she was.

We went home after finding out that her body was not in Jervis Street or in the morgue. There was a mix-up because they had moved some of the bodies from the morgue to Jervis Street. That is the only way I can explain it. We went home hoping that someone would ring to say she had been found wandering around the city. I knew she was not on the casualty lists. We rang the hospitals again to re-check the casualty lists and then went to bed at 1 a.m. We got up at 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. and went back to the morgue and her body was there.

Deputy F. McGrath: Mr. Grace used the phrase, "cross-jurisdictional independent public inquiry". Would such an inquiry be worthwhile if the British were not involved in it?

Chairman: The Deputy is going a little too far.

Deputy F. McGrath: I would like to give Mr. Grace the opportunity to respond.

Chairman: Mr. Grace has already made a self-explanatory statement on that.

Mr. Grace: The British must be involved.

Deputy F. McGrath: Ms Sherry talked about her injuries and her hearing loss. She said it was horrific and ruined her life. She felt it was as if she never existed. Does she think that if she was a citizen of another state, she would have been treated differently? Does she feel the State has let her down as a citizen?

Ms Sherry: I certainly feel the State has let me down as a citizen. How else would one feel when one is totally ignored? The State treated us appallingly. We were treated like dogs which had been run over in the street. That is how I feel about it.

Deputy F. McGrath: Ms O'Brien said she was waiting for the truth. The Barron report is part of the process of getting to the truth. Given the suffering experienced by her and her family, does she feel we have started that process?

Ms O'Brien: I do. This is a step on a ladder. We may have to climb a long ladder, but it is a step in the right direction.

Deputy F. McGrath: I welcome Mr. Roice to the committee. He is the father of Siobhan Roice. He said in reply to Senator Jim Walsh that there were no follow-up contacts. Has that changed over the past ten years? Have things improved in that regard?

Mr. Roice: No, except in terms of our committee. People try to keep in contact that way.

Deputy F. McGrath: Were there statutory contacts?

Mr. Roice: No.

Deputy F. McGrath: There was no major impact on your life.

Mr. Roice: No.

Deputy F. McGrath: Thank you.

Chairman: It is interesting that we have Michelle in her thirties and Mr. Roice in his eighties and despite the 50 year age gap they are as determined as each other to try to come to finality on this matter. Thank you all very much for coming in and telling us your stories and helping and assisting us in our work.
We are returning to the group from Talbot Street and I welcome Ms Gertie Sheils, Mr. Garret Mussen, Mr. Noel Hegarty, Mr. Anthony Phelan, Mr. Joe O'Neill and Ms Bernie McNally, chairperson of Justice for the Forgotten.

Ms Gertie Sheils: I am coming from a little more distant perspective. My aunt, Concepta Dempsey, my father's sister, was the last remaining relative on my father's side. She worked in Guiney's for a number of years, travelled in from Drogheda every day on the train. She was a lady in her early sixties who was very quiet and reserved and certainly never did harm, by either word or deed, to anybody in her lifetime.

On the afternoon of 17 May 1974 my brother was driving past Guiney's. He was collecting two young cousins who were also working in town and who were to meet him at the corner of Gardiner Street. The two girls stopped to buy sweets or magazines or something and were only just in the car when somebody said, "I wonder if Cepta has gone home yet." Apparently, someone else said, "Oh, I think she has gone for the train," so he drove on up and was only at the square when he heard a huge explosion. The person from whom they had bought the sweets and newspaper was embroiled in the bombing and was either badly injured or killed.
I was married at the time and living in Balbriggan. A garda came to the door to ask if my daughter, Mary, was home. She was working in the city at the time and had been confused with another girl. I later learned that the other girl, Maureen Shiels, from Coolock, had been caught up in the bombing.

I did not know until that moment that a bomb had gone off in Dublin. It was very traumatic because Mary was not home at the time. However, she arrived shortly afterwards and we were delighted that all was well. Later on that evening, word came from home that my poor aunt had been killed in the bombing. She was on the second floor in Guineys, her place of employment, with her back to the window, when the bomb went off. She suffered horrific injuries because it seems that some of the piping from the outside the building became embedded in her back. She lived for perhaps nine days on life support but never regained consciousness. My mother, brother and sister went to the hospital first to visit and identify her, but she never recognised any of them.

These were people going about their daily lives, doing nothing untoward, and they deserved to be able to do that, to come and go from work. This was the first brush our family had with tragedy and it was all horrific, but I can empathise with people who have lost sons and daughters because nine years later, my young daughter was killed on the road by a drunk driver. There is a different quality involved. Much as I felt so sad about my aunt's death, and regretted it, the feeling of losing a child or a very close member of the family is absolutely horrific.

