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Dublin Opinion >>
The ministry of injustice, administering injustice near you sometime soon
(unless they are exposed and sacked.)
Statements on the Morris Tribunal’s 1st and 2nd reports, Dail Eireann, 10.30am to 2.30pm, Friday 17th of June 2005
"your head should be on the block, you are not accepting responsibility" - Finian McGrath (addressing McDowell)
“subversion of the state and a crime against the people" – Liz O’Donnell
"Donegal could happen anywhere in the country" – Joe Costello
"the tribunal was fed lie after lie in a conspiracy to destroy the truth and cover up negligence" – Justice Morris
"negligence in the extreme" - "we now have our own scandal like The Birmingham 6 and Guilford 4" – Brendan Howlin
"the transfer of guards to Dublin was like the bishops transferring pedophile priests to other parishes.” - Martin Ferris
“there’s a stink of continuing cover up" - Aengus O'Snodaigh
"the most blatant miscarriage of justice in the state" – Tony Gregory
(Background info - the Morris Tribunal was set up after the Carty report which showed that there was serious corruption in the Gardai who tried to frame Frank McBrearty, Mark McConnell and Michael Peoples for the death of Richie Barron who was really the victim of a hit and run)
This was the first time the Morris findings have been debated in the Dail since they didn’t bother doing so after the 1st Morris report 10 months ago.
Michael Mc Dowell spoke for an hour and spent the time defending himself and his new Garda bill and pointing the finger of blame at others. He stated that John O Donoghue the Minister for Justice 1997-2002 "behaved impeccably" but then said "the whole system had failed". (It seemed like he didn’t include himself or his pal John as part of that failed system.)
McDowell spoke of a shared responsibility over a long time and mentioned Nora Owen, the rainbow coalition Minister of Justice at the time. He said there was a breakdown of discipline and the chains of accountability and that a "blue wall" wasn’t helping the investigations as Gardai withheld information from him when he was Attorney General.
As McDowell’s speech went on he sounded like the captain of a ship blaming his crew for the ship sailing into rocks as he scrambled to jump into a lifeboat to save himself.
Running back over events he said in late autumn 2001 John O'Donoghue asked a senior barrister to make a report, which was done by Jan 2002. Shane Murphy exposed information that made it clear a tribunal was needed. But then they thought they would have to have a private hearing so as to protect criminal cases.
In Jan 2002 appendices of Carty report were delivered to Michael McDowell. (I wondered how important these appendices were since McDowell seems to be indicating that they made a big difference and that on receiving them his legal advisers THEN told him that there were "serious conspiracies to pervert the course of justice" (See Brendan Howlin's words below)
The second Morris report (paragraph 906) recommends the establishment of an independent body to monitor Garda behavior:
McDowell explained that it would be good to have a 3 person Ombudsman because it would allow for continuity over holidays and in the case of sickness. He said that Gordon Holmes favours a 3 person Ombudsman as it lessens the possibility of personality based conflicts that might arise with a single Ombudsman.
(I wondered if McDowell and Holmes are preempting the inability of a professional to follow the law and instead bias their ego and personal opinions over their professional duties? He certainly couldn’t be referring the PSNI Ombudswoman who by all accounts seems to be doing a great job all on her own.)
Then he explained as a caveat to his Ombudsman plan that the power to search police stations would be subject to approval by the Minister of Justice!!!!
He said that just because corrupt Gardai weren’t loosing their pensions this didn’t mean there was a "sweetheart deal" between him and the Gardai.
In response Fine Gael TD Jim O'Keeffe pointed out:
It was as if there was a private fiefdom of Gardai in Donegal.
There was a lack of review in the force and the Minister of Justice was too isolated from Gardai.
Donegal wasn’t an isolated incident and that there is a culture of unaccountability and that "like the Berlin wall it must be pulled down"
It was pointed out to McDowell that a Garda will not be able to make a complaint to the Ombudsman so it leaves them wondering "to whom should I turn" (so honest Gardai who want to clean up the force can’t)
"we cannot ignore the Morris findings" and the Oireachtas should review and debate them
Enda Kenny had previously asked that McDowell's Garda Bill should be suspended for international people to review over the summer recess and that the findings could be looked at when the Dail came back.
