There was another major development in relation to events in Ireland in the mid-1970s earlier this month, the report of Barron Inquiry into the Dundalk bombing of 1975. Although he stopped short of concluding there was proof of collusion, Mr Justice Barron linked the bombing to the Glennane gang, which included members of the security forces.
The conclusions of the Inquiry regarding the facts, circumstances, causes and
perpetrators of the bombing can be summarised as follows:
1. The bombing of Kay’s Tavern was carried out by loyalist extremists, most
probably associated with the Mid-Ulster UVF. Some assistance must have
been obtained from Belfast loyalists regarding the theft of the bomb car.
2. It is likely that the attack was carried out on the initiative of a group largely
consisting of UVF members, possibly without the sanction of the UVF
3. In light the information available to it and in consideration of John Weir’s
background and character, the Inquiry accepts Weir’s claim that the Dundalk
bomb did not come from James Mitchell’s farm at Glenanne. However, the
Inquiry believes that the attacks on Dundalk and Silverbridge were coordinated;
that those who carried out the Silverbridge attack came from the ‘Glenanne group’, and therefore that members of that group must at least have known in advance of the plan to attack Dundalk. Given that the information available to the Inquiry suggests the involvement of some members of the security forces in the Silverbridge attack, this implies that the security forces may or should have known who was responsible for the Dundalk bombing.
4. The facts and circumstances of the bombing lead almost automatically to the
suspicion that certain prominent loyalist subversives from mid-Ulster were
involved. However, the best efforts of An Garda Síochána and the Inquiry
have not obtained the quality of information to found a conclusion that those
individuals were involved, even as a matter of probability. Taking into account
also that the intelligence relating to the farm of James Mitchell at Glenanne
was not included in the intelligence provided to An Garda Síochána in January
1976 by the RUC, a suspicion remains that contemporary actions were
designed to limit information relating to security forces collusion in terrorist
activity from reaching the public domain, which in turn did nothing to
counteract such activity.
5. Without proof as to who was involved in the bombing, allegations of collusion
are impossible to prove or disprove. What can be said is the following:
(i) The group of loyalist extremists based around Mitchell’s farm at
Glenanne contained members of the RUC and the UDR, some of
whom probably knew of the plan to attack Dundalk; even if they
took no part in it themselves;
(ii) The security forces in Northern Ireland knew that Mitchell’s farm
was a centre for illegal activities on as early as January 1976, and
probably for some time before that. Yet these activities were
allowed to continue unhindered until the arrest of William
McCaughey and others in December 1978.
(iii) The Inquiry believes that by their attitudes towards loyalist
violence and towards violent members of their own forces, some
senior members allowed a climate to develop in which loyalist
subversives could believe that they could attack with impunity.
However, there is no evidence that senior members of the security
forces were in any way involved in the bombing.
(iv) Some of those suspected of the bombings – notably Robin Jackson
and the Young brothers – were reliably said to have had
relationships with British Intelligence and / or RUC Special Branch
officers. It is reasonable to assume that exchanges of information
took place. It is therefore possible that the assistance provided to
the Garda investigation team by the security forces in Northern
Ireland was affected by a reluctance to compromise those
relationships, in the interests of securing further information in the
But any such conclusion would require very cogent evidence. No such
evidence is in the possession of the Inquiry. There remains a deep suspicion
that the investigation into the bombings was hampered by such factors, but it
cannot be put further than that.
6. The forensic evidence is inconclusive, but the nature of the explosives used
does suggest a possible link between the perpetrators of the Dublin,
Monaghan, Dundalk and Castleblayney bombings.
7. The security forces in Northern Ireland did receive advance warning of an
impending attack on Dundalk and this warning was conveyed to An Garda
Síochána. The Inquiry has not been able to establish whether the apparent
sighting of the bomb convoy leaving Portadown on the day of the bombing
was known to the authorities in Northern Ireland before the attack itself took
place. In the circumstances, it is impossible to say whether those authorities
knew enough to have prevented the attack taking place. (Barron Report on the Dundalk bombing)
The Irish News carried a piece on the reaction to the report:
Margaret Urwin of the Justice for the Forgotten group last night (Wednesday) expressed her disappointment that while the judge appeared to indicate collusion between loyalists and the British security forces he "fell short" of confirming it.
"He seemed to be hedging his bets. He just won’t come down and say outright that there definitely was collusion which is very disappointing," she said. (Irish News, via Nuzhound)