A former English chief constable who is also investigating the British army agent known as Stakeknife and the loyalist Glennane Gang has pledged to do all in his power to uncover the truth behind the Dublin-Monaghan bombings.
Jon Boutcher, ex head of Bedfordshire police, said on Sunday – the 46th anniversary of the UVF bombings – that his Operation Kenova team of officers, which is investigating Stakeknife and the Glennane Gang, was also inquiring into the Dublin-Monaghan bombings of May 17th, 1974.
“This series of coordinated blasts killed 34 people going about their normal everyday lives – including a full term unborn child, an entire family and tore countless other families apart,” said Mr Boutcher.
“The events were cowardly and evil beyond comprehension – targeting innocent people as they went about their lawful business that Friday afternoon,” he added.
While Sunday is the calendar anniversary of the bombings, for the first time the families were unable to hold their annual commemorations due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
Instead Fr Tom Clowe celebrated a special Mass in St Agnes's Church in Crumlin in Dublin on Saturday afternoon that the families and others were able to view remotely.
The bombings are widely regarded to have been carried out by the Glennane Gang that operated in mid-Ulster, and is believed to have been involved in more than 120 murders, most of them carried out during the 1970s.
Its members comprised Ulster Volunteer Force members and also members of the RUC and British army, leading to allegations there was British state collusion in the Dublin-Monaghan attacks 46 years ago.
As the bombings happened in the Republic in strict jurisdictional terms those killings don’t come under Mr Boutcher’s remit.
However, he told The Irish Times he is investigating the killings on the basis many of the files relating to the bombings are in Northern Ireland and therefore come under his purview.
Moreover, he added, he is in regular contact with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris about his investigation and is liaising with the Dublin-Monaghan families. He was due to meet them in Dublin next month, but that meeting was put back due to the coronavirus.
"It is only right that I will look with great focus at any of those people from that gang that may have been involved in the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, and also other offences committed in Dundalk and south of the Border," said Mr Boutcher.
"In doing that I will be working with An Garda Síochána and Commissioner Drew Harris, as we already have been working together in relation to the investigation into the alleged agent Stakeknife," he added.
Freddie Scappaticci, known as Stakeknife, was one of the British army's most senior moles in the IRA. He may have been implicated in up to 50 alleged murders, particularly when he was head of the IRA's internal security unit, the "Nutting Squad" that shot dead many alleged informers.
Mr Boutcher spoke about how he was hugely impressed with the Dublin-Monaghan families. “To listen to the heartbreaking stories of each of these remarkable families would make everyone realise that they deserve answers as to what happened; who was responsible, who knew what, and all agencies and stakeholders with information disclosing what they hold,” he said.
“There is no justification in you being prevented from knowing everything there is to know about what happened. . . . You are not forgotten, nor will you be,” he promised.
Minister of Justice Charlie Flanagan, in marking the anniversary, said the Government was strongly "committed to developing and establishing effective ways to address the legacy of the Troubles".
“Dealing effectively with the legacy of the past will be one way to honour the memory of all those killed and injured in the dark days of the Troubles, including those victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings who are foremost in our thoughts today,” said Mr Flanagan.