My aunt was buried very quietly. She had an insurance policy. Nobody ever came to say a word about the death or apologise or say how sad they were. My aunt certainly did not deserve to die like that, nor to be ignored in her death, in that it appeared that she was of no importance to anybody. For that reason, some years later when Paula was killed, I decided such a thing would not happen and that if I could help it, Paula's death would be a watershed that could be remembered, with an attempt perhaps to do something about it or make something of it.

Back in 1974, the attitude was a sign of the times. People did not question things or inquire into them; innocent people were also being killed in Northern Ireland. In a way, I suppose we felt that someone decided to bring the war to us. It has also been one of our concerns all along that this would not become a political football and that it would not be used by either side, because innocent people died on all sides. There was guilt north and south of the Border, particularly in this case.
I met Mr. Justice Barron when he took over from the late Mr. Justice Hamilton. He met us and spoke to us briefly. None of us was asked to give the life history of the person killed. The one thing we did ask - I remember Frank Massey in particular asking about it - was about getting a commitment to finding out the information we needed from all parties and all sides. I said to the judge: "Later on, if you don't get that, will you indict them in the report itself for their silence?"

I did not realise the strict terms of reference so I was expecting far more from the Barron report. I was disappointed but that was because I simply did not understand. So, while I think it is essential that we have a public inquiry, I hope that at the end of it we would not have a void. Will it be possible, and can we be promised, that all the information missing and files that are missing will be presented or that the people who made them disappear will be named and shamed? We at least owe the victims that much and we certainly owe the relatives that much.

When we started coming to Justice for the Forgotten, my brother was a fervent follower and absolutely delighted. He was younger than I am but he has died in the meantime. How many more good people in the organisation have died without getting answers? It is not and should not be acceptable.

I cannot say that I was so badly traumatised by my aunt's death. I was shocked but I was a little bit removed from the situation because I was married and involved with my own children. This was my aunt and while she was part of our childhood and part of our growing up and it was dreadful, I cannot claim to have been shocked then but I most certainly was in 1983 when Paula was killed.

An awful lot of people are suffering agonies because they do not have answers. There should be a public inquiry and at the end of it we should have the answers from all sources.

Chairman: Thank you very much. Questions have been raised which we will have to look into more deeply.

Mr. Garrett Mussen: I was injured in the Talbot Street explosion, in Boylan's opticians. I was with my parents. My mother was getting her eyes tested in the back of the building and my father and I were in the front waiting room when he heard the first explosion go off. Having lived for some time in Belfast before we had moved to Dublin, he and my mother recognised the first explosion as being a bomb. Both of them started to get nervous straightaway, thinking there might be another. My mother told the optician she thought it was a bomb but they told her, "Calm down, you're in Dublin, relax, of course it's not a bomb, it's a car backfiring or whatever." Around that point, the Talbot Street explosion happened very close to the shop. My father and I were blown pretty much clear to the back of the room we were in and reasonably seriously injured.

I was eight months old at the time so I do not recollect any of this and it is second hand. The impact on my life has not been terribly huge because I do not remember any of it. My injuries were fixable. I had spinal injuries at the time and spent some weeks in hospital, but it never had a big impact on my life. It is only recently, through linking up with Justice for the Forgotten, that I found out about some of the facts of the case and found it quite shocking. I had presumed it was another loyalist atrocity or whatever, but then the murky stuff started to come out in later years about possible connections to the military in the North. I found that interesting and the whole question as to whether or not there was collusion.

While there are a lot of things the Barron report never quite established because it did not have access to a lot of material and relevant witnesses in the North, the fact the military and the Ministry of Defence chose not to co-operate with Mr. Justice Barron was the biggest scandal. Even today they are colluding. I think it was John Stevens who said that collusion is not just active assistance to terrorists, it is omissions and lack of investigation. Here we had a legal investigation into what was the biggest murder in the Troubles and, for some reason, the British Government and the Ministry of Defence could say to the Irish Government that it would not co-operate and there was not even an outcry about that. I find that amazing.

Chairman: We have to be careful because its-----

Mr. Mussen: I am not going to name names or anything like that but I find it amazing that they could say they would not co-operate and get away with that. I hope a public inquiry will come out of this and, hopefully, shed some more light-----

Chairman: How badly was your father injured?

Mr. Mussen: He had head injuries and lost the hearing in one of his ears but, other than that, he pretty much made a full recovery.

Chairman: Thank you very much. I welcome Mr. Noel Hegarty and thank him for attending.

