Wednesday, 28 September 2005
Seanad Eireann Debate
Mr. Dardis: I propose a slight amendment to the Order of Business, as agreed, namely, that the motion agreed by all the group leaders, as printed on supplementary Order Paper 52a, be the motion debated.
—and calls on everyone, but particularly on Sinn Féin, who has any awareness of or contact with persons who might be in a position to assist the Garda investigation to use their influence to that effect.
It is a matter of considerable progress that this motion has been agreed in the names of the Fianna Fáil, the Progressive Democrats, Fine Gael, the Labour Party and the Independent Senators. It is crucial that the message to emerge from the House during this two hour debate is that all Senators and political parties represented in the House are at one with the Rafferty family in its quest for justice for its murdered brother. It is significant that Senators have agreed to table a joint motion in the names of all party leaders.
Over the past three weeks members of the Rafferty family have met the Taoiseach, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the leader of the Fine Gael Party, Deputy Kenny, the leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Rabbitte, and other politicians to highlight their campaign to ensure they get justice for their murdered brother. I welcome members of the family, who are seated in the public gallery, to the House. They have shown remarkable courage in the face of intimidation and abuse from the republican movement since the murder of their brother in April this year and deserve our respect and support. I also welcome the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and thank him and his officials for facilitating agreement on the motion.
The campaign of the Rafferty family has one objective and one mission statement. It seeks to secure justice for its brother, an innocent man who was murdered in April this year. I pay tribute to its campaigning zeal and forbearance. I also congratulate Councillor Gary Keegan of the Fianna Fáil Party on his diligence in constantly raising this issue which recently acquired prominence on Dublin City Council, a proper forum in which to raise it. I acknowledge Councillor
Keegan’s contribution and the manner in which he has represented his community and supported the Rafferty family.
Joseph Rafferty had no involvement in crime. Just after his murder the republican movement in the south inner city put out a dirty slur that he was a drug dealer. He never had any involvement in crime or drugs and was an honest, hard-working 29 year old man who had set up his own business in recent years, owned his own property and was a good father to his four year old daughter whom he provided with a home. He was murdered in cold blood on 12 April as he left his home. The only crime he committed was to get in the way of Sinn Féin-IRA which did not like the fact that a personal altercation took place. I am not suggesting that the army council took a corporate decision to murder Mr. Rafferty but the fact remains that one individual took it upon himself to murder him simply because he got in the way of the kind of intimidation that these people mete out on a daily and monthly basis.
Initially, Sinn Féin stated it had no involvement in the crime and that remains the position of Mr. Adams and the leadership of his party. There is, however, a history in this regard. In recent years, the party has consistently denied involvement when the IRA or an out of control IRA activist murdered an individual. Its first response to the killing of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe was to deny involvement until it became clear that those prosecuted for the crime were activists who belonged to the republican movement. Sinn Féin also denied any involvement in a recent case before the Special Criminal Court which involved individuals who took part in surveillance of elected Members of the Oireachtas. They were found guilty in a court of law on charges connected with membership of a proscribed organisation and surveillance of elected officials. I understand the latest demand from Mr. Adams and Deputy Ó Caoláin is that the individuals in question should be released from prison, even though they were convicted in the Special Criminal Court of serious offences in the recent past.
Sinn Féin also denied involvement in the murder of Mr. Robert McCartney in Belfast, which the party described as a bar room brawl until it became abundantly clear that Sinn Féin-IRA activists were responsible. In all of these cases, Sinn Féin has lied, as it has lied in the case of Mr. Rafferty, to save its bacon and used the cloak of ordinary politics as a means of explaining that it had no involvement. It did not wash in the past and does not wash now. They have a direct responsibility to ensure those responsible for this horrendous crime against Joseph Rafferty in April are brought to justice.
The family of Joseph Rafferty went to the local Sinn Féin councillor on three occasions outlining to him the intimidation and threats being made against his life and asked that representative to do everything in his power to ensure he would not be a victim of violence. This has become the subject of much controversy between the local Sinn Féin councillor and the family in recent months. Last night on television news the councillor in question said he did not speak to anyone at all when the matter was first raised with him in spite of his claiming that he could assure the family there was no republican involvement in the case. If he did not speak to any third party, how could he assume there was no republican involvement?
It is important to state that the Rafferty family was badly let down by this councillor, who looked the other way when they came looking for help concerning the intimidation of their brother. The same councillor continues to leaflet the community on this case despite the family asking him not to do so. It is late in the day for that councillor and Sinn Féin to cry over this case when for five months he and the party sat back and did nothing. When the specific intimidation claims were brought to Sinn Féin’s attention, it did nothing.
It is inherent on all of us to expose republican gangsterism wherever it raises its ugly head. It is the responsibility of this House, the other House and the democratic parties that have served this State to say that we will not put up with this in the new post-Agreement Ireland. A small group of gangsters, and that is exactly what they are, feel that they have a right in some working class communities to act as judge and jury and as policemen; they are none of those and we must expose that fact. We must put pressure on the republican community to ensure prosecutions come from this case and also ensure that its involvement, whereby a known Sinn Féin-IRA activist was involved in the deliberate assassination of Joseph Rafferty, is recognised. If Mr. Adams, Mr. McGuinness and the Sinn Féin leadership would recognise that it would go a long way towards heeling the appalling pain that has been visited upon the Rafferty family since the murder in April.
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. M. McDowell): I am pleased that all of us in this House can find common cause on this important issue and like Senator Brian Hayes, I pay tribute to the members of Joseph Rafferty’s family, who are here today, and to councillor Gary Keegan who has done so much to help them in my constituency.
I welcome this opportunity to discuss the facts surrounding this horrendous murder. Joseph
Rafferty, a young 29-year-old man, was brutally shot dead outside his home on the morning of 12 April last as he left for work. The Garda Síochána immediately launched a major murder investigation, with an incident room established in Lucan Garda station. This was a cold-blooded murder and, as I shall chronicle, it was a death foretold.
Senators will appreciate that I am, of necessity, somewhat circumscribed in what I can say about the progress of the Garda investigation and where — and to whom — it may lead. What I can say, however, is that the Garda authorities believe that suspicion for this crime points strongly to a disagreement between the deceased’s family and another family, among the latter of whom are persons well known to be Sinn Féin activists.
The facts speak for themselves. As the lawyers would say, res ipsa loquitur. There is no doubt nor argument, for example, that in the weeks immediately before the brutal murder of Joseph Rafferty and as a consequence of the disagreement that existed between the families, explicit violent threats were made against members of the extended Rafferty family in which the name of the Provisional IRA was clearly invoked.
These threats had the chilling effect of putting that family in such fear and trepidation for its safety that members approached a local Sinn Féin city councillor in an attempt to get the threats lifted. That Sinn Féin local representative gave the family certain assurances, the burdens of which are now disputed between him and the family. The family are clear, however, and I accept their view, that he offered to help to get the threats by his associates lifted. He has an entirely different version of their dialogue. Sadly, as we know, despite this dialogue and the family’s desperate efforts to save him, Joseph Rafferty was murdered.
It is also a fact that following the brutal murder members of the family once again approached Sinn Féin local representatives, this time to seek their help in bringing the perpetrators to justice. It is a further fact that members of the family were subjected to intimidation following the murder as they sought to illuminate the truth of what had happened and in their quest for justice for Joseph. It is also the case that the Sinn Féin councillor approached by the family publicly stated that he would co-operate with the Garda investigation. That co-operation, at least to date, has extended to providing no more than an uninformative, perfunctory written statement which has done nothing to progress the murder investigation by the gardaí.
While, as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, I have received important information on the murder from the Garda, I am not in a position to say too much about the Garda investigation. I do not want to say or do anything that might in any way prejudice the outcome and the objective of bringing the killer to justice. I can say, however, that a chief suspect in this case remains someone who would be regarded as a member of the IRA.
