17th May 1974. Ireland.
The Fine Gael/Labour government of the day was characterised by an uncompromising stance against ‘the men of violence’. Leading Fine Gael figures like Paddy Donegan and Paddy Cooney were seen to have been pro-active types, with Cooney ordering that the grave of IRA hunger striker Frank Stagg be cemented over. Their coalition colleague Conor Cruise O'Brien later recounted a conversation he had with a detective at the time in which the detective gave an account of a republican prisoner having "the sh1t beaten out of him". Cruise O'Brien recalled keeping the information away from Garrett Fitzgerald and Justin Keating "because I thought it would worry them. It didn’t worry me".
Then, when Donegan went so far as to denigrate the President, Cearbhaill O’Dalaigh, his colleagues circled the wagons around him, leading to the President’s resignation. Clearly, this was a government with close contacts with the forces of law and order, and a government led by men who didn't stand idly by.
However, when several bombs exploded without warning in the evening rush hour on that Friday thirty nine years ago, killing dozens of children, women and men in Dublin and Monaghan, the forces of law and order of the state began an investigation which was terminated after a few weeks. No substantial steps were taken to bring to the killers to justice, while several steps were taken which effectively ensured their escape from justice.
Not only were the bereaved and the injured insulted in this way, but most of the evidence was removed from the ‘safekeeping’ of the state at later dates and, presumably, destroyed.
Clearly, there were other atrocities throughout the conflict in which many innocent people died. However, in the cases of deaths resulting from republican actions it is impossible to conceive that any were subject to remotely as weak an investigation as were the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings.
Some questions arise:
1. Why would our forces of law and order abandon after a few weeks one of the worst crimes in the history of the state.
2. Is there any similar case in modern European history, in which an investigation into a mass-murder is so rapidly abandoned by forces of law and order.
3. Why would employees of the state remove and destroy most of the evidence in this case while it was being held by that state in otherwise secure locations.
4. Is it plausible that the government of the day would have had no role or capacity to encourage the forces of law and order to continue the investigation beyond a few weeks.