Mr. Noel Hegarty: My name is Noel Hegarty. On 17 May 1974, I was 13 years of age. I was injured in the Talbot Street bombings and was brought to Jervis Street Hospital. As I did not return that night, my father and brother went out to search for me. It was the following day before they found me in Jervis Street Hospital. The first thing I remembered was waking up in hospital with a priest leaning over and anointing me. I blacked out again and, at that stage, I was transferred to the Richmond Hospital where I spent two to three weeks.

Throughout my life I have tried to commit suicide on several occasions and was hospitalised as a result. At the time, the treatment I received was electric shock treatment. I have been on medication on and off through the years. I still suffer from anxiety, depression and also a fear. This has affected me in that I have not been able to work for long periods and have been afraid to go into town. It took me three years before I went back into town. Even to this day, I still get palpitations and experience fear. As a citizen of this State, I demand a public inquiry.

Chairman: Where were you living at that time?

Mr. Hegarty: I was living on Malahide Road in Artane.

Chairman: Do you still live out there?

Mr. Hegarty: No, I live in Swords at the moment.

Chairman: Thank you. I know it is difficult to come here and tell your story in this environment. I appreciate it and I thank you very much. I call Mr. Anthony Phelan.

Mr. Anthony Phelan: My name is Anthony Phelan and I am from Waterford. My sister Marie was 20 years of age when she was killed in Talbot Street. I was 13 years old at the time and was going to school.

My sister Marie had been working in Dublin for one year. She was an outgoing and jolly girl who worked in the Civil Service. On 17 May she was invited to a party. She lived in Phibsboro Avenue. She was with some friends and decided to take a shortcut towards Talbot Street to buy a present for the person whose party she was going to attend. She usually never walked home that way. She walked down Talbot Street and outside Guineys, just past where the car blew up, she was killed. My parents were told that she was unrecognisable. My father was not allowed to see the body. We have relations in Dublin and they informed my father that she could only be recognised by the ring she was wearing.

My mother still suffers from depression as a result of what happened. My father is not well at present because he suffered a stroke. I have an older brother who attends the meetings in Dublin as often as possible. It is tough going. In Waterford, we do not hear as much about what is happening because we live so far from Dublin. However, we attend the meetings as often as possible and Margaret Irwin of Justice for the Forgotten keeps us informed about what is happening.

Growing up, people would ask me how many children were in the family. I would often say that I had a brother and a sister. If they asked what were they names, I would feel strange saying that my sister was murdered in the 1974 car bombing in Dublin. It is difficult to forget and I would always say that I had a sister. I am also often asked whether anyone was ever caught for the bombing and I would say "No" but that we had suspicions. Even in recent years, it has been difficult to keep it out of one's mind. I visit my sister's grave often, particularly around her anniversary. My father and mother, who are from small farming backgrounds in Waterford, and the rest of us visit the grave as often as possible. I drove up this morning from Waterford, caught the DART into the city and visited the monument at the end of Talbot Street.

I hope there is a public inquiry. It would be great if whoever was responsible could be brought to justice. That is more or less all that I have to say.

Chairman: I thank Mr. Phelan and call Mr. Joe O'Neill.

Mr. Joe O'Neill: I am Joe O'Neill of O'Neill Shoes of No. 18 Talbot Street. I moved to Talbot Street in 1974 and opened a shop there. The woman who owned the shop at the time sent me a letter which turned me down as an unsuitable tenant. I cycled out to her house to see her. Her next door neighbour was involved in business with my uncle who ran Dublin Meatpackers. She saw us talking and asked me how I knew the man. I told her that I was involved in business and she told me to go home because I was now a suitable tenant.

Near closing time on the day of the bombings, I heard the first bomb exploding in Parnell Street. I thought that something had happened in the car park out the back. I walked out of the shop up to the corner to Brendan who sold the newspapers and asked him if some car had gone up in the car park, since I had a car in it. He said that it was in Parnell Street. I walked back to the shop, in the door and across the room. At that time I had already bought the second half of the shop. It was divided in two, and I was running two shops separately. I went across the hallway to the main door of the shop to collect the money in the second till, which I never reached.
I put my hand on the door to turn the knob. The door went out of my hand and killed Mrs. McKenna on the other side. I was blown back into the shop. A sheet of glass went past me and cut the fixtures and the heels from the stiletto shoes. I was buried in three feet of shoe boxes. I straightened up and lifted my foot. A piece of timber measuring about nine inches by six inches was on fire. There was no shoe or sock on my foot. I lifted my second foot. I had a shoe on it and stamped it around, since I knew that five staff members were down in the basement at that stage.