Whether or not IRA or Sinn Féin members were involved in the murder of Joseph Rafferty will ultimately be a matter for the Garda Síochána and the courts. One thing, however, is not in doubt. The family of the late Joseph Rafferty, like the families of countless victims of the IRA in the North, passionately believed that Sinn Féin public representatives had the ability to exert influence on the hard men in local communities the hard men associated with the IRA and who have a reputation for dealing with so-called problems, usually at the end of a baseball bat. It is one of the enduring legacies of the so-called armed campaign of the IRA that it has placed whole communities in the North of Ireland in the thrall of these men, who swagger around their communities as if they are untouchable. I want to send a message to any member of the IRA in this jurisdiction who thinks he can emulate his Northern counterparts, to think again. There is only one police force and one system of justice in this Republic, and its members do not wear balaclavas as a badge of office.
It is important for me to acknowledge, however, that it is at this point at least the professional assessment of the Garda authorities that the killing of Joseph Rafferty was not, as Senator Brian Hayes concedes, an operation sanctioned by the Provisional IRA and that it was carried out without the tacit approval of the Provisional IRA. Senators know my track record on the Provisionals and know equally well that I count myself among the front ranks of their resolute opponents. I do not, therefore, say lightly what I have just said. I am as equally committed to upholding the truth as I am to defeating the criminal legacy of the paramilitaries, and the assessment — at least in as much as one can be made at this stage — is that the killing of this young man was not a sanctioned act of the Provisional IRA.
This Garda view has nothing to do with the recent, very positive events regarding decommissioning. I will say more on this important and happy subject later, but without a doubt, the report of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning was extremely positive, and it potentially heralds a new dawn in the political landscape of the island. However, we should not and will not allow this development to overshadow the wrongs that remain, for they are many and serious.
There are very disturbing parallels between the killing of Joseph Rafferty and the killing of Robert McCartney in Belfast last January. That horrific act also was not a prior sanctioned murder by the IRA, but we all know the lengths to which members of that organisation went to cover up the awful deed and the attempts still going on to intimidate the family into silence. In the McCartney case, there is no doubt people, as well as those immediately responsible for the killing and the subsequent cover-up, have information that could prove extremely useful to the PSNI in bringing the perpetrators to justice. However, those same people either choose not to divulge the information in their possession or are afraid to make statements.
As Senator Brian Hayes stated, the reaction of the Provisional IRA to that murder should be remembered. It went from outright denial of any involvement to a private offer to the family to shoot those considered responsible who ranked among its number. It then put it on public record via a P. O’Neill press release. It is to the enduring credit of the McCartney sisters and Robert’s grieving partner that they spurned out of hand that depraved and obscene offer from the IRA. The insistence by the McCartney family that justice can only be served through the machinery of the criminal justice system, including full co-operation with the PSNI, demonstrates the absolute necessity to uphold the rule of law in tackling vicious crime.
In the case of the murder of Joseph Rafferty, I am certain there are people in the Sinn Féin-Provisional IRA movement who possess information invaluable to the Garda investigation. However, they continue to remain silent, refuse to make signed statements or simply look the other way. If they do so out of a sense of loyalty, whether political or personal, then it is a perverted sense of loyalty that speaks volumes for the values of the organisation, political or military, which they support. There are others who are simply too frightened to cross the thugs who invoke the name of the IRA. No good can come from aiding and abetting the heinous crime of murder. To do so only further victimises the Rafferty family.
Like the family of Robert McCartney, the family of Joseph Rafferty deserve our praise and recognition for the courageous manner in which they have sought to honour the memory of this young man in the best means possible by seeking to secure justice for him in death, when it was not available before. To this end, they have launched a campaign for justice involving, among other fora, the national daily newspapers. In doing so, they have been instrumental in maintaining public focus on this case which could have easily slipped into obscurity.
This is despite the family being subject to blatant intimidation. Senators are doubly right, therefore, to condemn the intimidation directed at the family. I had the honour of meeting privately with some members of the Rafferty family in June last at their request. During this meeting a portrait of intimidation was painted which I found very frightening. To think this is happening in Dublin city and those involved believe they can do so with impunity is frightening. To counter these threats, the Garda authorities increased the level of foot and mobile patrols in the immediate vicinity. Moreover, two persons linked to the murder investigation are before the courts for offences that include elements of intimidation. The
Rafferty family has received assistance from a support organisation dedicated specifically to the needs of the families of murder victims.
The Government is doing all in its power to promote the full and frank disclosure of any information, held by whomever, that could be of assistance to the Garda investigation. Last week at our meeting with the leadership of Sinn Féin, first the Taoiseach, and then I, specifically raised the murder of Joseph Rafferty. Does this very act not point to how far Sinn Féin has yet to progress before it can be regarded as a political party on a par with other parties represented in this Parliament? It should not be the stuff of ordinary politics that the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform feel it is necessary to make clear to the Sinn Féin leadership that it is beyond doubt that the victim’s family believed with good cause they were in fear of attack from persons associated with the Provisional IRA and Sinn Féin but unfortunately it is. We stressed how family members went to Sinn Féin seeking assurances that intimidation and threats would be lifted and how, according to family members, they were given those assurances by a Sinn Féin local representative.
Notwithstanding this, the harsh and terrible reality is that Joseph Rafferty was murdered. I also made it clear to the Sinn Féin delegation that the family reported continuing threats and intimidation by people linked to the so-called republican movement. I went on to insist that Sinn Féin must use whatever influence it has in the community to ensure those associated with that organisation immediately end any form of intimidation of the Rafferty family and co-operate fully with the Garda investigation.
It must be borne in mind that the Rafferty family have informed me, and have made it known publicly, that prior to this they would have voted for Sinn Féin. The McCartney family were also in the same position. I am not making political hay but we have a long way to go if people must ask individual councillors to call off the hounds of war, even after disarmament. Yesterday the Taoiseach separately met with the
Raffertys to support their ongoing campaign for justice. He has expressed his commitment to the case and undertook to provide whatever support he can to the family, in the expectation the perpetrators will be brought to justice.
A state of affairs in which any family would go to any public representative to ask persons whom they believe are associated with or influenced by that public representative, not to murder their loved one, is an appalling one. I did not create that situation nor did the Rafferty family. They are not pursuing some political agenda as it is clear that until recently they would have given their vote to the people who have let them down so badly.
What kind of society do we want? Are we prepared to live under the yoke of bullying, violence and intimidation as part of the ordinary life? Why should there be corners of north and south Dublin inner city where some people are condemned to live under the shadow of thuggery, violence and killing? There is no good reason for this. The people who can do most to bring about an end to this psychology and domination of local communities are the people who are closest politically to those who carry out these terrible acts. If one is a republican, as I claim to be, one cannot talk about societies in which one citizen walks down the street afraid of other citizens or in which one politician has associates who can or cannot be dissuaded from murdering or beating up other citizens’ loved ones. This is anti-republican and a betrayal of the tricolour. It stands for everything republicanism is not. These people have nothing to with what Pearse did in 1916, Davis did in 1848 or Tone did in 1798. They are abusing and betraying the term “republic” to perpetrate a form of brown-shirted tyranny on communities with a view to dominating them.
I salute the Rafferty family for standing up to them. I pledge them every support I can possibly give them, consistent with the independent investigation and prosecution of offences by the organs of law appointed under our Constitution.
Mr. Ryan: He is not afraid that some thug operating on my behalf will attack him and, similarly, I am not afraid some thug operating on his behalf will attack me. We always recognised the rules and continue to do so. If I win, I win and if I lose, I accept the outcome. Not only is there only one police force in the State, there is only one Óglaigh na hÉireann.
