Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the Garda review of the murder of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly, in July 1985; if he will accede to the request by the family for an independent inquiry into the priest’s death; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Deputy Alan Shatter: I am informed by the Garda authorities that the incident referred to was the subject of investigation by An Garda Síochána, which resulted in the submission of an investigation file to the law officers, who directed that a person be charged with manslaughter and assault. At the ensuing trial directions to acquit were given by the judge.
Following the publication of an article concerning this case in October 2010, representations were made requesting an investigation of the matters raised in it. I understand that the Commissioner arranged for a detective superintendent to meet the author of the article and the persons making the representations to make an assessment whether there was any evidence which was not available to the original investigation team and if further investigation was required in this case. As a result, a number of lines of inquiry were identified for examination by An Garda Síochána.
I am conscious that the matter is one a great concern to the family of the deceased and in this regard I have responded, in so far as I can, to representations made by them and on their behalf. I am intimately aware of their concerns, having met with them.
I have received an update on progress on the matter from the Garda Commissioner but the examination remains ongoing and I expect to receive a further report upon its completion, at which point I will review the situation. I am well aware of the concerns which have been expressed about this case, but I hope the Deputy will agree that, in the first instance, we need to allow the present Garda examination to proceed to a conclusion. In that context, I understand that it is expected that the gardaí carrying out the examination will shortly be in a position to report to the Commissioner.
Deputy Denis Naughten: I thank the Minister for his reply. My understanding is that Detective Superintendent Mangan, who is the head of the cold case unit, has informed journalists and the family within the past two weeks that there is no live investigation nor a review ongoing into the case. That seems to contradict the information which the Minister has just supplied to the House. The key point in this regard is why the Garda Commissioner has refused to address claims that were published by this country’s most eminent crime reporter, Mr. Paul Williams, that the Garda did a deal with Mr. John Traynor for the return of the Fr. Niall Molloy file which had been previously stolen. The Commissioner has refused to respond to the claims despite numerous requests from the family. Will the Minister direct the Garda Commissioner to answer just one question? Could he indicate whether Mr. Paul Williams was right or wrong about those claims? Is the answer “Yes” or “No”?
Deputy Alan Shatter: My understanding is that the Deputy was interested in knowing where matters stand with regard to the tragic death that occurred in this case. When in Opposition I met with the journalist concerned who was referred to in the reply. On becoming Minister I asked that the matter would be further investigated by An Garda Síochána. It is not for me to undertake personally that investigation. That would be highly inappropriate. The information I have given to the Deputy is the information I have received by way of update on where matters stand. Given the length of time that has elapsed since this tragic event occurred, I do not know whether there is any practical possibility of making a prosecution. A variety of issues have been raised surrounding the background to this tragic case and the investigation conducted. Issues have been raised concerning the trial that occurred, on which I cannot make any comment in the context of the independence of the courts. I am aware of all of those issues but in respect to this particular matter I must rely on the information given by An Garda Síochána to my Department. I am afraid I cannot further enlighten the Deputy beyond the information I have given. I am sure the Deputy would not regard it as appropriate that I would enter into discussions in this House about issues relating to individual files.
Deputy Denis Naughten: Is the Minister not concerned about the allegations made by Mr. Paul Williams that a deal was done with Mr. John Traynor to drop a prosecution for the return of Fr. Molloy’s file?
As the Minister is aware, since Fr. Molloy’s murder, there has been a litany of questions about the investigation, the subsequent court proceedings, witnesses and so on. A further question arises in terms of how the file was returned to the Garda. In this light and given the Minister’s pledge in 2010 to have a full independent review of the killing, will he arrange that review and ensure the Garda Commissioner will answer “Yes” or “No” to Paul Williams’s claims?
Deputy Alan Shatter: My concern is that, if there is information available to the Garda that was adequate to bring a prosecution against some individual, any such claim should be fully investigated. It is my understanding the Garda, arising from the issues raised, has engaged in discussions with both the journalist who raised this issue and for whom I have a great deal of respect and with others whom it deems relevant. My information is that, as matters stand, the position is as detailed by me in my response to the Deputy. I am not aware personally of any deal being made with anybody in these matters. I expect that, if there was substantial evidence available to the Garda that merited the taking of a prosecution against anyone following these tragic events, the matter would be fully investigated and a file furnished to the Director of Public Prosecutions with a view to determining whether there was a basis for bringing a prosecution.