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Garda 'traumatised' by 1982 murder may claim compensation

A DETECTIVE who witnessed the shooting dead of a young garda during a gun battle in Tallaght more than 30 years ago may proceed with his claim for compensation over the incident, the High Court has ruled.

Mr Justice John Hedigan found the Minster for Justice erred in law when refusing to allow Michael McMahon, who retired as detective garda in 2003, bring a claim.

He alleges he suffered trauma and psychological injuries as a result of the 1982 gun battle in which 23-year-old Garda Patrick Reynolds was shot dead.


Upholding Mr McMahon's challenge to the Minister's refusal, Mr Justice Hedigan said, while the sole causative element in this case was the finding of the dying Garda Reynolds by Det McMahon, this had to be seen in the context of an "extraordinary gunfight" where unarmed gardai were attacked by armed gunmen.

Mr McMahon, of Leixlip, Co Kildare, sought compensation arising from the murder of Garda Reynolds at Avonbeg Gardens, Tallaght, Co Dublin, on February 20, 1982.

In 2000, the Special Criminal Court acquitted Sean Hughes, of Albert Terrace, Belfast, of the murder of Garda Reynolds.

In his claim, Mr McMahon said that while stationed in Tallaght, he, another detective and three uniformed gardai including Garda Reynolds went to Avonbeg Gardens after a report of suspicious activity.

While he was taking the names of two women and a youth in at a house, two gardai entered the bathroom where a violent struggle ensued.

Mr McMahon said he could see a sub-machine gun on the bathroom floor, tried to force his way in but could not. He was in a very panicked state and decided to run to the patrol car and call for armed assistance.

While at the patrol car, he heard two gunshots and again called over the radio for urgent assistance. He saw Garda Reynolds running towards the roadway at the front of the flat complex, heard two more gunshots and saw Garda Reynolds fall to the ground.

He ran over to Garda Reynolds who was lying face down on the ground, his head tilted and blood coming from his mouth. He knelt and said a prayer for him. He accompanied Garda Reynolds in an ambulance to hospital but he was dead on arrival. Mr McMahon said he was devastated.


As a result of the incident, he began to drink heavily and his life became chaotic, he said.

He was barred from his family home in 1998, contacted the Garda Welfare Service and was put in contact with counsellors. In July 1998, a psychiatrist formed the view his psychological and emotional functioning was profoundly impaired due to unrecognised and untreated symptoms of post-traumatic stress and reactive depression.