Mr. Ryan: However, members of a certain political party still use the phrase. Even as they say there is only one army, they then talk of Óglaigh na hÉireann as belonging to them. It does not belong to them. Neither does it belong to the Government. Óglaigh na hÉireann belongs to the people through the Constitution. Only through the Constitution and constitutionally elected Governments, that can also be constitutionally deposed, can one have an army that is truly accountable.
Anything else is a licence for what the Minister is talking about. Let us not heed people who say we are in transition. There is an old phrase that those who would sup with the devil should use a long spoon. People who found these psychopathic thugs useful in their political endeavours cannot say they are no longer connected with them. They are connected with them as long as they tolerate their continuing psychopathic thuggery by their silence.
Let us not pretend that the murder of Joseph Rafferty is the only thing that was done. The current Member of Dáil Éireann for Kerry North was once able to persuade people by the eloquence of his words to hand back stolen goods, apparently by simply appealing to their better nature. Suddenly incorrigible thieves discovered a new side to themselves, handed back the stolen goods and we are supposed to believe it was because of eloquence and persuasion. A member of the same political party not far from Cork reported a drugs incident to the Garda Síochána and the dealer assaulted one of his children. Then the drug dealer was approached by a man in a balaclava and warned as to the consequences of beating up a 16 year old again. These people think that is a great thing to do and swagger around saying as much. Every time they do that they are not just attacking individuals or families but that which keeps us safe. In a political dialogue where I disagree with much of what the Government does, as I will continue to do with varying degrees of coherence, it is a fundamental principle that none of us feels any other member is or implies a physical threat or would even contemplate so doing, whether in the political arena or outside.
Their ambivalence is crystallised in the unbelievable denial of the Sinn Féin leader that he was ever a member of the IRA. How can we have a political party led by somebody who says something that is so much at variance with the conviction of everybody in politics, and everyone I know outside politics who lives in Northern Ireland, who says he was not only a member but an extremely influential member? We can leave that to history but I cannot leave the denial of an unchallengeable fact in the eyes of everybody I know apart from this one individual. That is the fundamental problem. None of us is an angel but one political party claims to itself a right to manipulate the truth in a way the rest of us would not even attempt. We are all in the emotionally and physically demanding business of confrontational democratic politics but none of us claims the right to rewrite history. I am entirely tired of a political party which tells the Minister, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and particularly the Labour Party what they did wrong for the past 20 years but, when asked about its own activities in that period, says we must now look forward. Its members look back at everybody else’s behaviour but their own. They have given up arms they never should have had or used. As Senator Brian Hayes said these were arms for the use of which there was never a scintilla of moral justification.
I reiterate what Senator Dardis said that the decision of RTE’s Northern correspondent to use the name of Gerry Adams and Mahatma Gandhi in the same sentence was one of the most outrageously disgusting things I have ever heard.
Mr. Ryan: Gandhi was a man who brought an empire to its knees on the sacred principle that he would not take up arms against anybody. My two greatest heroes are Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Both achieved enormous change in their societies but said it was not morally justifiable to kill one person to achieve that change. The idea that a man who tells lies about his past and who leads a party that was directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of people could even be mentioned in the same sentence as Gandhi, let alone afforded the political adulation that was tagged on at the end of the piece, is among the most appalling editorial decisions I have seen from RTE for a long time. It deserves to be dealt with with the utmost firmness by anyone in RTE who believes it needs to be balanced in reporting the news.
I live about 160 miles from Dublin so I cannot add anything to the discussion on the murder of Joseph Rafferty except that it is wonderful to see people taking their courage in their hands in the face of disgusting intimidation and saying they will no longer be silenced. I met the McCartney sisters and they are wonderfully impressive people. I have never met Joseph Rafferty’s family but they are brave people. The only thing the Oireachtas and the Government can do is promise unqualified solidarity and support.
Mr. Ryan: It can only be done by the other 161 Deputies and 60 Members of the Seanad telling the five Deputies in question they are not above everybody else. They have been allowed into a privileged club with rules that demand respect. They must behave by the rules and not fudge or be ambiguous. The position is clear and unequivocal. They must co-operate with the forces of law and order and recognise that there is only and can only be one Óglaigh na hÉireann in this country.
Mr. J. Walsh: I join with other speakers in sympathising with the members of the Rafferty family. This is obviously a personal tragedy for them and is particularly traumatic for Joseph’s child, who will never know his father. It puts into perspective the heinousness of such crimes. I commend other Senators on the courage with which they have taken a stand in exposing those who were involved in this terrible crime so that they can be brought to justice. The intimidation suffered by the family subsequent to the murder, which compounds the felony, bears all the hallmarks of the murder of Robert McCartney earlier this year. In that regard I compliment Councillor Gary Keegan and his colleagues on Dublin City Council, who are here today, in condemning both the atrocity itself and the intimidation. Someone once said that for evil to prosper all it takes is for good men to remain silent. In this instance Mr. Keegan and his colleagues on Dublin City Council have performed a good service and confounded that adage.
It is interesting that we are debating this issue because this week we have seen the decommissioning of IRA arms. This is hopefully a sea change in the transformation of the attitude between communities and the climate in which people live their lives on this island, particularly north of the Border. It is not sufficient just to decommission arms, and Sinn Féin itself has described it as a step in a process. What is more essential, but probably more difficult, is the need to decommission mindsets. As a person who would describe himself as a republican from a very early age, I am offended by the murder being discussed this evening and that of others such as Robert McCartney. These events offend any basic principle of republicanism.
The IRA undoubtedly comprises in part idealists who felt they were fighting a just cause against the British Government. However, as others have stated here, it also contains an element of thuggery which feels it is above the law and that its type of justice will be administered. This is unacceptable in any civilised society, let alone a democratic society. This message must go out clearly.
I participated in a debate on the murder of Robert McCartney, among other issues on Northern Ireland, on local radio over the summer with some representatives of Sinn Féin. I stated at that time that if Sinn Féin was serious about restoring public confidence in the peace process, co-operation with the PSNI in identifying those responsible for the murder of Robert McCartney and ensuring they were brought to justice would be one of the best ways to bring such public confidence about. Republicans must be seen to be acting in a way that will restore confidence even to cynics. If the people on this island are to move forward together, it must be done in a spirit of trust, which must now be earned. Prices have been exacted in the past and trust will not and should not come for free.
Another opportunity for trust arises in possible co-operation with the Garda to ensure that those responsible for the murder of Joseph Rafferty are also brought to justice. If this co-operation comes about, a scene will be set for Sinn Féin that will entitle it to political support and full participation in the democratic process. I hope this happens in the future. It is essential for several reasons. Much of what has been seen in Northern Ireland over the summer does not inspire confidence. The level of loyalist activity, including murders, is often not discussed or criticised either side of the Border, and the evident sectarianism would blight any society. My party recently hosted a delegation headed by the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. The deputation met other parties in this House. I put the point to the delegation that there was a dearth of leadership within Unionism that could attempt to lead the movement from the abyss of sectarianism, which certainly blights Northern Ireland.
All sides must be seen to be moving towards a more civilized and democratic approach to governance within the island. Seeing what is going on now and what has gone on over the past 30 years, the number of Catholic families forced to leave their houses is an indictment of 80 years, or even centuries, of British rule in that part of the island. I would like to see this rule ended, but to achieve this, a republican element cannot operate outside the law, bringing hardship and trauma to families such as the Rafferty family. Many more would empathise with the pain suffered by that family. Such criminal actions should be brought to an end and I hope this will occur in the near future.
There is also an obligation on legislators, and I am glad that the motion has been changed to a composite motion. We have an obligation to the Rafferty family and all other families who are victims of crime. The obligation is to ensure that legislation is crafted in a way that avoids maladministration of justice and situations where people who are guilty of heinous and serious crimes are able to walk the streets with impunity because of a lacuna in the law.
