Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Decisive action needed to tackle system that allows Garda corruption to go unpunished

17 June, 2005


Speaking during Statements on the Morris Tribunal in the Dáil today Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh said:

"Many people find the two interim Morris Tribunal Reports on the first three of eleven modules shocking reading, detailing as they do the prejudiced investigations, the lies, the destruction and falsification of records, reports and other evidence. Republicans find it less so, but only because we have been living with Garda abuse for decades now, in all parts of the state.

"I don't accept the Minister's contention that the problem is limited to a "handful of corrupt Gardaí".

"We need only look at who was found to be corrupt, obstructive, or at the very least incompetent and negligent in Donegal: a Chief Superintendent, four Superintendents, and members of every other Garda grade.

"Everyone involved in this serious misconduct must be held to full account. That means the 19 former and serving Gardaí named in the first module report, and the 15 former and serving members implicated in the modules two and three report should be immediately suspended pending decision by the DPP. That means the senior management, those responsible in the Crime and Security Branch and the Garda Commissioners. That means the Attorney Generals who advised successive Governments and the three Ministers for Justice who presided over this state of affairs without taking the decisive action needed. Retirements and transfers are not only insufficient, they stink of cover-up. All involved at every level of this scandal must be relieved of duty.

"The fact remains that the Morris Tribunal will not bring us the whole truth. Many questions about serious Garda misconduct in all parts of the state remain unanswered. It is documented that Gardaí have been involved in every sort of crime from murder to rape and assault, from bombings to illegal firearms possession, from forgery and fraud to burglary, from perjury to libel, from possession of child pornography to drug dealing. For example, I pulled out of my file, at random, a report of a North Dublin Garda from the Malahide station who will appear in court later this month on drugs charges. In 2003 the Minister told me he didn't know how many Gardaí had been convicted for criminal offences and that it would cost too much time and resources to find out.

"What we need to do now, is to take the leap as a society to admit that this is not just a Donegal problem. This is a systemic problem we have to confront aggressively and decisively if we are to solve it, and move on." ENDS

Full text of STATEMENTS ON MORRIS TRIBUNAL REPORTS from Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice

Many people find the two interim Morris Tribunal Reports on the first three of eleven modules shocking reading, detailing as they do the prejudiced investigations, the lies, the destruction and falsification of records, reports and other evidence. Republicans find it less so, but only because we have been living with Garda abuse for decades now, in all parts of the state. Mr. Justice Frederick Morris and his team are to be commended for their role in bringing the truth to light, even if it represents the mere tip of a very large, very nasty iceberg that no one in the establishment wants to confront.

I don't accept the Minister's contention that the problem is limited to a "handful of corrupt Gardaí". First, it was several handfuls, and the level of corruption identified in Donegal -- so far -- is, I believe, reflective of other Garda Divisions throughout the state. We need only look at who was found to be corrupt, obstructive, or at the very least incompetent and negligent in Donegal: a Chief Superintendent, four Superintendents, and members of every other Garda grade.

Everyone involved in this serious misconduct must be held to full account. That means the 19 former and serving Gardaí named in the first module report, and the 15 former and serving members implicated in the modules two and three report should be immediately suspended pending decision by the DPP. That means the senior management, those responsible in the Crime and Security Branch and the Garda Commissioners. That means the Attorney Generals who advised successive Governments and the three Ministers for Justice who presided over this state of affairs without taking the decisive action needed. Retirements and transfers are not only insufficient, they stink of cover-up. All involved at every level of this scandal must be relieved of duty.

Fairness also necessitates the meeting of the McBrearty family demands. All of the costs of the state's parties are being met. Meanwhile the McBreartys, who have been ruined by this injustice, we are forcing them to pay to have justice done. They have said that they will not return to the Tribunal unless their costs are guaranteed and paid on an ongoing basis, the same as the Minister for Justice and Garda Commissioner, and we support them in this.

Justice also requires truth for the Fullerton family, whose application to extend the Tribunal's terms of reference to include the investigation into the 1991 assassination of Donegal Councillor Eddie Fullerton by a loyalist death squad was rejected by the Minister for Justice, despite the involvement of some of the very same Gardaí. The Fullerton family -- who yesterday met with Deputies and Senators from all parties bar one -- have an equal right to the truth and they have our full backing in their demand for a full, independent public inquiry with an international dimension.

The fact remains that the Morris Tribunal will not bring us the whole truth. Many questions about serious Garda misconduct in all parts of the state remain unanswered. It is documented that Gardaí have been involved in every sort of crime from murder to rape and assault, from bombings to illegal firearms possession, from forgery and fraud to burglary, from perjury to libel, from possession of child pornography to drug dealing. For example, I pulled out of my file, at random, a report of a North Dublin Garda from the Malahide station who will appear in court later this month on drugs charges. In 2003 the Minister told me he didn't know how many Gardaí had been convicted for criminal offences and that it would cost too much time and resources to find out.

What we need to do now, is to take the leap as a society to admit that this is not just a Donegal problem. This is a systemic problem we have to confront aggressively and decisively if we are to solve it, and move on.

For example, we have to confront the Morris Tribunal findings of negligence by the Crime and Security Branch of Garda Headquarters in both modules -- particularly the conclusion that their intelligence was largely bogus and none was substantial, at a time that Commissioner Conroy was in charge. We need to admit that the Special Branch deserves systematic scrutiny because it has engaged in systematic abuses. Everyone knows this happens, but no one wants to discuss it for fear of appearing soft on Republicans.

The Tribunal's terms of reference must be widened to include full examination of the respective roles of the Garda Commissioners, the Attorneys General, and the Department of Justice, including the three Ministers for Justice. I also believe that the terms should also be widened to examine, at the very least, other injustices by the Gardaí that are well-known, but have never been thoroughly investigated, such as the actions of the Heavy Gang, the role of the Special Branch, and the misuse of informers.

The Minister's anaemic Garda Bill is not nearly enough to end the culture of impunity for misconduct. It will not result in the root and branch reforms we deserve. We are demanding reforms along the lines of the Patten model at minimum, including a single Garda Ombudsman, a Garda Board, and Community Policing Partnerships at District level. At the very least, Good Friday Agreement human rights equivalence guarantees should result in a single Garda Ombudsman with the same powers as Nuala O'Loan.

There are question marks over Commissioner Conroy, who as recently as three weeks ago stated publicly that his view was that the original Garda inquiry into the matter was "thorough and efficient". It is unclear how such a person can be allowed to continue in the top Garda post.

Finally, there are big question marks over the Minister for Justice himself, who opposed a public inquiry into this situation in 1997 when he was Attorney General, who has blocked a public inquiry into the James Sheehan case in Kerry involving allegations of Gardaí planting a firearm and destroying evidence in an attempt to damage the credibility of an election candidate, and who has not only refused to extend the Tribunal's terms of reference to include the assassination of Eddie Fullerton despite the involvement of some of the very same Gardaí under investigation by the Tribunal, and the strong evidence of collusion -- he has also refused to publish any findings of the internal Garda review of the original investigation. Today I read in the Village that Minister McDowell took seven months to respond to the queries of the family of 14 year old Brian Rossiter, who died in Garda custody, and I wonder what is going on?

The Irish people deserve to know the full truth about all these matters,m and the real truth about policing and justice in this state during a period of conflict. The era of impunity and cover-ups must come to an end.

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