It was pointed out that the Morris report was only delivered to TDs that morning Friday 17th June. (And this was clear to see as throughout the morning TDs were appearing with speeches after no doubt being forced to speed read the 660 page report in order make informed comments on it in the chamber that same morning.)
Jim O'Keeffe continued by making the point "Donegal wasn’t a statistical blip" and that Gardai elsewhere were known to be "better chasing bullocks than criminals"
There is a "need for absolute accountability so confidence is rebuilt"
He said there was no boost in confidence when 5 guilty Gardai were just moved to Dublin and this must be reviewed and excuses given.
Labour TD Joe Costello said that McDowell was debating in a vacuum and that he made a weak defense of his time as Attorney General, he couldn’t get a copy of the Carty report for 2 years and as Attorney General he was supposed to advise the Minister of Justice.
Costello wondered "what is going into the Pulse system and what’s coming out".
He mentioned the 8 year battle families had to endure to clear their names against fabricated Gardai evidence.
He said there was a lack of action by the Garda complaints board and pointed out how McDowell had cruelly asserted that the McBreartys must wait for payment till after all the Morris reports. (8 more modules are left)
He said that in contrast McDowell’s legal team are on retainers but don’t participate or contribute anything to the Morris hearings.
"you have acted like a bully boy, bullying people in public” he said to McDowell and that "the Taoiseach should give you your marching orders"
He also reminded McDowell "you didn’t apologise to families verbally and you haven’t send letters of apology"
Costello quoted page 41 of the 2nd Morris report: "the tribunal was fed lie after lie in a conspiracy to destroy the truth and cover up negligence"
And as an example Costello spoke of the hoax calls made by Garda O'Dowd from his home and his garda station to the Peoples family.
Costello assessed that "in Donegal the truth is strange confection" and pointed out that the Morris report spoke of the "failure to punish Gardai" and that McDowell’s ombudsman plan is too cumbersome.
He said that even Maurice Hayes is critical of ombudsman plans and the 50 sections of the Ombudsman make it confusing to the point of making it cocooned.
In concluding Costello said "the Morris findings are profound" and that "Donegal could happen anywhere in the country"
The Dail should hold oral hearings and invite people to give evidence whom Morris couldn’t invite such as the DPP, The Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy, Michael McDowell and John O'Donoghue.
The Garda bill should be put on hold for 6mths.
40m has been spent on the Morris Tribunal so far so we should be learning from it and it deserves more than the 4 hour debate its getting.
In a passionate and fiery speech Brendan Howlin described it as "shocking and frightening" the 6 years of distress caused to citizens and the fact that gardai of all ranks were involved.
He said it was clear O'Dowd and Lenan acted in order to enhance their reputation and attain promotion.
He said there are "still so many questions to be answered" and that treatment by the Dept of Justice was terrible and a slap in the face to be treated this way.
He noted McDowell’s cynical attempt to spread the blame in his opening speech.
In a simple but profound point Howlin reminded the Dail that what they were debating happened on the watch of John O'Donoghue as Minister of Justice and Michael McDowell as the Attorney General.
And then Howlin produced his ace card:
He said that in July2000 The Carty report was delivered to The Minister for Justice but that McDowell now claims it was 2 years later when it was delivered.
Howlin recounted how in Feb 2001 he asked John O'Donoghue in the Dail what was he doing about the Carty Report and if he would be setting up a tribunal of enquiry and making a public statement.
Howlin noted that O'Donoghue in response didn’t reject that he had got the report and answered the question such that Howlin was led to believe that McDowell and O'Donoghue had received the report.
Howlin had in his hand the Dail transcript where O'Donoghue says that he sought the advice of the Attorney General, McDowell.
Howlin proposed that either McDowell "obfuscated and obstructed the enquiry" or else he is "incompetent and untrustworthy"
Howlin reminded the Dail that McDowell said he got the report in Jan/Feb of 2002 but said that Shane Murphy would have got it in 2001 which would mean that he sat on it to keep it from the Minister of Justice.