I am glad the Minister has placed on record that this murder was not an organisational decision by Sinn Féin but rather by elements within it, as this gives the party an opportunity to use its influence to see that the elements operating outside the law are brought to justice. It is only when this happens that the party can command the respect any political party in a civilised society should.
Mr. Cummins: Many of my words will echo the remarks of previous speakers and the Minister. It is absolutely fitting that the motion before us is an all-party motion which every party in the House fully supports. The decommissioning of IRA weapons must be welcomed by all right-thinking people. It was long overdue and hopefully the IRA and Sinn Féin will abandon, along with the weapons and explosives, the other criminal activities which have wreaked much misery and hardship on families, individuals and communities north and south of the Border.
We must be absolutely sure that paramilitary groups know that there is so much more to normalizing conditions in the North and elsewhere than declaring a ceasefire and abandoning weapons. Unfortunately, many IRA members have lost sight of their political goal and became more concerned with the type of illegal activity that has seen banks robbed, shops vandalised, families from all communities threatened and intimidated, punishment beatings, abductions and, most tragically, murders and executions.
Many of the families of these victims of murder were further tortured by never seeing their loved ones again, as men in balaclavas shattered the peace in their homes. They stole husbands from their wives, mothers from their children and brothers from their sisters. The disappeared were a harsh reminder of the cruel, callous and wholly ruthless attitude of the IRA towards its victims. Despite the fact that republican political leaders refused to condemn such activities and denied any responsibility, they claimed that the IRA had ended its campaign of violence. It is time that the republican leaders realised that this kind of activity is unacceptable and will not be tolerated by ordinary Irish people.
A very public example of this was when the IRA walked into a public house in Belfast in January and stabbed a 33 year old father, Robert McCartney. For months, the IRA and Sinn Féin leadership denied any involvement of their members in the killing, hollowly calling for anyone with information to come forward and aid the investigation although they stopped short of telling people to go to the PSNI. It was only through the dogged determination of Robert McCartney’s sisters, who were not afraid to expose the murderers for what they were and who never desisted in their search for their brother’s murderers, that Sinn Féin finally, in a somewhat empty gesture, expelled some members from the organisation in April.
Despite the insistent claims of the Sinn Féin leadership that none of its members would be involved in such activity, it was finally revealed that a criminal element within republicanism was not just alive and well but was active and prowling the streets of our towns and cities, distributing its own brand of vigilante punishments to those it felt deserved it. Ultimately, these people were shown up for what they were — nothing more than thugs and bullies who think they have the right to behave in that fashion.
At the same time that Sinn Féin was expelling members for their involvement in Robert McCartney’s murder, 28 year old Joseph Rafferty was vindictively shot dead by a gunman as he left his family home on 12 April. As with Robert McCartney, when Joseph Rafferty’s family pointed the finger at the IRA, the usual platitudes were trotted out about how republicanism would not be involved in such a murder and how it was no longer involved in paramilitary activity. Some of its members have strongly denied that the man suspected of Mr. Rafferty’s murder is in the IRA and some Sinn Féin members of Dublin City Council stated that they would resign if the killer proved to be an active member of Sinn Féin. All the while, Mr. Rafferty’s family suffered intimidation and a stonewalling silence from the Sinn Féin leadership when they went looking for answers. Does Sinn Féin think that anyone will believe it was not involved simply because it says so? We have heard it all before and now we want action from Sinn Féin, not simply empty commitments and promises.
The Garda has stated that its suspect is a former member of the IRA who retains close links to the organisation. The Minister has said something similar in this House this evening. Let us not beat around the bush. I call for Sinn Féin to come clean for once and to give the Garda the information it has concerning this man, irrespective of whether he is a current, former, occasional or visiting member of Sinn Féin or indeed the IRA. Ultimately, the murder of Joseph Rafferty bears uncanny similarities to that of Robert McCartney. Thus far, there has been little or no support for the family from the leadership of Sinn Féin. It is about time this changed. Mr. Rafferty’s family has the right to see justice done and I call upon Sinn Féin this evening — and anyone else who may have information — to do what they can to ensure the murder is solved and the guilty party is brought to justice.
Mr. Minihan: I also welcome the Minister to the House and congratulate Fine Gael for tabling this motion. I am delighted it is now a composite motion to which all Members can agree and support. No one who is aware of my views and those of the Progressive Democrats will be surprised that I will use this opportunity to restate my absolute belief that our democracy must be carefully protected from the caustic actions of the IRA and Sinn Féin. As the House has heard, Joseph Rafferty was shot dead in west Dublin on 12 April. He was shot twice in the upper body. His family has stated that he was told that he would be shot dead. Garda sources have confirmed to the national media that the suspect in the Rafferty murder was an IRA member. The dead man’s family state that the suspect has been active in Sinn Féin and that Sinn Féin is shielding the person who shot Mr. Rafferty. The Rafferty family claims it has been the victim of alleged IRA intimidation in the south inner city neighbourhood.
These are the awful facts. The Raffertys have been through a very difficult time and continue to suffer. We must do everything we can to help them. That includes voicing, in the strongest possible terms, our utter disgust at this cold-blooded murder and any party’s action which frustrates the search for justice. Everyone has a duty to help the Raffertys, including Sinn Féin and the IRA.
When I saw the Rafferty family at Government Buildings last Tuesday, holding aloft a photograph of Joseph, my mind instantly turned to the McCartneys. Following a meeting in Belfast with the McCartney sisters, Mr. Rafferty’s sister stated that her brother’s murder was a carbon copy of the Robert McCartney killing. After that meeting, Catherine McCartney said the following:
Ms McCartney’s reference to the rule of law is telling. The rule of law and the justice system are the flip side to our democracy. The law ensures that the democratic will of the people is adhered to. This is why the case of Joseph Rafferty’s murder must be discussed in this House. Joseph
Rafferty was originally from the south inner city and it is claimed that in the months leading up to his murder, he had become embroiled in a dispute with a family from that area. Mr. Rafferty was allegedly told a number of times by members of the family with which he had clashed that he would be “got” by the IRA. This took place in the south inner city, on the other side of Trinity College and that institution is all that stands between this House and where this terror unfolded. Our institutions, such as this House, are all that stand between us and brutal thuggery, the law of the jungle, criminality and terror. Joseph Rafferty’s murder and the necessity for the campaign led by his family are a stark reminder of how everything we hold dear is threatened by criminal elements, thugs and the IRA.
Sinn Féin asks people to join the organisation to do the following: to take an active part in changing Irish society; to work to build an Ireland of equals; and to campaign for justice on issues locally and nationally. Let us look at each of these in the context of the McCartney and Rafferty slayings. Remember that Sinn Féin bargained with and depend on its association with the illegal Provisional IRA.
First, it claims to be taking an active part in changing Irish society. Is that changing Irish society for its good or to its detriment? IRA-Sinn Féin is undoubtedly active in changing our society. Robbery, money laundering and asset creation are used to create a state within a state with no loyalty to our State or to our society. The IRA is not going out of business. We should remember it is going into business. The IRA’s army council and its political membership oversee the transformation from a heavily armed private army into a lightly armed criminal enforcement group. I urge no one to take any part in Sinn Féin’s activities to change Irish society.
Second, it claims to be working to build an Ireland of equals. How equal will Ireland be when one group engages in beatings, extortion, robbery, exiling, smuggling, running protection rackets and money laundering? What if all this is done on behalf of those who engage in politics? Do Members see this as an Ireland of equals? I do not.
