You are on page 1of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose

An Garda Síochána
An analysis of a police force unfit for purpose
In constitutional democracies, governments must operate within a
framework of constitutional rules, which define the powers, structures and
functions of governmental institutions and the rights of citizens. However,
the framers of the Constitution of Ireland – in operation since December 29
1937 – eschewed any express provision for policing. This left An Garda
Síochána vulnerable to the self-serving manipulation and intrigues of
governing parties, individual politicians and well-connected national and
local elites.
An Garda Síochána is directly controlled by, and accountable to, central
government. Professor Dermot Walsh, Chair of Law at the University of
Limerick, has warned that such “a huge concentration of police power in the
hands of central government in the absence of adequate constitutional
checks and balances is uncomfortably close to the arrangements associated
with a police state.” [1]
Professor Walsh’s warning is hugely important, given An Garda
Síochána’s “monopoly on the legitimate use of force in civil society”. [2]
Police violence can be used to overwhelm and subdue dissent, at the behest
of governments.
The right to dissent peacefully is a cornerstone of democracy. Civil
disobedience and other forms of peaceful protest and dissent, though
irksome to governments and ‘The Establishment’, are vital for a healthy
society. Mass-dissent is a form of civil activism, an expression of deeprooted anger in society. The crushing of such dissent suggests authoritarian
rule, not democracy. Nevertheless, “the legitimate use of force in civil
society” is widely used by police in Western ‘democracies’ to curb dissent,
to impose harsh and unpopular – even loathsome – government policies, and
to maintain, and magnify, gross inequalities between social classes.
Dermot Walsh’s warning – of how some elements of Ireland’s
government/ police relationship come “uncomfortably close to the
arrangements associated with a police state” – will be addressed
throughout this document. A police state is one in which police forces
become synonymous with an intolerance towards public dissent, and also
synonymous with repression, with criminality and lack of accountability.
Such a state is incompatible with democracy.
Do we live in a democracy – or in a police state?

Page 1 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
“There has to be a strong, cordial relationship between society and its police force”.
(Michael McDowell, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, at 2003 MacGill
Summer School).
“Once you come into Erris, all law is suspended. Shell takes over the law.” (Pat ‘The
Chief’ O’Donnell, fisherman from Erris, County Mayo). [3]
The evacuation of British troops, which began in January 1922, and the disbanding of
the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), followed the attainment of Irish independence. A
new police force was set up – the Civic Guard. Shortly after its formation, Civic Guard
recruits mutinied at their Kildare training depot. The Civic Guard’s commissioner, Dáil
deputy Michael Staines, and fellow officers, had to flee, “pursued by a threatening mob
containing many members of the Civic Guard… they had to run for their lives”,
according to one report. [4]
Ammunition, revolvers and up to 300 rifles were seized by the mutineers. A siege of
the depot ensued. It was an extraordinarily inauspicious start for the infant state’s
national police force.
Staines soon resigned as commissioner. He was succeeded by General Eoin O’Duffy.
In August 1923, the Civic Guard was renamed An Garda Síochána, with O’Duffy as its
first commissioner.
A man of excessive ostentation, self-laudation and vanity, he was a mercurial, imperious
and publicity-seeking demagogue who, in time, delighted in moving in fascist and Nazi
circles. A biographer described how he “rubbed shoulders with Oswald Mosley at the
Nazi-sponsored International Action of Nationalisms conference in Zurich. He attended
a conference in Montreaux organized by a newly formed Italian organization… which
brought together the most important fascist organizations outside Germany”. [5] By then,
he had been dismissed as Garda commissioner.
In 1932, when the Cumann na nGaedheal government – which had appointed O’Duffy
Garda commissioner nine years earlier – lost to the de Valera- led Fianna Fáil in a general
election, there were rumours and fears of an O’Duffy-led or promoted coup d’etat.
Professor of Modern History Joe Lee noted that Commissioner O’Duffy and Cumann na
nGaedheal minister for finance Ernest Blythe “were rumoured to want an army coup.” [6]
Conor Brady – author of a fine history of An Garda Síochána – related how “As early as
six months before the election O’Duffy had been sounding out senior army officers about
the possibility of a joint army-Garda takeover in the event of Fianna Fáil winning the
next election.” [7]
However, no coup occurred.
From its earliest years, Ireland’s post-independence police force was dogged by
controversy, and by accusations of impropriety, illegality, ineptitude and indiscipline.
After his appointment to the force as assistant commissioner, Eamonn Coogan – father of
Tim Pat Coogan – inspected a police station in Corofin, County Clare in early 1923. His
report was scathing. “When I arrived at the Station, the Sgt sat glowering at me and
refused to call the party to attention… Garda – tried to rise but fell into the fireplace. I
asked the Sergeant to account for the state of affairs existing at the Station but he replied

Page 2 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
in such a manner as would do more justice to the worst cornerboy in the slums of
London. I searched the barracks and found that a seizure of poteen (three gallons) made
on the previous day had been almost consumed by the Station party. The Barrack servant
sat with a baton in her hand, protecting the remainder of it and refused to move… I heard
noises coming from the rear of the cells… I found three young ladies there. I took
statements from them and they complained that when passing the Barracks they were
forcibly taken in by Sgt – and Gardas – and – , for a purpose better imagined than
described… I found the Sergeant urinating from the front door into the street and he
started to argue with me on the footpath with his person exposed.” [8]
When police recruits completed their training, they were dispatched to stations around
the country, such as Corofin. One of the earliest recruits was Donegal native Michael
Canney, who was sent to Rossport, in the remote Barony of Erris in north-west Mayo.
Describing life in the area at that time, he wrote that “the good people of Rossport…
required no Gardaí to help regulate their honest lives… The people were law-abiding,
affable, friendly and free from crime.” As a consequence, “only a few Gardaí were
required to enforce the law in that wide area between Blacksod and Killala” – an area
stretching around forty miles from west to east. [9]
However, over 80 years after Canney’s arrival in Erris, the law-abiding and peaceful
area around Rossport had been transformed into a virtual police mini-state. Rossport lies
in the parish of Kilcommon, which has a population of probably no more than two
thousand men, women and children. In October 2006, around 200 gardaí – including
members of the riot squad – were temporarily posted to police the area, ensuring the
highest Garda to local population ratio, by far, of any rural community in the entire
country. The force’s objectives were not benign. What ensued was a quite startling
erosion of civil liberties, human rights and democracy. Essentially, democracy was
suspended in the region.
The story of the community’s years of suffering and repression, at the hands of An
Garda Síochána, began with the October 1996 announcement of a natural gas discovery
83 kilometres off Mayo’s west coast. Called the Corrib Gas Project, the venture
represented the second largest – after Intel – inward investment in Ireland. It was
proposed that the gas would be piped ashore from the gas field and then through a 9
kilometre high-pressure land pipeline – via the Gaeltacht area of Rossport – to an inland
treatment plant at Bellanaboy.
Initially, the discovery was greeted enthusiastically by the vast majority of local
residents, who hoped that the region was on the cusp of an economic boom. However, as
time passed, a handful of locals began to raise the possibility of an explosion in the
onshore section of the pipeline. Later, people became concerned about the health
implications of a run-off of aluminium-containing water from the gas treatment plant site
at Bellanaboy into Carrowmore Lake, the main source of drinking water for people in the
region. Aluminium has been blamed by some as a causal factor in breast cancer and as a
neuro-toxin that can cause Alzheimers Disease.
The original route proposed for the high-pressure natural gas onshore pipeline passed
within 70 metres of two homes, even closer to a local public road, and was a few hundred
metres away from Rossport’s two schools, its pub and other residences. Fearful of the
dangers posed by the pipeline to the lives and safety of their own families, their friends

Page 3 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
and neighbours – their community – a few locals began to engage in a campaign of
peaceful resistance and hindrance. Civil disobedience.
On June 29 2005, five local men – dubbed the Rossport 5 – were committed to prison,
for an indefinite period, for contempt of a court order, obtained by the Shell-led gas
project consortium. The court order barred protestors from continuing their small-scale
non-violent obstruction of Shell personnel, who were ‘trespassing’ on private land,
without the owners’ consent. When the men’s imprisonment sparked a wave of antiShell anger, and daily protests began at its Bellanaboy site, the multinational performed
an unexpected u-turn. It lifted its court injunction, enabling the five men to walk free,
after 94 days behind bars.
With many former supporters of the Shell project now opposing it, governmental
behaviour towards the area shifted alarmingly towards authoritarianism. With the arrival
of the 150-200 gardaí in October 2006, the parish of Kilcommon resembled a place under
siege by police – a virtual police state, where people endured Garda surveillance and
harassment, arrest, imprisonment, the crushing of dissent by the State through police
violence and a constant pressure to conform with the government’s will, and with Shell’s
interests. October 2006 marked the beginning of the most intensive, intrusive, prolonged
and violent public-order policing operation in a small area in the entire history of the
If, as the government claimed, the Corrib Gas Project was overwhelmingly supported by
the local community, such a large police presence and such forceful tactics would not
have been necessary.
In early 2007, just months after the huge influx of outside gardaí, the area was visited by
international human rights and environmental justice investigators representing the USbased Global Community Monitor. Their report noted evidence of “excessive physical
force by Gardaí against peaceful protestors… which resulted in serious injury.” It told of
how protestors “were followed and confronted by Gardaí when they were about the
community on their private matters. Gardaí have appeared in plain clothes at public antipipeline events, resulting in other people present feeling intimidated… There is evidence
from videos of youth, women and the elderly being pushed and beaten by Gardaí without
provocation. Even high ranking officers were personally involved in beating up
protestors… Emergency response and medical treatment to injured protestors was denied
and delayed by Gardaí without justification.” There was also evidence of gardaí
“verbally threatening people without cause, which appeared to incite violence rather than
diffuse it.” [10]
Journalist Michael McCaughan has remarked on the strong-arm tactics of gardaí.
“Anyone who has watched the endless hours of [video] footage from these [Bellanaboy]
incidents will see a police force out of control and lacking a strategy for what is a minor
disturbance on a remote country road.” [11]
What especially gave the community a sense of living in a police mini-state was the
violence perpetrated against them, with apparent impunity. There was a pervasive
belief among anti-pipeline protestors that gardaí had been given some form of
governmental exemption from prosecution and punishment for any repressive or
thuggish actions used by them against campaigners.
In February 2007, Global Community Monitor held a public meeting in Erris, at which a
panel of five international environmentalists and human rights specialists heard the

Page 4 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
testimony of protestors about alleged police brutality. Ed Collins, an American-born
resident in the area told of how he had “been beaten, assaulted, kicked, choked,
punched… I have been kicked and battered from day one… charged at, kicked at, kneed
in the face when we sat down on the road”. He told of how, at a protest on the morning
of November 10 2006, he was walking down the road, away from the protest, heading
home. A female garda, he claimed, grabbed him and then “laid in a series of kicks at my
legs, she kicked me in the privates, she kicked me in my groin. I bent over. She grabbed
me by my camera strap… All of a sudden a Garda [number provided]… came running,
charging, at me with kicks.” Ed fell, with the female garda, into a deep drain. He was
brought to hospital in an ambulance. His “blood pressure was 193:120… I had serious
contusion in my lower back and I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t feel my feet, I couldn’t move
my toes for three days in the hospital… It seems that I was kicked so forcibly in the back
of the knee that my leg and my knee is going two different directions”. [12] Although his
version of events has been contradicted by An Garda Síochána, for a considerable period
afterwards he was confined to a wheelchair, unable to walk, and subsequently had to use
crutches and pain-killers. Over four years after being injured, he was getting about with
the aid of a walking stick. He has had recurring back problems.
Betty Noone, a 63 year old grandmother, told of how she had travelled from Killala –
around 30 miles away – “to see for myself what was happening.” She alleged that at the
November 10 protest, she was lifted off her feet by a garda and thrown over the side of
the road towards a water-filled drain, perhaps seven or eight feet below the road. Her
“feet were caught in briars and I was thrown face down. As I landed half-way down, I
was aware of a large rock sticking out and my leg lodged against that… the pain was
excruciating. I was totally shocked. Some people helped me up.” She explained how an
ambulance arrived, “and injured people were being taken to it. I approached one Garda
[name provided]… and said, ‘I need medical assistance and I need it fast’. He looked at
me and he said, ‘What’s the matter?’ I said, ‘My leg is injured’, and at this stage it was
absolutely swollen to the tightness of the trousers I was wearing. He looked to the right
to another Garda and he said, ‘She’s hurt her leg, oh dear, she’s hurt her leg.’” She
believed her leg was fractured. “I went to the hospital that same day… and since that,
and even now, I have a large haematoma” [a collection of blood forming a swelling], she
told the hearing three months after the incident.
She also told of how three gardaí grabbed one lady, “dragged her to the side [of the
road] and she tried to get up, and as a third Garda left her… he kicked her. I screamed
and shouted for the cameras to come, because that was our only weapon that day. We
were totally and completely non-violent that day and the cameras were the only
protection we had, and if we had cameras the Gardaí stopped abusing people”.
Betty had driven to the protest with another Killala grandmother, Phyllis Regan, who
was thrown to the ground by a female garda, but suffered no injury.
Pat Coyle told the hearing how on January 19 2007, he got hit on the front of the head
and then was hit “on the back of the head with what felt like a baton”, knocking him to
the ground. He got a front tooth knocked out and had a cut on his forehead.
Siobhán McDonnell told of how her lower back was injured and ribs bruised on October
11 2006, when she was knocked to the ground by gardaí. Subsequently, she attended a
chiropractor – “at the very start for about two months, twice or three times a week.”

Page 5 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
Pat ‘The Chief’ O’Donnell told of an occasion when a garda “jumped up on my knees”,
stamping on him with his heels, while Pat was sitting on the road. He “couldn’t walk for
two or three days.” At a November 10 2006 protest – at a local quarry – he sustained bad
bruising to his ribs when assaulted on the ground by two or three gardaí, necessitating a
visit to a hospital. On another occasion, a few gardaí held him while another hit him with
“four or five punches in the face… about a week after, my teeth fell out”.
His brother Martin told of how, on November 10, he himself was struck on the chin
bone with a loud-hailer by an identified senior officer.
He also told of how, on January 18 2007, when he went to save his brother, who was
being beaten up, two gardaí grabbed him and two others pounded him. “I got two
stitches in my eye and I got a chipped bone in the back of my neck”.
Fourteen year old Céire McGrath told of how she sustained “damage to the tendons and
soft tissue of the shoulder joint” when hit by a garda on October 26 2006. Six days later,
she was hit by a garda on the same arm, which was in a sling, injuring it again.
The Global Community Monitor panel noted that it requested meetings with the Gardaí
and with the local planning authority, Mayo County Council, “but these requests were
The Garda assault on Pat O’Donnell at the quarry was witnessed by a Galway student,
Sarah Clancy. In a statement to the Garda Complaints Board, she told of how she had
seen him being thrown to the ground, with “first two, then one garda kneeling on his
back… they pressed his face into the dirt, all the while hitting him with batons… There
were four gardaí at least involved in this.” She also saw a female classmate being
punched in the stomach.
Sarah was subsequently interviewed by the Garda Complaints Board, which concluded
that there had been “no breach of either discipline or protocol” by gardaí. [13]
The events of November 10 2006 – during which people were savagely batoned and
thrown like sacks of rubbish into the air, to fall into a drain far below the road – were
widely shown on television and in the documentary film The Pipe, and were reported on
in the following day’s newspapers. The day marked a watershed in the dispute. In that
month’s Garda Review magazine, Superintendent Joe Gannon, district officer for the
area, explained that a “no arrests” policy had recently been decided upon. “That was part
of our strategy: we did not want to facilitate anyone down there with a route to
martyrdom. That has been the policy ever since.” Batons and overwhelming Garda
numbers were, it seemed, to replace arrests as a means to quell dissent.
What occurred on November 10 was a bitter foretaste of what was still to come, with the
apparent imprimatur of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. On the day of the baton assaults, he told
RTE correspondent Eileen Magnier that “negotiation is over. The rule of law has to be
implemented… And if there are those who try to frustrate that, they’re breaking the law
and it’s a matter for the Gardaí to enforce it”.
“There’s a danger of someone getting seriously hurt”, Magnier suggested.
“Well, that’s always the danger when you have people breaking the law”, Ahern replied.
The pipeline controversy had become a law and order issue, rather than a civil liberties
or human rights issue. Law and order concerns can be, conveniently, concocted to justify
even the most absurd and anti-people governmental policies and activities, and also to
excuse completely disproportionate responses by a state’s security agencies. In Erris,
under the pretext of enforcing law and order, people were criminalised for seeking

Page 6 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
changes to a project that threatened their community’s health, safety and lives. People’s
rights were ignored. Existing regulations were changed, to meet Shell’s needs.
Democratic principles were jettisoned.
The struggle of a small community for human dignity and for human and civil rights
was being brutally opposed by a powerful alliance of the ruling political parties, a megacorporation with a dismal human rights record, and the State’s police force. It was a very
unequal contest – ostensibly powerless peasants against seemingly near- omnipotent and
invincible corporate and political foes.
A political decision had clearly been taken to resolve the impasse through physical force
and violence, rather than through negotiation and consultation.

