Saturday 1 October 2016

'My family needs to know why gardaí did not properly investigate the 1985 death of my uncle, Fr Niall'

It will be 30 years next week since Fr Niall Molloy's violent death. Bill Maher, his nephew, writes about his family's fight for justice

Bill Maher

Published 04/07/2015 | 02:30

Richard and Teresa Flynn leaving the courthouse
Richard and Teresa Flynn leaving the courthouse
Fr Niall Molloy shortly before his death

On July 8, 1985, I got an early morning call from a member of my family telling me my Uncle Niall was dead. I was totally shocked as he was a young man and in good health and no details were available except that it was some sort of an accident.

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Knowing his love of horses, I assumed he must have had a fall from a horse. As the morning progressed, I was to discover it was much more shocking than that.

The calls became more numerous over the following hours. Details were slow emerging but one call I got said there was a lot of blood at the scene. Possibly a shotgun involved.

He had been found dead in Kilcoursey House, Clara, Co Offaly, home of his friends Richard and Theresa Flynn.

He had his own rooms in the house and kept his horses on the land. He had multiple business dealings with the Flynns and that was no secret to his family.

My sister rang Kilcoursey and asked to speak to Theresa. She wished to offer her condolences. A woman came to the phone and sounded upset and said she would call back. No call ever came. My uncle Billy went to the house and met Richard Flynn. My uncle claimed that Richard said: "I had a terrible lot of drink taken and a political row started." Flynn later denied he said that in court.

When I last saw Niall, he informed me how he had called to visit his solicitors in Dublin.

Upon his death, we contacted those solicitors to see what Niall's last wishes were in relation to making funeral arrangements. However, they replied that they did not represent Niall and had never had any dealings with him.

The Elphin Diocese also insisted they did not have a Will. However, under the Freedom Of Information Act I recently discovered that Niall had informed the Department of Defence prior to his serving overseas as an army chaplin that he had lodged his Will with the Diocese. The Diocese as recently as 2013 denied existence of said Will to Dominic McGinn SC.

At the request of his parishioners, Niall was buried beside his Church in Castlecoote, Co Roscommon, against the wishes of some in the Diocese who wanted his final resting place to be out of view behind the Church.

In the following weeks and months, we naively thought that the gardaí would conduct a proper investigation. The publication of the McGinn report this year confirmed they had not.

A year after his death, Judge Frank Roe dismissed a jury after a number of hours. He ruled that it was likely that Niall had died as a result of a heart attack. The case had been expected to last a number of days. The jury was not even given the chance to hear all the evidence. A month after the trial, the inquest result proved dramatically different. It found that Niall died as a result of a blow to the head.

From then on, my family have campaigned for justice for Niall.

In 1988, new disturbing medical evidence emerged. It concluded that Niall took a number of hours to die.

In the following years, my uncle Billy and my brother Ian died prematurely. They had campaigned for Niall right up to their last breath. The family felt that the events in Clara were a contributory factor in their early deaths.

In the late 1990s, I started using social media to raise awareness and to campaign for justice for Niall. I was determined to get his story out there and at the very least contradict some of the rumours surrounding him. There was a danger that these rumours, if not contradicted, would be accepted as fact. I had the full support of my family and the parishioners of Castlecoote. I had hoped after all these years that someone would come forward and speak up.

The effect of Fr Niall's death, three decades ago next week, was not only to rob his family and parishioners of a kind and gentle pastor and friend, but to place them under a dark cloud, which still hangs over us all to this day. Some family members fought with all their strength for justice to be done, they lost their jobs and sometimes their health and their family in the process, and perhaps died before their time. There were sometimes temporary breaks in the cloud, when it looked like the truth might somehow be revealed, but which were only to be thwarted by further setbacks.

The greatest of the many injustices done to Fr Molloy and his family, apart from the taking of his life, was the damage done to his good name by the calculated and vicious leaking of false innuendo to sully his reputation.

The family may have lost faith in the country's institutions but they have never lost faith in the intrinsic goodness of the Irish people and their belief that one day someone would look to their conscience and, once and for all, reveal the truth.

To facilitate this, the members of Fr Niall's family call for a full public inquiry into all aspects of this matter, including the roles played by the institutions of the State in preventing the truth from being revealed. Only when this has been done will the family find closure and the cloud will be lifted.

The recent publication of the McGinn report has confirmed that the original garda investigation had made many mistakes. We now feel the time has come for the garda investigation of 1985 to be examined in detail, possibly by a Commission.

The Garda Commissioner said she hoped the publication of the report would be some comfort for the family .

My family has now decided make a formal complaint to the Garda Ombudsman over the force's failure to properly investigate the death of my Uncle Niall.

Irish Independent

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