I walked out of the shop. I could not see, since my eyesight had gone dark. I could not understand why it was so dark. I thought it was winter. I got out to the footpath. I could see bodies on the street. It appeared to me as if a steamroller had come down the street and run over everybody. I looked down at my side and could see what I thought was yellow stuff pouring out of it. I kept going on, heading for Moran's Hotel. I wanted to go there. I was heading towards it when I collapsed between the double lanes of cars going up and down Gardiner Street. A fellow on the street was going home from work. He pulled open the doors of the car and got a man to help. He threw me onto the back seat of the car. He asked me where I wanted to go, and I told him: "The nearest hospital."

We went down along the quays, which were not one-way in those days. I could not get much further. I told him to go to the nearest hospital. He then headed up O'Connell Street towards Jervis Street. Jervis Street was one-way at that time. He said that it was one-way and that he could not go that way. I told him that I would pay the fines, and on he went. We got to the gate of the hospital, and there was a huge crowd outside. However, they would not let me in. He got out of the car and went up to the man in the box, who told him that he had instructions to let no one in. He told the man to come out and see me, saying that he would surely let me in then. He came out and told us to drive in.

They lifted me out of the car and put me on an iron stretcher. There were two or three nuns and three or four nurses. They asked me what had happened in Parnell Street. I said that I did not know. They asked me if I had come from there, and I told them that I was from Talbot Street. She asked me how that could have happened, since the bomb was in Parnell Street. I told her that I did not know, since I had come from Talbot Street. Then the nun said that I was a northerner, and a man said the same. They asked me where I came from. I told them that I came from a village in County Monaghan, which we discussed. I was put into an iron lift. I was not worth a casualty at all. I was put into an iron lift and taken up into a ward. They cleared the beds from all around me. I then started to pass out.

I asked for a drink of water but they would not get it for me. They said they could not give me a drink. They put me onto a bed, rolled me off, came up with a big pair of scissors and cut from the throat down the whole way. Then I conked out and the next thing I could hear was the gas cylinders coming along on a barrel. I did not wake until three o'clock in the morning when Professor Collins came along and said "I will take this man". I did not wake again until Monday morning. When I awoke I thought I had only one leg because I could not find my other leg. I did not realise all my hair had been burned off and my face scorched. They were coming along with big pads to lay on my face. I went back to sleep again for a whole day. They told me they would let me look at the mirror in a couple of days. After a couple of days I looked at the mirror to see what my face was like. I stayed there for two to three weeks.

On a Wednesday night just before the bombing, I had met the tenants who were living upstairs in the shop and I had negotiated a payment of £3,000 for them to move out. Now I had no shop or place to put tenants and I had negotiated a loan with the bank for £3,000. An accountant came in to me and advised that, whatever I did, I should get rid of the tenants or I would be in terrible trouble because it would cost thousands of pounds to fix the place. They went up to the bank. The bank rang the hospital to say it would not give me the money since I was not going to live but I did live and I got my £3,000 otherwise and I made it.

I was out of the hospital in three months. I even walked out because I wanted to get out as quickly as I could. All my footwear had been moved to County Monaghan, far from me in Carrickmacross, since I could not get the stock insured in Dublin because it could not be called "secure stock". It had to be moved to the country in chicken lorries. They did not realise there was a hole in the back of the lorry and that shoes were popping out as it went along the road. After that, I had Bernie and four other girls employed so I had to get back to work.

Thanks to Charlie Brett further down the street, who offered me a premises for buttons, I got back in business. Once I got out of the hospital, I started working right away even though I was told to go home and stay in bed. After two weeks or so, I was driving home when I got violently sick. When I got to Fairview, I found it hard to make the rest of the way home. I made it to home but when I got to the house, I could not get out of the car. I was then lifted out and put up on a bed. I rang a doctor but no doctor would come. I rang an ambulance because I was in dreadful pain - I had a blockage. The ambulance would not collect me because I was in a house. They suggested they would lift me out of the bed and put me on the street and they would come for me. They would not take me. Eventually I got another doctor - our local doctor was on holidays - I was carried away in the ambulance eventually, without being put on the street.

When I got to the hospital, I was taken to casualty this time. They did not know what was wrong with me and they then called Professor Collins. He said "Are ye all mad? The man has only two or three hours to live." I was taken to the operating theatre at 10.00 a.m. or 11.00 a.m. and was in hospital for another two weeks. I got out again and I was told off for returning to work too quickly. I was not out too long when I had to go back to Jervis Street Hospital. I walked in this time and Professor Collins was sent for again. I was only supposed to go in for a test and I asked him how quickly I would return home. He said not to worry about Talbot Street and that I would not be going back at all. That shut me up but I made it out again. I was back a few times to different hospitals. I ended up buying my own house from Mrs. Barr. I owned No. 12 until I sold it last year. I am now in Nos. 11 and 12. There might be no bomb there.