Page 7 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose

Guardians of the Peace?
“In a democracy, there is no uglier spectacle than the power of the State being used
against its own citizens. In fact, it’s not even compatible with the notion of
democracy. Only totalitarian states operate as if the interests of the State were
more important than the needs of the people.” (Fergus Finlay, former chief adviser
to Labour Party leader Dick Spring). [14]
Since its earliest years, An Garda Síochána – and its predecessor, the Civic Guard –
displayed a strange penchant for violence. The infant state’s affairs were, to an alarming
extent, conducted through coercion In September 1922, just months after the formation
of the Civic Guard, policing took a sinister turn when post-independent Ireland’s first
trades dispute occurred. Demonstrations by striking Irish Postal Workers Union
members were brutally suppressed, on the orders of the government, by gardaí and
soldiers. A female striker in Dublin was shot at, but had a lucky escape when the bullet
was deflected by a suspender buckle.
It had become “dangerous to be dissident” historian Diarmaid Ferriter observed. He
wondered if the country was experiencing “a class war with a government overly hostile
to workers”. [15]
In 1929, gardaí badly beat up an IRA member in Clare, leaving him unconscious. In the
Dáil, on July 31, Minister for Justice James Fitzgerald-Kenney (Cumann na nGaedheal)
asserted that the injuries were the result of a kick from a cow on the victim’s own farm.
The gardaí involved later planned to drown the same victim, but were foiled when their
superiors learned of their plans.
Conor Brady (later editor of the Irish Times and a commissioner in the Garda Síochána
Ombudsman Commission) has written about “the development from about the end of
1923 onwards, of the problem of maltreatment of prisoners. In Wicklow, Waterford,
Cork and Tipperary and later in Clare there were allegations of severe ill-treatment of
prisoners in custody, many of whom were never even charged. O’Duffy was later to
confess in 1929 that the problem had been serious.” [16]
In March 1934, the Irish Press revealed that gardaí serving under O’Duffy had been
dismissed for drunkenness, assault, theft, incompetence and non-performance of duties.
The Garda Index to Special Files, 1929-1945, reported excessive drinking of alcohol by
some gardaī in Dublin. It also alleged “widespread bribery of gardaí by the butchers
union” in 1938.
In August 1934, members of the Garda S-Branch – an armed wing of the police, which
was formed by the recently-elected de Valera government and was comprised of Fianna
Fáil supporters – opened fire on farmers protesting in Cork City, killing a 15-year old boy
and wounding several men.
Assigned a central role, by the government, in the sphere of social control, An Garda
Síochána had considerable discretionary powers and flexibility in maintaining a
compliant and obeisant working class. People protesting against injustices or opposing
government policies and programmes risked being singled out for ‘special treatment’ by
the police. Dissent was unwelcome, often punishable.

Page 8 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
Government malice towards the working class became, especially, evident in the early
1930s. The Irish National Unemployed Movement “grew rapidly in the early months of
1930 and many of its demonstrations resulted in serious clashes with the police”, wrote
history lecturer Donal Ō Drisceoil. [17] Conor Brady noted, that, a few years later,
“when the government instructed the Guards to break up a demonstration by unemployed
workers in Dublin, there were scenes of further violence which reflected little credit on
the Guards.” [18]
In February 1938, after striking dockers and supporters in Ballina, County Mayo threw
stones at gardaí, injuring two, a “baton charge was ordered, and four or five shots were
fired in the air by detectives to scatter the crowd”, the Western People reported. [19] One
man “was found to have been seriously injured and 20 had to be medically treated”,
according to the Irish Press. [20] A “young man, John Melvin, a docker, was knocked
out by a blow of a baton which inflicted a nasty scalp wound; a man named Sherlock…
was also knocked out by a baton blow on the head, and his brother is stated to have had
two ribs broken. William Humber had a scalp wound. Peter Loughney, senior…
received injuries from baton blows to the arm and shoulder… Mrs. Joseph Loughney,
who went to the assistance of her father-in-law, received several baton blows”, the
Western People stated. [21]
What was notable about the injuries, was the number of people who had received baton
blows to the head – blows which can be fatal.
Garda violence and harassment against the working class continued into the 1940s and
1950s. The emergence in 1953 of the Dublin Unemployed Association, formed to
highlight the levels of deprivation, even malnutrition, among the unemployed and their
families, elicited an immediate government response. “Police intimidation… including
the prevention of basic street protest, ensured the collapse of the DUA”, Diarmaid
Ferriter wrote. [22]
After the setting up in Dublin, in 1957, of an Unemployed Protest Committee, “their
protests evoked considerable attention and – on occasion – quite unprovoked physical
attacks from the Gardaí”, another commentator noted. [23] It was a time of torrential
emigration and chronic unemployment. In the general election of that year, UPC
candidate Jack Murphy, won a seat in Dublin. Railing against the unemployment
movement, and portraying it as communist-inspired, Archbishop McQuaid of Dublin
pressurised Murphy into parting from the UPC. In 1958, he resigned from the Dáil and
emigrated. Hostility from the Catholic hierarchy, the news media, the de Valera
government and the police soon destroyed the UPC.
During the early post-independence decades, people experienced virulent anticommunist witchhunting and violence. Socialist campaigners – such as Jim Larkin, Jim
Gralton and Peadar O’Donnell – were hounded by police. During the first six months of
1928, O’Donnell was arrested and released almost daily by gardaí. His home was often
raided. In 1932, Gralton, a native of Leitrim, returned from the United States. However,
his political and social activities were unacceptable to the de Valera government and to
the Catholic Church. Denounced as a dangerous communist subversive, he was forced to
go on the run. In August 1933 he was caught by gardaí and immediately deported to the
US by sea, without even a chance to say goodbye to his family and friends.
Beginning in the 1920s, and continuing for decades, Gardaí conducted surveillance
operations against organizations such as the Irish section of the League Against

Page 9 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
Imperialism, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), the Republican movement,
even the innocuous Irish Housewives’ Association. Former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald
recalled how – due to the influence of his brother Fergus, who had served in the Irish
Army’s intelligence unit – he “saw communists under every bed”, imputing “communist
leanings to several quite innocent organisations, such as the Irish Housewives’
Association and the Irish Association of Civil Liberty.” [24] Leading politicians, such as
finance minister Seán McEntee, a founder of Fianna Fáil, had been to the fore in fostering
‘red scare’ campaigns. Among the victims of such campaigns was the Irish Workers
League, which “could not publish their paper, Irish Workers’ Voice, in Ireland because of
the fears of printers, and members were also physically beaten, as happened in the early
1950s when they were campaigning for peace and the banning of atomic weapons”,
according to Diarmaid Ferriter. [25]
Dr. Noel Browne, a participant in a protest outside the US embassy in Ballsbridge – at
the time of the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis, during which Washington’s blockade
of the island nation brought the world to the brink of nuclear warfare – wrote of how he
himself “was violently hurled through the air, victim of some kind of street-fighting
artistry favoured by a notorious policeman who specialised in brutality and was proud of
it. This was followed by a general assault on our small group… Our resistance was
finally crushed, however, by the use of savage [Garda] alsatian dogs… a large and angry
animal with sharp teeth was furiously tearing at your clothes, your body, your head, face
and arms… one alsatian jumping at my head… Some of the young men and women
needed hospital treatment for their bites”. [26]
The event reveals much about Ireland’s strange model of ‘democratic rule’, whereby a
small peaceful group of protesters was violently assaulted while campaigning for one of
the most praiseworthy moral causes imaginable – an end to the madness of US and Soviet
Cold War brinkmanship, which threatened to engulf mankind in a nuclear holocaust.
Instead of performing its, ostensible, role as guardian of the people, An Garda Síochána
had become their oppressor. Commenting on the utter senselessness of the Garda
violence, Noel Browne wrote, that “the men setting these dogs on us were the men whom
we as citizens paid to keep the peace.” [27]
An Irish government – under Fianna Fáil taoiseach Sean Lemass – had chosen to
suspend citizens’ fundamental civil rights, using Garda violence to minimise US
discomfiture and to deter further protests.
Twenty-two years later, another Irish government – this one led by Fine Gael taoiseach
Garret FitzGerald – also suspended civil rights, on this occasion allowing gardaí to,
essentially, intern Women for Disarmament protestors during the June 1984 visit of
President Ronald Reagan. The government’s objective was to prevent the women from
holding a peaceful and dignified protest in the Phoenix Park, near the US ambassador’s
residence. The women were demonstrating against Reagan’s foreign and military
policies, which had transformed much of Central America into a human abattoir –
through supporting murderous governments and death squads in El Salvador and
Guatemala and supporting Contra terrorists in Nicaragua.
Thirty-four women were removed from the park in police vans, detained in two Garda
stations, and then released on bail after Reagan’s departure.
On June 19 they turned up for their court trials, only to learn that Garda charges against
them had been dropped, thus ensuring that the joint government/ Garda repressive actions

Page 10 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
would not be subjected to judicial and media scrutiny. They subsequently received outof-court financial settlements from the State.
A few young anti-Reagan protestors on Dublin streets were assaulted by gardaí – some
reportedly kicked after being knocked to the ground.
Around the time of Noel Browne’s encounter with police alsatians, a mobile Garda squad
was set up in Dublin, led by Jim ‘Lugs’ Branigan, a boxer. The unit became infamous for
its recourse to beatings as a way for dealing with petty criminals and those engaging in
anti-social behaviour – thereby obviating the need for paperwork and court appearances.
The establishment in 1967 of the Dublin Housing Action Committee induced a violent
Garda backlash. At the time, there was a housing crisis in the city, with thousands of
people living in sub-standard accommodation, or squatting in empty premises, or living
in tents or makeshift shacks on derelict sites or on footpaths. The DHAC sought to
prevent evictions.
Just months after the organisation’s formation, the ‘Battle of Sarah Place’ took place in
Islandbridge, when a large force of gardaí sought to evict tenants and DHAC activists
who had barricaded a row of cottages. Twenty four people were arrested.
At the beginning of 1969, around two-thousand DHAC supporters staged a sit-down on
O’Connell Bridge. Running battles ensued between protesters and baton-swinging
In 1970, a confrontation took place between up to 100 gardaí and DHAC supporters at
two vacant properties on the swanky Pembroke Road in Ballsbridge, where homeless
people squatted. One of the two premises was owned by Charles Haughey’s wealthy
future benefactor Patrick Gallagher. Several protesters were hospitalised. One person
sustained a fractured skull, others broken ribs. The gardaí “bate ten kinds of shite out of
everybody”, one participant recalled. [28] Arrests at DHAC protests were a common
occurrence, followed by court appearances. Accusations of Garda brutality were frequent.
Gardaí were being used as a tool of government to savagely crush dissent and social
unrest among Dublin’s most deprived and needy – the unemployed, the poor, the
The DHAC attracted a wide spectrum of politically and socially-conscious citizens.
Marching alongside Sean Ō Cionnaith and Máirín de Burca of Official Sinn Féin (later
the Workers Party) and Michael O’Riordan (long-time general secretary of the
Communist Party of Ireland) were two priests, Jesuit Michael Sweetman and Dominican
Austin Flannery – the latter denounced as “a gullible cleric” in the Dáil by the then
finance minister Charles Haughey, because of his campaigning work with the DHAC.
Ministerial demonization of dissidents, and denials of Garda violence, was customary.
Brendan Ryan – an executive member of the Simon Community in Cork, who was
elected to the Seanad in 1981 – wrote in a 1995 book that “ministerial denials need to be
treated with a degree of healthy scepticism. I learnt that many years ago when, after a
housing demonstration in Dublin, the then Minister for Justice assured the Dáil that no
batons were drawn by the gardaí. My delicate and bruised testicle proved otherwise”.
Conor Brady has written of how, as a young reporter in the autumn of 1968, he “was
caught in a baton charge which followed a political demonstration on O’Connell Bridge
in Dublin… with batons flailing the air about my head… what seemed like a violent
over-reaction to a peaceful demonstration”. [30] Conor’s father was a garda.

Page 11 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
In the 1980’s, street traders in central Dublin – many of them mothers of large families
– were being constantly harassed and moved on from their street pitches by gardaí. Some
were fined and jailed, as was Deputy Tony Gregory (Ind), who sided with them. Once
again, disadvantaged members of Irish society were being targeted by the forces of law
and order – as agents of the government of the day.
And what of gardaí in rural areas? Journalist Patsy McGarry has written about his
experiences with gardaí when growing up in the west of Ireland. Some “local gardaí had
no reservation about abusing their powers when it came to dealing with people they had
personal disagreements with, or just plain disliked. In Ballaghaderreen everyone knew
gardaí who set out to ‘get’ such people… When I was a student at UCG [University
College Galway] I witnessed gardaí lose control at a student protest outside the Garda
station in Eglinton Street… The student protesters were picketing the station over
proposed legislation which would ban such protests. All was peaceful until the local
senior officer lost his temper and ordered a baton charge. Several students were badly
injured, one with a deep gash to the crown of her head and another left with the skin,
literally, hanging from his cheekbone. Both victims were arrested… There was never an
inquiry into how they secured their injuries or into reasons why a baton charge was
ordered.” [31]
Once again, the right to peacefully protest, to highlight grievances, was being violently
denied to people.
Another journalist, Kevin Farrell, has written about the arrival of turf-cutters from other
counties (‘culchies’) in his native Edenderry in Offaly, to work in local Bord na Móna
bogs in the late 1940s and in the 1950s. Some drank excessively, and engaged in
disorderly conduct. Garda Sergeant Martin O’Neill was sent to the area to put manners
on them. “He ruled with a baton and administered summary justice. He left many a
culchie with a sore head… I saw Sergeant O’Neill in action on one occasion and once
was enough. He was a savage”, Farrell recalled. [32]
In the mid-1970s, with encouragement from the Industrial Development Authority
(IDA), an American corporation, Raybestos Manhattan, arrived in County Cork to set up
a manufacturing plant for asbestos products. Described as a “cancer factory” by a local
councillor and as a “definite health hazard” to the local community by nine local doctors,
it became the target of one of the largest and most bitter struggles in Ireland’s industrial
history. [33]
The company’s plans to dump asbestos waste at a site in Barnahely, Ringaskiddy, met
with resistance from the local community, which claimed that this posed serious health
risks for children in two national schools, due to their proximity to the site. Asbestos is a
known carcinogen – a cancer-causing substance.
On May 15, 1978 locals planned to hold a non-violent protest – some parents brought
young children along with them – to prevent asbestos being dumped at the site. In its
May 17 edition, the Cork Examiner reported on the protest. “The confrontation was
extremely violent, reminiscent of a street battle in Derry or Belfast, and introduced an
ugly new element to the asbestos row. Children were knocked to the ground, screaming
and crying as the guards broke through the picket line. Women who were knocked down
later said they were punched and kicked by gardaí. A man on a crutch was thrown to the

