Ireland urged to investigate Troubles deaths that happened in Republic

The Irish Government has been urged to launch legacy investigations into Troubles killings that took place in its jurisdiction.

Northern Ireland’s Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson made her first presentation on legacy proposals at Leinster House on Thursday.

Among her recommendations was for Ireland to establish a mechanism similar to the proposed Historical Investigations Unit in Northern Ireland to carry out investigations into incidents that took place in the Irish Republic.

Dublin and Monaghan Bombings anniversary
Dublin and Monaghan Bombings anniversary

She also urged that legislation allowing effective information sharing for legacy inquests is established, and that transparent processes and a robust appeals system are in place around national security to help build trust with families.

A number of incidents related to Northern Ireland’s troubled past took place in the Irish Republic.

These include the killing of 34 people on May 17 1974 after the Ulster Volunteer Force planted a series of bombs in Dublin and Monaghan and the IRA’s murder of Lord Mountbatten and three others in Sligo in 1979.

Royal visit to Ireland
Royal visit to Ireland

On Thursday, Ms Thompson made a presentation to the Oireachtas committee on the Good Friday Agreement, and urged they use their influence to press the Irish Government on the matter.

She told the committee that there was a sense of isolation and inequality felt by victims who live outside Northern Ireland.

“I believe there is a good understanding of the issues, I believe there is a sense of it being very difficult to move on,” Ms Thompson told the committee.

“I need to be more reassured that both governments feel that this is something that is not only important but urgent and doable.”

The process of dealing with the past in Northern Ireland has been stalled amid the ongoing impasse over re-establishing devolved government at Stormont.

Ulster powersharing
Ulster powersharing

There have been proposals to establish a Historical Investigations Unit as well as an Independent Commission on Information Retrieval and an Oral History Archive.

Ms Thompson said she does not believe many convictions will be secured, but said having investigations is important for bereaved families.

“The purpose of historical investigations should not be defined narrowly in terms of numbers of prosecutions,” she said.

“That is not really primarily in the end what these investigations need to deliver, it is evident from previous and ongoing investigations, new information and evidence can be uncovered and that families who want answers can be better served than they have been, even if the evidence, as is likely in many cases, is insufficient to secure a conviction.

“The critical issue for many families and communities as well is access to information about the circumstances leading to the death of people they love, and acknowledgement of the harm that has been done to them.”

Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan, who chairs Justice for the Forgotten which represents survivors and families of the victims of the May 1974 blasts, commended Ms Thompson.

“What you are saying is so true to their story, their experience and what they have been looking for, they have been waiting 46 years now,” she said.

The issue of the definition of a victim, which has sparked rows over whether perpetrators should be included, was raised by Fermanagh MP Michelle Gildernew.

During her contribution, the Sinn Fein MP revealed she was diagnosed with PTSD in 2013 “as a result of the conflict”.

Ms Gildernew said while the Dublin and Monaghan bombings “understandably get a lot of attention”, she said there were also bomb attacks in Cavan.

“The pain of those families is the exact same of Jonathan Parry’s, anybody who has lost a loved one knows what it feels like to be a victim,” she said.

“To that end is there any progress on the definition of a victim”.

Ms Thompson responded: “We have a definition in law which is the one I operate under which is an inclusive definition.

“I understand why that is difficult for some people and I don’t think it is a perfect definition, however I don’t know what a perfect definition would look like and I don’t think a conversation about who should be excluded from consideration of their pain is a healthy one to have as a way of dealing with the past.”