Howlin concluded that it was "negligence in the extreme" and that "we need to know the truth". He also said there "should be another module added" that Morris investigates which has an independent report into the actions of the Minister for Justice and the Attorney General at that time.
Howlin finished by saying that we "cant close this chapter with partial solutions" and that "we now have our own scandal like The Birmingham 6 and Guilford 4"
Martin Ferris Sinn Fein North Kerry was next to speak and said that the "transfer of guards to Dublin was like the bishops transferring pedophile priests to other parishes.”
As an example to show that corruption wasn’t limited to Donegal he spoke about James Sheehan in who's car a gun was found 4 hours after gardai stopped him, no attempt was made to protect forensic evidence. He stated that the gun was planted by gardai and that there was a link to Donegal. Addressing McDowell he said "you are preventing justice"
Ferris spoke of the "heavy gang" in the Gardai who had damaged people so much that they had to be carried in to give evidence (Egan, Courtney, Thomas Dunne) and he spoke the injustice to the Hayes family and Eddie Fullerton’s family.
Aengus O'Snodaigh, Sinn Fein said that he wasn’t surprised at all with the Morris findings as republicans had been living with Garda abuse for years.
O'Snodaigh noted that there was 1 Chief Superintendent and 4 Superintendents involved, 34 police in total, and all should be suspended.
He said there was a "stink of continuing cover up"
He mentioned Donegal Councilor Eddie Fullerton who was killed by a loyalist death squad in 1991 and that there was no Garda protection or investigation.
He complemented Justice Morris on wanting to bring out the whole truth and noted there were 8 more modules to go.
As another example of corruption he mentioned a north Dublin Garda from Malahide station caught on a drugs charge.
O'Snodaigh remembered when he asked McDowell to tell him how many Gardai were under investigation that McDowell told him it would be costly to tell him!!!!
O'Snodaigh said "There are questions over the ministers position" and asked "where are the honest gardai?" noting that no of them are coming forward with statements and truth.
Tony Gregory said McDowell wasn’t responding to the Morris findings and that citizens need a body to turn to.
He said there is a need for genuine radical reforms in what Morris called "corruption and negligence in the Gardai"
Gregory pointed out that its possible that Donegal IS a representation of what the Gardai are like elsewhere as much as it might NOT be.
He supports Eddie Fullerton's family's request for an enquiry and the government should publish the Carty report.
Gregory noted the record of McDowell on miscarriages of justice was not good and spoke of the Dean Lyons case, of how he was charged with murder and a confession statement appeared that Dean Lyons couldn’t have made.
Gregory described it as a deliberate miscarriage of justice and a set up.
He described the McBrearty affair and the Morris findings as "the most blatant miscarriage of justice in the state"
Ciaran Cuffe cut to the chase and said that Garda commissioner Noel Conroy should resign because "this all happened on his watch" and that by 2000 even the dogs in the street knew McBrearty was innocent but Conroy kept him under surveillance.
He added that the Garda bill should be stopped and "the code of silence must be broken"
Cuffe pointed out that "we need a single Ombudsman who mustn’t be drawn from Garda ranks and that, like the Council of Europe Anti Torture Committee it would have the power to walk in unannounced for inspections.
And summing up he advised McDowell that cracks were appearing and not to apply wallpaper.
Then John O'Donoghue got up and, in keeping with his nickname, made a pretty unremarkable and unenlightening speech.
Dinny McGinley, Donegal was next. He spoke of the suffering of Richie Barron's family and the harassment of the McBreartys and O'Connells who, but for their resources and their determination to prove their innocence, could be in Mountjoy now!!
He described what went on as like some mental torture you'd hear about from a 3rd world country.
He mentioned Billy Flynn who worked as an investigator for the McBreartys and how he had phoned and written to the Minister of Justice to explain what had gone on (in advance of the Carty report).