Page 12 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
The chairman of the local residents’ association asserted that “It’s clear now we live in a
police state.” [34]
Nine people required hospital treatment, and a ten-year old child was kept overnight.
Inquiries into allegations of Garda brutality were rarely held. The few held were –
almost invariably – internal investigations, with gardaí questioning fellow gardaí.
Remedial action to curb Garda violence, or other wrongdoing, was seldom taken by
government, since the internal inquiries were unlikely to find gardaí guilty. In any case,
there was likely to be considerable government reluctance to punish Garda violence,
since it was generally used to counter groups opposing government policies or inaction.
An Garda Síochána operates under the direct control of central government, specifically
the minister for justice. In March 1982, Taoiseach Charles Haughey appointed a new
justice minister – Sean Doherty, a former member of the Garda Special Branch, who had
already served as a minister of state for justice.
During his brief, nine-month, tenure of senior ministerial office, Doherty abused power
for his own venal and self-gratifying ends. Political power enabled him to dominate, to
humiliate, to punish or reward, to cajole or threaten, to subvert justice, to infringe the
constitutional rights of journalists and others, and to flout the norms of democratic rule.
An aura of menace surrounded him.
When Irish Times security correspondent Peter Murtagh interviewed him in the autumn
of 1982, the minister remarked that “I know all about your family, all about you.” The
remark, Murtagh opined, “was a menacing comment and the menace of it fitted with the
prevailing mood of the time”. [35]
During his period as justice minister, the telephones of political correspondents Bruce
Arnold and Geraldine Kennedy were tapped at the behest of Doherty, with the help of
assistant Garda commissioner Joe Ainsworth. In some respects, the island nation was,
surreptitiously, assuming some of the characteristics of a police state.
In their ground-breaking best seller The Boss: Charles J. Haughey in Government, Joe
Joyce and Peter Murtagh provided a frightening insight into what can occur when those
responsible for implementing the law abuse their powers. The authors related a Garda
contact’s assertion that the police force was “slowly being taken over and turned into an
instrument of Haughey and Doherty… People were being watched, gardaí seemed to be
tailing other gardaí, and some people no longer felt safe. It seemed as though anyone
who criticised or opposed was moved aside… People were becoming very frightened and
the contact believed it was only a matter of time before ‘accidents’ began happening to
people who were getting in the way of things… Officers high and low in the force were
subject to abuse if they did not do what they were told”. [36]
Within some divisions of An Garda Síochána, Doherty created a nightmarish
Kafkaesque climate of fear and tension, of insecurity and paranoia, of mistrust of
colleagues. Many fretted about their promotion prospects, about being transferred,
disciplined or sacked, or being forced to resign – if they chose to perform their duties
correctly rather than in accordance with the whims of the dictatorial minister. In
Doherty’s own constituency of Roscommon, Sergeant Tom Tully received notice that he
was to be transferred to another county after finding people drinking after hours in a pub
owned by a Fianna Fáil member.
When a brother of Doherty’s wife Maura – Tom Nangle, a garda – was due to appear in
a court in the Republic for allegedly assaulting a Northern Ireland man, the complainant –

Page 13 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
the prosecution’s principal witness – was, by an extraordinary coincidence, taken into
custody by the RUC on the very day of the court case. His detention followed a query
from Doherty’s Department of Justice to the RUC, via An Garda Síochána.
The incident was bizarre. A minister for justice – a former garda – seemingly scheming
to corrupt his own country’s justice system, through what amounted to a virtual
kidnapping, to thwart the judicial process.
When a garda recruit from his constituency failed his final examination, Doherty
intervened in an attempt to enable the recruit to graduate as a garda with the successful
Constituents were also facilitated when facing drunk-driving and speeding charges. It
would be unwise of a garda processing such charges not to comply with ‘requests’ to
make the charges disappear.
Allegations circulated that a number of journalists and also some of the minister’s own
parliamentary colleagues were – on Doherty’s instructions – being subjected to police
surveillance. The home of Albert Reynolds was reportedly being staked out from a white
Hiace van. The phones of deputies Noel Dempsey and John Ellis, of Magill magazine
and of journalists Olivia O’Leary, Dick Walsh and Vincent Browne were, it was
rumoured, being tapped by gardaí.
Public trust in the rule of law and justice – fundamentals of democratic societies – had
reached a new nadir.
Given Doherty’s penchant for abusing power while a minister, one can conjecture that it
is highly likely that he also abused his position of power while a member of An Garda
Síochána. That no scandals have surfaced linked to his days in the force may owe much
to the tradition of omerta in the force – the unwillingness to act as a whistleblower on
errant colleagues.
It is an interesting exercise to look, very briefly, at some of those appointed to the post
of minister for justice – to whom Garda commissioners are directly accountable. Eamonn
Duggan, minister for justice (then called ‘home affairs’) from January to September 1922
– who presided over the formation of the Civic Guard – has been described as “a weak
minister… with a drink problem”. [37] Fianna Fáil appointees to the office between
1961 and 1997, included Charles Haughey (1961-64), Micheál Ō Móráin (1968-70), Sean
Doherty (March – November 1982), Ray Burke (1989-92), Pádraig Flynn (February –
December 1992) and John O’Donoghue (1997 to 2002). Ō Móráin was an alcoholic.
Political commentator Bruce Arnold has described how Ō Móráin “was operating in an
alcoholic haze for much of the time… was in a state of physical and mental breakdown as
a result of alcoholism.” [38] The other five were all embroiled in controversies, notably
Haughey, Ireland’s most corrupt politician, ever.

Page 14 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
The Heavy Gang
Following the outbreak of violence in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s, and the
resulting birth of the Provisional IRA and other paramilitary groups, new powers were
given to An Garda Síochána. Under the new Offences Against the State Act people could
be charged with membership of an illegal organisation solely on the opinion of a Garda
chief superintendent. This act debarred certain detainees from trial by jury. Under the
cloak of ‘national security’ exigencies, the government could more easily justify
detaining people for questioning. It would also be easy to rationalise the censorship of
RTE news broadcasts and the right of gardaí to listen into private phone conversations, to
open and read citizens’ post, to infiltrate legitimate groups and organisations and to spy
on private meetings.
“Power is dangerous if it’s not accountable”, according to former senator Brendan Ryan.
[39] Police power in 1970s Ireland was almost entirely unaccountable. Societies cease
to be democratic if they become ‘police states’, that is states repressed and controlled by
unaccountable police forces – through violations of civil and human rights, excessive
violence, a climate of fear, the imprisonment of dissidents on trumped-up charges or
perjured police evidence and Orwellian-style surveillance of citizens’ lives and activities.
All of these perversions of democracy, justice and authority occurred in the 1970s in
After the assassination by the Provisional IRA of British Ambassador Christopher
Ewart-Biggs in Dublin in July 1976, it became easier for the government to justify
targeting paramilitary groups. However, the assassination was followed by an inaccurate
Garda fingerprint identification. Some commentators suggested that this was a Garda
attempt to frame a suspect for the assassination.
By then, public trust in the police force was ebbing. Allegations had already surfaced of
police brutality and other wrongdoing on an alarming scale. In July 1975, Cork solicitor
Gerald Goldberg wrote to the minister for justice about alleged mistreatment of civilians
by gardaí. The abuses, he claimed, were “an affront to the dignity of man, to the
institutions of the State, to the rule of law” and were “frightening and dangerous in their
implications and consequences.” He believed that “threats of dire happenings, assaults,
beatings of the utmost severity and gravity have been committed on the persons of some
of my clients and that these infringements have been carried out with hands, fists, boots,
pieces of timber.” He complained of clients making involuntary statements, during
interrogations that he was not allowed to attend, and of having to talk to clients “in the
presence of a police officer who can overhear everything that is said.”
Three months earlier, Hibernia magazine had published a letter from a Mr. Brendan
Walsh, in which he alleged that he had been “thrashed” by a named Special Branch
detective in a Dublin street with “fists, feet and pistol”. He sustained a swollen eye and
mouth, bruising elsewhere and required 22 stitches in one leg. When he sought to take a
case against his alleged aggressor, Walsh was arrested and charged with assaulting the
detective. In the non-jury Special Criminal Court, Walsh received a six-month suspended
sentence. The detective, he wrote, “got away scot free”. [40]
In July 1975, a reported 500 Cork trade union members marched through the city centre,
to protest against alleged brutality by Special Branchmen from Dublin, during the
interrogation of union members.

Page 15 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
As time passed, the litany of allegations grew about Garda interrogation techniques,
many of which amounted to torture:- savage beatings, hooding, prolonged sleep and food
deprivation, high-pitched noises, threats, spreadeagling against a wall for lengthy periods.
Some detainees, allegedly, had been hit on the head or genitalia or been refused access to
a solicitor until they signed incriminatory statements. A title was coined for the Garda
interrogators – the ‘Heavy Gang’.
Patsy McGarry has captured the climate of the period. “Cases being talked about
included one in Cahir, County Tipperary, where a man jumped out the second storey
window of a local Garda station because he said he was being beaten by detectives from
Dublin… He was released without charge. Another man claimed he too was badly
beaten while in custody. The guards said he fell down the stairs… Similar stories came
from all over the country… Between 1970 and 1974 two people died in the Republic’s
prisons or in Garda custody. Between 1975 and 1979 that figure rose to 20. All were
described as ‘suicides’.” [41] In the period 1980-83, fifteen people died in Garda custody
and in prisons.
On February 15 1977 – and in subsequent articles – the Irish Times carried details of
alleged ill-treatment of detainees, which were corroborated by a number of victims,
doctors, lawyers and even some gardaí.
In that same month, as former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald recounts in his
autobiography, he was approached. “by two responsible” gardaí, who told him that “there
was widespread worry among the Garda force about these allegations of brutality.” Dr.
FitzGerald wrote that, in some pending court cases, “it was believed by some in the force
that confessions had been extracted by improper methods”. [42]
A 1977 Amnesty International report told of the “systematic maltreatment” of suspects
and suggested that some Garda officers specialised in the “use of oppressive methods of
extracting statements”. The report listed 28 cases of alleged maltreatment and claimed
that, over an 18-month period, the same Dublin-based police officers were accused of
involvement in maltreatment of suspects in different parts of the country. [43] When
Amnesty’s two-person team was conducting its investigation, the two were followed by
“Members of the Special Branch… as they met and interviewed people who maintained
the gardaí had ill treated them in custody”, two journalists reported. [44] Such police
actions bring to mind Russsia’s KGB, East Germany’s Stasi and tyrannical rule. Gardaí,
it seemed, were above the law. Unaccountable. Untouchable.
Among cases examined by Amnesty were ones involving Irish Republican Socialist
Party (IRSP) members, charged with participating in a March 1976 armed robbery of a
mail train at Sallins, County Kildare. Two trials followed (the first was aborted due to
the death of a judge) of three IRSP members – Nicky Kelly, Osgur Breatnach and Brian
McNally – which proved to be a grotesque travesty of justice and a shameful chapter in
the history of both the Irish courts and An Garda Síochána.
The issue of possible Garda perjured evidence arose. The three defendants had all
signed statements admitting roles in the train robbery – signed voluntarily, without
coercion, according to gardaí. In court, the defendants provided a different version of
events. The confessions were false, obtained only after severe beatings from their
tormentors, they claimed.

Page 16 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
Doctors detailed the injuries they had found – a black and swollen eye, bruising on the
buttocks, groin, thigh, wrist, shoulders, arms and ear, and a lump on the crown of one
detainee’s head.
In the Special Criminal Court a procession of police witnesses testified that they had
neither seen nor heard anything improper occurring during the defendants’ period in
custody. Yet, other prisoners who were in the Bridewell Garda station at the same time
as the defendants, told of hearing shouting and screaming and somebody being beaten in
a passageway underneath the station, which continued for a lengthy period. The three
judges deemed that the injuries had been inflicted by the defendants on themselves or on
each other!
The three were convicted and sentenced to long prison terms – including Nicky Kelly,
in absentia. Fearful that he would be imprisoned for a crime he claimed he had not
committed, Kelly had skipped bail and fled abroad.
In April 1980, events took a dramatic turn. A Provisional IRA statement admitted
responsibility for the train robbery, asserting that the three IRSP members were
“completely innocent victims”. [45] If accurate, the admission would mean that the
court’s verdict was wrong, that the defendants’ admissions of guilt were fraudulent and
that members of the police force had probably committed perjury and, almost certainly,
had engaged in brutality against the defendants or been aware of the brutality being
The following month, May 1980, the Court of Criminal Appeal sat to hear an appeal by
Breatnach and McNally against the guilty verdict. Judge Tom Finlay, President of the
High Court, delivered a verdict that the Court of Criminal Appeal was “satisfied that the
statements made by the applicants were not legally admissible… and sets aside the
conviction and sentence in each one.” [46] Breatnach and McNally were released. They
had spent 17 months in prison.
Days later, the fugitive Nicky Kelly ended his exile. On arrival at Shannon Airport he
was arrested, brought before a court in Dublin and was sentenced to over 10 years in
prison. He then, unsuccessfully, appealed his conviction and began a 38-day hunger
strike to protest his innocence. In 1984 he was, unexpectedly, released on “humanitarian
grounds” after four years in prison. He was later granted a presidential pardon, and
received a reported £750,000 as compensation, plus legal costs, from the State.
Salient questions remain unanswered, notably how three innocent men came to confess,
in detail, to a crime they had not committed. If, as they claimed, the false confessions
had been beaten out of them by gardaí, this amounted to torture to secure convictions.
Equally disquieting was the extraordinary similarity of the written statements of some
gardaí in the book of evidence, who used almost exactly the same words and the same
sentence structures, in the exact same sequence. In their book Round Up the Usual
Suspects, journalists Derek Dunne and Gene Kerrigan published extracts from the
individual statements of four gardaí recalling the facts of one incident in the case. The
following text appeared in the statements of each and every one of the four Garda
witnesses (Any variations are in brackets, and any differences in punctuation, use of
upper and lower case, spellings etc are omitted) –
“Plunkett said, ‘You fixed that nicely’. Garda B replied (and Garda B replied/ and Garda
B said to Plunkett/ and I said) ‘Is it not true that you were free and you asked to go back
to collect property’. Plunkett replied, (and Plunkett said/ and he replied) ‘That’s right’. I

Page 17 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
then said (Garda A then said) ‘I don’t know what you are talking about, but I can assure
you of one thing (assure you one thing), we fixed nothing. What are you talking about
anyway?’ Plunkett replied (said) ‘A man in there has identified me as being one of the
men in his home on the night of the robbery’. I replied (Garda A said/ Garda A asked) ‘Is
that so’. Garda B said (Garda B then said/ I then said) to Plunkett ‘(Now) It was you who
delayed leaving the station’. Plunkett replied (Plunkett said/ He said), ‘That’s right, it’s
my hard luck (I suppose). I’m finished (now)’.”
The two journalists observed that “The book of evidence is littered with such examples
of garda statements being similar.” [47] Pure coincidence? Statistically, the possibility
that four individual gardaí writing such word-similar statements without any collusion or
considerable consultation between them must be billions to one. However, according to
the gardaí, the four statements were written separately, at different times and places.
Not one member of An Garda Síochána involved in the case was ever charged on the
basis of accusations made by the four defendants of savage beatings, of fabricated
statements, of perjured evidence and other wrongdoing by gardaí. Not one was even
disciplined. Some were promoted.

