State files ‘suggest taoiseach collusion’ in IRA cover-up, says victims’ group

A man whose brother was murdered in the Narrow Water bombings is “very aggrieved” that Dublin promoted a ‘cover-up’ which helped frustrate RUC investigations.

Friday, 21st May 2021, 6:30 am
Updated Friday, 21st May 2021, 9:13 am
Scene of the IRA's bomb attack outside Warrenpoint which killed 18 members of the Parachute Regiment in 1979. Photo: Pacemaker.

The double IRA bombing just outside Warrenpoint in 1979 killed 18 British soldiers as they travelled to Newry alongside Carlingford Lough.

Now victims group Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW) says Irish government files from the time appear to confirm RUC allegations that then Taoiseach Jack Lynch was involved in a coordinated effort to cover up details of how the IRA carried out the attack - and hence frustrate RUC efforts to secure justice.

In 2012 an ex-RUC officer told the Smithwick Inquiry that Garda told him that Taoiseach Jack Lynch said there would be no investigation into the murders because it had been “a political crime”.

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UHRW Advocacy Worker Jonathan Larner says that he was recently asked to look into the attack by a brother of one of those killed. He says an Historical Enquiries Team report shows Gardai arrested and questioned two republicans leaving the area of the attack in Co Louth; both had explosives on their clothes and also vegetation matching the suspected detonation site overlooking the attack. However the scene was destroyed before the RUC were allowed to examine it and nobody was ever prosecuted.

But now Mr Larner says Irish state documents he has found from September 1979 - seen by the News Letter - show Dublin was involved in “a co-ordinated attempt at disinformation” about the detonation site being in its jurisdiction. 

Briefing notes for Jack Lynch in response to BBC Panorama stated: “There is no evidence to the effect that the detonation was effected from this side of the border” and a document prepared for him ahead of meeting the British Prime Minister spoke of “lack of evidence, as yet, of southern involvement in [the] Warrenpoint attack”.

A paper from the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs to Lynch also spoke of “dubious” allegations that the attack was carried out from the south.

Mr Larner said: “The official line from Dublin, that the Republic of Ireland had not been used in this horrific ambush, is staggering when all the evidence gathered by Gardai points to just that.

“Our client is very aggrieved; who decided that Dublin would promote such a cover up? This very strongly suggests that Taoiseach Jack Lynch colluded with the IRA in that he attempted to cover up their role and thereby frustrate proper investigations into these murders.”

He added: “If Taoiseach Micheál Martin is serious about a ‘Shared Island’, and engagement with unionists, then perhaps he can start by addressing precisely what the Minister for Justice and Department of the Taoiseach were doing.”

The Taoiseach’s office, Irish Department of Justice and Garda offered no response to Mr Larner’s comments.

UHRW has written to the Taoiseach in the search for answers.

In 2012 a former RUC Deputy Assistant Chief Constable told the Smithwick tribunal in Dublin that Former Taoiseach Jack Lynch instructed gardaí not to co-operate with the RUC on the Narrow Water bombings, which killed 18 British soldiers.

He attended a number of meetings with senior gardaí about the attack and said the fourth and final meeting in 1980 was very acrimonious.

He said Assistant Garda Commissioner McLaughlin had said that the Taoiseach “from the outset of the inquiry decreed that the killings were a political crime and [that] no assistance be given to the RUC”.

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