Tuesday 21 May 2019

Act of kindness to a vile murderer destroyed Patrick Connolly's career

Malcolm MacArthur's heinous crimes cost the innocent Attorney General his job and reputation

RIP: Former Chief Justice John Murray and current Chief Justice Susan Denham at the funeral Mass of Patrick Connolly Photo: Steve Humphreys
RIP: Former Chief Justice John Murray and current Chief Justice Susan Denham at the funeral Mass of Patrick Connolly Photo: Steve Humphreys
Malcolm MacArthur at his trial in 1983 Photo: Liam Mulcahy
MacArthur after being freed from jail Photo: Mark Condren
Former AG Patrick Connolly
Liam Collins

Liam Collins

An array of attorneys general and leading figures from the legal establishment attended the funeral Mass yesterday of Paddy Connolly SC, who was, historically, best known for his resignation from Charles Haughey's government after double murderer Malcolm MacArthur was apprehended in his apartment.

After his remains were brought into the Church of the Assumption in Dalkey, Co Dublin, at 10am yesterday, a photograph of Mr Connolly on the day he was called to the bar in November, 1949, was placed on his coffin. The other symbols of his life included a programme from the Dublin Mayo All-Ireland Final of 2013, the last GAA match he attended, and a 'fine' copy of Finnegans Wake, presented to him by colleagues in the Law Library.

Among those who attended the funeral were former attorneys general Michael McDowell, John Murray and Dermot Gleeson, along with Susan Denham, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; former President of the High Court Ronan Keane; Judge Michael Moriarty; Paul Callan, the 'father of the bar'; and a number of leading barristers, including Gerry Danaher; Paul O'Higgins; and Maurice Gaffney, who is still practising at the age of 99.

Friday, August 13, 1982 was the day that changed Connolly's life forever.

As attorney-general in Charles Haughey's government, he was driven home that evening to Pilot View, Dalkey, south Dublin, in a state car. When they arrived his driver noticed gardai and detectives near his apartment, No 6 Carnsore Block, and he was told they were looking for Malcolm MacArthur in connection with murders that had shocked Ireland.

It must also have shocked Connolly because he knew that MacArthur had been his house guest for the past nine days, and together they had attended the previous Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park between Kilkenny and Galway, where they had shaken hands with Garda Commissioner Patrick McLaughlin.

MacArthur was arrested and taken to nearby Dun Laoghaire garda station, where he confessed to two murders.

Patrick (Paddy) Connolly SC, was born in Oldtown in north county Dublin in 1927, the son of the local school teacher, and went to school in Garbally College, Ballinasloe, Co Galway, and UCD. He was junior counsel for Charles Haughey during the Arms Trial of 1970 and became senior counsel in 1971.

Around that time he become friendly with Brenda Little and through her got to know her husband Malcolm MacArthur, a Co Meath dandy, and the couple's young son Colin. When he moved from Oldtown to a new apartment in Dalkey, Ms Little had helped to furnish the apartment and a grateful Connolly had allowed her and MacArthur to stay the previous summer when he was on holidays.

He was appointed Attorney General by Charles Haughey on March 9, 1982, becoming a member of the Cabinet. Just six months later, on Friday 13, with two detectives standing in his living room, he phoned Haughey and told The Boss "a close friend" had been arrested for two murders. He then told Haughey that he was departing for a planned holiday in the US.

The following morning, Saturday, an Evening Herald reporter contacted the Department of Justice to ask if MacArthur was arrested in the Attorney General's apartment. Haughey was immediately informed and contacted Connolly in London, asking him to return to Ireland.

He was given the impression that the Attorney General was just about to board his flight, but in fact he didn't leave until the following day. By the time he got to New York airport, the MacArthur story was an international incident and he was shocked to find a barrage of cameras and reporters who believed that he was fleeing from justice at home. He got the return flight back to Ireland.

At midnight on August 16, Connolly resigned as Attorney General. The following day, Tuesday, August 17, Haughey gave his famous press conference where he described the events as "grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented" (GUBU) and assured the assembled media that the gardai had "got the right man".

In a statement after his arrest, MacArthur said he had been living on and off in Tenerife but, desperately short of money, he planned a daring robbery to restore his finances. On July 22, he walked to the Phoenix Park, where he came across a nurse, Bridie Gargan, sunbathing near the American ambassador's residence. He pointed an imitation firearm, which he had in a bag along with a lump hammer, at her and told her to get into her silver Renault car.

He said that when he told her he was going to tie her up she panicked and so did he and he bludgeoned her to death with the lump hammer.

Two days later, he arranged to meet Donal Dunne near Edenderry, Co Offaly, to purchase a gun. Mr Dunne wanted £1,100 but MacArthur had no money. When the farmer realised it and "got angry" trying to grab the gun back, MacArthur, who had fired one barrel to test the rifle, shot him in the head with the other.

He later hitched a lift to Dalkey to stay with "a friend of mine [Connolly] in Pilot View and I have been living there since then".

The trial of MacArthur in January 1983 was extremely short and equally controversial. He pleaded guilty to the murder of Bridie Gargan and charges of murdering Donal Dunne were dropped, to the consternation of the murdered man's family. When the prosecution offered to outline the facts of the case, the trial judge said this was not necessary, as MacArthur would get a mandatory life sentence. It was all over in an estimated seven minutes.

Paddy Connolly returned to the Law Library and practised as a barrister until his retirement.

His nephew, Stephen, the son of his beloved late brother Anthony, told the funeral Mass of his uncle's lifelong love of GAA and the Dublin football team, although he sometimes conceded to a passing admiration for Meath, the home county "of his very good friend Colin."

He never spoke publicly of the events of the summer of 1982.

Although he never married he had a very close relationship with the extended Connolly family and his nieces Geraldine and Aideen read the lessons at his funeral Mass.

He was later buried in Deansgrange cemetery.

Malcolm MacArthur was released from prison in 2012 and now lives near where he was arrested all those years ago.

Sunday Independent

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