Page 18 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
The Wild West: Rogue Gardaí in Donegal
Shortly before 1 am on October 14 1996, the body of a local cattle dealer, Richie
Barron, was found on a roadside outside Raphoe, Co. Donegal. Events linked to his
death led to the setting up of a tribunal of inquiry – chaired by Mr. Justice Frederick R.
Morris – to investigate allegations of Garda wrongdoing in the county.
Its findings shocked the nation. Tribunal reports exposed a litany of gross abuses by
gardaí, including serious criminality, perjury, insubordination, botched investigations and
attempts to ‘stitch up’ and convict innocent civilians – some brutalised and traumatised
while in Garda custody – for crimes they had not committed, including murder.
Astounding acts of criminality were perpetrated by some gardaí, to enhance their career
prospects. Some gardaí were, effectively, out of control.
Tribunal reports were conspicuously blunt. “The Tribunal has been staggered by the
amount of indiscipline and insubordination it has found in the Garda force. There is a
small, but disproportionately influential, core of mischief-making members who will not
obey orders, who will not follow procedures, who will not tell the truth and who have no
respect for their officers”, Mr. Justice Morris wrote. [48]
One local family was especially targeted by police. Twelve innocent members of the
immediate and extended Mc Brearty family were arrested during investigations into the
murder of Richie Barron, who – it would emerge – had, in reality, been the inebriated
victim of a hit-and-run accident. There had been no murder.
Gardaí attempted to frame two men – Mark McConnell and his cousin Frank McBrearty
Jnr – for a murder they had not committed. The other ten arrested included the latter’s
father, Frank Snr, owner of a nightclub and adjoining pub in Raphoe. Bizarrely, Frank
Jnr had confessed to the murder.
In an attempt to secure convictions, gardaí coerced Robert Noel McBride – described as
“a local man of suggestible mind” [49] by Mr. Justice Morris – into making a false
statement that he had seen McConnell and Frank McBrearty Jnr being admitted into the
nightclub around the time that Barron was killed. The nightclub was located a short
distance from the scene of death. However, McBride – as he later admitted – had not
been in Raphoe at that time. He had been, the tribunal found, “at a christening in
Killygordon, then at a nightclub in Ballybofey”, and spent the night in a mobile home in
Killygordon. [50]
In custody, detainees were subjected to abuse and threats by gardaí, to break their
resistance. Several were told they faced potentially lengthy prison sentences, and that
their young children would be taken into care, perhaps never to be seen by them again.
A tribunal report related how Detective Sergeant John White allegedly told Mrs.
McConnell that she faced a possible seven years imprisonment, and “that her small child
would be put into care.” [51]
The arrests and abusive interrogations had appalling consequences for many of the
twelve. A tribunal report noted that “Garda brutality and mistreatment” of Mark
McConnell’s wife Róisín “was followed shortly after by a lapse into mental illness and
the hospitalisation of an innocent and decent woman.” [52] Alluding to Mark
McConnell’s “personal nightmare”, the report observed that the “effect upon him and his
immediate family of these appalling events must have been shattering. As they tried to
assist Mrs. McConnell in her recovery in 1997 and 1998 their lives were twice turned

Page 19 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
upside down by the actions of An Garda Síochána… It is disgraceful and shocking that
Mark McConnell, an innocent citizen, was subjected to these arrests and detentions and
that he and his family have had to live under their shadow for in excess of ten years.”
Róisín McConnell spent eight weeks in a psychiatric hospital, where she “was heavily
medicated and underwent three sessions of electric shock-treatment”, a journalist
reported. [54]
In a 2003 book, the journalist detailed the after-effects of the arrests and the Garda
interrogations for some of the twelve: Sean Crossan (a part-time employee at the McBrearty nightclub) “developed an
alcohol problem, lost a lot of weight, and separated from his wife for a while.”
 Local electrical contractor Damien Mc Daid “started drinking heavily and ‘just
went to pieces’. The business went downhill. Before his arrest Damien had
employed five men in his business, but the firm collapsed. He spent some time in
 Michael Peoples’ bread delivery business collapsed. He “ended up signing on the
 Mark McConnell became a hate-figure for some friends of Richie Barron. He
was “assaulted twice, suffering a broken leg and broken jaw.” [55]
Frank McBrearty Senior’s business came close to bankruptcy, as his nightclub and bar
were subjected to a virtual Garda siege. It was visited sometimes three times a night by
gardaí, checkpoints were often erected on nearby roads, patrons were searched for drugs
and over one hundred summonses were issued against the extended family, employees
and clients.
A tribunal report concluded that “Frank McBrearty Senior was undoubtedly the victim
of a terrible injustice at the hands of An Garda Síochána. His son and nephew had been
wrongly suspected of involvement in a crime that they did not commit. Extortion
telephone calls had been made to persons connected to his family, being Michael and
Charlotte Peoples. One of these telephone calls was made from the home of a serving
Garda… Certain Gardaí had recruited and used a man [Bernard Conlon] with a criminal
record from Sligo to be deliberately found on the [nightclub] premises after hours, so as
to secure a conviction against Mr. McBrearty Senior.” [56]
Between June 1981 and October 1992 Bernard Conlon had been convicted in court on
14 occasions for offences that included burglary, forgery, indecency, false pretences,
malicious damage and maiming cattle. He was sentenced to serve nine prison sentences
– including one of five years.
The phone call “from the home of a serving Garda” was made by William Doherty,
described by Mr. Justice Morris as “a Garda informer and a criminal in and around the
Raphoe area.” The call, according to Justice Morris, was made “With Garda [John]
O’Dowd’s full knowledge… from Garda O’Dowd’s private house. In this phone call,
William Doherty pretended that he had seen Michael Peoples coming down the car park
away from the spot where Mr. Barron had been assaulted and he told Michael Peoples
that he would go and tell the Gardaí this ‘information’ unless he was paid a very
substantial sum of money.” [57]

Page 20 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
Ultimately, millions of euro were paid by the state to victims of Garda misconduct in
Raphoe and also to other victims of Garda wrongdoing elsewhere in Donegal.
Among these was another nightclub owner, Frank Shortt, who served over two years in
prison after being convicted on trumped-up Garda charges that he permitted the sale of
drugs in his premises on Donegal’s Inishowen peninsula. In 2007, he was awarded €4.7
million by the Supreme Court. Gardaí had given perjured evidence at his trial. By then,
Mr. Shortt, 72 years of age, was in poor health. A receiver had been appointed to the
family business.
The judgement of Chief Justice John Murray was damning. Mr. Shortt had been
imprisoned on the basis of evidence fabricated by, especially, Supt. Kevin Lennon and
Detective Garda Noel McMahon. Mr. Shortt had been “sacrificed in order to assist the
career ambitions of a number of members of the Garda”, suffering “a tormenting saga of
imprisonment, mental and physical deterioration, estrangement from family, loss of
business, public and professional ignominy and despair”, the Chief Justice held. [58]
Members of the Traveller community were also stitched up by gardaí in the same
county. The arrest of seven Travellers at Burnfoot on May 23 1998, Mr. Justice Morris
concluded, “took place directly as a result of a member of An Garda Síochána, namely
Detective Garda John White, deliberately planting a dangerous firearm at the
encampment on the previous day so that it would be found in a subsequent search, thus
justifying the arrest of the heads of household there”. This was done “so as to enable the
questioning of them by the team investigating the Edward FitzMaurice murder.” The
latter, was an elderly man killed in Mayo a few weeks earlier. The tribunal held that “All
of those arrested at Burnfoot were unlawfully deprived of their liberty.” There was no
evidence whatsoever to link the seven Travellers to the murder. [59]
After John White’s arrest in connection with the planting of the gun, his co-workers
rallied to his defence – an action which reflected the embedded culture within the force of
gardaí protecting errant colleagues through a sense of loyalty. Commenting on this issue,
Justice Morris wrote of how “Garda Martin Leonard, Sergeant Jack Conaty and Garda
Pádraig Mulligan met together and decided to form a conspiracy to corruptly invent a
story that could be regarded as providing a defence for Detective Sergeant John White.” [60]
The extent of individual Garda indiscipline and wrongdoing was sometimes on a quite
staggering scale. Sergeant Conaty, Mr. Justice Morris wrote, “had faced, on his own
evidence, thirty or more discipline enquiries and charges and was awaiting trial for a
most serious criminal offence.” [61]
Conaty’s colleague John White was the central figure in another Garda-directed illegal
stitch-up attempt. Examining White’s role in the finding of a hoax explosive device on a
telecommunications mast at Ardara in Donegal in November 1996 – which was found
twelve days after the discovery of an arson attack that destroyed telecommunications
equipment at the same site – Justice Morris concluded that the “device was caused to be
put on the mast by Sergeant White for the purpose of effecting arrests… in respect of the
earlier arson attack. Either this was done by him or on his behalf”. [62] The device was
placed to facilitate the arrest of people protesting against the erection of the mast.
Lennon and McMahon – responsible for the imprisonment of Frank Shortt, through
perjured evidence – also engaged in the planting of hoax explosive devices. Exploiting
the vulnerability of a gullible young woman, Adrienne McGlinchey (daughter of leading
Letterkenny businessman and former Fianna Fáil senator Bernard McGlinchey) the pair

Page 21 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
of crooked gardaí masterminded an elaborate scam, in which they pretended to have
infiltrated the local IRA in Donegal through an allegedly highly-placed Garda informer –
Ms. McGlinchey, whom they falsely depicted as an IRA activist and courier.
IRA bomb finds by the pair of gardaí, purportedly the result of information supplied by
Ms. Mc Glinchey, were, in reality, hoax devices that they themselves had caused to be
The scam was exposed when the estranged wife of Noel McMahon told an internal
Garda inquiry (headed by Assistant Commissioner Kevin Carty) that her husband,
together with Kevin Lennon and McGlinchey had manufactured and planted hoax
terrorist bombs and materials. In her book Charades: Adrienne McGlinchey and the
Donegal Gardaí, Adrienne’s sister Karen told of how Adrienne was terrorised into silent
submission by Noel McMahon and Kevin Lennon, forced by the two bullies to spend
long hours, for month after month, grinding tons of nitrate-based fertiliser in her flat to
create homemade explosive material. “For their own self-interest they persecuted and
blackmailed her for over eight years”, Karen wrote. “It was the story of how a blind eye
was turned to the illegal activities of Guards in Donegal, and a story of the bullying and
fear that was prevalent among the force at the time… It was the story of alcoholism and
brutality, beatings and misery perpetrated by Detective Garda Noel McMahon on
Adrienne McGlinchey”, [63] whom he compelled to act as if she was a genuine
Provisional IRA operative.
The obstacles that Justice Morris had to surmount in his inquiry into Garda wrongdoing
in Donegal were considerable. In his second report, Justice Morris recalled how in his
first report (concerning hoax explosives finds in 1993 and 1994) he had “commented
adversely on the scandalous disappearance of important Garda documentation. It noted
the loss or destruction of several documents which seemed to the Tribunal to be of
importance in assisting in the disposal of its work.” He then went on to state that, as
regards the situations covered by his second report (covering his investigation into the
death of Richie Barron), “the loss or destruction of documents is even worse… The
Tribunal has earnestly considered whether there was a conspiracy to destroy notes among
three of the most senior officers involved in the Barron investigation… The Tribunal
holds back from making a finding that these three officers conspired with each other to
ensure that the [internal Garda] Carty Investigation team… was obstructed in its task.
The material which was destroyed, however, was the property of the Garda
Commissioner. The Tribunal does not regard the excuses given for the destruction of
these documents as being adequate. On the face of them, they are patently silly. The
Tribunal regards the destruction of this important material as being scandalous.” [64]
The tribunal’s hearings and findings – and the concomitant avalanche of media reports –
stunned the nation. However, the report of the separate inquiry into alleged wrongdoing
by gardaí in Donegal, headed by Assistant Garda Commissioner Carty, was not
published, generating media and public speculation about its findings – notably the full
extent of the criminality, insubordination, indiscipline, botched investigations, the
stitching-up of innocent civilians and other wrongdoing discovered by him within the
Donegal division. Why the secrecy? As Justice Morris wrote in his report, for members
of the force “to claim that that they are not obliged to account for their duties to the
people of Ireland who pay them is a scandal.” [65]
The Carty Report must be published.

Page 22 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
Culture of Impunity
“The Gardaí are beset by allegations. Corruption in the Morris Inquiry in Donegal, poor
judgement and over reaction in the Abbeylara Inquiry in Longford, indiscipline and
misbehaviour in 70 legal actions which were settled on the steps of the courts and cost the
taxpayer £6 million in the last five years… There has been a growing sense of remoteness
between the community and the Gardaí. For some considerable time there is a growing
belief that the Gardaí are never around when needed; that it is not worth reporting public
order offences because nothing will be done; that there is a sense that the Gardaí have
disengaged from the community and that they are only to be seen flashing around in
squad cars. The citizens of Ireland no longer believe that they are living in a secure
environment.” (Labour deputy Joe Costello at the 2003 MacGill Summer School).
At around 1.30 am on April 25 1998, two Dublin sisters – both fashion designers from
Castleknock – were strolling with friends in the narrow city-centre Grafton Street, a
pedestrianised zone. When an unmarked Garda car reversed at speed towards the group,
one of the two, alarmed, impulsively thumped the vehicle’s boot to alert the driver that he
was endangering pedestrians’ lives.
What followed was terrifyingly nightmarish. She later alleged that men sprang from the
car, violently grabbed and handcuffed her and shoved her into the back of a nearby Garda
van. She had been arrested, as was her younger sister, when she sought to intervene. The
eldest claimed that, en route to a police station, she was pinned down by a garda, who sat
on her back. Again and again, he smashed her head against the van’s floor. At the
station, she was pushed out of the van, falling head-first to the concrete. The two siblings
were placed in cells.
Shortly afterwards, witnesses to the dramatic encounter in Grafton Street arrived at the
station. The sisters were then released, without being charged with any offence.
Courageously, they both sued the Garda Commissioner, the Minister for Justice and the
State. The Garda response? In what appeared to be a vindictive prosecution, both
women were charged with being drunk and disorderly and assaulting a Garda officer.
The charges were dismissed by the District Court.
In July 2002, the High Court was told that the sisters’ legal actions had been settled –
that the Garda defendants apologised for what had happened and acknowledged the
women were of “unblemished character”. They received undisclosed damages. Their
ordeal – which had lasted for over four years – was finally over. Their previously
untainted reputations were restored, that of An Garda Síocána tarnished.
A few weeks before the sisters’ High Court hearing, peaceful participants in a Reclaim
the Streets protest in Dublin’s city centre were thrashed by baton-swinging gardaí.
Subsequently, the chairman of the Garda Complaints Board revealed that not one of the
150 gardaí policing the event had been willing to name colleagues responsible for the
assaults. Gardaí were deliberately covering up brutality and indiscipline. A reported
twelve protesters needed medical treatment and twelve were arrested. Without the
presence of video cameras, which recorded some of the assaults, it is unlikely that any
investigation would have been held into the actions of rogue gardaí. Some members of
the force wore no identifying letters and numbers.

