Tuesday 17 September 2019

€11m in payouts for 55 victims of Donegal garda corruption

Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent

VICTIMS of garda corruption and negligence in Donegal were paid over €11.3m in compensation last year.

New figures obtained by the Irish Independent reveal the hidden cost to the taxpayer of the corruption which existed in the garda division in the 1990s and early 2000s.

As well as the highly publicised multimillion euro payouts to publicans Frank Shortt and Frank McBrearty, some 53 other lesser-known "Donegal-related" civil cases were also settled last year at a cost of over €6m, according to Department of Justice figures.

The union representing rank-and-file gardai said those compensated in Donegal deserved the reparations.

The raft of compensation claims was triggered by Morris Tribunal findings that a number of officers who worked in the division had been negligent or corrupt.

Outside of the major compensation payments to Mr Shortt and Mr McBrearty, the average Donegal-related compensation payout in 2007 was almost €117,000.

The 55 Donegal-related civil actions were part of a total of 190 civil cases connected to the actions of members of An Garda Siochana last year.

The total payout from all cases for the year was €14.7m.

In contrast, just €2.3m in compensation, relating to 126 cases, was paid out in 2006. The Garda Representative Association said the figures for last year were greatly inflated because of the number of Donegal-related cases.

"It is only right and proper that those people were compensated," said GRA general secretary PJ Stone.

"But we have to move on now and look to the future. The Garda Commissioner and the garda associations are working hard to deal with the fall-out from Donegal and to implement the recommendations of the Morris Tribunal."

It is thought tribunal costs, fees for the legal representatives of witnesses and compensation for victims could top €100m when all matters are settled. The largest payout last year was to Inishowen businessman Mr Shortt.

The Supreme Court increased a 2005 compensation award by €2.7m, to bring it to a total of €4.5m, after Mr Shortt spent three years in jail for a crime he did not commit.

Mr Shortt (73), a married father of five, was wrongly convicted in 1995 of allowing the sale of drugs at his Point Inn premises in Quigley's Point, Co Donegal.

The High Court also awarded Raphoe publican Mr McBrearty a total of €2.475m for damages to his business caused by a campaign of garda harassment following the death of the cattle dealer Richie Barron.

Mr McBrearty (64) had been suing for over €6m.

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