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Posted: 12/10/2003 11:22:57 AM EDT
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DUBLIN, Ireland - Individual members of the police and British army in Northern Ireland may have aided car-bombers who killed 33 people in 1974, but there isn't proof of wider collusion, a long-awaited report into Ireland's bloodiest terror attack concluded Wednesday.

Nobody was ever charged in connection with the attacks, which went unclaimed for decades but were universally blamed on anti-Catholic extremists in Northern Ireland.

The mammoth report by Justice Henry Barron, presented to lawmakers and made public Wednesday after nearly four years of investigation, also harshly criticized the Irish government of the day, accusing it of demonstrating little interest or competence in bringing the bombers to justice.

On May 17, 1974, three car bombs went off within a few minutes of each other in the crowded streets of downtown Dublin, killing 26 people, followed about 90 minutes later by a fourth car bomb that ravaged the border town of Monaghan, killing seven.

Barron said it was likely that individual police officers and members of the British army's overwhelmingly Protestant local regiment "either participated in or were aware of preparations for the bombings."

But the judge's report did not provide firm proof backing these suspicions. He cautioned that he had gathered no evidence of any high-level collusion between British security forces and the bombers.

"There is no definite evidence of collusion as far as I can see from this report," said lawmaker Sean Ardagh, chairman of the Irish parliament's justice committee, which received the report.

Suspicions have lingered that the attackers were aided by British soldiers or police intelligence officers seeking to strike back at the Irish Republican Army, which had begun bombing London and other English cities the year before.

The Ulster Volunteer Force, an outlawed pro-British paramilitary group from Northern Ireland, issued a statement in 1993 that claimed its members planted the Dublin and Monaghan bombs "aided by no outside bodies."

Barron's report concluded that two UVF units, one based in Belfast and the other in Portadown southwest of the Northern Irish capital, did coordinate the four-bomb attack. He cited unsubstantiated claims from "credible witnesses" that some of the UVF members were on the payroll of the police and British army intelligence agencies.

Barron criticized the performance of the administration of former Prime Minister Liam Cosgrave for demonstrating what he called "insufficient interest" in identifying, extraditing and prosecuting those responsible.

The report said Cosgrave received intelligence from the British government at a Sept. 11, 1974, summit that identified some of the UVF members involved, but he failed to pass this information on to his own police force.

It also noted that the Justice Department's files on the matter had disappeared without explanation.

Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Bertie Ahern met outspoken survivors and relatives of the Dublin and Monaghan dead who, lobbying under the name "Justice for the Forgotten," had campaigned for years for the Barron probe.
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