By Rebecca Black, PA
A man who survived a bomb attack in Dublin as a young child has pressed gardaí to release files relating to their investigation.
Edward O’Neill was just five years old when the blast on Parnell Street, part of the Dublin/Monaghan series of bombs, killed his father and left him with life-long injuries.
No one has ever been convicted over the four no-warning bombs on May 17th, 1974 which claimed 35 lives, including two unborn babies.
The attacks have been blamed on loyalist paramilitaries.
The O’Neill family had gone to the city centre to get haircuts the day before Mr O’Neill’s brother had his first communion.
He described walking out of the barber shop with his father holding both him and his brother by the hand when the bomb exploded.
“I’ll never forget it, my dad was swinging me on his left hand, he had my brother by the right hand… my brother jumped up and grabbed a button out of his jacket, as he went down to pick it up the bomb exploded,” he said.
Mr O’Neill is still receiving treatment for the injuries he received that day, including skull fractures, a broken jaw, fractured cheekbone, collapsed lung, first and second degree burns and severe lacerations to both legs.
Earlier this week, he underwent his 64th operation: spinal surgery, to correct those injuries from almost 50 years ago.
His mother Martha was heavily pregnant at the time, and went on to lose her baby as a result of the trauma. Martha junior’s name was added to the memorial on Talbot Street last week.
The case is currently under review by Jon Boutcher’s Operation Kenova.
However Mr O’Neill said the gardaí are “blocking” the release of files to the independent cold-case initiative led by the former Bedfordshire chief constable.
He said gardaí have refused to meet him on the matter, adding: “I have requested on many an occasion meetings with the Garda to tell me face to face why they are blocking the release of files.
“They have completely ignored us, they have refused any request for a meeting, they have treated us absolutely appallingly,” he said.
It is understood that as Operation Kenova is a review exercise, cross-border protocol only allows the sharing of files for live investigations.
There is an effort under way to devise legislation to allow the files to be shared, however Mr O’Neill said his family suspects this is a delaying tactic.
He said he believes the gardaí are protecting a terrorist informant.
“We’ve been told there is a statutory instrument being written to allow Boutcher’s team to get access to the files,” he said.
“I don’t doubt the sincerity for one second of what Boutcher’s team is trying to do, what I do have a problem with is the sincerity of the Garda…
“I have been trying to get a meeting with the Garda to ask what is going on with the files but they just ignore me. If the whole thing about the statutory instrument was genuine, what’s the problem with them saying this to me, confirming it to me.”
Mr O’Neill said his family feels left behind by the Good Friday Agreement, saying victims and survivors were forgotten, “ignored at the expense of terrorists”.
“Victims and survivors have been left fighting for scraps,” he said.
“This whole thing has occupied my entire adult life, many times I would have loved to have my anonymity back, I’d love to be the anonymous person in the crowd but people know me as the kid who was blown up coming out of the barbers.”
Mr O’Neill also said his family would like to see a public inquiry into the atrocity.
Responding, a Garda spokesperson said: “It is the policy of An Garda Síochána not to make detailed public comment on ongoing investigations such as this one.
“An Garda Síochána reaffirms its commitment to continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the bombings of Dublin and Monaghan in 1974 with the objective of identifying and holding those responsible to account for their criminality in relation to these matters.
“An Garda Síochána continues to appeal to any person who has any information in relation to the events in Dublin and Monaghan in May 1974 either, who has not contacted An Garda Síochána to this day, or who may have provided information to An Garda Síochána at some stage but has further information which they may now be able to provide at this time to make contact with An Garda Síochána at any Garda station or the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111.”