‘The Doubts Remaining Are Terrifying’


From top: The first of the three Dublin car bombs went off at about 5:28pm on Parnell Street, Dublin 1; The second went off at about 5:30pm on Talbot Street, Dublin 1 and a third exploded at about 5:32 on South Leinster Street, Dublin 2 beside the railings of Trinity College.

Today Is the 43rd anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings in 1974.

Thirty three people were killed and 300 injured when three car bombs in Dublin and one in Monaghan were detonated.

It was the deadliest attack of the Troubles and the deadliest terrorist attack in the state’s history

Further to this.

I don’t believe in the concept of an ‘objective truth’. One’s perceptions are always influenced by time, place and one’s paradigm. But I think that a great deal of postmodern criticism and the ‘objective’ position has thrown out the baby (a fair shot at what actually happened) with the bathwater of bias.

It is fair, therefore, that I make it clear where I am coming from when I write about the 1974 Dublin Bombing – which, remember, killed 27 people on the spot and injured 137 others, a few so seriously as to cause their deaths late on.

It was not nothing. It was a major outrage.

One of my daughters, who was a student at the Royal Irish Academy of Music around the corner on Westland Row, was there are the time and place of the South Leinster Street bomb. And I visited both sites There has been a long debate about who did it.

In his book, Garret FitzGerald says simply, ‘Bombs set off in Dublin by Loyalist paramilitaries.’ I think that is too simple. It was a time of crisis: the Loyalist strike and the collapse of the Sunningdale Agreement.

I hope I always make a distinction between ‘I know’ and ‘I believe’.

The former indicates evidence exists that I find convincing, strong enough to stand up in a court of law. But one cannot live life like that.

I have many important beliefs, which cannot be so validated, but on which I am willing to base actions. In the latter case, I hope I will always say ‘I think’ and ‘I believe’ rather than ‘I know’. The Dublin bombing is like that.

I came to the conclusion that there was some collusion between Loyalist paramilitaries and British military intelligence (the last two words are oxymoronic), and I said so. There are lunatics and mountebanks in all intelligence services, in my very limited experience, as well of course as decent people doing their duty.

But I have no doubt that the policy was to soft-pedal investigations, though they had killed a lot of innocent people. We must not offend the British; we must not give comfort to the IRA.

But again it seems to me that not pursuing the matter was precisely the sort of weakness that validated the IRA’s physical force policy: ‘If the government in Dublin won’t protect us from Loyalist and British thugs, we have to do it ourselves.’

Quite a powerful argument in a nationalist ghetto. We left a couple of decades of nationalists feeling that the government in Dublin had betrayed them.

The outcome of long agitation was the eventual setting up of a tribunal under a very distinguished Supreme Court judge, Mr Justice Barron. In the conclusions of the Barron Report, he deals mainly in what he can prove.

But the doubts remaining, which he also expresses impeccable fairness, I believe to be terrifying. The consequences are alarming.

I think this was an example of state terrorism by the British. I believe that my country, at a time when I was part of the government, also practised state terrorism, and though unaware of this at the time, I am deeply ashamed.

All this I feel is worth saying because I believe that state terrorism is widespread, and I hate all terrorism, wherever it is coming from.

The argument that ‘we’ are nice and therefore don’t do it, while ‘they’ are nasty so they it all the time, simply does not convince. Consistency is important. To have two standards is bad: ‘What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander’

From Nothing Is Written In Stone: The Notebooks of Justin Keating (Lilliput Press)

Justice For The Forgotten

Montages by Keaney

60 thoughts on “‘The Doubts Remaining Are Terrifying’

  1. rotide

    So this bombing really happened then?

    Is it just the dirty foreigners that fake shootings and bombings for false flag purposes?

    1. Bodger

      Rotide, I said this to Nigel yesterday and it bears repeating: you are like someone who doesn’t have the internet.

      1. rotide

        You’ll excuse me if i’m not fully up to date on the broadsheet meta, but what exactly do you mean?

      2. Nigel

        He said it to me yesterday, yes. I think he’s implying we get our news and information in hopelessly old-fashioned ways, such as messenger pigeons and tarot card readings.

        1. rotide

          Well I don’t know about anyone else but II tend to get my news from fact checked sources with editorial oversight, not conspiracy blogs.

      3. Nigel

        Given how allusive, cryptic and vague some people tend to be when asked more-or-less direct questions, I think not having the internet means not having access to some sort of actual literal mind-reading technology that everyone has but us. Which is an odd approach in a website that has some notable journalistic aspirations.

          1. Nigel

            In fairness, that’s usually because I get tangled up in my own syntax. Which is not a euphemism.

  2. Johnny Keenan

    Amazing imagery by Keaney. This is the power of art.
    We should never forget the atrocities that happened on the whole island. For a long time Dublin/Monaghan bombings of 1974 were not known by the greater public. Considering it was the worse bombing in “The Troubles” that had the greatest loss of human life and injury it begs the question who was protecting who?
    The war is over but the scars still remain.
    The more I learn about our past the more determined I am to vote out the old guard and move forward with forward thinking peaceful people. Because peaceful people are reasonable people.

    1. rotide

      What do you mean the bombings were ‘not known by the greater public’?

      Do you mean that you didn’t know about them? Because the public most certainly did.

      1. Johnny Keenan

        Sorry Rotide, I didn’t realise you spoke on behalf of the public. My apologies.

        1. Sheik Yahbouti

          You seem to. Apparently “the public” have never heard of these matters – according to you.

    2. Sheik Yahbouti

      What are you on about, Johnny? It is obviously not well known to YOU. Give other people a bit of credit, the facts and circumstances are well known – to many. There’s been a campaign running for forty years to get explanations and justice for the victims and their families. This gives me such arseache – ” I never heard of it, therefore nobody else has”.

      1. Johnny Keenan

        Sheik your from the north so you are obviously informed. I’m talking about mainstream media. I was born in 1974. I grew up with the troubles but I lived a world away here in the Republic. Most people outside of Dublin and Monaghan would not be aware of these bombings. because RTE and the government did not want The Ra to gain support as previously said

        1. Sheik Yahbouti

          I’m from the North?? I am a Dubliner, born and bred. I agree that successive Irish Governments have done little or nothing to ascertain the truth, to their eternal discredit, but that doesn’t mean the matter was not profoundly shocking to our people.

        2. Cian

          Johnny, I’m a Dub and about the same age as you and I was aware of the bombings.
          I’d say they are mentioned in the media on the anniversary each year. Outside of that – possibly less so.

        3. Nigel

          Sorry Johnny. Every year it’s remembered in the news. One of the best episodes of Liveline was devoted to it. Might not be ad vivid for the new generation but that’s the way of history.

  3. bisted

    …remember when the labour party had some principal and backbone…when they proudly upheld the traditions of Connolly and Larkin…before they sold out to the blueshirts…before they betrayed their supporters and sullied the labour tradition by trying to jail people for engaging in protest…

    1. Johnny Keenan

      Bisted let them off. Not worth getting annoyed or frustrated over labour. Connolly and Larkin are now associated with something way more powerful than any political party. A movement of all the people on the island and guess what…
      We only want the earth!
      Power to the Peaceful!

  4. Verbatim

    “State terrorism” that can’t be right! Drifts off to cyberland, just like we did in the 70’s drifted back under the cloak of fear.

  5. Friscondo

    As a former CIA operative once said, the one thing she learned in her time as an agent is that everyone on every side thinks they’re the good guys. The British colluded with Loyalists, but also ran countless agents in the IRA. One estimate puts it at 1 in 4 ordinary volunteers and 1 in 2 senior members. What I can’t understand about the continued success of McGuinness in the Republican movement was, it was well known that the IRA in Derry were deeply compromised and had more or less been on ceasefire for years before 1994. As for Adams, Belfast was riddled with informers, including his close associates Denis Donaldson, Freddie Scappaticci, Joe Haughey, John Joe McGee, among many others. So how did McGuinness and Adams maintain control and live such a charmed life. Strange. The murky truth about The Troubles will never be known. But what is certain is the IRA were defeated through infiltration by British security agencies. Everyone involved in that conflict has blood on their hands. All you need to know to explain the duplicity of what was going on is that Haughey was acquitted of the murder of 22 year old Mary Travers in 1984, whose father Thomas was a judge. They were leaving mass and her father I D’d Haughey despite being shot himself. A gunman put a gun in her mothers face but it jammed. Just think about that context and the associations involved. The British security services were capable of anything.

        1. Bertie "the inexplicable pleasure" Blenkinsop

          Ah just copped, JOE Haughey… jaysus, thought I’d slept through a triple history class

          1. Bertie "the inexplicable pleasure" Blenkinsop

            Me too, unfortunately I was around for most of it :)

    1. dav

      “…… But what is certain is the IRA were defeated through infiltration by British security agencies.”
      any chance you might have a source on that there factoid??

      1. Friscondo

        McGee and Scappaticci were British agents and running the IRA’s internal security, go figure. Donaldson was at the heart of policy making, etc, etc. Apart from clannish South Armagh, the rest of the organisation was totally compromised.

        1. dav

          Compromised Perhaps, but their ability to kill and maim was as potent as ever and their disregard to civilian causalities wasstill as strong forever.
          You statement that “the IRA were defeated” is misleading to say the least, the troubles were still going on hot n heavy up to the IRA ceasefires.

          1. Friscondo

            They Troubles were wound down in the ’90s at a pace dictated by the British through their agents in Sinn Fein/IRA.

        2. Willie Banjo

          And yet managed to plant large bombs causing multi-million pound damage in London and Manchester up to the late ’90s.

          1. Friscondo

            All originating in South Armagh. The notion that Belfast or Derry could mount such an operation would have been ludicrous.

        1. Friscondo

          Yeah, Moloney has the measure of all sides. None of them present an attractive picture. McGuinness was a ruthless, self serving egotist. The rubbish of his eulogising by people who should know better, was depressing. Patsy Gillespie’s widow and children must have found it very difficult to stomach, not to mention Frank Hegarty’s mother, if she were still with us. Growing up in ’70s, ’80s was a depressing experience. Often as a result of this sort of stuff. And of course the Brits were as bad, the Loyalists worse.

  6. ivan

    Neighbour of mine (i’m in Connaught) was shot dead a good few years ago. He was a Detective Garda and called to deal with bank robbery a few miles away. I don’t remember the details very well, but I do recall that – as you’d expect – the Gardai were out in force hunting down the gang who were, as they say, ‘politically motivated’.
    The husband of a friend of my mam’s was a Garda, and would have been, ahem, ‘sound on the national question’ and he called into our house for a cuppa after doing his stint of searching.
    It was years later that my own dad said to me that yer man – the garda who visited us – had said ‘if I see XYZ (him who they were looking for, like) hiding in a ditch, I’ll be looking the other way…’.
    My dad considered going to the Gardai about this and then…well…pi55ing off the Provos AND getting a cop into bother with only my mam (trusted friend of the guard’s wife) as witness to the utterance. Now’t was ever gonna happen, was it?

    I’m minded to say the past was a different country, but sometimes y’wonder…

    1. Dubh Linn

      “sound on the national question” Seemingly innocent words laced with grimness for anyone who had to tolerate the smugness of these poo poos acting like they owned the countryside.

      Many a man or woman sound on the national question looked the other way as many a body ended up in a ditch, and not to hide either.

    2. ivan

      oh i’m fully aware, Dubh. When I say that this Garda who visited was ‘sound on the national question’ i meant he probably (thought this is pure conjecture/speculation on my part) did more to assist The Cause than look the other way…Because that stuff happened in the eighties.

      We talk about normalisation in the context of racists or whatever – they appear on the telly well presented and articulate and you think ‘oh he can’t be all bad’; but you also most likely remember a time that section 31 actually did have a certain ‘negative’ effect on the perception by ordinary Joes of the provos…

  7. Listrade

    I clicked down to the comments expecting at least one post on “yeah, but what about…” I must be psychic.

    There are times when it genuinely doesn’t matter what someone else did or didn’t do. We all take time out to go into town, be it Dublin or wherever and we expect to do so with no more of a pain than the efforts of being dragged around shops against our will, or the effort of dragging some grumpy fart around the shops. We used to head into town as kids to just hang out. Made us feel grown up, being allowed out on the bus on our own, just sitting around town with a fiver between us. Once in a while we had a few 2 for 1 vouchers for big mac meals after we’d collected god knows how many tokens from boxes of corn flakes.

    We always expected to go home.

    To have all those lives gone, just for shopping or hanging out, something we all do or have done. It doesn’t matter “what about”.

    We know there were other atrocities. That doesn’t comfort those injured or the families of those killed here. We know there was collusion with the Gardai and IRA in other atrocities. That doesn’t bring anyone back here or there. We know governments and the people acting officially for governments can be evil, twisted and incompetent, that doesn’t stop them being held rightly to account. We can be angry at all the atrocities. We don’t have to pick and choose. They are state representatives, they should know better and they must act better. They must be held to account.

    We had to wash away a lot of blood on behalf of the paramilitaries on both sides in order that we got as close to a final peace as we have. It still rankles to see them free. We know what we they did, what they authorised, what they planned in cold, calculated blood. But for a greater good, we have to let that pass. Have to. Keep up the mantra, it’s for the greater good.

    But not those who were official agents of the state. That’s different. It doesn’t matter if you think the others are terrorists or freedom fighters, the state is different. All collusion must be highlighted and punished, it doesn’t matter what whataboutery you come up with to deflect from one atrocity with another. It’s meaningless. People died here and elsewhere and if any state or official agent colluded to facilitate or turn a blind-eye to what was about to happen to any of them, each and all should be punished. Actions of one-side does not justify the actions of another. This is not a playground, these are states with the capacity and means of stopping innocent civilians being killed or injured.

    And it’s not just here or this. We’re picking sides all over the place and in a rush to ensure that THE OTHER SIDE never get to have the moral high ground, we dick around with whataboutery. Can we not just accept when something is wrong, immoral, and inhumane and discuss that issue? Whataboutery prevents justice for all of us. There’ll be no accountability for whoever we think are the bad guys if we, the people who are directly impacted by their actions, keep up circular arguments of other real or imagined atrocities.

    43 years ago a neighbouring state sanctioned and facilitated an attack against 333 of your neighbours and friends. None had lifted a gun or planted a bomb. It really doesn’t matter about the times that were in it, what else was happening or what else had been done.

    If your only point commenting here is to excuse this or use it to score points against others who post here. Take a good look at yourself and think about why you would do that. Why would you feel 33 lives and 300 injuries are worth belittling just to seem smart on a comments section or to maintain your bubble of self-imposed, self-dictated, moral superiority?

    1. Friscondo

      The Dublin/Monaghan bombings were state sponsored murder, I don’t think there is much argument about that.

    2. Cian

      Listrade, you seem to suggest that “official agents of the state” should be punished for violent acts. How far does that go?
      Two areas for discussion:
      1. Does this apply to war? Should every soldier that ever fought in a war be brought to task? Does the ‘Troubles’ count as a war? We had both Irish and British governments colluding with the various parties.
      2. If an “official agents of the state” preforms an illegal act ‘under orders’ – who should be prosecuted – them or whoever issued the orders? If British soldiers were involved is the Queen (as C-in-C) ultimately responsible?

      1. Listrade


        1. War – Yes it applies, but not in the examples you gave. There are agreed procedures under the Hague convention on declaring war. In the same way, conduct during war is “governed” under the Geneva convention. So no, soldiers are not brought to task when the war is declared as recognized by the UN and their actions are withing the scope of agreed humanitarian laws.

        That didn’t happen in the troubles. There was no declaration of war, it didn’t even come close to happening. It cannot be seen as a war and therefore no state or state agent has that protection of any agreed convention. No soldier has that protection. And I state that both sides colluded and both sides should be punished for all crimes.

        2. There are clear legal principles in place as to both military and ordinary culpability in these cases. There is clear precedent on the chain of command and superior orders. They had a small case in Nuremberg where this came up once or twice a while ago. They even renamed the defence after it. It then become expanded upon in the International Criminal Court in a separate agreement. The short answer is that if the soldier is following orders and they are legally compelled to obey orders, they have a “superior orders” defence and that goes up to the the individual who gave the orders or who had the legal authority to stop the action.

        As to the Queen, it’s also an easy answer, no she doesn’t have ultimate responsibility. The Monarch is the Head of the Military and C-in-C, but does not have executive authority on the actions or use of the Military. They were delegated to the Prime Minister and Secretary of Defence. a long time ago. That is why the Prime Minister doesn’t need Royal approval on deployment of troops.

        The questions are not debatable or philosophical. All have been well covered in international law for decades.

  8. Spaghetti Hoop

    The MI5 papers covering this event and time are still under lock and key right? The deaths and injuries were particularly harrowing I gathered, from watching and reading reports in 2014 for the 40th anniversary. What a bloody awful time.

    1. Sheik Yahbouti

      I remember it well. It was a couple of months before I got married, and my betrothed walked down Talbot Street every day to work. Got delayed talking to a friend, by happy accident. The shock and dismay was intense.

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