Chairman: I acknowledge Mr. O'Neill's great spirit, in spite of all the difficulties and the terrible injuries he has experienced. I thank him for coming and telling us his story. Ms Bernie McNally was in the cellar.

Ms Bernie McNally: Yes, thank God. I am a survivor of the Talbot Street bomb and I also sustained serious injuries that day. The injuries I received have been well rehearsed in the media of late. I lost the sight in my eye on 17 May. Cosmetically, it looked bad and, eventually, 24 years later, I had to have the same eye removed. I require treatment on a constant basis and expect to do so for the rest of my life. I have been involved in the campaign for the past five years and I was elected chairperson two years ago. Today has been harrowing, listening to the cross section of people, the stories and the ongoing suffering that people must deal with 30 years later. More families and survivors are unable to be present due to work commitments and illness, while many have died while waiting to get justice.

I refer to some of the people I came across that day and how it affected their lives. Mae McKenna occupied a flat over O'Neill's shoe shop. She was a sales assistant in Clerys, O'Connell Street. The staff were on strike so Mae was at home. When she heard the first bomb go off on Parnell Street she went to the lower ground floor. I was in the basement, came up and met her on the landing. Mae asked me had I heard a bomb going off and I said I thought it was a bomb. I was 16 years and the nearest I came to hearing a bomb going off was a balloon bursting. I do not make light of it but that was how close I had been to bombs. I had gone to the basement for a pair of sandals for a customer who had come into the shop late that evening and, as I stepped away from Mae, the Talbot Street bomb exploded and Mae was killed instantly. The customer for whom I went to get the sandals never got to try them on because she was also killed. I could not find the customer in the shop in the mayhem afterwards and I had no sight myself. I will never forget how weakly she moaned for a while after but I could not find her. She was found dead the next day.
One of the many unsung heroes of the day was a man called Kevin Roe. He came on the Talbot Street bomb scene and when he saw the devastation and human carnage and that there were no emergency services to take any of us from Talbot Street to hospital, he had the presence of mind to go to Busaras and commandeer a bus there. That bus was loaded to capacity with the injured from Talbot Street. People with very serious injuries were on that bus. I was one of the many people on the bus. It took us to Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital where we were tended to at some stage.

Later that evening I was moved to the Eye and Ear Hospital where I met Una Candon for the first time. Una, who has since died, was a strong supporter of our campaign and a victim of the Parnell Street bomb. She spent a week beside me in hospital. When she was going home I envied her because I wanted to get out of the hospital. I did not realise that Una had no home to go to. She had a business premises in Parnell Street and her home was above the business premises. She was out of work, badly traumatised and injured and now she had no home. She had to go and stay in a convent. I mention Una because she has died in the last three years. I also mention Patricia Askin. Her daughter, Sonya, could not make it here today. Patricia Askin's husband, Patrick Askin, was killed in the Monaghan bomb and Patricia only died as recently as October 2003.

So, there is a great urgency in getting to the truth of what happened in Dublin and Monaghan. We now have Mr. Justice's Barron's report. This has to be the catalyst for a public judicial inquiry. I felt very angry when I read the report. One single sentence on page 106 is highly symbolic of the attitude of the State to the bombings:

The fragments, or debris, that are still in the possession of gardaí were found in an unmarked cupboard in Garda headquarters following an extensive search of the premises for documentary material relating to the bombings.

In other words, fragments of the debris from the greatest atrocity ever committed on the island of Ireland did not even merit a name. They, like the outrage itself, were to be swept under the carpet and covered up.

The serious questions that have been raised by the judge in relation to the Garda investigation in response to the Irish Government of the day, the likelihood of collusion by the British security forces at some level and the lack of co-operation from the British Government with the Barron inquiry demand the establishment of a public judicial inquiry. The Barron report is the opening chapter of that inquiry.
Over ten years ago the victims expected the Government of the day to hold an inquiry into the bombing. It took the Department of Justice two years to conduct a review that we now know to have been a whitewash and a cover up and which did not even refer to the disappearance of the Department's own files.

It should not have fallen to us, the victims and survivors, to become campaigners, but it did. The distrust that we, the victims, have in any process that does not involve full public disclosure, public hearings and public testing is found in our collective experience over the past 11 years. We have had a life sentence imposed on all of our lives. There is no getting away from this. I find today, for instance, a very difficult day but it is due to the abandonment that has been imposed on us over the past 30 years and the neglect that has had to be endured by the families and survivors. That is all I have to say. Thank you.

