Sunday 22 September 2019

Frances Fitzgerald to probe fresh claims of Garda misconduct

Newly appointed Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald
Newly appointed Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald

Daniel McConnell, Political Correspondent

DISTURBING new allegations of wrongdoing and malpractice within An Garda Siochana are now under investigation by new Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

A dossier of 27 sworn affidavits was presented to Taoiseach Enda Kenny last month, who in turn passed them on to the Department of Justice just before Alan Shatter resigned as minister.

The allegations were presented to Mr Kenny by a group calling itself Justice4All, which involves four members of the Dail's Technical Group of Independent TDs.

Among the sworn affidavits and additional information are allegations of garda brutality, intimidation, negligence and harassment.

A spokesman for Mr Kenny said the Taoiseach would be seeking an update from Ms Fitzgerald in due course.

In one case, a psychiatric nurse claims one of his patients died whilst in garda custody.

The nurse believes his efforts to make public his allegations resulted in him being targeted by gardai.

According to the affidavits beatings, multiple arrests and various other methods were allegedly used by members of the force to discredit him.

As a result of speaking out, the nurse claimed he was "arrested maliciously" on five different occasions, and falsely imprisoned three times. Several attempts by gardai to secure convictions against him failed, he said, and he has initiated a High Court action against the State for damages.

In another case, Limerick doctor Richard O'Flaherty – who attended garda stations to treat people under arrest – raised concerns about the treatment of those in custody when giving evidence in court.

His allegations are currently subject to a GSOC investigation.

In a separate case, Stephen Manning became the subject of 700 incidents of harassment and intimidation after unlawful publication of a letter which wrongly accused him of "inappropriate conduct around children while as a referee".

The referee claims gardai were complicit in protecting the perpetrators of the attacks, and that he and his family have been victims of ongoing abuse since 2009.

Mr Manning of Dooagh, Achill, Co Mayo, was awarded damages in the civil court after telling how the upset and distress caused following the letter. forced him to leave the island.

In another case, the family of James Goonan want gardai to treat his death as murder.

The 51-year-old's death was attributed to natural causes but the family, having secured access to the Garda file in 2005, believe the death was not accidental.

Meanwhile, Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte refused to be drawn on whether he agreed with Transport Minister Leo Varadkar's assertion that the Department of Justice was "not fit for purpose".

Speaking on RTE's Morning Ireland programme earlier today, Mr Rabbitte said he would not be drawn as Minister Fitzgerald had only been appointed.

"The report makes very distressing reading," he said.

"I think the difficulty for Department of Justice that if you claim to supervise the Garda Siochana and the Garda Commissioner, then what is revealed in report is very stark.

"It is clear that whatever was advised from the Phoenix Park [Garda HQ] was taken at face value," he said.

Irish Independent

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