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rights, freedoms and repression |
Friday August 25, 2006 14:10 by Political Hostage - Michael McKevitt Justice Campaign
On 27th July 2006 after a trial lasting almost a month the jury in the case of Det. Sgt. John White took just under one hour to throw out the case against Mr. White. For five years Garda Sgt. White had an accusation hanging over him that he planted a sawn-off shotgun at a Travellers encampment. Charged on June 20th 2001 he had always denied the claim. As White left the courthouse in Letterkenny he told waiting reporters that many of his former colleagues let him down and the only ones who had helped were some of the uniformed members of the force. This assertion from White would seem to suggest that the Garda organisation contains an inner core, namely the Special Branch. Many within the Special Branch of the Gardai have been involved in controversy for decades. There exists within the Special Branch a culture that are prepared to lie and perjure themselves to secure convictions against any individual that they want out of the way.
Sgt White told the waiting media that he may take a civil case against the Garda force, however, it is unlikely that a civil case will ever see the inside of a courtroom. A civil case by White would severely damage the entire Garda organisation and could inflict untold long-term damage to a force that is under pressure in the eyes of the public. At a time when the organisations credibility is severely lacking in confidence, a civil case would be a step to far.
Throughout the past five years White made counter allegations against individual members of the Special Branch and specifically against his former superior one of the most senior detectives in the force. The most disturbing allegation made by White was that his superior, Assistant Garda Commissioner Dermot Jennings had attempted to frame him and had told lies against him in the lead up and during the trial. What White was alleging was that Jennings had perjured himself. On the other hand what Jennings was saying was that White had perjured himself. The jury accepted White’s version of events. In the past allegations of wrongdoing were directed against members of the Garda Special Branch by members of the public, however this latest development is a new departure. The allegations and counter allegations were directed between the Special Branch themselves, each accusing the other of lying.
Lurking beneath the surface of those allegations lay a discredited Garda force already under scrutiny with allegations of corruption and other wrong-doings, including fabricating evidence to secure convictions. To date many of the allegations against the Garda Special Branch have been largely ignored or dealt with covertly and out of the public eye.
Of late an increasing number of members within the Special Branch have been accused of fabricating evidence to secure convictions, particularly, during criminal and political trials in the non-jury Special Criminal Court in Dublin. The most notable trials were those of Colm Murphy and Michael McKevitt. In Murphy’s trial Garda Special Branch officers were accused of tampering with statements, (they are currently awaiting trial.)
A number of common threads run through the White case and the McKevitt case, they are, the Omagh bomb investigation, perjury, lies and Asst. Commissioner Jennings. In White’s case Jennings told the court that he vehemently rejected a suggestion that he told Sgt. White to let a bomb through into Northern Ireland after receiving a tip off from an informant. He was responding to questions about an allegation that the Garda Special Branch allowed a car bomb to cross the border to protect a confidential source in 1998. The Assistant Commissioner Jennings said it was an “absolute lie” that he made any such statement to Sgt. White during a meeting in a Dublin pub in August 1998. Sgt. White maintained that the meeting took place shortly before republican dissidents planted a a bomb in Omagh, Co. Tyrone. Although, Jennings agreed that the meeting did take place he refuted the allegations made by White about the bomb.
In the super-grass trial of Michael McKevitt, Asst. Commissioner Dermot Jennings, (Rupert’s one time Garda handler) attempted to interfere with evidence. In addition, another detective planted an illegal substance in the McKevitt home and Special Branch witnesses perjured themselves during the trial.
MI5 disclosure documents in the Michael McKevitt case state that Dermot Jennings attempted to interfere with evidence in the lead up to his trial. The reports reveal that an MI5 agent informed Jennings that David Rupert had made certain allegations against Jennings, specifically that he had expressed indifference to bombs going off in Northern Ireland. However, the MI5 agent pointed out to Jennings that if the defence (in McKevitt’s case) got hold of the report and he (Jennings) denied the content that would make Rupert an untrustworthy source. According to the MI5 document, Jennings “urged that the report be removed”. The MI5 agent also informed Jennings that there was a few more such “trickiness” in the paperwork that were being addressed. Jennings informed him that Rupert’s original statement made to the Gardai in January 2001, contained a number of mistakes and that these should be changed as quickly as possible. Jennings arranged for the statement to be sent to the US to have the changes made before the Gardai arrived to interview Rupert again.
Significantly, the conversation between the MI5 agent and Jennings took place in February, 2001 several weeks before Michael McKevitt was arrested and charged, yet they referred to his defence lawyers. This confirms that there was a conspiracy by Jennings to interfere with the evidence in Michael McKevitt’s case.
Later when Jennings was asked to comment on the reports he suggested that the agent may have misinterpreted his comments.
Document dated 28th May 2002, shows a communication between the FBI and MI5. The document reveals that the FBI agent informed MI5 that they met Dermot Jennings in Dublin on 11th July 1999. They said that “Jennings did not hide his irritation at not being told about Rupert operating in the Republic of Ireland for the previous 2 years and manifested doubt about the quality of Rupert’s reports”. MI5 in a file note of a meeting in Dublin with Gardai on 20th July 1999 recorded that Jennings said that he was irritated and sceptic about Rupert. The report also states “Jennings was moaning about Rupert and his antics.” Each of the comments from Jennings revealed in the MI5 documents were described by Jennings as misquotes, lies or misunderstandings just as in Whites case.
Throughout the limited MI5 reports in the McKevitt case, Assistant Commissioner Dermot Jennings was depicted secretly dealing with MI5 and encouraging his MI5 counterparts to interfere with evidence behind the backs of members of the Gardai. Many reports disclosed in the case, reveal that Jennings informed MI5 that he didn’t trust some members of the Gardai. These comments, coming from one of the most senior members of the Gardai force, are alarming in the extreme and need a proper investigation.
In a recent development, the latest report of the Morris Tribunal into Garda corruption has concluded that the suspended Garda, Det. Sgt John White, was the person responsible for planting a shotgun at a halting site in Co Donegal.
Mr Justice Morris concluded that the module of the Tribunal had been "fed a continuum of lies by a number of witnesses including Bernard Conlon, Detective Sergeant John White, John Nicholson and others."
White’s lawyer said: "It's quite clear that if the top people of An Garda Siochana the Commissioner [Noel Conroy] and assistant commissioners and maybe even going as far as the DPP and Minister for Justice that they should all look at their situation and consider retiring."
The allegations and counter allegations of lies and perjury leave a distinct air of uneasiness among the public, who recognise it would be foolhardy to believe that Garda corruption was confined to one area and one level within the Gardai. It is obvious to the all concerned that Garda corruption is systemic and will require a complete overhaul if public confidence is to be restored.