Brendan Smith applauds strong opposition to any amnesty for Northern Ireland murderers 

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan, Brendan Smith has applauded the Government’s outright opposition, and that of the Oireachtas and people of this island, to a proposed amnesty for murderers, be they state forces or people from paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland.

Deputy Brendan Smith, speaking in the Dáil in a debate titled: Legacy Issues in Northern Ireland And New Decade, New Approach, stated: “Over the past 12 or 18 months, I have asked the Taoiseach on a number of occasions in this House if the Government would ensure that in every communication, both verbal and written, with the British Government it reiterates the total opposition of the people of this country to the proposed amnesty. It is an amnesty for murderers, be they state forces or people from paramilitary organisations. That is totally unacceptable and I am glad the Taoiseach and the Minister, Deputy Coveney, reiterated that clearly in their earlier contributions. 

“I was glad the Taoiseach took the opportunity in Derry on Sunday to state the Government’s outright opposition, and that of the Oireachtas and people of this island, to any such proposal. No way is the idea of an amnesty for murderers acceptable. Under no circumstances should it be acceptable in any democratic country. Introducing such a proposal means the British Government wants to put an end to all investigations. Imagine a Government proposing to close down existing investigations and give up on whatever chance there is of getting the truth.”

Recounting past experiences, the Cavan and Monaghan TD continued: “I have, over the years, dealt with many families who have, unfortunately, lost loved ones and close family members, and nobody has ever been brought to justice for those heinous crimes inflicted on innocent people. All those individuals, families and groups with whom I have engaged over the years act with grace and dignity in campaigning to get the truth. They are not out for revenge; they are seeking the truth. That is the message that comes across to all of us who engage with such families and individuals. 

“Imagine a Government putting forward a proposal to close down all investigations when there are families and individuals who have campaigned for decades to try to get the truth about what happened to their loved ones on those fatal and tragic occasions. It is absolutely appalling. We would be jumping up and down if some state in Latin America made such a proposal. I am glad of the communications of the Minister, Deputy Coveney, at departmental and ministerial level, and the communications of the Taoiseach. The Taoiseach has told us clearly in this House on numerous occasions that he has conveyed those points clearly to Mr. Johnson.”

Speaking about the Dublin and Monaghan bombings 1974, Deputy Smith added: “The Minister will recall the many exchanges we have had in this House over the years about the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. I know the Minister and his predecessors of all political parties have consistently raised with the British Government the need to ensure a full and comprehensive investigation into those awful bombings on that day in 1974. There were unanimous requests in this House in 2008, 2011 and 2016, as I recall, that called on the British Government to ensure an independent legal person would be given access to all files and papers pertaining to those bombings. 

“Sadly, the British Government has not responded to the request of the sovereign Parliament of a neighbour. Those motions rightly called on the British Government to allow access for an independent international judicial figure to all original documents relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, as well as the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973, the bombings of Kay’s Tavern in Dundalk and the murder of Seamus Ludlow. Sadly, Seamus’s brother, Kevin, passed away in my home county a few months ago. He said to me at one stage that he would go to his grave without the truth about the murder of his brother.”

The Cavan and Monaghan TD also referred to an atrocity in Cavan, stating: “Before the Dáil rose for Christmas, I again raised the terrible bombing in my home area of Belturbet, County Cavan, on 28 December 1972 when two teenagers, Geraldine O’Reilly and Patrick Stanley, were killed. There is now clear evidence that the bomb was brought across the Border from Fermanagh and planted in Belturbet. Two young people were killed. They were innocent teenagers. Many others were injured that night. There has never been a proper, full and comprehensive investigation into those murders in either Northern Ireland or Britain.

“Last December was the 49th anniversary of those murders. I went to Belturbet on the 28th December, as I do on an annual basis, and said a prayer at the monument to Geraldine and Patrick. Here we are, half a century later, and nobody has been brought to justice and nobody has got the truth. I said to the Taoiseach privately a week or so ago that the anger, worry and concern of families are not abating. The grief is getting more intense. We are all getting older and the years are going by. Sadly, many families fear they will go to their eternal reward without ever getting the truth. These are issues to which the Government must continue to attach the utmost importance. We must do everything to support the families of those victims who are gone,” he concluded.