Disagreeing strongly with colleagues from the 1974 coalition Government, former Labour Minister Justin Keating commended the recent report by Mr Justice Henry Barron into the bombings, which killed 34 people.
The then Minister for Trade and Commerce said he accepted the findings of the report, which concluded the Government of the day showed little interest in the bombings.
As the first member of the 1973 to 1977 Fine Gael-Labour coalition Government to come out in support of the Justice Barron’s report, Mr Keating is firmly at odds with three former Cabinet colleagues, who all criticised and rejected the findings.
Dr Garret Fitzgerald, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, said Justice Barron reached incorrect conclusions.
Dr Conor Cruise O’Brien, then Minister for Post and Telegraphs, said Justice Barron had at times been naive.
Patrick Cooney, then Minister for Justice, said many of Justice Barron’s findings were without substance.
Speaking on RTÉ's News At One yesterday, Mr Keating said he admires the report and a full judicial inquiry is needed.
Describing the report as splendid, he said he accepted Justice Barron’s findings and his only regret is that uncooperative outside forces, including those in Britain, prevented the retired Supreme Court judge from going further.
According to Mr Keating, the garda inquiry was inadequate, the Government of the day showed little interest in the bombings and Northern Ireland security forces were involved in the bombings.
But Mr Keating also pointed out that as Minister for Industry and Commerce, he was known to disagree with Dr Conor Cruise O’Brien about Northern Ireland, and was often excluded or bypassed on matters such as the bombings.
Apologising on the basis of collective Cabinet responsibility to all those who were let down since May 1974, Mr Keating said he himself was far from the immediate problem and, in general, Mr Justice Barron got it right.
Justice for the Forgotten, the group representing victims’ families, welcomed Mr Keating’s comments and in particular his call for an inquiry.
The group’s spokesperson, solicitor Greg O’Neill, said a form of judicial inquiry, with powers to compel witnesses and documents, was the minimum the families were entitled to.
As there was an overwhelming case for the families to know exactly what happened, the main figures from 1974 should give evidence to an inquiry and be tested on their accounts, he said.
While the Oireachtas Justice Committee will next month begin hearings on Justice Barron’s report, Mr O’Neill said this would not suffice.