Dublin and Monaghan bombing failed in its objective, says Taoiseach

Martin tells memorial event Government committed to seeking out truth of bombings

The cowardly and callous bombing of Dublin and Monaghan on May 17th, 1974, failed in its objective of sowing discord, the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, said at an event to mark the attacks in which 33 people died.

Speaking at the memorial on Talbot Street in central Dublin near where one of the three Dublin bombs exploded, Mr Martin said those who died on that Friday had been "parents, children, partners, siblings, and especially, poignantly, included one pregnant woman."

Those behind the “hateful crimes in Dublin and Monaghan” had set out to shatter communities, he told the gathering.

“In this they failed. The fact that we are gathered here today in solidarity almost half a century later is a powerful demonstration of that.”


He said the Government remains committed to seeking out the truth of what happened on the day of the bombings and their aftermath.

The event, the first of the annual commemorations to be held since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, was held on the same day as the London government prepared to introduce legislation on unsolved crimes from the Troubles era that would consider immunity from prosecution for perpetrators who co-operated with a new commission for reconciliation.

Mr Martin told the gathering than it had been the Dublin Government’s consistent position that the basis for progress on legacy crimes was the Stormont House Agreement of 2014.

“To depart from that agreement would have to be discussed by both governments, and all of the parties, in an inclusive process. There would need to be serious and credible engagement with victims and families.”

Speaking later to The Irish Times, Mr Martin said the government did not agree with “unilateral approaches to legacy and we have made that clear to the UK government.”

“I’ve met with a range of victims groups in the last number of months and they are very much against an amnesty and in our view the voice of the victims and the survivors has to be uppermost, and their families, in an consideration around legacy.

“It is not simple, I will acknowledge that,” he added. “There are a lot of challenges around this.”

‘Mass Murder’

Among those at the event was Catherine Doyle Ellis, whose sister Anna O'Brien, died in the bombings along with Anna's husband, John O'Brien, and their two daughters, Jacqueline (17 months) and Anne Marie (five months.)

“Anna is my eldest sister,” she told The Irish Times. “I am the second youngest sister. I remember that day well, I remember sitting on her bed and being told. I was six at the time and I am now fifty four, and it has been the hardest life ever.”

Her mother, Annie, died “broken hearted” in 1983, aged 53, Catherine said. “and we’ve suffered since even more. So they didn’t only take Anna, John, Jacquieline, and Anne Marie, they took my mammy, and they broke our hearts.”

Ms Doyle Ellis, who lives in Coolock and said she only comes into the city centre for the annual commemoration, was against any arrangement that would see people being granted immunity in return for disclosure.

“I’d like the answers to why they weren’t prosecuted”, said Ms Doyle Ellis, who said the names of those behind the bombings were well known and were on her Facebook page.

“They need to be prosecuted. I don’t like these deals that they want to have for their peace all around the world when we are not getting answers for why our families were taken from us. They didn’t live this. This is not their families in front of them here.”

The former Dublin TD Maureen O'Sullivan told the event that no-one had ever been prosecuted for what had been the largest "mass murder" on the island of Ireland.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent