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Families of Sackville Place bombings still seeking closure

The 40th anniversary of car bombings in Dublin which killed three busmen and injured 127 people hears how relatives of the dead still waiting for justice.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

FORTY YEARS AFTER the first car bomb attacks in the Irish Republic, the families of the three busmen killed in the 1972 and 1973 Dublin bombings at Sackville Place are still seeking closure.

The first car bomb exploded near Liberty Hall on 1 December 1972, causing extensive damage but no fatalities. Fifteen minutes later a second car bomb at Sackville Place claimed the lives of Tommy Duffy, a 23-year-old bus conductor and fellow CIE worker George Bradshaw (30). Both had just evacuated the bus canteen following a bomb warning received by the Belfast Newsletter. The explosions left 127 hospitalised.

Weeks later on 20 January 1973 a third car bomb at Sackville Place killed bus man Tommy Douglas, a 21-year-old native of Stirling, Scotland recently engaged.

A commemoration to mark the 40th anniversary was held yesterday by Justice for the Forgotten, the organisation of victims and relatives seeking justice for the cross-border bombings of the 1970s.

Wreaths were laid at the Sackville Place memorial to mark the 40th anniversary by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Naoise Ó Muirí, Mr Paddy Doherty, CEO of Dublin Bus and the families, followed by an impassioned oration by Jack O’Connor of SIPTU and a performance by the CIE Male Voice Choir.

Grace Bradshaw, granddaughter of Tommy Duffy, finished with a moving rendition of ‘Ár Éirinn ní n-eosfainn cé h-í’ on the flute.

“This anniversary, there are people missing, there are family members who have passed away,” said Catherine Dunbar (26), niece of Tommy Duffy.

“It’s sad to see such a long time has passed and for those to go to their grave without knowing the truth behind it all.”

The family of Tommy Douglas, who travelled from Scotland, acknowledged that it could be the last time all four siblings will commemorate his brother’s anniversary together.

“The deep sense of loss has never left us,” said Martin Douglas, Tommy’s brother. “We carry it to this day and, because of the complete lack of effort by the authorities down the years to find the perpetrators, we feel that we are, in reality, secondary victims in this tragedy.”

The case of the bombings remains unresolved 40 years on and questions regarding the complicity of British state forces in Northern Ireland in the bombings and the Irish state’s efforts to pursue those responsible remain unanswered.

The 1972 bombings had an immediate political impact, coinciding with the Dáil debate on the highly contested Offences Against the State Act, which passed as a result.

Fíanna Fáil leader Micheál Martin TD, who recently met with Justice for the Forgotten and who attended the commemoration alongside Sinn Féinn leader Gerry Adams, told TheJournal.ie that he believes there is an obligation to pursue the release of withheld documents from the British
government which might reveal new information.

“We need to go the full distance,” he said, expressing his concern that Taoiseach Enda Kenny had yet to meet with those bereaved by the bombings, despite numerous requests.

While the British Government set up the Historical Enquiries Team in 2005 to investigate unresolved murders related to the Troubles in Northern Ireland, no such initiative has been set up in the Republic.

“I try not to despair over it,” said Monica Duffy-Campbell, wife of the late Tommy Duffy.

She still remembers hearing the sound of the blast at their home in Artane on the evening her husband was killed. She was four months pregnant with their second child.

A devoted mother and grandmother, the responsibility she feels to bring closure to her husband’s death weighs heavily.

“I think I’ll be well gone before the truth comes out, but it’s not going to stop me trying.”

Justice for the Forgotten has campaigned tirelessly since 1996 on behalf of the families, now part of the Pat Finucane Centre.

In September, alongside Fianna Fail Senator Jim Walsh, they met with British Ambassador H.E. Dominick Chilcott, to press for undisclosed documents to be made available by the British Authorities to an independent, international judicial figure for assessment.

Two Dáil motions calling on the British Government to make the undisclosed documents available have received no response to date.

Not a single person has been prosecuted in connection with any of the cross border bombings, including the Dublin-Monaghan bombings in 1974, the single greatest loss of life in the Troubles.

“For the younger generation it’s even more important to stand strong”, says Catherine Dunbar. “We just want that basic thing which is the truth and to have that information given forth. As long as that takes we will pursue it.”

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Caelainn Hogan

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