Page 23 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
In January 2004, Minister of State Dick Roche (FF) alleged that an 18-year old male
constituent in Wicklow had been attacked by gardaí while in custody. “He had injuries to
his head and injuries to his body. He had bruising and had a dreadfully nasty injury right
under his chin”. The mistreatment was equivalent to “torture”, Mr. Roche claimed. [66]
On September 12 2009, an inebriated 29 year old man was assaulted in Cork’s city
centre. In an unequal confrontation, he got an “unmerciful beating”, was knocked
unconscious, and was left with fractured cheek bones, a broken nose, broken teeth and
bleeding to the brain. An off-duty garda was given a six-month prison sentence for the
assault. However, around twenty-four hours later, he left the court a free man – after
spending just one night in prison. His barrister had argued that a garda would face a
more difficult time than other prisoners. The judge agreed, and cancelled the sentence he
had delivered the previous day. “Do gardaí now have immunity to break the law and not
face a custodial sentence?”, a Sunday Times editorial asked. [67]
On January 29 2010, a man was assaulted by gardaí in Waterford. He had been caught
peeing in a street. He was hit around the head, pepper-sprayed and kicked in the head
while on the ground. A female Garda sergeant was given a suspended sentence. Two
male colleagues were jailed, one for attempting to pervert the course of justice by turning
a CCTV camera away from the incident, while manning the Garda CCTV room.
In November of the same year, a large student protest took place in Dublin against fee
increases. They were confronted by members of the Garda Public Order Unit – or riot
squad – and by mounted police and police dogs. Several were hit with batons. One
bloody-faced music student told the Sunday Times of how he was hit on the top of the
head while passing through the crowd and hit twice in the face with a baton when he sat
down. He later received seven stitches.
Occasionally, such incidents are recorded by newspaper photojournalists and television
cameramen. Loathe to have their savagery exposed in the public domain, gardaí have, at
times, assaulted the photographers and cameramen. In March 1975, IRA member Tom
Smith was buried in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery. The Irish Press newspaper group sent
three photojournalists to cover the event. Immediately after the hearse passed through the
cemetery gates, they were forcibly closed by gardaí, who then began to baton some of the
few mourners who had managed to gain access to the grounds. While photographing
these assaults, one of the Irish Press photographers, Dick Rowley, was briefly knocked
unconscious – hit with a Garda baton to the back of his head. It is a blow that should
only be used in the most extreme circumstances, since it can have fatal repercussions.
Two days later, when an Evening Press reporter phoned a Dublin Garda station about
unrelated matters, he was asked about the state of the injured photographer’s health.
When told that it appeared he was okay, the garda replied “that’s a pity”, and
immediately hung up the phone. The assault on Mr. Rowley had been reported in a few
He subsequently became depressed. Admitted to a hospital, he was found to have a
brain tumour, which was removed. For a while, he resumed his work as a photographer.
Tragically, his life was soon cut short when he died from a brain haemorrhage.
While the illegal blow to his head cannot be proved to have initiated the sequence of
health-related events, nevertheless it is difficult for some people who knew him as a very
active, fit and healthy person to accept that the blow had no bearing on the death of a
person regarded by friends and colleagues as a wonderful human being – known widely

Page 24 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
as a person who had devoted much of his free time to developing the game of basketball
in Ireland. He had been the co-founder, with Roy Curtis, of Corinthians basketball club,
for long one of the country’s premier clubs. The blow to his head was an illegal act of
thuggery and cowardice.
Years earlier, Eddie Kelly, an Irish Times staff photographer, was also the victim of
Garda violence. On August 1 1957, Eddie – described in that paper as “one of the last
gentlemen press photographers in Ireland” and as “one of the quietest men on the planet”
– was arrested and had his camera broken while photographing IRA prisoners being
transported from Mountjoy Prison to the Curragh internment camp. [68]
Dick Rowley and Eddie Kelly were just two of several press photographers during the
1950s, 1960s and 1970s who were harassed, arrested, assaulted or had their cameras
and/or films confiscated by gardaí – almost certainly illegally , since the photographers
were not breaking the law. When confiscated films were returned, there was a possibility
that they had been deliberately exposed to light by gardaí, and were therefore unprintable.
Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of a functioning democracy. Attacks on
journalists by, ostensible, ‘guardians of the peace’, are indicative of a drift towards
repressive rule – towards a police state. Like almost all other acts of Garda violence, no
inquiry was held into the assaults on Dick Rowley and Eddie Kelly.
In a functioning democracy, ordinary citizens should have an expectation that they can
go about their daily lives without being assaulted and/or arrested on the mere whim of
thuggish gardaí..
The work of investigative journalists writing about Garda wrongdoing is made very
difficult by the almost complete absence of whistleblowers within the force. Garda Mary
T. O’Connor was one of that rare and courageous breed. In a 2005 book, she told of her
experiences in the force. She told of gardaí using handcuffed prisoners’ heads “as a door
opener”; of a garda who “would deliberately throw buckets of cold water” on top of
people sleeping on the steps outside the station; of a Traveller in a Dublin Garda station
sprayed directly in the face from an air-freshener, apparently because he smelled; of how
“Knackers, gougers, blacks, refugees and almost every minority group there is come in
for a lot of negative comment and rough treatment among some Gardaí. No one I know
beyond probation has ever been censured for it, so it is allowed to fester”; of how a
concerned citizen, who told a garda in Dublin’s city centre that there was a “jumper” on a
nearby bridge, was told that “If someone wants to kill themselves, well that’s their own
prerogative”; of how, during her time in the force, she had only one lecture on moral
ethics; of how gardaí, responsible for enforcing the law, broke it with impunity, “being
allowed to drink in pubs until six o’clock in the morning because we were Gardaí”. [69]
In journalistic circles in Dublin, stories circulated about alleged threats of repercussions
for bar owners if they did not facilitate thirsty gardaí after hours. To antagonise some
gardaí could, it was believed, have serious consequences. It was more prudent to
ingratiate oneself with them.
Banging prisoners’ heads against doors, throwing cold water on homeless people,
spraying a Traveller in the face, jeering and physically abusing people from minority
groups, refusing to help a person who may have been about to commit suicide – such
outrageous actions suggest gardaí with little compassion, love for their fellow human
beings, concept of justice, any leadership qualities, any moral sensibilities or any real
sense of what role a member of An Garda Síochána should play in Irish society. Such

Page 25 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
perpetrators are insensitive to the feelings and needs of the marginalised and weak in
society and seem to get some perverted sense of enjoyment and satisfaction out of
abusing such people. Such gardaí have long been tolerated within the force.
What is truly astonishing is that, out of the thousands of gardaí who must be aware of
wrongdoing within the 13,000-strong force, so few have had the courage to voice their
concerns or attempted to have the wrongdoers sacked or disciplined. Such cowardice and
lack of moral scruples, on such a huge scale, suggests a police force that is seriously
dysfunctional and unfit for purpose.
One thinks of how gardaí in Donegal lied to the Morris Tribunal in an attempt to cover
up Garda wrongdoing, on a truly frightening scale. One thinks of the 150 or so gardaí
who policed the Reclaim the Streets protest and declined to identify colleagues who had
viciously attacked protesters with batons. And one thinks of those gardaí who watched a
colleague deliver a cowardly baton blow to Dick Rowley’s head, and then smirked when
asked to identify the culprit. The blow may have led to his premature death.
Such wrongdoing suggests an extraordinary dearth of accountability and morals within
the force. For a police force to function well and to have the trust of the people, requires
high standards of professionalism, morals, education and training, integrity and
accountability within the force. Arguably, most of these exist at sub-standard levels
within An Garda Síochána.
By early May 2014 – following a spate of policing and justice scandals – questions
about Garda accountability and dysfunctionality had become such major political, media
and public issues that they had precipitated the departures of Justice Minister Alan
Shatter, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and ‘confidential recipient’ Oliver
Connolly, who acted as an intermediary for receiving and passing on complaints from
members of An Garda Síochána. The scandals had been exposed by two Garda
On May 9, a lengthy government-commissioned report was published. Known as the
Guerin Inquiry Report, it focussed on a series of alleged failures, bungling and
irregularities in investigations, and in management, at Bailieboro Garda station in County
Cavan. The report suggested that such deficiencies might be “widely replicated”, perhaps
throughout the country. It depicted An Garda Síochána as a habitually self-protective
institution, reluctant to properly investigate, penalise and control errancy within the force.
It called for a statutory inquiry into issues raised by one of the whistleblowers, Maurice
Over six years earlier, on January 28 2008, McCabe – a sergeant based at the Bailieboro
station – had handed his superintendent a document outlining his concern that
investigations in the area were not being carried out effectively, or in accordance with
recommended Garda procedures. In subsequent years, he made further complaints.
Another Garda whistleblower also emerged, John Wilson.
The whistleblowers’ invertebrate colleagues kept their mouths shut about corruption and
malpractices within the force. Some colleagues, shamefully, subjected the two men to
Siberia-like isolation. Others harassed them. A dead rat was attached to the front door of
Wilson’s house. What was especially disturbing about the entire affair was Shatter’s and
Callinan’s denigration of McCabe and Wilson – Shatter later apologised – and their
failure to take the whistleblowers’ allegations seriously..

Page 26 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
In a letter, read at a hearing of the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on
January 23 2014, Sgt. McCabe told of how he had, allegedly, “discovered over 200 senior
Garda officers terminating fixed charge notices inappropriately and, in most cases,
corruptly… Having been treated the way I was for reporting the above, I don’t think I
would do it again. It destroyed me, my career and my family.” By then, John Wilson
had resigned from the force.
The Guerin Inquiry Report painted a harrowing image of the torment endured by the
McCabe family. In an April 2011 email to Mr. Shatter, Maurice’s wife Lorraine, told of
how her husband had received a death threat from “a certain member of the force”, and
she described the “sheer hell” the family was being subjected to. The email was an
anguished plea for help and support. Little was received.
On February 20 2014, the PAC chairman, Fianna Fáil deputy John McGuinness,
commented on the affair, telling the Dáil that a “person who in good faith comes forward
with a complaint is often the one who will at the end of the process be the victim. The
person’s health will be broken. Their job will probably be gone… It is an appalling situation.”
Among Maurice McCabe’s complaints were allegations of dereliction of duty and
mishandling of cases within the force – such as the case of Jerry McGrath. After
viciously assaulting a female taxi driver – who feared she was going to be raped or killed
– McGrath had been released on bail. While on bail, he attempted to kidnap a 5 year old
girl, but was overpowered by her father. Inexplicably, at a bail hearing, gardaí failed to
tell the court that the defendant was already on bail for a savage assault on a taxi driver.
And so, once more, Jerry McGrath was released. A few weeks later, he murdered a
mother of two.
The McGrath case was just one of the many cases that Sergeant McCabe had sought to
bring to the notice of his superiors, to highlight his belief that there was widespread
corruption, ineptitude and wrongdoing within the force. The vast majority of the cases
involving malpractice, compiled by McCabe and Wilson, concerned allegations that
gardaí had, on a huge scale, improperly cancelled fines and penalty points for motorists’
driving offences. McCabe accused gardaí of destroying, erasing, altering and falsifying
official records. At a PAC hearing, on January 23 2014, Garda Commissioner Martin
Callinan admitted that, over a period of three and a half years, an average of 10,701 fixed
charge notices had been cancelled each year at the discretion of authorised Garda officers.
Among those who, allegedly, escaped being fined, and incurring penalty points, were
gardaí, relatives and friends of gardaí, at least one judge, a crime reporter and people
prominent in Irish society.
In 2007, the future Garda commissioner Martin Callinan was detected driving in his
own car at 83km/h in a 60km/h zone. He explained that he was entitled to escape penalty
points because he was on official business, on “an urgent sensitive issue.” His version of
events had not been contradicted, he told reporters in May 2013. [70]
In 2009, or possibly late 2008, Alan Shatter – then a Fine Gael opposition deputy – was
stopped one night at a Garda checkpoint in Dublin’s Pembroke Street. Asked to exhale
into a breathalyser, “I did so but failed to fully complete the task due to my being
asthmatic. I explained this to the garda. I also explained that I was on my way home
from Dáil Ēireann and that I had consumed no alcohol”, he told the Dáil in May 2013.
[71] (TDs and senators – in accordance with Article 15.13 of the Constitution – are
exempt from arrest when going to and returning from the Houses of the Oireachtas).

Page 27 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
Commenting on the actions of McCabe and Wilson, at a PAC hearing on January 23
2014, Callinan stated that he considered their “extraordinary and serious allegations…
about this corruption, malpractice and other charges levelled against their fellow officers”
to be “quite disgusting.” The word ‘disgusting’ conveys a sense of a depraved act or
proposal, something that is morally reprehensible and socially taboo. Minister Shatter
wrongly stated, in the Dáil, that the whistleblowers did not cooperate with Garda
investigations into their allegations. Such ill-advised comments must have substantially
added to the stress and sense of vulnerability and isolation felt by the two whistleblowers.
It subsequently transpired that Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Mahoney – whom
Callinan had appointed to direct an inquiry into the allegations – did not contact or
interview either of the two whistleblowers, because their compilation of allegations,
given to him by Callinan, “was unsigned and unattributed. I proceeded with my
examination on the basis I was dealing with anonymous allegations.” Asked by the PAC
chairman, Deputy John McGuinness (FF), if he knew who the whistleblowers were, Mr.
O’Mahoney responded that he “had very strong suspicions about who they were”. [72]
His report found that there was no widespread quashing of penalty points and fines.
On the other hand, an inquiry by the Comptroller and Auditor General, essentially,
vindicated the two whistleblowers, as did a separate inquiry by the independent Garda
Síochána Inspectorate. The Inspectorate found “consistent and widespread breaches” of
the penalty points system by some gardaí – as McCabe and Wilson had alleged – and
found “With few exceptions… no meaningful evidence of consistent quality management
supervision of the cancellation process”.
The Inspectorate’s report included sample cases where cancelled fines and penalty
points were not justified: A taxi driver who had four driving offences and one parking offence cancelled by
a Garda superintendent outside the district where the offences occurred, over a
ten-month period.
 Two Garda sergeants, each caught speeding on four occasions.
 A rank-and-file garda caught speeding on four occasions and found to have no tax
disc displayed on his private car.
 A detective sergeant caught speeding at 141km/h in his private car – 41 per cent
above the speed limit.
 A driver who had penalty points cancelled on consecutive days – on one occasion
he was travelling at 102 per cent above the speed limit, on the other at 80 per cent
above. On both occasions he claimed he was late for work.
The Inspectorate noted that it had failed to find even one occasion when an off-duty
garda’s request to have his penalty points expunged was refused by a ‘cancelling
In some cases, when errant drivers simply phoned seeking to have their fines and
penalty points ‘wiped’, their requests were granted by gardaí who never even bothered to
record the reasons for the cancellations.
On the Late Late Show of April 4 2014, John Wilson claimed that there were “many
members of the various [political] parties who had been taken care of down the years for
speeding offences and other road traffic offences.”

