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The Dublin & Monaghan Bombings
The Dublin and Monaghan Bombings, by Don Mullan;
reviewed by Liam O Ruairc


In May 1974, at the height of the loyalist Ulster Workers Council strike, bombs went off in Dublin and Monaghan killing 33 people and injuring hundreds more. The UVF was blamed for planting those bombs, but there is a controversy about whether or not British secret services were also involved. This huge number of casualties makes the Dublin and Monaghan bombings the most deadly incident of thirty years of Irish war. This fact today seems to be ignored or forgotten. There is an official amnesia both in the North and the South of Ireland. It is worth comparing the official and media reactions to the Dublin and Monaghan bombs with those to the 1998 bomb in Omagh. The two incidents have many things in common. But official and media reactions to the two incidents have been quite different. The media presented it as the worst incident of the Troubles. The media has given extensive coverage and support to the campaign of the relatives of the Omagh bomb victims, whereas the campaign for a public inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings remained isolated for more than two decades. The BBC aired a television programme naming individuals allegedly responsible for the Omagh bomb asking the public to help the police bring those individuals to justice, whereas a campaign of witch hunt and prosecution was lead against a 1993 Channel Four programme about the Dublin and Monaghan bombings because it alleged British intelligence were involved. There is extensive police work trying to catch those responsible for the Omagh bombs, and in comparaison little has been done to bring those responsible of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings to justice. "Omagh" has entered the discourse of the British, Irish and American government, while the very few references to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings makes it look as if they never happened.

There is plenty of talk about the "lost lives" of the Troubles. But the sharp contrast between the treatment given to the victims of the Omagh bomb with that given to those of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings clearly suggests that there are different categories of victims, "first class victims" as well as "second class victims". Victims of what the media calls the "Troubles" are fundamentally unequal. Some victims are worthy of being remembered, others less. In political terms, there is no such thing as pure "lost lives". It is not a question of "hypocrisy", that the media or the government give a first class treatment to some victims and not to others; it is a question of power. If a given social group has a sufficient degree of control over the media and the State apparatus, it will have the power to define who is a first or second class victim according to its interests. Memory and victimology are not above politics, they are a reminder that individuals are not only unequal in life, but also in death. Don Mullan's book on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings is trying to rescue their victims from the official amnesia. The book is far less a study of who carried out the bombings or about British intelligence collusion with loyalists than a moving tribute to their victims. The major part of the book consists of testimonies of people who were witnesses to the bombings, or wounded during them, what they remember about the events and how it has affected their lives ever since. The relatives of each of the thirty three victims also talk about the loss of their loved ones. The author lets the people speak for themselves, the unique voice of each individual expressing grief and trauma in their own true words. The approach of the book is pretty similar to the author's previous "Eyewitness Bloody Sunday". It has its strengths, but also its weaknesses as it somehow lacks analytical considerations.

The second part of the book deals with the controversial question of British involvement in the bombings. The author concentrates less on the actual evidence of British involvement, than on the story and question of official cover up and denial of alleged British intelligence involvement. The author clearly shows that some people and institutions are above crime investigation. Because some people are in a position of social power, they can be above official investigation and define who is to blame. The immense power enjoyed by MI5 and MI6 means that they can cover up their alleged involvement and put the blame purely on the loyalists. This has been helped by the fact that the media coverage has been more marked by censorship and self-censorship than by asking critical questions. Don Mullan is calling for a public inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings modelled on the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. But the critical question is what could such a public inquiry really achieve ? Some campaigns really have to struggle to get justice, because it goes against the interests of some people in a position of power. The campaign of the relatives of the Omagh victims to bring those responsible for the bomb to justice does not go against any established interests, it even suits them as it is about putting people opposing the status quo to jail. Whereas the campaign of the relatives of Dublin and Monaghan victims to seek truth and bring those responsible to justice has been met by the resistance of the British and Irish establishments as it would mean investigating the operations of the secret services. This leaves us very pessimistic about the chances of a public inquiry the author is calling for of ever finding the truth about the bombings and bringing those responsible to justice.

The case of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings is a concrete example of the formal "equality" and "rule of law" within capitalist society. De Jure, nobody is above the law or above investigation and prosecution. De Facto there is. De Jure everybody is equally entitled to have justice, De Facto there is inequality. It shows how "democratic accountability" of government institutions can be an illusion. If there are grounds to believe that British intelligence is involved in such illegal activities like this book alledges, it shows how little control ordinary citizens can have over their State apparatus. The fact that a government agency is prepared to use such indiscriminate violence for its own ends clearly demonstrates that the State apparatus cannot be used or reformed by any progressive government. It will be ready to use force against anyone who is going against established interests. The different issues related to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings show that the media, justice or government of our country is not neutral, but operates to suit particular interests. Don Mullan's book is a timely reminder of this.









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