Relatives of the teenagers killed in the 1972 Belturbet bomb have said the Irish Government must take an interstate case against the UK government at the European Court of Human Rights over its controversial new legislation to deal with the legacy of the Northern Troubles.
“We are going to be affected by a British law, and the Irish Government should stand up for its citizens and stand up for their rights,” said Anthony O’Reilly, whose 15-year-old sister Geraldine was killed in the explosion along with 16-year-old Paddy Stanley from Clara, Co Offaly.
The families’ solicitor, Kevin Winters of KRW Law, said he was “very concerned” the so-called Legacy Act “might be used to try and shut down cases in the South”.
Nobody has ever been convicted of the loyalist bombing of the Co Cavan town. In 2022 Gardaí reopened their investigation after “a number of lines of inquiry” were identified.
Paddy Stanley’s sister Susan said it was “devastating” that “finally we had some hope, and that hope is being taken away from us” by the new UK law.
“Our appeal is 100 per cent that the Irish government needs to take this interstate case, because we have been failed so much, and how much longer will the Irish Government fail their citizens?”
The Government is awaiting legal advice from the Attorney General over whether it should take an interstate case against the UK over the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act, which became law last month.
The legislation, which is almost universally opposed, replaces current methods of criminal and civil investigations and inquests with inquiries carried out by a new investigative body with the power to offer conditional amnesties for perpetrators.
Speaking in the Dáil on Friday, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, said he hoped the advice would be available “within the next 10 days” and this would then be discussed with the Taoiseach.
He said the Government “remains seriously concerned about the impact of this Act on the fundamental work of reconciliation in Northern Ireland, and about its compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights.”
Mr Winters urged the Government to “take cognisance of the current impasse” whereby agencies in the North had failed to provide information to the Garda reinvestigation into Belturbet, which he said “ought to inform decision-making by the Irish Attorney General on an interstate challenge against Britain”.
He said his understanding was that Gardaí had identified “up to 80″ information requests, including some of an intelligence nature, and submitted these to the Northern authorities in June, but as of Friday had not received a response.
Mr Winters has written to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the North’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) – in letters seen by The Irish Times – demanding a swift response or face legal action, as well as to the Irish Government to update them.
The solicitor said the reinvestigation was “now at a critical point and cannot meaningfully progress in the continued absence of a substantive response from Northern agencies” and warned that “failure to exchange critical information with their Southern counterparts could impede all unresolved Troubles investigations in the Republic”.
He said he was “very concerned this doomsday legislation will have an insidious impact on all legal cases in the Republic of Ireland because it could inhibit cross-jurisdictional exchange of information, especially of an intelligence nature”.
“I live in a small town, I’m far removed from what happens in the UK, but they [the UK government] don’t know the devastation they’ve caused in me, and the hurt and pain,” said Susan Stanley.
“To think all these people have been working so hard to find out who killed Paddy, and now they’re just going to take it away from us. It’s just not right.
“As Irish citizens, we have a right to know who killed Paddy and Geraldine. If they [the Government] don’t take this case, and do it quickly, well, they’ve failed us.”