Page 28 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
After the release of the Garda Inspectorate’s report, John Wilson stated that if “people
thought the penalty points issue was serious, what I have heard in the last year would
make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck… The number of people that have been
maliciously prosecuted by gardaí is… more than frightening – it is sickening.” He
denounced the report of Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahoney, alleging it was
“basically a whitewash”. [73]
An extraordinary feature of the entire affair was what happened to people who stepped
out of line with the Callinan/ Shatter consensus. Maurice McCabe was isolated by his
colleagues, and denigrated by Callinan and Shatter. John Wilson felt obliged to resign
from the force. Oliver Connolly lost his job, as did journalist Gemma O’Doherty.
Gemma was a senior features writer at the Irish Independent. According to The Phoenix
magazine, she had approached Callinan’s home “to check that he was indeed the same
person who had speeding penalty points wiped out. A few weeks later, O’Doherty…
became the only Indo journalist to suffer compulsory redundancy in the current
restructuring.” [74]
Two TDs, Mick Wallace and Clare Daly, also experienced problems, after seeking an
independent inquiry into the whistleblowers’ allegations. Deputy Daly fumed at how
“Honest gardaí are being victimised because they have uncovered the systematic abuse of
motoring charges and terminations to those of some very powerful and influential people
in the State, including members of the Judiciary.” [75] Addressing the Dáil, Deputy
Wallace opined that “People are right to be cynical about politics and politicians. This
place is a joke. We play games in here, and sometimes these games lead to the unfair
distribution of justice or no justice at all… What do we see when bad things emerge? We
see our police force and our politicians circling the wagons and doing what it takes to
cover up what they do not want us to see. They do what it takes to hide the truth.” [76]
Mr. Shatter did not take kindly to Wallace’s condemnations of wrongdoing within the
Garda penalty points system, revealing on RTE’s Prime Time programme (May 16 2013)
that the deputy had himself escaped sanction a year earlier, after being seen by gardaí at
the wheel of a car, while using a mobile phone. Mr. Wallace later pointed out that the
incident had occurred while he was stopped at traffic lights. “There were two guards
there. I held my hand up and they said ‘it’s okay’ and left it at that.” [77] Professor of
law Dermot Walsh opined that if Mr. Shatter had obtained this confidential information
from a garda, using his status as minister for justice, it was “an improper exercise of his
office”. [78] (Shatter later admitted that he had obtained the information from Callinan).
In January 2013, Deputy Daly was stopped by gardaí on suspicion of drink-driving,
after taking an illegal turn at night in Dublin’s southside, an area unfamiliar to her. She
was breathalysed. When the equipment did not register a reading, she was arrested,
handcuffed, taken to a nearby Garda station, put in a cell, was asked to provide a urine
sample and was later released. Gardaí sneakily leaked information on her arrest to the
news media. Her urine sample showed she was well below the legal alcohol limit.
Two months later, she was facing new charges, alleging she had driven her car without
reasonable consideration for other persons at the Dublin Port tunnel – which she
strenuously denied. The case was dismissed by the judge when the DPP directed that the
prosecution be withdrawn.

Page 29 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
Greedy Gardaí
The revelations of Maurice McCabe and John Wilson suggest a widespread lack of
integrity within the force – something long suspected by many journalists. Their
allegations of widespread irregularities in the cancellation of fines and penalty points –
resulting in financial savings for the errant motorists, and large shortfalls in exchequer
returns – are not unlike what occurred during earlier decades.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Dublin-based journalists speculated about how a well-known
restaurateur could park his top-marque car outside his premises, on yellow lines, day after
day, without ever – it seems – getting a parking ticket or court summons. The consensus
explanation, perhaps unfairly, attributed the man’s seemingly extraordinary good fortune
to some gardaí receiving free meals for overlooking his blatant non-observance of
parking regulations.
During those two decades journalists were aware that some gardaí had an aversion to
spending money, and also had a blatant predilection for freebies. Many gardaí in Dublin
never paid fares when travelling on buses. Some called into the dispatch offices of
national newspapers seeking free copies of papers for themselves and colleagues. Some
never paid parking fees. Gardaí in Dublin’s Pearse Street Garda station – located on a
very busy centre-city thoroughfare – routinely double and even treble-parked their private
cars outside the station. As a journalist, one learned of the ease with which many people
with relations, friends or neighbours in the force could get pending parking fines,
summonses and some other problems “fixed” or “squared” or “sorted”. One also became
aware of after-hours drinking by gardaí in some Dublin pubs, and of members of the
force availing of free drinks and meals in some establishments.
Former Garda Superintendent Pat Flynn – who led the investigation that resulted in
Catherine Nevin receiving a life sentence for her role in the 1996 murder of her husband
Tom at their pub and restaurant in south Wicklow – recalled, in a subsequent book, an
occasion when he himself had a meal and drinks with an off-duty colleague in the
restaurant. As he went to pay the bill, his colleague told him that “There’s no need for
that here. You don’t pay here.” Catherine, he wrote, “was aware of a tradition in rural
Ireland whereby Gardaí would be offered an occasional free drink, whether they were on
or off duty, by pub owners. She would offer and, if the offer was accepted, it would
become a regular occurrence – and could place the Garda in a compromising position…
stories were circulating about late-night revelling and after-hours drinking involving
Gardaí – though complaints were never made to the relevant authorities.” [79]
Was Catherine’s generosity to gardaí motivated by an implicit understanding that her
pub would not be subjected to after-hours inspections by members of the force, or that
she would, at least, be forewarned about them?
Letterkenny restaurateur and bar licensee Bernard McGlinchey and local gardaí enjoyed
such a mutually advantageous symbiotic relationship. He was a member of the ‘Donegal
Mafia’ – the powerful cadre of Fianna Fáil political power-brokers in Donegal. Gardaí
were well looked after. “Christmas saw boxes of alcohol being delivered around town in
appreciation for various acts of kindness shown to him throughout the year… the Garda
station received their delivery in timely fashion, as did various council officials”, his
daughter Karen recalled. She explained how this relationship worked. [80]

Page 30 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
“It wasn’t unusual for Bernard to receive a phone call from one of the local Guards
informing him of an imminent raid on the bars”, she wrote. This was the era “of the pint
or a transfer and most Guards recognised if they wanted to climb the ladder of success
within the force, crossing swords with Bernard McGlinchey was not going to auger well
for their promotion prospects. Gardaí moved in concentric circles around him. Those on
the outer edge were desperate to become members of the inner sanctum… The system of
Garda promotion involved a process of political recommendation. Behind closed
doors, away from eavesdropping colleagues, there was a quiet word here and a
whisper there. Cliques of Guards formed to curry favour with influential
politicians. A word in the right place from a prominent politician could ensure a
promotion – or wreck a career. Many Guards enjoyed the hospitality of Bernard
McGlinchey. His generosity became infamous among the uniform section and while
some were satisfied with the meals and drinks offered freely, others were enjoying the
sumptuous lifestyle on the McGlinchey family island homes and boats.” [81]
There were other benefits that gardaí could avail of in Donegal. As Karen McGlinchey
noted, during “the local elections of the late Nineties, Bernard produced a record of the
significant number of section four motions he had guided through Donegal County
Council against the planners’ advice. These motions benefited numerous people,
civilians and Gardaí alike.” [82]
Section 4 motions enabled local councillors to override planning decisions of city and
county managers and to compel them to grant permission for developments that were
being opposed by local authority planners and other experienced professional officials –
often developments in areas of scenic beauty and in sensitive areas of historical,
archaeological, heritage or wildlife importance. Planning permission for a house in a
scenic area could add hugely to its sale value, enriching the owner.
Ultimately, rogue gardaí would betray Bernard’s self-serving generosity to members of
the force. Some coerced his daughter Adrienne into manufacturing and planting hoax
terrorist bombs. One could justifiably question whether the group most entitled to the
sobriquet ‘Donegal Mafia’ were gardaí in the county, rather that an insider Fianna Fáil
Drinking establishments owned by politically-connected people seemed to be almost
immune from prosecution by police. In the 1960s and 1970s, a favoured after-hours
watering hole for Fianna Fáil’s mohair-suited parliamentarians, such as Charles J.
Haughey, and for some journalists, actors and judges (notably district judges who were
based outside Dublin), was Groome’s Hotel in central Dublin, owned by Fianna Fáil’s
honorary secretary Joe Groome and his wife Patty. One habitué was playwright and
columnist Hugh Leonard, who wrote of one “evening when our host, Joe Groome, was
advised of an imminent raid by the Gardaí… we were invited to sign the hotel register”,
thereby giving their after-hours drinking a deceptive appearance of legality. [83]
Thirty five years after Hugh Leonard penned this piece, Eamon Dunphy alleged that
similar practices were still going on. Writing about a Dublin nightclub, he told of how
“Occasionally the cops would raid the club. By some mysterious bush telegraph” the
owners “would learn that a raid was imminent… No arrests were ever made.” [84]
Tipping off bar owners about planned raids on their premises – presumably, for some
form of quid pro quo – availing of free bus travel, meals, drinks and newspapers, and
parking without payment, may be considered petty corruption. However, cumulatively,

Page 31 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
these can amount to considerable cash savings each year. For instance, getting a free
copy of just one national morning paper on each working day can save about €500 per
year. Daily free trips on city buses can save even more.
In August 2013, allegations surfaced, from a company that had been employed to
provide services to the Corrib Gas Project in Mayo, that – on the instructions of Shell – it
had purchased a huge consignment of alcohol, valued at €29,500. In December 2007.
most of this was, allegedly, delivered in an unmarked vehicle to Belmullet Garda station.
Around 200 gardaí – most drawn from outside the county – were then based there. This
amounted to around €100 worth of alcoholic drink per garda, if shared equally among
them all. Were they being rewarded by the gas project consortium for their cooperation
in crushing local opposition?
Gardaí receive such freebies simply because they are gardaí. There appears to be a
sense of entitlement, of privilege, of elitism, of impunity within the force. Of tolerance
of greed within the force.
It is often only a small step from being greedy to becoming corrupt. In 2013, there were
reports of four thefts of cash – total value around €44,000 – from two Garda stations in
Dublin city and county and one in County Kildare.

Page 32 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
Dundalk Garda Station
Justice Frederick R. Morris – who chaired the Morris Tribunal – observed that after
“several more months of hearings into Garda corruption in Donegal, the spirit wearies at
the lies, obfuscations, concealments and conspiracies to destroy the truth”. [85]
However, he concluded that gross wrongdoing within An Garda Síochána was not
limited to its Donegal division. “Of the Gardaí serving in Donegal, it cannot be said
that they are unrepresentative or an aberration from the generality.” [86]
Another tribunal, chaired by Judge Peter Smithwick, concluded that some gardaí, in
County Louth had collaborated with the Provisional IRA, and that somebody in Dundalk
Garda station had colluded with the IRA in the murder of two RUC officers.
On March 20 1989, two unarmed senior RUC officers, Chief Superintendent Harry
Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan, attended a meeting in Dundalk Garda station.
Shortly after leaving the station, both were fatally wounded in an IRA ambush near
Jonesboro in south Armagh. Years later, on April 13 2000, Fine Gael deputy Jim Higgins
told the Dáil he had the names of two gardaí who, allegedly, colluded with the
Provisional IRA in the deaths of twelve people, including the two RUC men.
Democratic Unionist Party MP Jeffrey Donaldson, under House of Commons privilege,
identified one of the two as a former member of the Garda force in Dundalk, Detective
Sergeant Owen Corrigan.
In December 2013, the Smithwick Tribunal report was published. Judge Smithwick was
“satisfied that there was collusion in the murders” of the two RUC officers, and held that
“the evidence points to the fact that there was someone within the [Dundalk] Garda
station assisting the IRA”. [87]
Judge Smithwick found that former Detective Sergeant Owen Corrigan had engaged in
“a series of inappropriate dealings with the Provisional IRA going back until at least mid1991”. He found, “as a fact, on a strong balance of probabilities”, that former Garda
Sergeant Leo Colton had “assisted the Provisional IRA” [88] in 1995 and 1996, through
helping in the processing of false passport applications.
However, he argued that the evidence was not “of sufficient substance” to establish that
Corrigan had colluded in the fatal shootings of the RUC men and “that the evidence does
not establish that [Leo Colton] colluded with the Provisional IRA in the murders of the
two officers.” [89]
Even before the murder of the two RUC officers – there were suspicions within both An
Garda Síochána and the RUC that some gardaí in the Dundalk station were collaborating
with the Provisional IRA. Two days after the killings, Mr. Breen’s staff officer, Sergeant
Alan Mains, made a statement about a conversation he had with Mr. Breen, just hours
before the ambush. The trip to Dundalk related to cross-border smuggling by Tom ‘Slab’
Murphy, later chief of staff of the Provisional IRA. Mr. Mains stated that “Mr. Breen
highlighted the fact that he was uneasy about travelling down to Dundalk… he felt that
‘Slab’ Murphy had contacts within the Garda and to this end he felt he could not trust
certain Garda Síochána members… he felt that certain members of the Garda were on
Murphy’s payroll.” [90] Years after the murders, Mains told the Smithwick Tribunal that
Mr. Breen, especially, did not trust Owen Corrigan. Nor did Bob Buchanan. Garda
Superintendent Tom Curran told the tribunal that Bob Buchanan had told him that “the
RUC had information that Detective Sergeant Owen Corrigan in Dundalk was

Page 33 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
associating, unnecessarily associating with the IRA”. [91] Former Garda Detective
Superintendent Tom Connolly told the tribunal that it was “fairly well known” that
Corrigan was “being talked about as possibly or maybe or suspected of being at some
type of smuggling or in cahoots with the IRA in some way.” [92] Former Garda
Detective Inspector Sean O’Connell told the tribunal that the general opinion within the
force was that there “was something dodgy going on” in the Dundalk station, and that the
word “dodgy” was often applied to Corrigan. [93] (On February 25 2014, the High Court
in Dublin granted Owen Corrigan permission to challenge some of the Smithwick
Tribunal findings).
Corrigan’s colleague in Dundalk, Sergeant Leo Colton, had IRA ties. He provided a
letter supporting an application for a trade plate certificate for one Brian Ruddy, falsely
claiming that Ruddy was a bona fide garage owner. In a report on this matter, Chief
Superintendent Burns stated that Ruddy “associates with leading members of the PIRA
[Provisional IRA] in the Dundalk area and is deeply involved in the illegal cattle
hormone and growth promotion trade”. [94]
In September 1998, Sergeant Finbarr Hickey of Hackballscross Garda station, north of
Dundalk, was arrested and questioned about signing eight false passport applications,
certifying the identities of the applicants. Three of the eight passports issued came into
the possession of active members of the IRA. Sergeant Hickey alleged that he had been
asked to sign the forms by Sergeant Colton, which Colton denied. Hickey pleaded guilty
to four charges and served a one-year prison sentence.

