THE biggest cover-up in the history of the State. That is how the brutal murder of Fr Niall Molloy in 1985 was described in the Seanad last week. Those words, of Roscommon Labour senator John Kelly, were reiterated this week by veteran murder squad detective Gerry O’Carroll.
A two-year investigation by this newspaper into the priest’s killing has exposed a litany of damning evidence and glaring inconsistencies which point to nothing less than a cover-up of staggering proportions, involving several institutions of the State and the Catholic Church.
Even now, almost three decades on, candles still burn for Fr Molloy in the Roscommon village of Castlecoote, where he is remembered as a devoted pastor to his people and a gentleman of the highest order.
A talented horseman, he was in the prime of his life when he was beaten to death in the Offaly mansion of his well-connected friends, Therese and Richard Flynn, shortly after a wedding party in their Clara home.
The priest had gone to the house requesting a large sum of money that was owed to him.
His battered body was left bleeding on the floor for up to six hours before help was called. By then, it was too late. But three of the country’s leading pathologists are certain that his life could have been saved if somebody had phoned 999.
Instead, the local parish priest of Clara, Fr James Deignan, was called to the house. He subsequently said he did not know 999 was an emergency call, and had ‘forgotten his glasses’ so he could not read the phonebook to call a local doctor.
Shortly before dawn, he went to the local garda barracks and asked Sergeant Kevin Forde if the priest’s death could be “kept quiet”.
Sgt Forde said it could not, but despite the officer’s best efforts on that summer’s night, a veil of silence fell over the truth about the priest’s murder and its shocking aftermath.
When the full facts are finally brought into the public domain, they will rock the foundations of the State.
After hearing the testimonies of dozens of individuals, this newspaper has uncovered a catalogue of shocking revelations.
Senior Fianna Fail politicians were in the house on the evening of the priest’s murder, one of them a well-known household name and close friend of the Flynns.
The original garda investigation was botched and shambolic.
Vital evidence was contaminated, bizarre statements were taken and given and key witnesses were never interviewed.
It has also been established that Fr Molloy was first attacked in the living room of the mansion, but his body was put in the Flynn’s master bedroom. To this day, gardai have failed to identify blood found on the bannisters of the stairs.
In the immediate aftermath of the murder, two other suspicious deaths took place of people believed to have witnessed the murder and who told friends they could not bear to be around when the truth came out.
THANKS to the courageous work of murdered journalist Veronica Guerin, we also know that Justice Frank Roe corrupted the subsequent trial, hearing the case even though he knew the parties involved. After the killing, Richard Flynn was charged with manslaughter, but Roe directed the jury to acquit him after less than four hours. It is widely believed that another individual was responsible for the killing.
The State’s files on the case have seen their share of drama too. The Offaly coroner’s one was burnt in a mysterious fire and ‘the General’ Martin Cahill stole the garda file from the offices of the DPP. Among the more alarming allegations, revealed by Veronica Guerin and crime writer Paul Williams, are details of a garda deal done with Cahill and his associate John Traynor in return for the stolen file.
These claims cast a slur on every serving member of An Garda Siochana, not to mention the integrity of the criminal justice system; yet Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has remained silent when questioned about them.
It is now more than two years since the Irish Independent presented most of its file to An Garda Siochana and Justice Minister Alan Shatter. At the time, he was in opposition but he made a pledge to the Molloy family that if he was in government an inquiry would be established in the interests of justice and the truth.
What the family and the public got was a garda examination whose pace has been shamefully slow and nothing less than mystifying on occasion.
It has left the Molloy family utterly disillusioned and many people in the midlands concerned that there is no urgency at all to take a violent killer off our streets or hold those responsible for the subsequent cover-up to account.
For almost two years, the Molloy family and this newspaper have been calling on Minister Shatter to uphold his promise and instigate an independent judicial inquiry to ensure that all of the disturbing allegations surrounding this case can be examined in a neutral forum.
The time is long overdue for him to grant this, not only because justice must be delivered for the family. But because the public that the minister serves have a right to know the truth, however shocking it will turn out to be.
Monday November 19 2012
ONE of Ireland’s most experienced detectives last night challenged garda claims that there is no evidence of a cover-up in the case of murdered priest Fr Niall Molloy.
Gerry O’Carroll, who worked on more than 80 murder cases, was responding to a story in yesterday’s Irish edition of the ‘Sunday Times’.
