At 5.30pm on May 17, 1974, three car-bombs exploded in the centre of Dublin. 90 minutes later, another bomb exploded in Monaghan Town. Between them, the attacks killed 33 people, one of the worst death-tolls of the Troubles.
The bombings occured at a crucial political moment, in the midst of the Ulster Workers Strike which brought down the Sunningdale Agreement, the last attempt at power-sharing between the two communities in the North of Ireland for decades. A veil of silence soon descended over the episode, in spite of widespread suspicions that British intelligence had assisted loyalist paramilitaries in carrying out the attacks.
In this meticulously researched book, Don Mullan provides the accounts of eyewitnesses, survivors and the bereaved, and documents the struggle to uncover the truth about the bombings.
The book contains a complete transcript of Hidden Hand: The Forgotten Massacre, the 1993 Yorkshire Television documentary that marked the start of renewed political and media interest in the bombings, prompting victims to launch a campaign for a public inquiry.
The programme included evidence from former British Army officers Colin Wallace and Fred Holroyd linking the bombings to a group of Armagh loyalists with connections to Four Field Survey Troop, a cover name for the Special Reconnaissance Unit led by Tony Ball and Robert Nairac.
The documentary prompted the UVF to issue a statement that they had carried out the bombing alone. Mullan subjects this claim to a searching examination, in part based on evidence from John Weir, a former RUC officer convicted of murder as a result of his involvement with the loyalist grouping that has become known as the Glennane Gang.
Mullan also scrutinises the Irish Government's reaction to the bombings, its decision to send much of the forensic evidence to Northern Ireland, instead of to its own laboratory, and at the covert links between the Garda and British intelligence.
One of several appendices includes extracts of an interview with Detective Garda John McCoy, the man alleged by Fred Holroyd and others to be the British agent known as 'the Badger'.
This book is a major work of investigative journalism, which contributed significantly to the creation of the Barron and MacEntee inquiries into the bombings. The Barron Report in particular vindicated much of Mullan's analysis, although the truth about the full extent of collusion in the attacks remains elusive.