Deputy P. McGrath: As Bernie has said, it has been a long and difficult day for everybody, particularly for the people who came in and had sad stories to tell about what happened to their relations and loved ones. Bernie also rightly said there are many more people who cannot be with us today but who have equally sad stories to tell. We empathise with them also. It is a difficult situation but we hope that coming here today is, as many guests have said, another step along the ladder. I hope we can make progress, and I thank all our guests for attending the committee.
I have a couple of questions, Chairman. My first question is for Ms Shiels. She had a lot of trauma in her own life subsequently when her own daughter died. Again, we cannot possibly understand what that is like. Ms Shiels has a feeling that because it was her aunt who died, her family were not treated properly because her aunt did not have family of her own. I think I detected from Ms Shiels that she felt that because her aunt did not have family of her own, the same care or whatever was not given to Ms Shiels' family. Maybe she would elaborate a little on that.

Ms Shiels: I think the Deputy mistook what I meant. I meant that my attentions were probably diverted a little in Drogheda from the tragedy because I had a family of my own and was probably more concentrated on that. The fact that my aunt was killed was a terrible tragedy but she was an unmarried lady, a single person. She had been part of my childhood and upbringing, and she was a lovely person. As I said, she never harmed anyone in her life and was looking forward to a trip to Lourdes with friends when she was killed.

It was horrific, and I always felt that everybody had been too silent. I did not break the silence but neither did anybody else. Families at that time were suffering, and as I say, there was a sort of war going on among a certain element. Innocent people were being killed and the matter was not being addressed. It was all wrong and never should have happened, particularly to anybody who was not a member of a paramilitary group. That was a disgrace. It is wrong to say that the war was brought to us because we were in some way involved in what was going on up there. I was worried that a conclusion that there was British collusion would bring us into a sort of political football. That would not have been acceptable at all to my aunt, who would not want her death to be used in that way.

All of the deaths should have been addressed. I think, perhaps I was a little remiss. It meant a lot to know that my daughter, Mary, was safe that night. I did not know that Cepta was killed at the time. I suppose I was a lot younger and had a lot to learn.

Deputy P. McGrath: I thank Ms Shiels for that. It is very magnanimous of her to mention the fact that there were so many other people killed. I think 300 people had already been killed in the Troubles at the time the bomb went off.
To turn briefly to Mr. Hegarty, who has had a very difficult life. Are you receiving counselling now through the Justice for the Forgotten group?

Mr. Hegarty: Yes, it has only been in the last year or so that I started to receive counselling through Justice for the Forgotten. Before that there was no counselling, I just had to get on with it and cope with it myself.

Deputy P. McGrath: It was arising from various traumas during your life that you were in hospital and so on.

Mr. Hegarty: Yes.

Deputy P. McGrath: To what extent would your attribute that back to the trauma you experienced on the day of the bomb? Would your attribute your life thereafter to what happened to him on that day?

Mr. Hegarty: Yes, very much so.

Deputy P. Power: I reiterate what Deputy McGrath stated, that it has obviously been a difficult day for all concerned and for us too in the sense that the report does not convey the anguish and the trauma and the fact that so many lives and families were shattered beyond recognition. Despite what has been said today, we are much better informed certainly with regard to that aspect.

I have heard a lot of misery today and I have never seen anybody carry so much obvious pain with such good nature as Joe O'Neill I am sure there are times when you do not carry it with such good nature, but you are to be complimented.

Mr. O'Neill: I still have a lot of trouble with glass coming out through my feet. There was a piece of glass in my knee last Sunday; when I went to knell for mass I could not move my right knee.

What annoyed me most when I came out of hospital was that I got a hospital bill and the VHI would not pay it because it came under the heading of civil strife. The insurance companies would not pay for the repairs to the shop because I did not have pre-1932 insurance. Again, civil strife was cited.

The Corporation charged me £600 - which was a lot of money then - for removing the chimney stack because it was dangerous to pedestrians on the street. The following week it charged me £800 for removing and replacing the pieces of kerbstone found three storeys up. I had to pay these charges of £600 and £800 and also the hospital fees.

Deputy P. Power: I understand that your injuries are ongoing and serious and I thank your for your contribution.

I want to ask Ms Bernie McNally two questions which I have asked of a number of people. What was the catalyst, to use your own word, for your particular interest? Was it the programme "Hidden Hand - the Forgotten Massacre" or was there a period before 1993 where you had consigned this event to history and said, "this has happened.", albeit traumatic as it was? What was the impetus for you to say: "There is some unresolved issue here and there is an injustice. We have been forgotten about."? When did that become a major issue?

How many people, between injured and bereaved relatives, have said to your group, "I am just not willing to get involved. I have put this behind me and I want to forget about that part of my life."? We certainly got some submissions to that effect. Could you give me a general answer in that regard?

