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Safety of Kevin Lunney, his family and Border communities is ‘paramount’, says Justice Minister


Justice Minister Helen McEntee at the AGSI conference in Killarney. Photo: Don MacMonagle

Justice Minister Helen McEntee at the AGSI conference in Killarney. Photo: Don MacMonagle

Justice Minister Helen McEntee at the AGSI conference in Killarney. Photo: Don MacMonagle

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said tonight that the safety of businessman Kevin Lunney and his family and communities on the Border was "most paramount".

Ms McEntee was speaking to reporters at the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) annual conference in Killlarney after the convictions of three criminals at the Special Criminal Court today before she spoke to delegates at the conference.

She declined to be drawn on the specifics of the case and the verdicts, which may be appealed, but said the safety of Mr Lunney and his family and communities on the Border was "most paramount".

"Everything will be done to make sure he (Mr Lunney) is protected, his family is protected and that any threats to communities in the future will be dealt with in the most severe way," she said.

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Asked if the case outcome was a vindication of the Special Criminal Court, which has been criticised as it is a jury-less court, Ms McEntee said that court existed for cases where "potential normal routes can't be gone through".

"I fully support the work of the Special Criminal Court and it's something I think we need to see continued," she said.

Later AGSI president, Paul Curran made a scathing attack on the proposed Policing, Security, and Community Safety Bill in his speech to delegates.

“AGSI asserts that the Bill as set out, does not provide the ‘clear vision for policing’ as envisaged by the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland (CoFPI) but instead creates a multi-layered, confusing and complex system of boards and bodies whose functions are similar but all who require independent and individual accountability, to such a degree one would question how the Garda organisation can function when different layers of oversight may have different visions for how it can effectively operate,” he said in his speech.

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“The extended powers proposed to be granted to Gsoc (Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission) are without proper justification and it is our belief that these powers will encroach on the legal, constitutional, and privacy rights of members of AGSI who, as citizens as well as members of An Garda Síochána must be afforded these basic rights.

“The Bill fails to recognise that the CoFPI Report recommended that Gsoc should be superseded by a new independent complaints body where incidents are investigated rather than individuals, to find fault where appropriate, identify what needs to be learned, and make recommendations for change as required.

“Instead, what the Bill has done is propose a broad and vague number of powers that are not in line with constitutional safeguards, in our opinion, and which are designed to operate on the premise of ‘presumption of guilt’ in the first instance by an individual member,” he added.

However Ms McEntee said she supports the provisions in the proposed bill.

"I think policing has changed in the last 100 years and any policing system across the world has had to move and adapt and change and I think it's important we have a system that is up to date and is held accountable. And I think all of the associations would support that,” she told reporters.

"This Bill in particular it's the Community and Safety Bill, it's about keeping people safe and people feeling safe while supporting An Garda Síochána,” she added.

Ms McEntee also expanded more on her plans to consider new laws to make strangulation a stand-alone criminal offence against a backdrop of a number of high-profile crimes against women.

“I think it would provide clarity for a number of people. It would ensure that people who have been victims of non-fatal strangulation, that they know that they can come forward and that they will be listened to,” the justice minister said.

“Often it doesn’t leave a physical mark but the actual mental impact that this has and the potential for it to go further and we have often seen this is a precursor to homicide, that people will feel comfortable in coming forward and they will know the benefits of coming forward far outweigh the benefits of not,” she explained.