Third, it claims to be campaigning for justice on issues locally and nationally. I am almost lost for words. Spare a special thought for the Raffertys. Deputy Ó Caoláin has denied that any member of Sinn Féin or the IRA was involved in the murder of Mr. Rafferty. As I have stated, the Garda has confirmed to the national media that the suspect in the Rafferty murder was in the IRA. Members may choose the bona fides they prefer as they will. If, as alleged, Sinn Féin representatives refused to intervene to save Mr. Rafferty’s life, what faith can we have that they will campaign for local justice for Mr. Rafferty and his family? Whose justice are we talking about? Is it our democratic system of justice or is it IRA justice? The Minister stated that our justice system does not wear a balaclava as a badge of honour. Senator Ryan stated that there is only one Óglaigh na hÉireann. I am happy that I was a member of Óglaigh na hÉireann for 21 years and that I was involved in peace processes throughout the world. However, I never wore a balaclava; I wore a blue beret and I was happy to do so.
The Rafferty family claims that a Sinn Féin councillor was informed about the threats against Joseph Rafferty a number of times in the past year and earlier this year. Was the murder of Joseph Rafferty part of Sinn Féin’s vision of local justice? Who would join their campaign for local justice if that is the case? The Progressive Democrats truly support campaigns for justice and we support the Rafferty family in its pursuit of justice. The family believes that Sinn Féin representatives on Dublin City Council are in a position to put pressure on the chief suspect to make a statement to the Garda. If Sinn Féin wants to campaign for justice, it should ensure it does everything possible to help the Raffertys in their cause. The criminal activity linked to republicans, such as the Northern Bank raid and the McCartney and Rafferty murders, will not be air-brushed out of the picture. The Government has committed itself to raising the issue again when next it meets Mr. Adams. The Garda intelligence and security investigations are on-going. I welcome this action and all action to ensure that our justice system is protected. That is at the heart of the Rafferty campaign. They are brave enough to take on those elements in society, those in dark corners and those so-called public representatives whose ideology is repugnant to what we know and whose actions threaten what we hold dear.
Never before have I agreed with Mr. Adams, but at the ploughing championships yesterday in Cork, he said that this murder was carried out by thugs. He is right and I agree with him, but he left out one word before that. They were IRA thugs.
Ms Tuffy: Along with my colleague, Senator Ryan, I fully support this motion. I sympathise with the family on their loss and I commend them on their bravery in pursuing this case. There are not many people in our society who are prepared to put their head above the parapet in this way, but the Rafferty and McCartney families have. When they do that, we all benefit and democracy benefits. Deputy Quinn and Councillor Kevin Humphries of the Labour Party have met with the Rafferty family and have discussed the case with them. They have supported calls that Sinn Féin does whatever it can to make sure the killer is brought to justice.
Sinn Féin Councillors Daithí Doolin and Christy Burke stated that if it transpired that the killer was a member of Sinn Féin, they would resign their seats. When asked about the IRA, Councillor Burke was quoted as saying that he would not dare ask if a person was a member of the IRA. Why not? When Sinn Féin receives bad publicity, then its representatives claim they have nothing to do with the IRA. However, Gerry Adams was doing everything he could today to maximise the IRA initiative on decommissioning. Sinn Féin members cannot act like pop stars and refuse to answer the hard questions. If they are really embracing democracy, then they must accept accountability, especially accountability to the law. For all the fanfare, Sinn Féin members are showing that they are not prepared to do that. They should not be let away with it in politics.
Mr. Kett: I welcome the Minister to the House and the opportunity to say a few words on this dreadful event. It is a sad reflection on our society that we are here discussing such a gruesome, cowardly act. However, it is also very necessary that we do so. The apparent intimidation that is going on in certain parts of the south inner city, as reported, is frightening. If we think of the plight of the McCartney family and move the events to Ringsend, we then have it in context. We would be derelict in our duty if we ignored this issue, the plight of the Rafferty family and the intimidation to which they had been subjected.
The Rafferty family saw their loved one gunned down in cold blood on 12 April. He died after being shot twice in the upper body as he left his home in Ongar Park, Blanchardstown. Since then, the family has been fighting hard to bring about some justice. By all accounts, we are talking about a decent man who went about his business making a life for himself and his family, including his young child. He did not rely on anyone for handouts and he went out and made it happen for himself. When he was not working in his job as a courier, he was doing other work to make life even better for himself and his family. That his life was worth so little is disgusting. That the person who murdered him is still walking among us is a disgrace and if the person is receiving the protection of any organisation, democratic or otherwise, then that person should be exposed for what he is.
Any article that I have read on this murder draws comparisons with the killing of Robert McCartney. Many observers much closer to the situation have suggested such similarities. I am not in a position to offer a view one way or the other as to who committed this dreadful murder, but I have spoken to people who are much closer to the situation and it is hard not to conclude that there is a familiar hand spreading itself across the chain of events. One of my own colleagues on Dublin City Council, Councillor Gary Keegan, has been deeply involved in this issue and has a strong view as to how this dreadful deed was committed. Joseph Rafferty’s family are obviously heartbroken and there will never be a day when they do not remember him. They deserve justice and they deserve our assistance in acquiring that justice. The family is now embarking on a nationwide campaign in order to bring about that justice and I wish them well.
Comments have been made that the gunman is known to all and sundry. It is stated that he was recently seen at a Sinn Féin rally in the city. That is also denied by the Sinn Féin councillors on Dublin City Council and by the Sinn Féin representatives in the Dáil. Councillor Keegan stated in Dublin City Hall that Joseph Rafferty was executed over a meaningless petty grudge which was fuelled by a little thug and his mother who resides with the alleged killer. It is a sad reflection on our society that a thug like the man in question has the power to cause another man’s life to be snuffed out in such a callous and cold manner. It says something about us all.
I have been informed that the Garda is doing a good job in this case. I have been led to believe that the Rafferty family is quite satisfied with the progress being made by the force. I encourage all those with any knowledge, no matter how small, of this issue to contact the Garda Síochána. The police should assure those who come forward that they will receive all possible protection from the force. There is no doubt that in circumstances of this nature, a fear of reprisal can influence the actions of the most upstanding members of society. We do not need any proof of what these people are capable of doing. Anyone who comes forward to give information to the Garda should be given some form of assurance, in so far as it is possible.
Mr. Kett: As a society, we have to make it clear that there is no hiding place for these thugs on this island. If we are to think of our society as civilised, we must ensure these individuals cannot avail of any hiding place. I am sure the Rafferty family has taken great comfort and guidance from the endeavours of the McCartney family. We all know what the McCartneys achieved in similar circumstances. I know the Rafferty family will not give up until the killers of Joseph Rafferty receive their just punishment. I wish the Rafferty family well in their endeavours and I offer them the support of this side of the House, for what it is worth. I encourage all decent minded people to help the Garda Síochána in whatever way they can.
If it is the case that members of Sinn Féin know something about the death of Joseph Rafferty, I appeal to them to come forward to give such information to the Garda. That party should not make the mistakes it made in the McCartney case, when it denied that Sinn Féin members were involved and then offered to shoot the killers of Robert McCartney. Those associated with Sinn Féin should give the Garda whatever information they have, to help the Rafferty family to achieve closure. I know that the Taoiseach, who met members of the Rafferty family yesterday, will do everything in his power in this case, just as he and the Minister, Deputy McDowell, have done in the past. I wish the Rafferty family well in their endeavours.
Mr. O’Toole: I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, to the House. I wish to make a short contribution to this important debate, which offers Senators an opportunity to acknowledge again the importance of justice as a cornerstone of our democracy. It is important that the pillars of justice are seen to uphold what the Members of the Oireachtas stand for. We should take this opportunity to remind ourselves in a significant way of the value of life. We have almost become inured and anaesthetised to the discovery of bodies following murders in various parts of this island. It is important that this debate should remind us again of the importance of a person’s life. My feelings on the murder of Joseph Rafferty are similar to my feelings on the killings of Brian Fitzgerald, a totally innocent person who was murdered outside a nightclub in Limerick for standing up for what was right, and Robert McCartney. The actions which were perpetrated against the people I have mentioned, who were taken out, represent one of the many evil sides of terrorism. I do not doubt that regardless of the provenance of the person who carried out the terrible murder of Joseph Rafferty — regardless of whether the person is a member of the IRA — the events in question are symptomatic of our society’s free access to killing and easy approach to life.