McGuinley described it as "something even the most talented crimewriter couldn’t come up with; stranger than fiction"
He pointed out that the driving force of the Gardai corruption was the prospect of promotion and that Senator Maurice Hayes had made recommendations on recruitment and rights of access to stations and that his opinion should be respected.
He described it as a "sad saga in our history".
Niall Blaney just said leave it to the Morris tribunal and that he "wouldn’t have done anything differently"
He said there were no convictions so the tribunal is useless
In a very ill informed comment he pointed out that "the real victims are the Barron family"
He spoke of Sheila McMahon, wife of Noel, who was arrested and held at gunpoint and tortured by gardai.
He said Eddie Fullerton was of the highest integrity and that a 2nd enquiry should be set up.
He warned of "tarring the gardai with the one brush"
Billy Timmons, Fine Gael, spoke of the desire to prioritise the well being of a public institution before the well being of citizens and the desire, like Magdalene Laundries, not to wash dirty laundry in public.
He put it down to just a few people not doing their job
He spoke of media corruption and of giving protection to corrupt people so they can come forward feeling safe.
Liz O'Donnell said that copies of the 2nd Morris report only arrived this morning on TDs desks. She commended Jim Higgins and Brendan Howlin on holding the government to account.
She mentioned the phrase "the appalling vista" from the Birmingham 6 case.
She mentioned how Pat O'Keefe and Pat Rabbitte were called national traitors when they looked into fraud in the beef industry.
As TDs, she said, we represent the people not our departments.
On the Morris Tribunal she said that the "conspiracy is a subversion of the state and a crime against the people" and that "the moral authority of the guards is now weak"
She said that it was unacceptable of McDowell as Attorney General advising the Minister of Justice that information was withheld and added that there "is more to hear about this, this goes right to the top"
She pointed out basic incompetence in Richie Barron's clothing not being kept along with no post mortem or forensics being carried out.
She said it was "a total abuse of power by the Gardai", "a monopoly of force and a crime against our people"
She was not happy about the new Garda Bill coming before the house next week and said that "we need real accountability" and time was needed to review and use the Morris findings first.
But she was critical of the Tribunal pursuing a case to get phone records from TDs in order to find out who were the TDs sources of information. She added "TDs should be able to protect the anonymity of their sources when carrying out their constitutional duty as TDs"
Dan Boyle said "it seemed that they were making the facts fit a predetermined truth"
He pointed out that the 2nd report, 10 months after first, saw Morris repeating his recommendations because the government isn’t acting on his findings from the first report.
Boyle said "Donegal is a place apart" but its being repeated elsewhere and added there is "a web of corruption".
He noted "the reluctant establishment of the Morris tribunal" and "the arrogance of the minister"
He finished by saying "we demand further process that continues beyond the current investigations"
Catherine Murphy, the Kildare independent wondered, "when will the screenplay emerge".
She wanted the government to "implement fully the recommendations of the report" and warned the Dail "don’t bypass the opportunity of debating Garda bill" and that they should "revisit the bill in the autumn"
She concluded by saying there would be little public confidence if it was not debated.
Pat Rabbitte pointed out that McDowell spent half his speech defending his role and the other half defending the Garda bill.
He said that John O'Donoghue said he opposed an enquiry and that he'd read the Carty report and took advice from McDowell and now they say they didn’t have the full report. He noted how after John O'Donoghue had given his speech earlier in the Dail session he scurried from the chamber and didn’t challenge what Howlin had put to him.
Rabbitte said "there is a chronic and systemic malaise" and remembered Lord Denning's phrase "the appalling vista"
And perhaps referring to the lack of resignations and firing he recalled Ben Franklin's idea that 1 rotten apple will spoil the whole barrel.
Rabbitte said that John O'Donoghue "seems to be claiming that he was dealing with a mutiny from the phoenix park"
In reference to McDowell's proposed plans Rabbitte said that McDowell "will become a one-man unaccountable head.”
Rabbitte was critical of the government holding such an important debate on a Friday when there was no voting and most TDs were at home with nothing to detain them in the Dail.
