Passage of time precludes new probe into priest’s 1985 death

An independent review of a Garda investigation into the violent death of Fr Niall Molloy 30 years ago has recommended against any further inquiry.

The examination by Dominic McGinn SC said this was despite “extremely unusual” and “quite disturbing” aspects to the death of the 52-year-old priest at the home of Richard and Therese Flynn in Clara, Co Offaly, on July 8, 1985.

Mr Flynn was subsequently charged with manslaughter and assault but, at his trial in June 1986, the jury was directed to find him not guilty.

Mr McGinn was tasked by the Department of Justice with reviewing the Garda Serious Crime Review Team (SCRT) examination of the original Garda investigation.

Mr McGinn concluded that, given the passage of time, the death of pertinent witnesses, and the reluctance of others to give evidence, it was unlikely that any further inquiry would have a reasonable prospect of establishing the truth.

“Certainly there are extremely unusual, if not unique, features about this case,” said Mr McGinn.

“Many of these are quite disturbing and merited an in-depth analysis.”

Mr McGinn’s report said:

  • There was an “unexplained” and “significant delay” in alerting authorities to the priest’s injuries;
  • That the “calm attitude” of Mr Flynn to the “violent death of a family friend” in his house was a feature that many would find “inexplicable”;
  • Regarding the Flynn family, he said “undoubtedly at least one of them knew who was responsible” for Fr Molloy’s death;
  • In light of confessions by Mr Flynn to inflicting violence on Fr Molloy, the directed acquittal of Mr Flynn at his trial was “extraordinary”;
  • That while much of the criticism was levelled at the trial judge, his decision was at least “partially attributable” to concessions made by State pathologist John Harbison;
  • In spite of friendships the Flynns had with politicians at the highest level, there was no evidence that these connections were used.

Mr McGinn concluded that, having looked at the material in the SCRT report, “if is difficult to envisage how any further inquiry could have a reasonable prospect of establishing the truth about the issues raised”.

He said this was due to the passage of time, the death of key witnesses, and the “reluctance of others voluntarily to give evidence”.

Therefore, he said, a further inquiry was not warranted.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she accepted this recommendation.

Mr McGinn said that Fr Molloy’s family had “a completely reasonable sense of injustice”.

The priest’s nephew, Bill Maher, said the report was ultimately “disappointing” but was “quite detailed”.

“He still says that certain aspects of it warrant inquiries,” said Mr Maher.

“His main conclusion seems to be that people have died and people are unwilling to speak. If the commission [of inquiry] had been set up, which is what we’d sought all along, people would have been compelled to give evidence. There are a few people dead but there are a lot of people alive.”

Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan said that if new evidence came to light “it will be pursued”, but added: “It’s only fair to say at this moment it’s probably not right to hold out hope 30 years later.”


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