Armed troops at Leinster House ‘had orders to kill if necessary’

02 February 2005
By Harry McGee

HUNDREDS of armed troops were in position in Leinster House acting under orders to shoot and kill if necessary during violent protests by republicans in 1972, it emerged yesterday.
Then Justice Minister Des O'Malley described to an Oireachtas committee yesterday the prevailing public atmosphere at the time that Dublin city centre and Belturbet, Co Cavan, were bombed by loyalist paramilitaries in late 1972 and early 1973.

Referring to protests against emergency legislation the Government had introduced, he said: "At one stage during the passage of the Offences against the State Act, there were an estimated seven to eight thousand people outside the gates who were in a fairly violent frame of mind.

"There were 300 troops here at the back of Leinster House.

"I remember being told they were armed troops. There was no question of them firing blanks.

"Their orders were to shoot and kill if necessary.

"That was the only basis that the chief of staff would have them there," he said.

Mr O'Malley said the Government had not only to deal with the activities of the Provisional IRA but also had to contend with two other active paramilitary groups, the Official IRA and Saor Éire, the latter being "smaller but very violent."

The former Progressive Democrats' leader also contended that there was an ambivalence to violence in society and in the media.

He said visits by both the retiring Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid and his successor Dermot Ryan to the IRA leader Seán Mac Stiofáin who had gone on hunger strike were not helpful.

Mr O'Malley said the truncated garda investigations into the bombings did not mean they had not made every effort to find the perpetrators.

He said the inquiry was hampered because the degree of co-operation from the North was very limited.

He agreed that the concern for the victims and relatives did not come up to the mark.

"It was a matter of regret. It should not be thought by relatives of the victims that it was for the lack of trying," he said.

Former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald said that Ireland was not ready for a South African style of truth commission because the IRA was still in denial about its own criminality.

"You are wasting your time looking for a truth commission. The other crowd, the loyalists, are not much different," he said.

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