Ms McNally: I cannot answer in that regard. Anybody I came across wanted to be involved. I was 16 years of age in 1974. I was not interested in politics or anything political - that all went over my head. I was six weeks in hospital and when I came out there was never another word about it. In my young mind I used think, "how can this happen and nobody cares?" I was left with severe facial injuries and my family coped as best it could with me coming home. My father never discussed it in the family because I had four brothers. I also had sisters, but I think he was more concerned that the boys would get caught up, perhaps in a paramilitary group or something like that. It was just kept low. He did not speak about it. The only time he spoke about it was with my mother and that would have been about what happened.

I never understood it. For years I regarded it as an accident.

When I joined Justice for the Forgotten many other people referred to it as an accident. I think that was because from the very early stages it was swept under the carpet. It was never exploited and nobody looked into it.

When I came out of hospital six weeks later there was never another word about it; nobody ever spoke to me about it. I went back to work that August for Mr. O'Neill. He was still trying to get the shop back in order. He was still rebuilding the shop and moving back up to Talbot Street. I got married in 1980 and, in 1981, I had my first child. My life was taken up because I went on to have four children.

In 1998, I had to go back to hospital. I think it was buried in me. I suffered dreadfully emotionally and traumatically but it became part of me. I just thought it was me. None of the victims knew each other. I only knew Mr. O'Neill but we had no common ground or common bond, nothing to bring us together.

The memorial mass began ten years after the bombing. That was started by a Mr. Kevin Walsh. He was a trade unionist and had been in Talbot Street that day or came on the scene later. When he saw, ten years after the bombing, that nothing had been done, he went to the Pro Cathedral and asked that a mass be said every year. That happened ten years after the bombing, before anything was done collectively.

The families then started to come together. I did not get involved then because I was not aware of the masses. I did not become involved until 1998 when a friend of mine saw an advertisement in the paper. I had had my eye removed in May 1998 and she suggested that I contact them. When I did contact them, I could not believe that so many people could feel the same way, share the same grief and feel the same amount of abandonment that we had felt over the 24 years.

Deputy P. Power: Did the "Hidden Hand - the Forgotten Massacre" programme have a major effect on you?

Ms McNally: I did not see that until 1998, when I saw a video of it.

Deputy P. Power: Thank you.

Deputy Hoctor: I thank the members of the families who have been with us this afternoon. It has not been easy for them. I have a question for Anthony Phelan. Living in Waterford and in the rural setting of Woodstown, which I am familiar, how did he and his parents, Billy and Kitty, cope with the death of Marie? It was a different setting in which to cope with something that had happened far away and with the fact that Marie would not return. Was he involved with Justice for the Forgotten? Did the family receive any counselling?

Mr. Phelan: There was no counselling for any of us. It was only in latter years that we got involved through Justice for the Forgotten. It was far away in Dublin and we were down in Waterford. Nothing happened for us. My mother, when the anniversary came around, always felt unwell in herself. It was the same for all of us.

Deputy Hoctor: Thank you. I have another question for Ms McNally. Today is the first day of the process and, no doubt, the news this evening will highlight the proceedings today. Does Justice for the Forgotten expect to receive a response from the people who have not become involved so far? Has the organisation anticipated that more people might come forward, ready to tell their story?

Ms McNally: Justice for the Forgotten would welcome anybody who would like to contact us and make a submission to the committee or to become part of the group. If they just want to talk, they can come in and chat. They are welcome to contact us. We are on the Internet and in the phone book. Our address is 64 Lower Gardiner Street.

Deputy Costello: Like my colleagues, I thank everyone for coming here today. It is a tough enough ordeal without having to wait all day to tell a harrowing tale. As regards the Barron inquiry, Ms Gertie Shiels said she was present with Mr. Justice Barron. How many of the other relatives had any contact or communication with Mr. Justice Barron?

Ms McNally: As a group, Justice for the Forgotten met Mr. Justice Barron in September 2002 in Government Buildings. He listened to some of our stories. We were there to have a chat and to see how the report was going and when he thought he would be able to publish it. It was not done on a one to one basis. We were not there to tell him our stories.

Deputy Costello: Did that also include the people from Monaghan?

Ms McNally: Yes. It is the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. We do not separate them. They were all invited, but I do not know if they were all there that day. They were aware it was happening.

Deputy Costello: Ms McNally mentioned that she felt a great sense of abandonment by the State and State agencies. Did everyone in Justice for the Forgotten feel they were let down or that the agencies did not come to their assistance?

Ms McNally: The sense of abandonment and the neglect we suffered over the years are probably our common bond.

