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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Photo minute: is indeed a beautiful world

The dysfunctionality of An Garda Síochána

Sallins train robbery, envoy’s murder and Kerry babies case were all shrouded in controversy

Following the murder by the IRA of Christopher Ewart-Biggs in Sandyfford on July 21st, 1976, a helmet was found near the scene of the explosion which killed the ambassador and an accompanying British civil servant, Judith Cooke.
The helmet was brought to the Garda forensic bureau in the Pheonix Park, where a fingerprint specialist in An Garda Siochana examined it. He found no finger-mark on the helmet.
Later, another Garda examined the helmet again. He found a finger mark on the helmet and identified this as the fingerprint of one of the murder suspects.
Subsequently, the original Garda who had examined the helmet viewed the chart and found that the supposed identification was false.
This was confirmed by a colleague, who concluded the mark was in fact made by the original Garda when storing the helmet.
However, the head of the fingerprint section insisted that the identification was correct and said he was prepared to say so in court. This caused deep disquiet among the Garda in the fingerprint section.
There was a subsequent inquiry into the affair headed by the head of the fingerprint unit in Scotland Yard.
He concluded that what was done in the Christopher Ewart-Biggs case “endangered the science of fingerprinting worldwide”.
The head of the fingerprint section was ultimately promoted and the two guards who argued the fingerprint was not the suspect’s were moved out of the fingerprint unit and were effectively demoted.
In 1977 Nicky Kelly, Osgur Breathnach and Brian McNally, members of the then newly formed Irish Socialist Republican Party (IRSP) were accused and convicted of a £200,000 train robbery in Sallins, Co Kildare on March 31st, 1976.
The only evidence against them was confessions they made while in Garda custody and while in that custody there was clear evidence that they had suffered significant injuries.

Nicky Kelly, convicted of 1976 Sallins train robbery, at a press conference in Dublin after being freed from prison on humanitarian grounds in 1984. Photograph: Tom Lawlor
More that 20 gardaí gave evidence in almost identical phraseology that the accused were not assaulted in custody and that the confessions were voluntary.
Eventually Osgur Breathnach and Brian McNally were acquitted on appeal and, much later, Nicky Kelly was released from prison and granted a presidential pardon on April 29th, 1992. Mary Robinson was president at the time.

Illegal organisations
This amounted to an acknowledgement by the State that Nicky Kelly was convicted on unsound evidence.
Not a single Garda who gave evidence in that case was ever disciplined in that connection or ever charged with perjury.
Lawyers, acting for accused persons associated with illegal organisations, stated repeatedly during that time – ie in the 1970s and 1980s – that Garda perjury was a regular feature of such cases and, later, became almost a constant feature of many criminal trials, whether subversive related or not.
At no time was there any inquiry into this or was any Garda disciplined within the force in that connection.

The dysfunctionality of An Garda Síochána has been evident for a long time

In 1985 a low-level IRA informer, John Corcoran of Cork, was murdered in Kerry by the IRA.
Subsequently, a high-level Garda informer, Sean O’Callaghan, stated that he personally had told his Garda handler of the imminent murder of John Corcoran and of the location in Kerry where John Corcoran was being held by the IRA.
Sean O’Callaghan in interviews with the Kerryman and The Sunday Times stated that he personally had fired the shot that killed John Corcoran.
It is true that Sean O’Callaghan was a self-acknowledged liar and that anything he asserted needed to be tested.

But his own admission that he himself had murdered John Corcoran was surely a sufficient basis for charging him with the murder.
Also, his assertion that he had informed gardaí in advance of the imminent atrocity deserved a thorough independent investigation.
He was never charged with the murder or of any act related to the murder, and there was never an independent investigation of the clear allegation that gardaí allowed a citizen of this State to be murdered so that the identification by the IRA of a prized informer would not be exposed or risked being exposed.
In 1984 a baby’s body was found on the beach at Cahirciveen.
It was clear it had been stabbed to death. Subsequently, a young Kerry woman confessed to gardaí that she had given birth to this baby, that she had killed the baby by stabbing, and that she was supported in this enterprise by her mother and sister, who also made statements to gardaí accepting this.
Blood tests showed that she could not have been mother of the stabbed baby.

Kerry babies case: It was never explained who was responsible for Joanne Hayes’s false confession or the statements by her family. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh
A tribunal of inquiry, chaired by a High Court judge, failed to establish how the family of this girl gave gardaí false self-incriminating statements. No action was ever taken against any of the gardaí involved in this.