Rabbitte said that McDowell represented "the thin grey line between security and anarchy"
He noted characteristics of some previous Ministers for Justice:
-a Garda fraud conviction
-conspiring to import arms
-borrowing bugging equipment
He reminded the Dail that at the announcement of the police bill McDowell used the quote "but who will guard the guards?"
Rabbitte added that McDowell now seems to be answering "I will, just me" and added that McDowell "is the quintessential insider"
Rabbitte paid tribute to all the work Morris had done and despaired that McDowell wouldn’t use it.
He asked the Dail to imagine a woman who calls the gardai over a dead man on the road. The gardai decide to have a tea break and then drive to Letterkenny for his suit which they don’t get. When they do arrive on the scene they don’t preserve it for forensics.
Rabbitte wondered about other victims of Garda corruption and negligence: "are there others languishing in prison"
Bernard Allen, Fine Gael, Cork summed up McDowell’s actions as "the buck doesn’t stop here" and McDowell’s attempt to spread the blame: "everyone but no one is responsible"
Allen said that O'Donoghue had a ministerial responsibility to say "I want to know what’s going on"
He said that when a question is put down in the Dail it should be answered in full.
Allen noted how Higgins and Howlin put their necks on the block and that its unfair that suspicion falls on them.
Allen said it was "disingenuous to put blame on rainbow coalition minister Nora Owen"
And on another point he said that bringing in the state to bolster civil cases, such as family law cases should never happen and neither should using gardai for illegal evictions.
Addressing McDowell, Allen said there is "huge system failure", "huge ministerial failure" and "you should have CALLED for information and if a minister isn’t satisfied they must take action of they will suffer"
Allen then suggested finding out if Ireland could borrow Nuala O'Loan, the Ombudswoman in Northern Ireland.
Allen finished by saying that "a declaration of interest for gardai and public representatives" was needed.
Finian McGrath, an independent TD said it was a "sad day for taxpayers" and that "there has to be radical change"
He added "Irish people are wondering who can be trusted when it comes to the gardai, the banks, the church and politicians' and said that "its a wake up call for democracy, 35% don’t bother voting"
"the people have been very let down"
"we need independent voices"
He praised the brave McBrearty families in the multiple remortgaging their home in order to fight their corner to prove their innocence.
He pointed out that less affluent citizens wouldn’t be able to fight such a long legal battle.
Addressing McDowell he said "your head should be on the block, you are not accepting responsibility"
McGrath reminded the Dail of an instance during questions and answers when McDowell was waving a letter from McBrearty's private investigator, the same one who wrote to Morris and who made 20 phones calls to McDowell explaining the corruption.
McGrath asked why Noel Conroy hasn’t be been removed.
He concluded by saying the 10 independent TDs in the Dail support the Morris recommendations and the Mc Breartys and they deserve full compensation.
At this point the bell sounded for "QUORUM"
Silence fell upon the Dail chamber and Frank McBrearty Jnr stormed out of the public gallery shouting to McDowell below "you will not buy me out", "I’ve had enough of your lies", "you wont be laughing next week" (referring to the civil case the McBreartys are starting on Tuesday at 10.30 pm in the Four Courts against the state)
As the bell sounded it became clear that the government side of the house would have more votes and beat the opposition side 13 to 11 on a motion so no vote was taken.
McDowell made some comments and seemed to contradict himself at one stage talking about "a poorly run Gardai Siochana" then seconds later saying "an Gardai Siochana is a wonderful force"
The structure of this Dail session was a strange one where the government wasn’t obliged to answer any specific questions. Apparently this is a device used by the government when they are debating sensitive issues in order to hold off on hearing a full debate. It goes back to the days of the Tallaght strategy, when opposition was working WITH the government and they would agree with a form of statements when they wanted to let off steam without bringing down the government with a vote.
This Tallaght strategy seems to really undermine democracy, serious debate, accountability and a credible opposition.
Who will guard the government?
The citizens of Ireland owe a great debt of thanks to the McBrearty family in exposing the corruption that is coming out in the Morris Tribunal.