Page 34 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
More Garda wrongdoing and ineptitude
Judge Smithwick commented on the reluctance of gardaí to give testimony that might
damage the reputation of their force. He wrote that he was “drawn to the conclusion that
a number of the Garda witnesses before this Tribunal, including former and current senior
Gardaí, were not fully forthcoming in their evidence to me.” [95] He noted that only two
senior gardaí openly and frankly admitted to hearing of unease about the trustworthiness
of some members in the Dundalk area. This, he opined, “suggests that there is an
ingrained culture of prioritising loyalty to the good name of the force over the legal,
moral and ethical obligation owed to give truthful evidence to the Tribunal.” [96]
Elsewhere in the report he asserted that “there prevails in An Garda Síochána today a
prioritisation of the protection of the good name of the force over the protection of those
who seek to tell the truth. Loyalty is prized above honesty.” [97]
He was not alone in expressing his dismay at the unreliability of some Garda
witnesses. A few judges have commented on the propensity of gardaí for lying. In
January 2004, retired Circuit Court judge Anthony Murphy alleged on a Prime
Time programme that there had “been occasions when the guards have committed
perjury in my court.” [98] Weeks later, on April Fools Day, “an utterly shocked”
Judge Mary Devins stunned attendees at Westport District Court when she
adjourned a court sitting after a garda admitted making a false statement. Holding
that the prosecution case was tainted with irregularities, “or much worse”, she
wondered “whether this has happened before. Is there frequently or ever collusion
between arresting gardaí and arrested persons? Are deals done and statements
altered? Do gardaí take on the role of the judiciary?” [99]
Journalist Vincent Browne, a barrister, has also commented on this issue.
“Anyone with experience of the criminal courts will say that the incidence of
perjury on the part of Garda witnesses is part and parcel of the system. Gardaí tell
lies under oath often without thought nowadays. Not all gardaí do so, but very
many do so.” [100]
One can only speculate as to how many miscarriages of justice have occurred in
Irish courts due to Garda perjury, or tampering with evidence.
Then there is the issue of Garda incompetence. Gross Garda ineptitude was a major
factor in the death of 27-year old John Carthy in the Longford village of Abbeylara. On
April 20 2000, he was killed when hit by four shots fired by two members of the Garda
Emergency Response Unit. Subsequently, a tribunal of inquiry was set up, under the
chairmanship of Mr. Justice Robert Barr. Concluding that Garda management at the
scene was “defective… and fell far short of what was required to contend with the
situation successfully and to minimise the risk to life”, he listed 23 Garda “command
failures” which contributed to John Carthy’s death. It was a list of shameful Garda
inadequacy and bungling. [101]
John Carthy had reason to be distrustful of policemen. In September 1998, he had been
arrested, falsely accused of malicious damage and, Carthy claimed, been physically
assaulted by Garda officers, while in detention. Mr. Justice Barr wrote in his report that
he did “not accept the evidence of Gardaí Bruen and McHugh that neither of them
physically abused the subject while under interrogation after an unjustified arrest and
charging with a substantial crime.” [102]

Page 35 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
A mentally fragile individual, subject to mood swings when under stress, John Carthy
had moved into the old family home on April 19, carrying a legally-held shotgun, to
prevent the building’s planned demolition by the County Council. An armed Garda siege
followed. At 5.45 pm on April 20, John walked out of the house without warning, armed
with the gun. Called on to surrender the gun, he kept walking towards the Garda cordon.
Four shots were discharged, killing him.
John’s death, Justice Barr wrote, “should not have happened.” [103] Garda actions that
might have helped to assuage John’s anxiety, to reassure him and end the siege
successfully and peacefully were not pursued. His request for cigarettes (he was a heavy
smoker) was not fulfilled, probably escalating his distress. Justice Barr observed that
“John Carthy’s repeated insistence on obtaining the benefit of a solicitor at the scene, and
particularly his statement to Kevin Ireland [a friend] that he would give himself up if he
got a solicitor, were factors that had potential for being turned to major advantage…
Provision of a solicitor at the scene… should have been regarded as a matter of urgent
priority. It seems to me that postponement of arrest and also demolition of the old home
if presented and recommended to the subject by a trusted solicitor, is likely to have had a
reasonable prospect of opening the door to a successful ending of the impasse”. [104]
None of these logical approaches were pursued. Police dogs could have been used to
disarm him as he left the house. None were brought to Abbeylara. The gardaí had no
non-lethal weapons. A human being died needlessly.
Justice Barr’s damning conclusions – in a 744 page report – are unlikely to boost public
confidence or trust in the force. An internal Garda inquiry exonerated the police involved
in the siege.
The death of John Carthy was just one of a host of controversial events that have sullied
the image of An Garda Síochána. On April 22 1982, forty-one year old Peter Matthews –
in poor health and a heavy drinker – was arrested in Shercock, County Cavan. About
three hours later he died in custody, after being assaulted during interrogation about a
stolen Post Office savings book. Two gardaí were later acquitted in court, on charges
relating to the assault. Matthews’ widow received substantial State compensation.
On the night of April 12 1984, a young unmarried Kerry mother, Joanne Hayes, gave
birth to a baby, who died in unknown circumstances. Joanne hid the body on the family
farm. Two days later, the stabbed body of a new-born baby was found on a beach over
forty miles from the Hayes home. Brought in for questioning, Joanne told gardaí that she
had stabbed her own baby, watched by family members – who provided corroborative
statements, including an admission that the baby had been thrown into the sea.
However, when her own baby’s body was found on the farm by gardaí, it had no stab
Why did so many family members admit to a crime they had not committed, or abetted?
Joanne and family members claimed they had been coerced, some that they had been
assaulted, by gardaí.
A tribunal, under Justice Kevin Lynch, was set up to inquire into the affair. He
concluded that Joanne was not the mother of the stabbed baby. Gardaí hotly refuted
allegations that they had used coercion and abuse, to get the family to admit to killing,
and, disposing of, the second baby. Justice Lynch concurred. Hayes family members
had, voluntarily, provided confessions which were false, he held. Justice Lynch
exonerated gardaí of any ill-treatment of family members during questioning.

Page 36 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
Some journalists queried the validity of some of the judge’s conclusions. Nell
McCafferty wondered how “four members of the Hayes family… seated in separate
rooms in a police station, each spelled out the exact same fantasy, differing only in their
estimation of the numbers present at and partaking in the fantasy.” [105]
In 1996, just before Christmas, the battered body of a French woman, Sophie Toscan du
Plantier, was found near her holiday home in the Schull area of west Cork. Gardaí leaked
information to the media, associating an English journalist resident in the area, Ian
Bailey, with the murder. For him, life became a daily hell. Over 15 years later, on
March 1 2012, Mr. Justice John Murray castigated the Garda handling of the
investigation, holding that it was “a thoroughly flawed and prejudiced Garda
investigation, culminating in a grossly improper attempt to achieve or even force a
prosecutorial decision which accorded with that prejudice.” [106]
In March 2014, news emerged that, since the early 1980s, several Garda stations had
recorded incoming and outgoing phone calls, including – ostensibly unintentionally –
some between people in custody and their solicitors. A total of 2,485 Garda tapes were
found. By early April, Garda examination of tapes found in Bandon station had
identified a total of 133 taped calls relating to the Toscan du Plantier case. Some of these
comprised calls between Garda members and a local woman, Marie Farrell.
Marie Farrell had phoned the station, anonymously, after the murder, alleging she had
seen a man at Kealfadda Bridge, outside Schull, hours before Sophie’s body was
discovered. Gardaí traced the caller. When interviewed, she identified Ian Bailey as the
man she had seen. He was twice arrested and released without charge. His partner, Jules
Thomas, was also arrested and released. Ian Bailey vehemently denied any role in the
murder. In 2005, Marie Farrell retracted her statement linking Bailey to the murder. She
alleged she had made her false statement under duress from gardaí. There was now no
evidence linking Bailey with the murder.
Mr. Bailey and his partner began civil legal proceedings against the State for wrongful
arrest, and sought discovery of material in the Garda case file. The material included
recorded phone calls related to the case. In April 2014, the Sunday Times alleged that the
Bandon Garda station tapes included eighteen conversations between gardaí and a British
vagrant living in the area, Martin Graham. The newspaper reported that “recordings
show gardaí gave him illegal drugs, cigarettes, poteen and small amounts of money in
return for his co-operation. Gardaí wanted Graham to befriend Bailey, and lure him into
making a confession to the murder.” [107] Cork freelance photographer Billy MacGill
witnessed Graham being picked up by two Garda handlers in a car. When Graham was
driven back, he showed MacGill hash he alleged he had been given. It was in a Garda
evidence bag.
In April 2014, a commission was established to investigate the recording of phone calls
at some Garda stations. On April 8, a government statement confirmed that the
commission would seek to establish whether tapes recorded in the Bandon station “and
any other acts or events… disclose any evidence of unlawful or improper conduct by
members of An Garda Síochána” related to the investigation of the Toscan du Plantier
Two years earlier, Phoenix magazine had remarked that, over 15 years after the murder,
“not a single disciplinary charge or criminal charge has been laid against any officer”
involved in the investigation. [108]

Page 37 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
In February 2010, a defendant was acquitted on charges of involvement in the August
1998 Omagh bombing, in which 29 people died. The key factor in the acquittal was the
fabrication of Garda interview notes. Two gardaí, allegedly involved in this falsification
process, were subsequently charged with perjury, but acquitted.
Statistics relating to malpractices within An Garda Síochána nationally are sparse, and
do not reveal the real extent of the problem. The Garda Síochána Ombudsman
Commission’s annual report for 2009 showed that, in that year, 2097 complaints were
made to GSOC about gardaí by members of the public. Some 15 per cent of these related
to assault. In 2008, the Sunday Tribune reported that Garda wrongdoing comprised “a
shocking litany of beatings, false arrests, malicious prosecutions and breaches of
privacy.” [109]
Between the start of January 2005 and the end of November 2006, according to statistics
provided by the force, 31 gardaí were prosecuted in court on a variety of criminal
charges, including drink-driving, assault, possession of cannabis, theft and harassment.
However, it is impossible to know how many crooked or other errant gardaí have
escaped detection, and hence prosecution or disciplinary action. Newspaper headlines –
such as “Garda admits to soliciting charge” (Irish Times, November 19 2002), “Child
porn garda is still serving after seven years” (Sunday Tribune, November 29 2009),
“Garda convicted of sex assault on female colleague avoids jail term” (Irish Times,
February 4 2014), “Prostitution investigation: garda charged” (Sunday Times, April 17
2011), “Garda dismissed over alleged links to criminal gang” (Irish Times, 19 June 2010)
and “Garda use surveillance to arrest officer suspected of drug dealing (Sunday Times,
February 6 2011) – and other headlines relating to assaults, drink-driving, human rights
violations, accepting bribes, theft and so on, provide a clue as to the variety of offences,
and alleged offences, but not of the extent.
Determining the true extent of wrongdoing by rogue gardaí is made difficult because
most cases in which compensation is paid to victims or alleged victims of Garda
misbehaviour are settled before the cases are heard in open court. Most such cases,
consequently, avoid media scrutiny and accused gardaí do not receive court-imposed
punishments. Thus, many are not held accountable for their purported wrongdoing.
Accountability is perceived by many to be a crucial element within a true democracy.
For every freedom there should be a corresponding responsibility – and accountability.
However, within An Garda Síochána there has long been an aversion to accountability
and transparency. Complaints against members of the force were, for years, investigated
by fellow gardaí within the toothless Garda Complaints Board. The establishment of a
Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) by Minister for Justice Michael
McDowell – following the publication of the Morris Tribunal findings – gave some hope
that the type of misconduct and criminality evident in the Donegal Division would, in
future, be investigated and curbed nationwide, and that gardaí would be held accountable
for wrongdoing.
GSOC has three commissioners, each chosen by the government. After the death of its
first chairman, a new commissioner was appointed – Dermot Gallagher, a senior civil
servant – who joined the two incumbent commissioners, Conor Brady and Carmel Foley.
Strangely, each of the three had a parent who had served in An Garda Síochána.
Regardless of their undoubted integrity and ability, the appointment of three people with

Page 38 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
Garda connections to investigate complaints about gardaí seemed very unwise, from a
public perception perspective.
Since its inception, GSOC’s relationship with An Garda Síochána has been
dysfunctional, marked by a barely-disguised hostility from the Garda authorities towards
GSOC, and by a reluctance to assist some GSOC investigations. Although protocols
require that the force hand over documentation to its watchdog within 30 days, GSOC
has sometimes had to wait over a year, thus frustrating investigators in their work. The
police force controlled the flow of documentation and information – and GSOC had no
way of knowing if any relevant material was being withheld, unless gardaí told them. At
times, according to GSOC, the police force declined to provide some requested
documentation, claiming that it was not relevant.
In 2013, relations reached a new nadir. By then, GSOC had spent four years trying to
investigate allegations that some gardaí had allowed a convicted international drug
dealer, Kieran Boylan, to continue his drug trafficking operations. In April 2009, The
Sunday Times had revealed that Boylan had been “found in possession of heroin and
cocaine worth €1.7 million… [the] prosecution collapsed after he threatened to disclose
details of his relationship with the force in evidence if his trial proceeded. That hearing
took place, unannounced, on the last day of the court term. It seems that somebody,
somewhere, was determined that the state’s intention to drop charges against the drug
trafficker should not be publicised.” This “key gangland criminal continues to be
protected by members of the [Garda] force at the highest level”, it was claimed. There
was a possibility that he had been “allowed to pursue illegal activities in return for setting
up drug seizures for gardaí.” [110]
The GSOC investigation into the allegations of a secret agreement between some gardaí
and Boylan was GSOC’s biggest ever inquiry. In May 2013, GSOC Commissioner
Kieran Fitzgerald further aggravated the tensions between the two bodies, when he
complained that ten requests for information during GSOC’s Boylan inquiry had taken
the Garda force between 300 and 600 days to process. Were there valid reasons for these
delays – or was Garda resistance to accountability and transparency so deeply rooted, and
resentment to GSOC’s watchdog role so great, that the force was deliberately attempting
to delay and undermine GSOC investigations?
In February 2014, relations between the two bodies became even more strained, when it
was revealed that British counter-surveillance specialists, hired by GSOC, had found that
GSOC had been the target of a sophisticated surveillance operation, which had attempted
to bug its phone and wi-fi systems and its computers. An Garda Síochána and justice
minister Alan Shatter attempted to discredit the findings of the British security
specialists. The chairman of GSOC, Simon O’Brien, told an Oireachtas committee that
some of his officials believed that gardaí might have been responsible for the attempted
surveillance – although there was no evidence to prove this. Could the objective of the
attempted bugging be to monitor GSOC’s investigation into alleged Garda collusion with
Kieran Boylan, some journalists asked.

Page 39 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
“Our problem is civil obedience”
After GSOC opened its public offices, the largest volume of early complaints received
about alleged Garda misbehaviour came from one of Ireland’s most law-abiding and least
populated areas – the remote parish of Kilcommon in north-west Mayo.
Part of the story of the struggle of the people of this area against the might of the State,
its police force, and one of the world’s largest multinationals – Shell – has been related
earlier in this document. It is worthwhile returning to the experiences of residents of this
area – because what they have suffered at the hands of gardaí, and are still suffering
today, may be the experiences of the people of other Irish regions tomorrow. It can be
logically argued, with an enormous dossier of corroborative evidence, that what
gardaí inflicted on the people of Kilcommon is not compatible with the police force
of a democratic state.
However, before returning to this topic, let us digress briefly.
What has happened in north-west Mayo was not an unintentional aberration, an
accidental departure from the norm. What occurred is characteristic of what is taking
place almost worldwide in today’s new, and grossly inequitable, world order of
neoliberalism and globalisation that we live in. Together, neoliberalism and globalisation
represent the most far-reaching process of social engineering in modern history –
establishing new internationally binding rules and structures that place the rights of
multinational corporations and financial giants above the rights of entire populations and
outside the compass of democratic control and accountability.
Before the end of the last century, the power of corporate and financial giants had
reached such a dizzying level that 51 of the world’s 100 biggest ‘economies’
comprised transnational behemoths rather than sovereign countries. The aggregate
sales of the world’s 200 richest companies exceeded the combined gross domestic
product of all but ten of the world’s nations. The assets of the world’s three richest
people exceeded the GNP of the poorest 48 countries and their 600 million people.
The assets of the 200 richest – who, with few exceptions, had corporate/ financial ties
– exceeded the combined income of over 40 per cent of mankind.
Today, 53 of the world’s 100 biggest ‘economies’ comprise multinational corporate
and financial giants rather than sovereign countries.
These are truly shameful statistics.
To an extraordinary degree, the world and its people are now dominated by the
largest corporate and financial leviathans and by the mega-rich. [111]
Greek historian Thucydides (c. 460 BC – c. 395 BC) observed that “large nations
do what they wish, while small nations accept what they must.” [112] Today, one
can, accurately, substitute ‘large multinationals’ for ‘large nations’. Corporate
giants – such as Shell – have more power than minnow nations, such as Ireland.
Their economic clout is such that they can, and do, dictate to sovereign countries.
Democracy is dying.
What if people protest against this new world order and the unconscionable gross
disparity in wealth, and power? On September 17 2011, several hundred Americans,
mostly young, gathered in Zuccotti Park in New York’s Wall Street district, the very hub
of US and global capitalism. Calling themselves the Occupy Wall Street movement, the
protestors claimed to represent ‘the 99 per cent’ of Americans who have almost no