Senators should stand and salute the members of the family of Joseph Rafferty, some of whom are present in the House this evening. As previous speakers have said, Mr. Rafferty’s relatives have shown they are prepared to take a courageous and public stand. They have proved willing to take their case to the greatest court of all — to the people. It is hugely important for them to recognise that although justice and politics are completely intertwined, they are completely separate at the same time. It is quite a difficult concept. As Members of the Oireachtas, we make the law and ensure that it is implemented, but we do not dare to involve ourselves in how it is implemented. It is a tricky set of circumstances, which relates to other matters such as the case of the Rossport five. We need to consider the extent to which we, as elected representatives, can get involved in legal matters. In this instance, we are on the cusp of a movement. This is the beginning of the long road to justice for Joseph Rafferty. People had to take the same road to prove the innocence of the Birmingham six or the Guildford four. The obverse is the case in this instance — the Rafferty family are trying to bring to justice a person who is clearly guilty of a terrible murder.
It is clear that this is a difficult time for the Rafferty family. While no family wants to be faced with a challenge of this nature, it is impossible for any family to walk away from it. For that reason, the members of the Rafferty family deserve our full support, wherever it can be provided. Every public representative, including those who represent Sinn Féin, has a responsibility to ensure that no stone is left unturned to help them. If members of Sinn Féin have some information about the death of Joseph Rafferty, they have a bounden duty to ensure that such details are brought to the attention of the appropriate authorities. Some people in Irish life have a certain attitude to consultation with the Garda — they question whether co-operating with the force is the right thing to do. There can be no doubt that society regulates itself by means of its law and its police force. As I said at the outset, the justice system, as a means of social regulation, is a cornerstone of what we do. If we are to ensure that our justice system is upheld, we have a responsibility to give our fullest support to the motion before the House. We need to urge all those mentioned in the motion to take the appropriate action to ensure that the necessary information is brought to the Garda.
The importance of this debate is that it is sending a clear statement to all and sundry — I refer to the people at large, Sinn Féin, the IRA, whoever is listening and whoever wants to listen — that there should be no hiding place for people in our society who act like whoever killed Joseph Rafferty. This kind of killing diminishes everyone in society. The manner in which we deal with such crimes is a reflection on how we order and regulate our society. For that reason, we have to ensure that justice is done. Those who are protecting and hiding the suspect in the case of Joseph Rafferty in such an unacceptable manner should be answerable to society at large. Justice needs to be done, and to be seen to be done, quickly. I hope the Rafferty family will take some sustenance from the support of people on all sides of the political stage. I hope we can be of some help to the family during its challenge to find justice for Joseph Rafferty.
Ms O’Rourke: As the Leader of the House, I wish to add my voice to this debate. I thank the Fine Gael Party, which deserves credit for using its Private Members’ time to initiate a debate on this issue. I give credit to the Minister, Deputy Michael McDowell, and his colleagues on the Government side who produced an amended motion that took the views of all parties into account. The leaders of the parties in this House met after the Order of Business to decide, with the help of a very careful official from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, on an amended wording that is acceptable to all sides. The thrust of the amended version is the same as the thrust of the original motion, although some of the language has been altered.
Several messages have been sent by those who have spoken on the motion to date. The message that politicians can agree on certain matters when the cause is just is a powerful one. Media commentators would have one believe that politicians spend their time shouting and roaring without doing anything positive. They suggest that we do not get anywhere with our ideas. If one listened to what was said on the radio this morning, one would have believed that nothing of any use would be done in the Seanad or the Dáil today. This House had an interesting debate this afternoon and the matter currently under discussion is highly relevant to the developments of last Monday and the ongoing issue of Ireland as a whole. The powerful message being sent out by Members on all sides of the House — I refer to Members from all parties and Independent Members — is that we strongly support the Rafferty family’s campaign to find their brother’s murderer or murderers, and to bring him or them to justice so that justice can be seen to be done. The Rafferty family is on a hard road and they know this; their faces show it this evening. This matter has been going on for some months. At the same time there are people in the community from which they come who know what happened. There is no doubt there are people who know the exact circumstances of who did it and when it was done. There will always be people who will talk and tell the tale. The combined message going out from here tonight is that the perpetrators of that heinous act should be brought to justice.
I went to Belfast to meet the McCartneys in their home at the time of the last election and I was struck by their tenacity and determination. I am aware the Rafferty family has spoken to them and exchanged views on strategies and how they might follow the path they have forged. I applaud that measure and consider it is the best way to go about it. The Rafferty views are forthright and they are getting media attention. They are standing four square behind the memory of their brother and intend to have his killer or killers brought to justice. I wish them good luck in their efforts. All of us in this august Chamber stand with the Rafferty family.
I welcome the Rafferty family to the Chamber and applaud their courage and conviction in seeking justice for the death of Joseph Rafferty. Many of us in this Chamber come from a very proud republican past, from the real Sinn Féin. We in Fine Gael, as in Fine Fáil, look forward to celebrating the real 100 years of Sinn Féin. My grandfather James Feely was a Sinn Féin councillor who was imprisoned during the War of Independence. He joined the Army after the ceasefire and retired as a member of the Garda. I believe he did the State some service. At that time people made a transition from freedom fighters to people who uphold the law. What Sinn Féin must do now is uphold the law in this country. I applaud the major announcement we
heard this week which is a step in the right direction.
By all accounts, Joseph Rafferty was a quiet, hard working man who had no involvement in crime. He was a product of the Celtic tiger. I took a walk around this city tonight and was proud to see that at last there is real employment and opportunities. There is a now a chance for people to have housing, the benefit of going on holidays and having children who will have a future. That is what Joseph Rafferty stood for and what the Raffertys stand for. They want a country of which we can be proud.
I have seen subtle intimidation in my own town in the early 1980s when we had the H-Block marches. People came around in cars and told shops to close which made them very afraid. That intimidation is nothing to what the Rafferty family has gone through. That is real intimidation and we must ensure it will stop. Sinn Féin and others must report crimes to the Garda. I have no reason to disbelieve the reports I have heard tonight that these people are involved in the Republican movement, Sinn Féin or the IRA. It is incumbent on Sinn Féin to ensure that its members co-operate with the Garda to ensure that the perpetrators of this heinous crime are brought to justice.
Democracy is a fragile flower that needs the support of all the people to ensure that we have not just a united Ireland but a better Ireland. The Robert McCartney crime remains unsolved in Belfast. The SDLP does not have guns and was overlooked by both the British and Irish Governments. Now that the guns are out of politics it is time for all these parties to come into the fold. I call on the Minister to ensure that the full resources of the law will be brought to bear to ensure these perpetrators are brought to justice.
Dr. Mansergh: I welcome the motion and offer my support and solidarity to the Rafferty family. The case has many similarities with the Robert McCartney case. In both instances we have family members simply not prepared to suffer in silence in the face of intimidation and harassment. Over the years we have had groups rightly seeking justice for victims of State violence in the North. It is equally right that the same rigorous criteria of justice are applied where people are the victims of paramilitary organisations. Although I will not address it this evening I have no doubt that precisely the same problem exists in acute form in loyalist communities. It behoves us to give support to people who are not going to put up any longer with that type of intimidation. As we know, the homes of the McCartney sisters are attacked at least in a minor way practically every night, which is disgraceful.
