I welcome the opportunity to support this motion which draws on previous All Party motions in July 2008 and May 2011. I want to extend my gratitude to the on-going work of Justice for the Forgotten in continuing to shine a light on this dark moment in our past.
I can assure those relatives gathered here today in the visitors’ gallery or at home that it will not be forgotten here in this house.
The events of May 17th, 1974 occurred against the backdrop of the pitch black horizon of sectarian conflict. But even in the shadow of the brutal violence that was consuming Northern Ireland the Dublin – Monaghan bombings was the darkest of hours.
34 people, including an unborn child, perished as a series of explosions tore through the city centre and Monaghan town.
On an ordinary May evening, with the summer stretching before it, the streets were full of life. Ordinary workers were making their way home after a long day in the office, pensioners trundled along the way to the shops, parents dragged children in their wake. These lives were ruthlessly ended in an indiscriminate slaughter.
Entire families were extinguished, lives abruptly taken away or irrevocably changed. The repercussions of the bombs are still being felt today in silent homes across the country.
The fabric of family life was ripped apart for dozens of households. Strands of lives cut off for ever. It was the single bloodiest day of the Troubles which has so deeply scarred this island.
The bombs erupted in the fraught political context of the Unionist revolt against the Sunningdale agreement. As that fragile process was torn asunder by mass strikes, the attacks on our state sent a clear message about the cost of North South engagement.
It is clear from the evidence that loyalist paramilitaries undertook the bloody deed. However the sophistication and co-ordination of the attacks raises serious issues around the potential orchestration of the explosions by elements of British security forces.
The bombs form part of other similar attacks on Dublin, Belturbet, Dundalk, Castleblaney and the savage murder of the Miami Showband during the bleakest period of the conflict. It is important we acknowledge the men and women impacted by those tragic moments of absolute violence.
The work of Justice Hamilton, Justice Barron and the MacEntee Commission have revealed serious concerns with the non-cooperation of the British authorities.
This is why the families of those who lost their lives demand and deserve full disclosure by the British government on the issue.
It is an issue that Fianna Fáil has continually raised with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Therese Villers on her visits here. It is important that this motion keeps the issue alive for all parties in this house.
The on-going refusal of Prime Minister Cameron to release the relevant documents is a fundamental barrier to achieving real closure.
The Troubles claimed some 3,600 lives and destroyed countless more. The poisonous legacy of violence has seeped deep into the roots of many communities.
It has stunted the growth of a peaceful society in Northern Ireland. The reach of the past is still pulling at the future.
Today’s motion deals with one tragic moment from that turbulent period. But it is one amongst many. Only this week we saw the opening of an inquest into the Kingsmill Massacre.
On a desolate stretch of road deep in South Armagh ten workmen were raked with machine gun fire, murdered solely because of their religion. Their families too, remember the profound dread of the policeman’s visit to tell them of their loved one’s death.
The bloody chronicle of the past is littered with such terrible moments.
This is why the failure of the Fresh Start agreement to reach a comprehensive consensus on how to confront legacy issues needs to be addressed.
The relatives who still struggle with the long aftermath of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings share the same strife as countless others. All across our island there are individual and families still wrestling with violent events that irreversible changed their lives.
What is needed is not simply half the truth or a partisan approach to uncovering a shared past. A divided approach will only serve to exacerbate old wounds and allow historic grievances to fester and grow.
In order to move on and stop the corrosive rot of the past we need a clear mechanism to bring closure. These things cannot be swept under the political carpet. They will always re-emerge to haunt us.
The Bradley Eames Commission, Haass talks and original Stormont House agreement all came forward with clear proposals to deal with these divisive and painful issues. Innovative ideas have emerged to date such as:
The creation of a Historical Investigations Unit to inquire into killings during the Troubles;
A commission to enable people to privately learn how their loved ones were killed;
The creation of an oral history archive where experiences of the conflict could be shared.
They provide a clear path forward to confront and address the painful inheritance of the Troubles.
I am concerned that we risk falling into a divided approach to dealing with the past. We are mired in a sterile debate where both sides call on the other to come forward while showing no willingness to engage themselves. We are trapped on a roundabout of selective memories with no exit.
In order to break that perpetual circle there needs to be a clear route to grapple with what the dark days of the Troubles have bequeath.
The Irish government, British government and Northern assembly should re-visit the ideas of Haass and Bradley Eames to come forward with fresh proposals. We need a renewed focus and energy behind our collective efforts to address the past and build for the future.
Today’s motion is one aspect of that. The British government should take the lead and open up their files to an independent international judicial figure.
As part of a holistic, comprehensive process the whole truth is needed, not a partial or biased account that fails to recognise the depth and scale of the conflict from all perspectives.
I hope that today’s motion marks a step forward not simply a re-iteration of old positions. This cannot be allowed to fall into tired, rehearsed expressions of sympathy.
Much more is needed if we are to close this black chapter of history and assuage those for whom the hurt is still all too raw.
The families, friends and communities tragically touched by heinous acts of violence like the Dublin Monaghan bombings deserve to know, deserve to remember and deserve to move on.
Let’s give them the opportunity to do that.
Go raibh maith agat.