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Sunday 21 October 2018

Roice family still fighting for justice

The family of a teenage Wexford girl killed in the 1974 Dublin bombings have joined with the relatives of other victims in demanding a full public inquiry into the single worst atrocity of the Northern Ireland conflict.Siobhan Roice of Thomas Street was one of 26 people killed when bombs exploded on three Dublin streets on May 17 that year. Seven people were murdered in a Monag

The family of a teenage Wexford girl killed in the 1974 Dublin bombings have joined with the relatives of other victims in demanding a full public inquiry into the single worst atrocity of the Northern Ireland conflict.

Siobhan Roice of Thomas Street was one of 26 people killed when bombs exploded on three Dublin streets on May 17 that year. Seven people were murdered in a Monaghan blast the same day.

Siobhan's sister, Aileen Murphy said on Tuesday that the family was 'very pleased' with the long-awaited Barron Report into the bombings which was published last week but stressed that a full judicial inquiry was the only way the real truth would finally be revealed.

The report by Justice Henry Barron found that the loyalist bombers responsible for the 34 deaths may have received help from members of the British security forces who either participated in or were aware of preparations for the bombings.

It criticised the original police investigation and the Government of the day over the fact that vital forensic evidence and Government files relating to the bombings had mysteriously disappeared.

'We feel strongly that there are still serious questions to be answered as to why the original investigation into a tragedy of this size, in which 33 people were slaughtered in the streets, was wound down after only three months,' said Aileen.

Although it is almost 30 years since the bombings, for the Roice family, the horror and pain of what happened will never go away. They live with the memory of it every day.

Siobhan was a young girl of 19 with her whole life ahead of her. She had joined the Civil Service the previous year after leaving school and worked in the tax office near O'Connell Street.

That Friday, she left work as usual to walk down Talbot Street to Connolly Station to get a train home for the weekend. Minutes later, the bombs went off.

When the Dublin train arrived in Wexford that night, Siobhan wasn't on it and the family started to get worried, having learned about the bombings on the RTE television news.

They tried ringing her flat in Rathmines to see was she okay but they couldn't get through. They made more frantic calls in a desperate attempt to find out where she was. They went to Wexford Garda Station to ask if they knew anything.

Early the following morning, Siobhan's father, Edward and her sister, Liz, accompanied by his son-in-law, Matt Murphy, and brother-in-law, Sean Beale, who is now deceased, travelled to Dublin, not knowing what was in store.

They checked the hospitals in vain and eventually went to the City Morgue in Store Street where they found her. There was chaos in the area with fears rife about the prospect of more bombings.

Mr. Roice was led inside to a scene of human horror. Dead bodies lay everywhere. He spotted his daughter immediately. 'She was lying there perfect. It's 29 years ago but it's the same as if it only happened yesterday', he said.

Without warning, the Roice family's peaceful, happy life was flooded with terrible heartache and loss which over the years, has been compounded by an enduring sense of inconclusion and injustice.

To this day, they still don't know exactly how Siobhan died or how she got to the hospital. Did she die straight away or did she lie injured on the street? Many questions remain unanswered.

Inquests on the 26 Dublin victims were adjourned indefinitely in 1974 at the request of the then Garda Commissioner. It is expected that they will now be completed some time in the New Year.

After Siobhan's funeral in Wexford, no official approach was ever made to the family. No-one in authority contacted them. It was as if they had been forgotten.

'It was the same for all the other families. Once the funerals were over, we were all just expected to get back to our lives as if our loved ones had never existed', said Aileen.

It was a campaign by the victims' families under the umbrella of the Justice for the Forgotten organisation, that forced the case back into the limelight and led to the establishment of the inquiry.

As they cling to all their happy memories of Siobhan, the Roice family were delighted recently to be given precious mementoes that they never knew existed.

Siobhan's brother, Jim who works with ABS Pumps was mending a pump in the home of Anna May Hodnett (nee Murphy) in Ballymurn. Anna May was a work colleague of Siobhan and still had the copy of War and Peace she had given her on the day she died.

Before Siobhan left to get the train, the pair who worked in the same office, swapped books on loan, Anna May accepting the Tolstoy novel in return for The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth which she had just bought because Siobhan didn't have anything to read.

Siobhan's copy of War and Peace turned out to have personal inscriptions in it that were written by her. Anna May who had previously been hesitant about approaching the Roice family for fear of bringing back painful memories, also gave them photographs of Siobhan taken at the office Christmas party in the Clarence Hotel, Dublin.

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