This is a week in which very important and momentous advances have been made but that is not the end of the matter. There is a culture where people feel some kind of mystical authority to take the law into their own hands and to harm and injure other people. We should not have to tolerate this in any part of this country. I accept the point that these were not operations authorised by the IRA army council or any unit. They happen because individuals associated with that organisation got involved. What has happened both before and after is not a pretty sight. The peace process will not be complete until we get rid of that culture North and South. Let us be frank, this has existed in one form or another, including in parts of this jurisdiction, for up to 80 years. It was fading away until the Troubles arose and gave it a new impetus, particularly in certain parts of the country.
An attitudinal change needs to be made. There are people who get involved in these activities who the Garda Síochána discovers have memorabilia associated with the killers of Detective Garda McCabe and who seem to take some pride or glory in accidents like that. We in the House, and all decent people, regard that sort of thing as reprehensible and find it very difficult to get into the minds of people who believe what happened in Adare in 1996 was a glorious act.
The mindset and culture must be changed. People within the movements in question who want to make progress probably want to achieve such change but it is a very difficult task. They are dealing with an ingrained culture. The political organisations should not be surprised if there is no enthusiasm on any side of either House of the Oireachtas for getting into full-scale political partnership with them any time soon until such matters are dealt with. I appeal again to the leadership of Sinn Féin to make more effective efforts to have these matters sorted out and to be as rigorous in demanding justice as they are in the cases of Pat Finucane or others who have been killed to some degree in collusion with the state. There cannot be double standards. Although the members of the Rafferty family have suffered terribly in a way people should not have to suffer, they, in their reaction and the courage they have shown, are doing a real public service to this society, just as members of the McCartney family are doing.
It is time for Sinn Féin to get real. We listen to its representatives every day talking about the great work the party is doing and stating it represents the marginalised in society. I always feel that all the political parties represent the marginalised. Nobody has a monopoly on the marginalised. We deal with the marginalised regularly in our daily work in our constituency offices. Nobody can claim to have a monopoly of representation over the marginalised sector of society.
If one considers the reality on the ground, including the killings of Robert McCartney and Joseph Rafferty, and even that of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe, one will note that Sinn Féin has been found wanting on every occasion. I thank God we have strong women in this country. In this regard I commend the widow of Jerry McCabe, Ann McCabe, who was fantastic in very difficult personal circumstances and who stood up to Sinn Féin at local and national levels. I compliment the McCartney sisters, who played a stormer, took on Sinn Féin and highlighted the case of their brother although they were being intimidated, as they are even to this day. This intimidation is truly shocking. I compliment the Rafferty family who are following their example. It is shocking in this day and age that a certain element in the Sinn Féin-IRA organisation has not moved on or realised it is not acceptable in a civilised society to mete out what it considers to be justice.
There is talk about a united Ireland but I believe we should talk about it in terms of people rather than just in terms of geography. I welcomed the physical act of decommissioning this week but we must now move on and decommission the mindset of which previous speakers have spoken. Shakespeare warned us to beware of smiling faces. This applies in particular to many members of the Sinn Féin leadership. The come across very well and appear very suave on television and radio, yet when it comes to asking the hard questions and making tough decisions within their own ranks, they are found wanting. I urge them to accept the responsibility they have been given and out the people within their organisation who should be outed in respect of the killings of both Robert McCartney and Joseph Rafferty.
I was very upset during the summer when I heard the Taoiseach speak about Sinn Féin being given speaking rights, in the Seanad in particular. That was not agreed in the House. The Taoiseach should not be engaging in side deals with Sinn Féin and every issue should be in the open and debatable. We are living in a democracy and actions such as that of the Taoiseach are unhelpful. We noted the furore last year over the possible release of the killers of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe. I am thankful the Opposition opposed it and that the Government did a U-turn in this regard. The House has stood united tonight against thuggery and violence and this is the way forward. The days of secret deals and meetings are over.
I sympathise again with the Rafferty family and urge members of Sinn Féin and the IRA who have relevant information to come forward immediately. There are many decent people in Sinn Féin, particularly those under the age of 30 who remember the party in times of peace. However, we should not forget the atrocities that were committed and must never return to circumstances in which they are committed again.
Ms Feeney: I understood earlier that the rest of the Senators who were offering to contribute were to be allowed five minutes each but I will be as brief as I can. I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, to the House.
I sat here for the duration of the debate and have really been touched by what people have had to say. I realised how brave we are to come into the House and say what has been said today. The members of the Rafferty family have said they are being intimidated. Every right-thinking person must believe them when they say that. In a democracy, such intimidation is indefensible and must be stopped. It is the duty of all citizens of this democratic Republic to renounced it an co-operate with the authorities in every way possible to stamp it out and defeat it.
Having listened to the debate, I noted that neither I nor anybody else present can say who carried out this terrible crime, the murder of Joseph Rafferty. It is only for the courts to determine. However, we as responsible citizens of this Republic should ensure that all co-operation is given to the Garda to help it bring the perpetrators of Joseph’s murder to justice. The Minister referred in his speech to those who may remain silent out of a sense of loyalty, whether political or personal. If they remain silent for that reason, they have a false sense of loyalty. How right the Minister is. He also stated there are others who are simply too frightened to cross those involved. I can believe that also. It is therefore up to people such as us, elected Members of the Oireachtas, who are normal citizens going about our everyday lives, just like the members of the Rafferty family, to speak out. If we do not come into this House and speak out about Joseph Rafferty’s murder, we are doing politics a great disservice.
In The Irish Times today I was interested to read a quotation from Councillor Garry Keegan which really caught me: “It’s not a campaign to get at Sinn Féin or the IRA. It’s a fight for justice and we’re calling on Sinn Féin-IRA to hand over the people responsible.” He is correct in that this is not a matter of political parties. This is an agreed cross-party motion being debated today and it is not a case of political parties having a go at Sinn Féin-IRA, as they would like us and the rest of the country to believe. We are citizens who happen to be elected Members of the Oireachtas and local government who are looking for justice for the Rafferty family, whose case is very similar to the case of the McCartney family.
Senator Jim Walsh stated in his contribution that members of Sinn Féin-IRA believed rightly or wrongly they have had a cause to fight for over the past 25 years, a fight to get the British army out of Northern Ireland. There are people in Sinn Féin-IRA, who have been described in this House as thugs and worse, who have no cause and never had a cause for which to fight. They are the people who callously took Joseph Rafferty’s life. If there are fair-minded people in Sinn Féin-IRA, I ask them not to hide those responsible, the thugs who go under its banner, because they are not fighting for any cause and they have no regard for life. What was done to the Rafferty’s lovely brother would not be done to an animal.
Nobody believes this was a sanctioned murder, as if it would make any difference whether a murder was sanctioned. I question how anyone can take life, whether that action is sanctioned or otherwise. This murder was carried out by persons with no regard for life. It is chilling for us all to think that those people are walking around today. I wish the family all the best in their campaign and assure them of the continued support of all Members of the House.
Mr. Coghlan: I agree with the sentiments expressed by all the speakers in this debate. I compliment my colleague, Deputy Brian Hayes, for the initiative taken by him. I also compliment the leaders of all the groupings in this House, the Taoiseach, Deputy Kenny and Deputy Rabbitte and all those who met and supported this family in their hour of need. This was an appalling and brutal murder of an innocent man. I hope and trust the Garda Síochána will be empowered and enabled to bring a successful prosecution of the murderer. I wish the family every success in their ongoing campaign.
Dr. M. Hayes: I do not often disagree with Senator Feeney but I do not think we need any courage in this House. The people who show the real courage are the Rafferty and McCartney families. It is easy enough for us to talk about the rule of law but the really courageous people are those who vindicate the rule of law. It is easy to talk about rights but the courageous people are those who assert their rights in a hostile environment and for which I applaud them. We must support those people.