Widespread falsification
The dysfunctionality of An Garda Síochána has been evident for a long time and probably was worsened by the belief during the course of the IRA campaign that they could do what they liked and swear as true whatever they concocted.
The widespread falsification of breath tests and the failure to issue nearly 150,000 fixed charge notices, leading to the wrongful conviction on driving charges of around 14,000 people is small fry and not at all surprising.

The treatment of whistleblower Maurice McCabe certainly is not small fry and it is incomprehensible that Nóirín O’Sullivan has not been removed from her office if only based on what emerged in respect of Maurice McCabe at the O’Higgins inquiry.
Unfortunately, this weak government and even weaker Minister for Justice do not have the gumption to do what is necessary with our police force – civilianise most of the senior ranks, appoint a capable and robust civilian as Garda Commissioner and give stronger powers to the Police Authority, the Garda Inspector and ombudsman. Instead we will get yet another pointless review.

Vincent Browne

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Armies cannot stop an idea who’s time has come

                                  The ever defensive Police Commissioner (right) Noirin O'Sullivan

The Garda or police force in Ireland is steadily going the way of the Catholic church and in almost exactly the same fashion. The similarities are striking: both started off the same way on the dawning of the free state. The Catholic church filled the vacuum left by the departing Church Of England, and the Garda stepped in where the Royal Irish Constabulary stepped out.  Both jackbooted about the place in uniforms of black and blue as unquestioned reverence and respect stroked their egos. If you were accused by either of a religious or civil crime there was a price to be paid by social boycotting and the necktie of shame by the former, and the threat of prison by the latter, whether you were guilty or innocent. Ah, those were the good old days for some. Like all organisations, when you fall asleep at the wheel when your hand is in the cookie jar, the grey fog of hopeless optimism by the endearing public slowly starts to fade before it quickens apace. 

The Catholic church is no more in Ireland in principle even with the falling numbers going to church. That is simply just the weekly evidence of that demise along with the monthly news of more cover-ups of abuse accompanied with the usual testy and false promises for reform of the root and branch of its rotten wood.  It is the same with the Police/Garda. 

Bishop Casey and Fr Michael Cleary was for the Irish Catholic church their Waterloo. It huffed and puffed, creaked and groaned under the weight of them when a lot worse was yet to come. Gerry Adams said several years ago that Ireland had lost it’s sense of outrage. That statement was in essence in every sense of the word absolutely true. It took the world from Russia to Nigeria to be outraged about the burial of almost 800 babies in a mass grave by Catholic nuns in Galway before Ireland was. Ireland went along eventually under the guise of a more chastened country. For the Garda, their Waterloo was Maurice McCabe.

                                                  Hero for all time, Garda Maurice McCabe

“Armies cannot stop an idea who’s time has come.” (Victor Hugo). In order for an idea to form solidly against the optics of the existing ideas in its various forms and beliefs or historical time scales, they have to be shattered first. A bad force cannot win over a good force that keeps on coming and refuses to give in. Maurice McCabe, the Garda whistleblower, put everything on the line and never gave in. The weakness in the Police force is that at the end of the day they were paid mercenaries while Maurice McCabe was driven by principle and conviction. He exposed the corruption of the force to its core. There rarely is a more dangerous adversary than that. If this idea has not come already it sure is about to and it is all transparency, accountability and nothing else.

Because Maurice looked kindly and unassuming gave courage to the former Garda commissioner, Martin O’ Callinan, (he of the Pinocchio nose that just kept on growing) and the next pit bull commissioner, Noirin O’ Sullivan (who looks like a female commandant of a World War 2 Gulag) to crush him. The rest is history and where we are today: secrets and lies, and new tribunals investigating the last tribunals and so on, watered out by a government of weak and fickle coalitions. One thing is clear after the fog: this police force has lost all its credibility and any legal legitimacy in spirit.   

                              The last Police Commissioner, Martin (Pinocchio) Callinan

Can the citizen take this anymore? Only as long until he cannot is the short answer. His wallet certainly cannot as tribunals or other committee’s, which are little more than farcical and facial smokescreens, cost him money and a lot of it. Civil servants are now paid over 40% more than those in the private sector. This great imbalance is as dangerous as Ireland’s figures on GDP.  The reality is we are the second most indebted country in the world! Some corruption was overlooked during the Celtic Tiger era as it was thought it would just spoil the party. That was until the party was discovered to be one giant Ponzi scheme. The infamous man who’s name was lent to that scheme looks like a choirboy when you compare him to the God and Police squads of this nation. An idea based on an ideology wrapped around trust is now marked against these two squads and is gone forever. Can we take it anymore indeed.

Barry Clifford