‘To this day, I find it shocking that someone willingly planted a bomb to kill somebody’

No one has been convicted over Dublin bomb that claimed the lives of two people, as families mark 50th anniversary

“It is 50 years, but it is the blink of an eye. In my memories it is just yesterday,” says Monica Duffy, whose husband Tommy was killed in the first car bombs to explode in the Republic during the Troubles.

“Tommy will never go out of my eyes. I always see him.”

On the evening of Friday December 1st, 1972, Monica, then a 22-year-old mother of one expecting her second child, was at home in Artane, north Dublin, when she thought she heard an explosion from town.

Tommy, from Castlelbar, Co Mayo, had been working late at the CIE depot beside Sackville Place, off O’Connell Street. He was supposed to be at home with Monica and their toddler daughter Caroline but he was doing a colleague a favour by swapping shifts.


“A policeman and a doctor came to the door,” recalls Monica. “They said Tommy had been caught up in the explosion. My memory is that they wanted to give me an injection to calm me down, but they couldn’t because I was pregnant.”

The pair had met a few years before while Monica was taking the bus to night classes. Tommy was the bus conductor and they would often chat as there was no one else on the bus.

“Then he asked me out. We got engaged two years later and got married about two years after that,” says Monica.

“He was so happy-go-lucky, kind, caring, funny, mischievous. He used to play-act with students on the schoolbuses, they loved him. He was always joking or playing tricks with them. He was so well loved, so full of life and energy.”

Even now, Monica gets upset remembering being brought to see his body in the funeral home.

“I wanted to see him. They had to give me a box to stand up on so I could see into the coffin. They asked me not to touch him. But I gave him a kiss. That was that. It was a big funeral but I really just wanted to be alone and on my own.”

Half a century on, Monica says the profound loss to her, her daughter and their son – named Tom after his father that he never met – “doesn’t get any easier.”

“Even to this day, I find it shocking that someone willingly planted a bomb to kill somebody in that way. Somebody sat down and planned this. I still find it hard to come to terms with,” she says.

“As the years go on, I realise the enormity of it, the sadness, the destruction of a life, a life of vitality and fun. It hasn’t eased over the years. A lot of my sadness is that my son never saw his dad.”

Tom looks like his father, she says, and, like him, is “good with his hands”. A sculptor, he created the memorial at Sackville Place to commemorate the death of his father and his workmate George Bradshaw.

At midday on Thursday, they will gather with others to mark the 50th anniversary.

Fifteen minutes before the Sackville Place bomb, another went off at Liberty Hall. No one was killed but many people were injured. The explosions happened as legislation to extend the controversial Offences Against the State Act was being debated in the Dáil.

The amended Act proposed additional powers to detain and question those believed involved in terrorism.

The Fianna Fáil government had been expected to be defeated on the issue. But following the bomb blasts, then taoiseach Jack Lynch adjourned for an hour. After the break, almost the entire Fine Gael party under Liam Cosgrave abstained in the vote and the Bill passed.

Despite claims of British collusion with loyalist paramilitaries in the car bombs, no one has ever been arrested or convicted. Justice for the Forgotten has fought for decades for both the British and Irish governments to release files they believe would give the families and survivors some answers.

“A lot of these families have passed away not knowing what really happened,” says Monica.

“I’m not looking for a court case, repercussions, for anyone to be punished – I just want the truth so I can pass it on to my family – to Tommy’s four grandchildren – so that they know what happened.

“I know in my heart what happened. But I want the government to come to me and say what happened. The Irish government has been complicit in this by doing nothing over 50 years to bring out the truth. That is where I get angry – at the injustice.”

Brian Hutton

Brian Hutton is a freelance journalist and Irish Times contributor