Thursday, 13 April 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
1. Mr. Higgins (Mayo) asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason there has been no follow-up action or arrest following a newspaper article (details supplied) which alleges that a then serving but now retired member of the Garda Síochána passed Garda intelligence to the IRA which led to the deaths of four members of the RUC, a Lord Justice and his wife, four members of a family and a County Louth farmer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11047/00]
5. Mr. Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will order an appropriate investigation into allegations of Garda collusion with proscribed republican terrorist groups along the Border area in the 1980s and 1990s which may have been responsible for multiple atrocities causing death. [11343/00]
I am aware of the allegations raised in the newspaper article referred to by Deputy Higgins. Indeed, similar allegations have been made in the past and given coverage in the media. The murders referred to in the article were of course the subject of intensive investigations, both by the RUC in relation to those incidents which occurred in Northern Ireland and by the Garda Síochána in relation to incidents which occurred in this jurisdiction.
The two forces co-operated fully with each other in these investigations. I am advised by the Garda authorities that during the course of the investigations in question, and indeed other investigations into terrorist incidents in the Border area throughout the 1980s and 1990s, no tangible evidence was uncovered to show that information was passed by a Garda informant to the Provisional IRA.
There is no doubt, however, that the allegations raise issues of the utmost seriousness and that their recent repetition in the media has caused understandable concern. Even though there is no evidence to substantiate the allegations, every effort must be made to assure and reassure the public that they have been thoroughly investigated. The Garda Commissioner has appointed a senior officer to re-examine the files and to investigate the allegations raised.
Mr. Higgins: (Mayo): I thank the Minister for his reply and welcome the fact that a senior Garda officer has been appointed to investigate the allegations. I am at a loss to know why the allegations have remained uninvestigated and unexplored for so long. Does the Minister accept that rank and file gardaí could name the two people involved, one a uniformed member of the Garda and the other a plain clothes member? Even the dogs in the street know the names of the people involved. Were the individuals – we know who we are talking about – arrested, questioned or interrogated in relation to their alleged involvement in these cases?
Mr. O'Donoghue: Deputy Higgins will be well aware that operational matters are a matter for the Garda Commissioner. I have already explained that investigations were carried out in  relation to the allegations. I again stress that what dogs or anyone else in the street know is a matter of little relevance unless one can bring forward hard evidence to a court of law or, alternatively, to anybody else who is in a position of authority and can implement some sanction or discipline. There is an old saying that everybody's business is nobody's business, and what everybody knows does not apply in the context of evidence against an individual where his or her job or liberty is concerned or where he or she may be placed at a disadvantage. Deputy Higgins is aware that one requires hard evidence.
This matter, which stretches back many years, was investigated at the time. I cannot go into the minute detail of what precisely occurred at that time other than to say that I am advised on the best authority that the allegations were investigated and as a consequence no charges were preferred.
Mr. Flanagan: I put it to the Minister that the investigations, if any, which have taken place to date were minimalist in nature and that that is not good enough having regard to the most serious allegations which have been made. Is the Minister aware that the allegations were published by a journalist of considerable reputation; that they concern the direct involvement by a member or members of the Garda Síochána in what amounts to 12 deaths in Northern Ireland between 1987 and 1995, including six members of the RUC, two of whom were officers of very senior rank; that this matter was raised before; and that the investigations to date have been wholly inadequate? If the Minister was satisfied with the investigations why is a new investigation being initiated? Has the Minister met the Garda Commissioner on this matter and, if not, is he prepared to do so as a matter or urgency?
