Molloy family seek Department of Justice records
– Relatives of dead priest to take case to Information Commissioner
Relatives of Fr Niall Molloy plan to take a case to the Information Commissioner seeking Department of Justice records relating to the unsolved killing of the County Roscommon priest in 1985.
The family of the Castlecoote cleric has been refused access to Department of Justice records relating to the priest, who died in suspicious circumstances almost 30 years ago.
Relatives acting on behalf of the late priest last year made a request, under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, for access to any records held by the Department in relation to Fr Molloy.
In November the Department released some records to the family on appeal. The records, however, only relate to 2010 onwards, which has prompted the family to take a case to the Information Commissioner.
A nephew of Fr Molloy, Henry McCourt, who requested access to Department records, said the family was left with no other option. “We feel that unnecessary obstacles are being put in our way. Some of the information that we received on appeal should have been given to us in the first instance as it related to family correspondence,” Mr McCourt said.
“We’re not being given access to records before 2010 and at this stage we feel we’ve no other option but to go to the Information Commissioner,” he added.
Another family member also expressed alarm over more recent “confusing” correspondence from the Department, which suggested that archived files had yet to be looked at.
Last week the Department advised Bill Maher, another nephew of the late priest, that the matter of records pre-dating 2010 was “receiving attention”. This is despite the Department issuing a formal decision on the FOI request two months ago.
“Why should we have to go to these lengths? Are they trying to fob us off further? Why is the Department withholding information that we’re entitled to as a family,” Mr Maher said.
He added that he would not accept that some information on file may be too sensitive to release. “Not at this stage; we’re coming up to the 30 year anniversary of Niall’s death,” he said.
The unsolved killing of Fr Molloy at the home of his friends, Richard and Teresa Flynn, in Clara, County Offaly in July 1985 has raised more questions than answers for almost 30 years and has led to allegations of a cover-up involving several arms of the State.
In 2010 the Garda serious crime unit re-opened the historic case but the two and a half year probe failed to result in any new charges or prosecutions being brought.
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and the Attorney General are currently considering a report by senior counsel Dominic McGinn, who was commissioned to review the findings of the recent Garda probe into the 1985 cold case.
The Molloy family is seeking an independent commission of investigation to examine all aspects of the case.
The petition now has 1,400 signatures.
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This Twitter account is the only account run by a member of the Molloy family. The family is not involved with any other Twitter account using Niall’s name.
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Garda conduct review has over 300 cases
There has been a late surge in the number of complaints about the conduct of garda investigations, which is being examined by an expert panel of barristers.
The number of cases has swelled from around 200 last August to more than 300, pushing the completion of the review back a number of months. The process was due to have been completed by November, but has continued as more cases came in for examination.
Many of the cases were sent through TDs and a campaign group, Justice4All, on the back of allegations of garda abuses and misconduct made by whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe in the Cavan/Monaghan division.
These allegations were examined by Sean Guerin, who completed his review in early May. His report recommended a statutory inquiry to examine the matters further and reach definitive conclusions.
In December, some eight months later, the Government announced the establishment of the inquiry, to be headed by retired High Court judge Kevin O’Higgins.
In July, when asked about the progress of the Guerin inquiry, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald announced that she had set up an independent review of separate allegations concerning the conduct of gardaí, or inadequacies in their investigations, which had been made to the Taoiseach or herself.
She said the panel comprised two senior counsel — Conor Devally and Aileen Donnelly — and five junior counsel: Paul Carroll, John Fitzgerald, Tony McGuillicuddy, Siobhán Ní Chulachain, and Karen O’Connor.
Ms Fitzgerald said the barristers would review the cases and make a recommendation to her on what further actions, if any, might be appropriate. She said their work would begin shortly and that the aim was to have the majority of cases reviewed within a period of “between eight and 12 weeks”.
The counsel are paid a fee on a case-by-case basis of €300, €550, or €800, depending on complexity. Senior counsel have an additional brief fee of €20,000 to oversee the operation of the mechanism and to ensure consistency across all the cases.
The Department of Justice said in August it was possible that some of the cases that warranted deeper investigation could be included in the terms of reference of the commission of investigation being set up to examine the Guerin cases. The terms of reference do not, so far, include any of the cases.
The department has told the Irish Examiner that the number of cases being reviewed has now reached 307. A spokesman said the independent review was “well under way” but did not say when it would be completed.
“It is important that nothing arises which might detract from the integrity of the review mechanism,” he said. “It is therefore considered inappropriate to place a time constraint upon the working of the panel, although they intend to conclude their work as soon as is reasonably practicable.”
The process has attracted criticism from some people who lodged complaints, partly as it is only a paper review and does not involve interviews with the complainants.
One family, that of Shane O’Farrell, a 23-year-old man killed in a hit-and-run in 2011, has also complained that one of the senior counsel, Mr Devally, defended the man who killed her son.
Ms Fitzgerald has said there is a procedure where conflicts of interest might arise.
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Can we expect Justice in 2015 ?
Many families are being treated the same way as my family.
Delays , promises, campaigning journalists,political mutterings in public and in private …….. but no action.
It should not require a petition in order have the murder of a citizen and its subsequent cover-up investigated. It is a disgrace that Fr Molloy’s family and friends have had to campaign for this in a so-called democracy where all citizens are supposedly ‘equal before the law’.
Cecilia Ni Choileain, Ireland