It said the Garda Cold Case Unit had “found no evidence to support allegations of a cover-up by gardai, politicians or judges”.
But Mr O’Carroll, a former detective inspector, said: “The Molloy case is the only one that I can put my hand on my heart and say was a massive cover-up.
“The Phoenix Park (garda HQ) tried to silence me when I got vital evidence about the case and attempted to investigate it myself.
“Two superintendents came in and searched my office. I told them nobody would silence me. When I joined the guards, I swore an oath of office that I would do my work without fear, favour, malice or ill-will.
“The gardai have a mountain of evidence. It must be taken out of their hands immediately and the Government must set up a judicial inquiry into this horrendous case.
“I want to get justice for Fr Molloy whose poor body was not only wrecked but whose reputation was tarnished for ever by a cock and bull story. The whole thing stinks to high heaven.”
Fr Molloy (52) was murdered at the home of his friends Richard and Therese Flynn in Co Offaly in July 1985, after requesting the return of a large sum of money owed to him.
The murder took place after a wedding party attended by several Fianna Fail politicians, including a household name.
Fr Molloy was first beaten up downstairs, then his battered body was placed in the bedroom of the couple’s Clara mansion.
The course of justice was interfered with by judge Frank Roe who heard the trial even though he knew the parties involved.
Kevin Forde, a retired sergeant from Clara who was the first officer on the scene on the night of the murder, described the original investigation into the priest’s death as the “strangest” he was ever involved in.
He was first informed about the murder by the town’s parish priest Fr James Deignan who asked him if it could be “kept quiet”.
Last night, Sgt Forde said: “The Gardai have very serious questions to answer about their handling of the Fr Molloy murder. There were so many inconsistencies. I would have grave concerns about the original investigation. Close neighbours who might have heard or seen something suspicious were never interviewed. There were no proper searches from what I could tell. Some blood samples from the scene were never identified.
“This was a very violent killing and we know Niall was left for several hours when help could have saved his life. That was the worst aspect of it. It is disgraceful that the family have been deprived of justice for so long and that a dangerous killer is still on the loose. The public deserve the truth at this stage.”
The Molloy family said last night they were “disgusted, but not surprised” by the Cold Case allegations.
They have been in touch with the office of the Garda Ombudsman in relation to the Sunday Times leak, why it was made and who made it.
Last week in the Seanad, their uncle’s murder was described as “the biggest cover-up in the history of the state”.
A number of government senators have tabled questions to Justice Minister Alan Shatterabout the case for this week.
Last night, Laois Offaly Labour senator John Whelan said:
“The reported contention by the Gardai that there is no evidence of any cover-up in relation to the Fr Niall Molloy case is hugely disappointing but hardly surprising. It only serves to underscore the urgent need now for an independent inquiry into this disturbing case and highlights once more the deficit of credibility of the Garda authorities investigating themselves.
“This is not in the interest of the force and its many committed and dedicated officers, who I am sure also want to see justice served.
“If the Garda cold case investigation is now concluded then there is no other recourse to restore confidence in the institutions of the State and ensure justice for Fr Molloy, his family and the community at large than for the Minister Shatter to establish as promised a commission of inquiry into this whole sordid affair.”
– Gemma O’Doherty
A MEMBER of the Oireachtas Justice Committee stormed out of a meeting after he was refused permission to raise the current garda cold-case investigation into the killing of Fr Niall Molloy.
The meeting was held to hear the views of GardaCommissioner Martin Callinan on gangland crime, dissident republicans, white-collar crime, burglaries, recruitment and station closures.
The committee then went into closed session and the gardai, media and onlookers were asked to leave.
Shortly afterwards, Mr McGrath left the meeting and the committee resumed its questioning.
Fr Molloy (52) was murdered at the home of his friends Richard and Therese Flynn in Co Offaly in July 1985 after requesting the return of a large sum of money owed to him.
The murder took place after a wedding party attended by several politicians. The priest was beaten up and his battered body placed in the bedroom of the Clara mansion.
The matter was raised by Labour Senator John Whelan, who was standing in for the Labour leader in the Seanad, Ivana Bacik.
He called for the establishment of a public inquiry, saying there had been a conspiracy of silence and cover up involving so-called pillars of society, including in politics.
Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway continued to demand an inquiry as the Cathoirleach sought to rule the matter out of order because of the level of comment attached to the contributions.
The Fianna Fáil leader, Darragh O’Brien, pointed out that as the Senators belong to the parties of Government, they should be able to pursue it.