Mr. O'Donoghue: These matters were investigated and no tangible evidence was forthcoming to support the allegations. The RUC co-operated with the Garda Síochána in terms of the investigations. If there is further evidence to which the Deputies can point, that will very definitely be examined. The reality as of now is that the Garda Commissioner has asked a senior officer to again look at the files for the reason that the matter has been raised again in the media and the House. I have pointed out that it is of considerable importance that the public is assured and reassured in relation to this matter. These are the simple facts of the case. It is not possible and would be wholly wrong and downright unjust for a person to try to manufacture evidence on the basis of rumour. That cannot be done. Hard evidence has to be collected and collated and no tangible evidence has come forward to date. However, in deference to what the Deputies have said and to reports in the media, a senior officer has been appointed by the Garda Commissioner to again look at the files. I cannot, nor can any predecessor of mine, say anything beyond that.
Mr. Higgins: (Mayo): Is it not a fact that we are talking about a series of instances? We are talking about four young members of the RUC, including a 21 year old woman police officer, Lord Chief Justice Gibson and his wife, Cecily, who were blown up, the entire Hanna family – Robert, aged 45, Maureen, aged 44, and David, aged seven – who were blown up on the side of the road, RUC Chief Superintendent, Barry Breen, and Superintendent Bob Buchanan who were assassinated and Tom Oliver, a farmer from County Louth who was abducted, tortured and murdered. This is a series of separate incidences. Is the Minister telling the House that there was absolutely no evidence to associate the two individuals, members of the Garda Síochána, with these incidences?
Will the Minister acknowledge that following the murder of Tom Oliver the RUC discovered the identity of the mole and made it known to members of the Garda Síochána at senior level and that instead of being dealt with, the individual in question was posted to a relatively quiet station and now lives out his life in happy retirement? Is the Minister saying that this person, who has been involved in the assassination of innocent people north and south of the Border, should not be the subject of a detailed inquiry and that it was not possible to establish a direct link between him and the incidences I have mentioned?
The Minister might throw cold water on the common expression “the dogs in the street knew”, but everybody, including people in the Garda Síochána, knew the identity of this individual, but for some reason he was shielded and protected and now lives a life of relative calm on a State pension.
Mr. O'Donoghue: The Deputy will be aware that in the past I have referred to Paul Simon's song about misinformation following me like a plague. It is quite clear that either Deputy Higgins is not listening or he is trying to be mischievous. I said no tangible evidence was uncovered to show that information was passed by a Garda informant to the PIRA, I did not say “no evidence was uncovered”. That has been the position under my predecessors and it remains so. If we follow through on the logic of what the Deputy is saying, it appears he is suggesting that evidence may be available to the Garda which it is not utilising in order to charge or convict a Garda informant.
Mr. O'Donoghue: That is a serious allegation to make. If the Deputy is stating that there was collusion within the Garda in order to subvert evidence in regard to this matter, he should make that clear.
Mr. Flanagan: Where does the Minister stand on this issue? Is he telling the House that he accepts that what has been put to him is mere rumour without foundation? I refer him to my earlier question, which he side-stepped and did not reply to, regarding his relationship with the Garda Commissioner on this issue. Has he discussed the matter with the Garda Commissioner since the revelations were published in a daily newspaper four weeks ago and, if not, why not? Does he propose, as guardian of the public interest, to order an official inquiry at the highest level into these allegations of the utmost seriousness?
Mr. O'Donoghue: The reality is that I must give the facts as they are presented to me, which I outlined in response to Deputy Higgins's question, and I have no more to add in that respect. What I believe or do not believe is of little relevance in terms of whether there is a sufficiency of evidence to charge any individual in regard to this matter. I am outlining to the House what I was told by the Garda authorities and I must accept what they tell me. I have stated categorically that it is a matter of the utmost seriousness and nobody is suggesting for one moment that it is not. That is why, with a view to reassuring the public, the Garda Commissioner has appointed a senior officer to examine the files again. However, that is entirely different from saying there is a sufficiency of evidence to charge a person.
Deputy Higgins seems to suggest that he has evidence which will be sufficient to charge an individual and that he can name names. My strong advice is that he should take that matter up with the Garda authorities, make a statement and allow it to be investigated. That is the responsible action to take, not become involved in megaphone diplomacy across the floor of the House in relation to the matter.
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