[Sinn Fein]

13th March 2003

Ó Snodaigh calls for public inquiry into Garda misconduct in Sheehan case

Sinn Fein spokesperson on Justice Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called for a public inquiry into Garda misconduct in the case of republican activist James Sheehan of Co. Kerry. Speaking following an exchange with the Minister for Justice in the Dáil, Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"The irregularities in this case warrant full and public investigation in the interests of justice, transparency, and public confidence in the Gardaí. The existing internal complaints process has failed, and that is why I am calling for a public inquiry.

"The man concerned was a known republican arrested under the Offences Against the State Act in 1989. While he was in custody the Gardaí claimed to have found a gun in his car, and ammunition in his home. Despite this, Mr. Sheehan was never charged with these offences. Mr. Sheehan maintains that the finds were fabricated by the Gardaí, and the so-called evidence planted by them. Mr. Sheehan was pursuing a complaint through the Garda internal complaints process when he was advised that the gun and ammunition had been destroyed, thus preventing further investigation.

"I welcome the fact that the Minister has now requested a report from the Garda Commissioner in this case as a recognition that there are a number of serious unresolved questions which need answered. But the contradiction in the Minister's stated position now needs to be clarified. On the one hand he has requested a new report from the Commissioner saying he would 'retain an open mind on these matters' until he received it. On the other hand, he says he doesn't 'accept that circumstances warrant an independent inquiry' in this case. I strongly disagree with this assessment, and hope that this is not an indication of prejudice on the Minister's part.

"Clearly, there are a number of similarities between this case and elements of the cases currently under consideration by the Morris Tribunal. There is a question of Garda misconduct regarding planted evidence and the destruction of such evidence before a proper investigation can be conducted. There is a larger question as to patterns of Garda abuse of powers under the Offences Against the State Acts. There is also a question as to whether the current complaints system was merely ineffective, or if it was tampered with in any way to prevent a proper investigation. The Sheehan case suggests that problems of Garda misconduct are not limited to the Donegal Gardaí. If this is the case, this is a very serious matter and the public have the right to know."

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