Deputy Costello: Justice for the Forgotten was set up without help from anyone.

Ms McNally: We did not get help from anyone. I was not involved in the early days; I only became involved in 1999. Ms Margaret Irwin and the legal team came on board in 1996.

Deputy Costello: Other people said earlier that the Garda paid a lot of attention to the commemoration in the Pro-Cathedral and the activities of the group. Did anyone ask the Garda why that arm of the State was concerned?

Ms McNally: I was at a general meeting two or three years ago. When some of our members left that general meeting in the teachers' club in Parnell Street, they were approached by plain clothes detectives who asked them why they were at the meeting. One man was near the Writer's Museum when he was stopped. We wrote to the Garda at the time and complained that our members were being harassed. I cannot remember what response we received. In the earlier days gardaí were caught on the "Hidden Hand" programme monitoring people going in to and leaving mass. I do not know much more about that.

Deputy Costello: I know Garrett Mussen was a baby when his father was injured. What effect did that have on him and did he receive counselling?

Mr. Mussen: He did not receive counselling. His physical injuries were serious, but they were treatable. He said in the weeks after it that he was badly traumatised. He was almost agoraphobic. He felt it was difficult to leave the flat in which he was living in Dublin. However, he eventually seemed to work that out for himself. He did not get counselling. He is all right today. He was traumatised at the time, but he seems to have put it behind him.

Deputy Costello: I thank Mr. Mussen. Did Mr. Joe O'Neill ever pay the fine for going up the wrong way in Jervis Street?

Mr. O'Neill: I did not and I got away with it.

Chairman: That is understandable. I thank all the members of Justice for the Forgotten and all those who contributed here today. It certainly opened our minds more to what happened, the humongous and awesome human emotion, individual grief and bereavement suffered which give us a greater base on which to continue the work we are doing in this sub-committee and the hearings.

All of the contributions which have been made have placed in context all of the reports, the verbiage and words written in newspapers, and have humanised and made it very real. It has been 30 years of great suffering which is quite evident from the contributions made today which were certainly deeply moving. I thank you for coming along and for saying what you have said.

There is also a number of victims and families of victims who were unable to attend today, as Bernie has said, for various reasons, through illness or work. Unfortunately, some are no longer with us. I extend my great gratitude and thanks to those who are for continuing to participate in the broader context in Justice for the Forgotten. If any of them wishes to make a submission to us in any way, we would be delighted to receive it.

Mr. Ó Dúlacháin: I thank the Chairman and committee members for listening today, questioning and participating. In the light of the submission made just after lunch I just want to make one or two very small points. When we asked at the initiation of this process in 1999 that this report go for consideration, we did not want it considered in a two hour session on a single afternoon. We wanted it to be seriously considered. I think what has happened today is the first part of that serious consideration in that the victims, relatives of the victims and the injured have had an opportunity to put a human face on the report, so we are confident that when the committee sits down to consider the report, it will have a human face on it. I think putting that human face on it has been vitally important.

Second, we do see this as a meaningful and significant exercise. We do think what will happen next week will be very important. When we come to discuss the detail of the report next week it is comforting to us to know and nearly a guarantee that those who are considering the report have read it. We will know from the questions coming from the committee members that the report has been considered and read in detail. We and other groups will have the opportunity of highlighting various sections of the report and assisting with the interpretation of the report and the emphasis to be placed on the report. We welcome the opportunity to engage in a very meaningful consideration of the report, conscious that there is a distinction to be made between a consideration and an inquiry.

Chairman: Thank you very much. That brings us to the point of the application made by Ms Reilly on behalf of her clients. It is a matter that we will consider in a private session tomorrow afternoon. We will also take on board Mr. Ó Dúlacháin's comments on that matter. Without pre-empting the decision at which we will arrive but on the assumption that we will be continuing next Tuesday, I ask that we receive a submission from you by the end of this week in order that we will be in a position to consider it, individually and as a committee. We need that length of time and I would appreciate any help you could give us in that regard.

That is the end of today's hearings. Again, I thank you all for attending. All going well, I look forward to seeing some of you next Tuesday. The meeting is now adjourned and we will go into private session for a very short period.

The Joint Committee went into private session at 4:50 p.m.

      | PAGE 1 | PAGE 2 | PAGE 3 | PAGE 4 |
Printer Friendly Version
for this page
Opens in a new window

      | 20th JAN 2004 | 27th JAN 2004 | 18th FEB 2004 | 9th MAR 2004 | HOME |
Printer Friendly Version
for all 20 January 2004
Opens in a new window

Copyright © Justice For The Forgotten. All rights reserved.