A remark attributed to Edmund Burke states that all it needed for evil to succeed was for good people to do nothing. We must ensure a culture in which good people can do something. I am not familiar with the details of Mr. Rafferty’s murder and I am anxious not to prejudice any trial. I remind the House that a suspect is a suspect.
I was deeply impressed by Senator Mansergh’s remarks and anything I say may be taken as a rider to them. I am familiar with the Markets area of Belfast and I am acquainted with the McCartneys and with their case. The frightening aspect is not the murder alone which was vicious and bad enough but the fact that a whole community could be cowed into silence. That culture of omerta needs to be changed and this is a challenge to all those who aspire to political leadership or to political office.
It is not sufficient to advise people to go to the police. People were told to go to the police regarding the McCartney case but what did 80 witnesses see, everyone of whom was in the toilet when the incident occurred? It must have been the biggest toilet in western Europe. We are asking for rather more than compliance with the letter of the law.
Like most people in this House and in this country, I rejoiced at the act of decommissioning this week and seeing the republican movement turning firmly towards politics and giving up the armalite for the ballot box. However, there must also be decommissioning of a culture. There is a baggage of criminality and of fellow travellers and these will be millstones around some people’s necks. I appeal to the people in Sinn Féin to acknowledge this fact, to disown those people and to get rid of them. In the case of the McCartney killing everybody in that community knows who did it. They know why the person is being shielded by the republican movement and by Sinn Féin. If they are to have any pretension to engagement in formal politics, they will need to end that culture for their own good and for the good of all of us.
I acknowledge that loyalist violence exists in the North as does sectarianism but discussion of loyalist violence takes the focus away from the present debate as does discussion of 800 years of British rule. Our own laws have been in existence for more than 80 years in this part of the island and this is sufficient legitimacy. The Garda Síochána has been the only police force for more than 80 years. Whatever reservations people might have about the PSNI, they can have none about the Garda Síochána.
I counsel against a system of restorative justice schemes. These can be excellent in themselves and can be of help to the victim but they must be closely linked with the Garda otherwise they become a vehicle for vigilantism or summary justice. I applaud the Rafferty family. I was deeply moved by the debate and by the unanimity shown. I am grateful to the Fine Gael Party for providing this opportunity to the House to show it is solidly behind citizens who have the courage to claim their rights and ask that they be vindicated.
Ms White: I welcome the Rafferty family to the House. I have not been through what the Rafferty family have endured and one must have suffered in order to have complete empathy with the suffering of another. I sincerely hope there will be a fruitful solution to this tragedy.
As an activist in the peace process in the North since 1993, I have travelled to the North frequently. I spoke out in this Chamber against collusion in the case of the murders of Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson. It is known there was collusion between the forces of the state in the North in these murders. Sinn Féin must acknowledge the rights of the Rafferty family are the same as those of the Finucane family. If Sinn Féin knows the identity of the criminal thug who committed the violent act against Joseph Rafferty and in order for it to progress in a constitutional and political manner, it must be strong in fighting and getting rid of thugs and gangsters. I wish the Rafferty family success in their campaign and I thank them for attending the House today.
Mr. Brady: I welcome the opportunity to speak on this agreed motion. Citizens of this democratic Republic are all subject to the rule of law and bound by the rules of law and order. We elect our representatives in this democracy to legislate and produce laws to protect ourselves and our families and to apply those laws equally to everybody.
The political implications of what happened to Joseph Rafferty are one issue, but far more important and horrifying are the human implications of what happened to him. The Rafferty family and their relations and friends are traumatised by what they have gone through in recent months. That is on what we should focus. As public representatives, many Members of this and the other House have worked with Sinn Féin representatives and activists for a number of years. We know what they are capable of and, more importantly, we know what they are not capable of. What do we as public representatives say to a mother who calls to see one of us in an advice centre concerning her 16 year old son who was dragged into the back of a van, beaten to a pulp, thrown out of the van in the carpark of a shopping centre and told later it was a case of mistaken identity? What do the Rafferty family say to Joseph’s child about how their father died? These are the human implications of what we are talking about.
What the Rafferty family and Councillor Gary Keegan are seeking is justice for Joseph, his child and wider family. As representatives, we must do everything possible to maintain pressure on the elements within Sinn Féin who have information about this case and to give that information to the gardaí. If the Sinn Féin leadership want to be seen as leaders, they should lead. Our leaders, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, spoke to the family and they were proactive in dealing with this case. If the Sinn Féin leadership wants to be seen as what they are portraying themselves to be, they must take action. There is an onus on us to support the Rafferty family and the view has come across that we all do so. We support their efforts and cause. As citizens, we are all subject to the rule of law and order. The fact that so many Senators committed themselves to dealing with this issue is significant.
Mr. B. Hayes: I thank my colleagues on both sides of the House who contributed to this debate. Some 21 colleagues, representing more than one third of the Members of the Seanad, contributed. It was an important statement that there would be unanimity in the position we would take on this motion. I was struck by many comments made.
If this case related to another party and if a member of or activist in Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or the Labour Party was a prime suspect in a brutal murder case in Dublin, do Members not think that each of our parties would immediately disown that person? There probably would be a disciplinary executive meeting to establish the facts of the case. There would be automatic transfer of information to the gardaí, the prosecuting authorities. That is what would happen if the same situation existed in any of our parties, but that is what is not happening with the Sinn Féin leadership in terms of this brutal murder.
Senator Kett made one of the most telling contributions when he said it is crucial that whoever comes forward with the evidence required to bring a prosecution in this case, and that person or group of individuals will need considerable courage, that person or group will need protection. The Senator was right about that.
We should not forget the words of the High Court judge in the McCabe case; he said it was the worst form of intimidation of witnesses he had ever seen before a court. The reason the McCabe murder was turned into a manslaughter charge was because of the difficulty in getting witnesses to the court to give open evidence in that court. Despite all the smiles, sweet words and lovely press and photo opportunities, these people are capable of anything. What Sinn Féin-IRA want to do now is to wipe all this clean. It wants this campaign and the Rafferty family to go away. It hopes that this issue will not emerge next week, that no one else will raise it at another forum, that it will not be raised internationally and that it will get over this month or two, move on and forget about all the bad publicity associated with the Rafferty murder.
I want to tell its members that this case and the family will not go away. It is right that every Senator who spoke here tonight mentioned that there is a resolve here among all the democratic parties, the institutions of this State to ensure that justice is done for Joseph Rafferty and for his family. That is why it is crucial that this case does not go away and remains at the top of people’s political agenda until such a time as a successful prosecution is brought to bear.
I was struck by the argument made by the Minister, namely, the notion that in this day and age a law abiding family must take a case of intimidation to a local politician in order that such a politician can adjudicate with some shadowy group in the background is anathema to the notion of a free society. The fact that people did not have the confidence to go to the gardaí in the first instance because of the intimidation they were suffering is another appalling indictment of the way in which some people in some working class communities feel that they act above and beyond the law and with impunity. As long as we accept that is going on, it is a total negation of our democratic responsibilities. That is why it is crucial that this campaign continues until we find a successful conclusion.
Senator O’Toole summed it up well when he said that at the end of the day, this is about one life, a young man who came into contact with the republican movement and a young man who is now dead. That is on what we must focus as we go forward; the vindication of that man’s right to life and of his family’s right to have justice. One of the worst tragedies a parent or parents can face, as in the case of Joseph Rafferty, is to bury one’s son or daughter. It is something of which a mother never thinks when she gives birth or of which we never think when we have the joy of having children. We must do everything we can to ensure, in the words of Senator O’Toole, that the importance of that young man’s life is not forgotten and that those who were responsible for this crime are brought before the courts.
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