Page 40 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
political muscle. They argued that their country’s democratic model is a massive fraud –
a system of government by the remaining 1 per cent for the 1 per cent.
The protestors were particularly incensed by the growing wealth disparity between the
top 1 per cent in US society and the remaining 99 per cent – an inequality “larger than at
any time since 1929”, according to former vice-president Al Gore. [113] They came to
protest, peacefully, against the insatiable greed and sense of entitlement of top bankers,
who had plunged the US into deep recession, and who were pocketing enormous salaries
and bonuses at a time when millions of Americans were facing eviction from their
homes. They came to protest at the failure to put on trial the financial fraudsters and
gamblers who had precipitated America’s economic tsunami. They came to protest at the
powerlessness and helplessness felt by so many Americans and, conversely, at how the
power of money over US politics had created a closed power nexus that binds America’s
corporate and financial elites and political policy-makers together – thereby excluding the
vast majority of Americans from any meaningful role in the country’s purportedly
democratic political system.
A poll showed that some two-thirds of American respondents voiced support for the
The Wall Street protests soon spawned a near-worldwide movement, with similarly
themed demonstrations being held in an estimated 100-plus US cities and, perhaps, in
1,500 or so cities around the world.
The US establishment’s response to the peaceful protests was to arrest thousands of
Occupy activists. Reporters and photographers were also targeted. The November 28
issue of Newsweek magazine reported that the New York “police crackdown of Occupy
Wall Street last week included the arrests of more than two dozen journalists, including
ones from Vanity Fair and the Associated Press.” Video footage of an Occupy protest in
New York in October showed a police officer raining baton blows on prone protestors,
and showed a deputy inspector pepper-spraying young females.
Then, in the early hours of November 15 – two months after the protests began – police,
in riot gear, forcibly removed Occupy activists from the park. Around 200 were arrested.
Camps elsewhere in the United States were also closed. In Oakland, California, some
activists claimed they had sustained injuries from rubber bullets. One claimed his skull
had been fractured.
In London, the city authorities initiated legal action against an Occupy encampment. In
Ireland, Occupy camps were forcibly closed by gardaí.
A movement that encompassed up to around fifty countries was being suppressed. State
power – using police power – was crushing People Power.
Other mass-protests were also held in the early years of the new millennium. What was
striking about many of these was the number of participants – up to 300,000 in a March
2002 demonstration during an EU meeting in Barcelona, and an estimated 500,000 at a
rally in Florence, in November of the same year, against a likely US-led war in Iraq.
What was also striking were the extraordinary measures taken to overwhelm protestors
and to insulate those targeted by protestors from any risk. In July 2000, Japan hosted a
summit of the G8 (the Group of Eight, comprising the world’s seven most industrialised
countries, plus Russia). Around 20,000 armed police were deployed, together with some
100 naval vessels and 20 aircraft. Another G8 summit held in Japan, in July 2008,

Page 41 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
involved similar precautions. The combined cost of the two summits was around $1.5
Attendees at a July 2001 G8 summit in Genoa, Italy, were protected by some 18,000
police, backed by helicopters and military personnel, including sharpshooters. Over 500
of the 100,000 protestors were injured, hundreds were arrested and one man was killed.
A 47 year old man walking home from work during an anti-G8 protest in London in
April 2009 – his hands in his pockets – was assaulted by a policeman. He died shortly
after the assault.
In June 2013, an astonishing spontaneous public revolt occurred in Latin America’s
largest and most populous country, Brazil, against plans to expend some €10 billion on
hosting the soccer World Cup – in a nation where the average monthly wage was around
€500. Perhaps 2 million-plus took to the streets in over 100 Brazilian cities and towns, to
protest against their deaf and corrupt political leaders. A few days earlier, in faraway
Turkey, anti-government protests were held over a number of days, during which over
5,000 were injured and five were, reportedly, killed.
It had become illegal to protest against the new world order of globalisation and
neoliberalism, against the corporations, financial institutions and the mega-rich who
helped to create this new world order – and who benefit most from it – and against
governments unwilling to tolerate displays of public dissent.
There is a vital symbiotic linkage between dissent and democracy. Polemicist Tony
Judt has argued that “the disposition to disagree, to reject and to dissent… is the very
lifeblood of an open society. We need people who make a virtue of opposing mainstream
opinion. A democracy of permanent consensus will not long remain a democracy.” [114]
“The kind of disobedience that’s needed is to re-create a functioning democracy”,
according to Noam Chomsky, regarded as one of the world’s pre-eminent intellectuals.
[115] Dr. John Gofman of the University of California, Berkeley, points out that protest
“is always justified when it is the only means to make a deaf government listen.” [116]
Historian, playwright and social activist Howard Zinn has opined that civil disobedience
is “not our problem… Our problem is civil obedience” [117]– people blindly,
unquestioningly, acquiescing to government decisions and policies.

Page 42 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
An Orwellian Nightmare in Mayo
The people around the Rossport area in north-west Mayo did not meekly and
thoughtlessly accept the imposition on them by their government and by State agencies –
without any consultation – of a project that many believed to be a threat to their health,
safety and lives. They resisted, peacefully – just as Occupy protestors did around the
world on other issues. And like the Occupy movement’s protest campaigns, police were
sent, in huge numbers, to crush dissent in a small corner of Mayo.
The arrival of large contingents of police in Erris changed daily life in the area. People
perceived that they were being subjected to Orwellian-style surveillance. Allegedly,
phones were being tapped by An Garda Síochána, correspondence was being intercepted
and read, and sometimes stolen, and people’s movements were being monitored. The
community was subjected to an unprecedented level of invasive police filming of a rural
population. Residents were also filmed by Shell security personnel.
When local Dáil deputy Dr. Gerry Cowley (Independent) asked Justice Minister
Michael McDowell (PD) if Garda “surveillance is being or has been carried out on the
land line or mobile phone numbers” of the deputy himself and of six named local
activists, he received a written reply (dated March 28 2007) in which the minister held
that it was “not the practice and it would be contrary to the public interest to disclose if an
authorisation to intercept has or has not been granted”. [118]
Following a June 2007 confrontation in the area, a reported 18 complaints were
submitted to GSOC, alleging police misbehaviour. Inexplicably, letters later posted by
GSOC to several of the complainants were not received at the intended addresses.
Some campaigners “ended up in hospital with broken bones, others with bruising.
Away from the frontline, protestors report their cars being tailed, tell of lights flashing
into their houses in the middle of the night”, the Sunday Tribune reported. [119] Cars
could be stopped and drivers and passengers compelled to provide identification and
addresses. Some protestors’ homes were visited by gardaí, often on flimsy pretexts, as
far away as Killala, and even Kerry. Interpol was, reportedly, contacted to obtain
information about foreign volunteers in a local solidarity camp. If they, or local
residents, complained about alleged police misbehaviour, Garda warrants were often sent
to them. When they turned up at the court – perhaps after taking a day’s leave from work
– they might find that the charges had been withdrawn. Others were arrested by gardaí,
but later released without charge. Bizarrely, it became the only area, in the entire history
of the State, in which a naval gunboat was deployed against an Irish community.
All in an effort to crush the will of locals to resist.
The community’s resistance to the proposed route for the onshore gas pipeline was
motivated by one compelling issue – the safety of local people. The more residents asked
unanswered questions, and the more analysis they undertook of the project, the more their
fears and anxiety grew. Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources
Noel Dempsey was dismissive of such fears. In early 2005, he asserted that “even in the
worst case of the pipeline being ruptured and the gas being ignited the occupants of a
building 70 metres away would be safe.” [120] The statement was grossly misleading.
Shortly afterwards, the Western People newspaper listed 17 gas pipeline explosions
around the world that, purportedly, ‘could not happen’, but did. Over 550 people were
killed in just a few of these explosions. [121]

Page 43 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
Not included in the list was a 2000 natural gas pipeline explosion in New Mexico that
killed a family of 12 camping at a site around 200 metres from the explosion and a 2004
gas blast in Belgium that killed over 20 people within a 400 metre radius, and injured 120
In Rossport, the homes of brothers Vincent and Philip McGrath – both members of the
Rossport 5 – were just 70 metres from the proposed route of the high-pressure Corrib Gas
onshore pipeline. In August 2005, Shell issued an assurance that “normal operating
pressure will be 120 bar, with a maximum operating pressure of 150 bar” [122]. This
maximum was over three times the pressure (46.6 bar) in the New Mexico pipeline,
whose rupture and explosion killed 12 people 200 metres away.
In February 2010, a natural gas explosion killed six at a gas power plant in Connecticut,
USA. People 30 miles away thought they were experiencing an earthquake. In
November 2006, at least ten were killed by a natural gas explosion in Indonesia. In
February 2008, a fire occurred at the Shell-operated Bacton gas terminal plant in the UK.
No one was injured. In September 2010, four people died and around three dozen homes
were razed following a gaspipe explosion in a San Francisco neighbourhood.
Physics professor Werner Blau of Trinity College Dublin held that if a leakage occurred
in the Corrib onshore pipeline, in a worst-case scenario the ‘burn radius’ would extend to
300 metres, which, he believed, could threaten Rossport’s primary and secondary
schools, the village pub and several houses. [123]
Retired US navy engineer David Aldridge – an explosives expert – opined that a gas
explosion at Shell’s onshore pipeline could kill anything within a mile radius and destroy
anything within 250 yards. [124]
Retired Irish Army bomb disposal expert Comdt. Patrick Boyle suggested that the
Corrib pipeline should be a minimum of 500 metres from residences. [125]
Richard Kuprewicz, president of a US-based pipeline consulting firm, argued that the
Corrib gas “pipeline routing should be at least 200 metres from dwellings and 400 metres
from unsheltered individuals to avoid massive casualties and/ or multiple fatalities”.
According to marine consultant Desmond Brannigan, in the decade up to 2008 there had
been a recorded 1,200 deaths as a result of pipeline fractures in 58 countries. [127]
Even Shell’s own consultants, admitted – at a June 3 2009 An Bord Pleanála oral
hearing – that residences within 230 metres of the onshore pipeline could ignite
spontaneously if an explosion occurred while pipeline gas was at the maximum
pressure. Occupants would have just half a minute to flee the scene. [128]
In 2010 a new pipeline route was proposed, and approved, with the pipeline now to
be more than three times the 70 metre distance from the nearest residence that Shell
had originally sought. The Rossport 5’s stand had been vindicated.
Their safety fears had not been illogical, hysterical or specious. Their fears were
rational and valid. Their non-violent protests – against a pipeline they rightly believed
posed a threat to the lives of people in their community – had been reasonable and
principled, and undeserving of the violence An Garda Síochána, and Irish governments,
had subjected them to for so long.
Front Line – an organisation founded in Dublin in 2001, with the specific aim of
protecting human rights defenders – argued in a 2010 report that it would be appropriate
to characterise the situation in Erris “as one where groups of individuals are clearly

Page 44 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
seeking to defend human rights”. [129] The report was compiled by a barrister, Brian
Among the confrontations examined in the Front Line report was one that occurred on
June 11 2007. On that day, locals disputed Shell’s right to use a privately-owned gated
laneway to transport a portacabin to Pollathomas Pier, near Rossport, under Garda escort.
The garda in charge warned that “there’s a probability that people could get seriously
hurt.” The landowner told the gardaí that he was not consenting to them and Shell
workers trespassing on his land. The report noted that video “footage supplied by
protestors shows this Garda being clearly told: ‘The [owner’s] solicitor is to speak to you
directly now… he’s to speak to you’… The Garda was also advised to have his phone on.
The Garda in question said nothing upon being told this and turned away.” [130]
Journalist Lorna Siggins recorded how the ensuing ugly scenes “led to twenty
civilians and two gardaí being injured and which – as Mary Corduff had noted –
were so dangerous that it was a ‘miracle’ nobody had been killed. Landowner
Paddy McGrath had been hospitalized afterwards. A young woman in the area,
whose husband had tried to protect his neighbours when the JCB had continued to
drive down a private access road to the pier, would also remember it for a long time.
She suffered a miscarriage in the immediate aftermath.” [131] Paddy McGrath was
left in a highly distressed state. Shortly afterwards, he suffered from a stroke.
After a solicitor’s letter was served, on behalf of the landowner, threatening legal action,
the portacabin was removed – “in the interests of harmony”, according to Shell [132].
On July 22 2008, protestors – believing that Shell had no official authorisation for
works being carried out at Glengad beach – told gardaí that they would leave the site if
they were shown the relevant consent documentation. Two gardaí said that they had seen
the document, but did not have it. Front Line’s subsequent report opined that it “would
have been appropriate for the Gardaí to seek it or to ask a Shell agent to produce it, at
least to help reduce conflict and avoid the need for arrests.” [133] Instead, gardaí
arrested 13 protestors.
On April 22 2009, campaigners again gathered in Glengad – once more believing that
Shell was engaging in unauthorised work. Willie Corduff – one of the Rossport 5 – lay
under an articulated delivery truck. Gardaí were unable to pull him out. He later told of
how gardaí removed his shoes and stockings. “One guard picked up a sharp stone and he
cut my foot, my ankle, with it. It went to the bone. I was roaring”, he claimed. [134]
A television report showed an ugly ankle wound. Printed media photos showed bruising
to a knee and his face.
By late that night, all Shell security personnel and gardaí had left the area around the
truck. Early the next morning, Mr. Corduff emerged from under the vehicle, unaware
that private Shell security guards were nearby monitoring his movements – apparently
using night-vision glasses. According to Corduff, security guards wearing balaclavas
struck him with a blunt instrument on the head, forced him to the ground, knelt and
bounced on him. He reportedly lost consciousness. His brother-in-law, Pete Lavelle,
claimed that security guards “were dressed in black with balaclavas and they threw him
[Corduff] on the ground and put his hands behind his back and started kicking him. They
pushed me into the next field and kicked me on the ground until they thought I was
knocked out.” [135]

Page 45 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
Corduff was taken to hospital – in a “semi-conscious” state, concluded the author
of the Front Line report. A hospital report found that he “was admitted following
an alleged assault by security guards. He had been kicked all over the body and had
? LOC. He had headaches, nausea and vomiting.” He was discharged the following
day. (? LOC means possible loss of consciousness). [136]
Corduff claimed that when the attack on him had ceased, he saw “two gardaí
mingling with the people who attacked me, who were still wearing the balaclavas,
but none were arrested.” [137]
At a subsequent meeting in Inver Community Hall, his son Liam told two government
ministers (Eamon Ryan of the Green Party and Fianna Fáil’s Ēamon Ō Cuív) that “I had
to stand and watch my father beaten up by people in balaclavas. The gardaí were
standing shoulder to shoulder with these people and then they (gardaí) asked them if it
was okay if I could check if my father was alive or dead.” [138]
After the publication of the Front Line report in April 2010, Shell’s security contractor,
I-RMS, stated that it rejected outright that Willie Corduff had been assaulted at Glengad
– as the report had concluded. [139]
Two months after the alleged assault on Corduff, in the darkness of the early hours of
June 11 2009, Pat ‘The Chief’ O’Donnell and crewman Martin McDonnell were in
O’Donnell’s 12-metre shell-fishing boat, Iona Isle, off Erris Head. Both alleged that the
boat was boarded by four men in wetsuits, two of them armed with guns, who
deliberately sank the vessel. The fishermen escaped from the sinking boat using a liferaft. Valued at €60,000 for insurance purposes, O’Donnell could not make an insurance
claim because of the alleged circumstances of the sinking. On the day of the sinking,
Shell released a statement absolutely rejecting an “allegation that people employed on the
Corrib gas project were involved in any way in the incident”. [140]
Six days before Willie Corduff’s ordeal at Glengad, there was a startling occurrence
thousands of miles away in Bolivia that had indirect connections with Shell’s operations
in Mayo. On the morning of April 16 2009, at around 3am, three male guests in a hotel
in the city of Santa Cruz were shot dead by members of an elite Bolivian police unit –
probably while they were asleep, or barely awake.
In room 457 lay the body of a 24 year old Tipperary man, Michael Dwyer, a former
security guard at the Shell site in Erris. In Room 458 lay Bolivian-Hungarian Eduardo
Rozsa-Flores. A 1994 United Nations report on mercenaries denounced him as the
founder of an international brigade which had “often operated on its own in the region of
Eastern Slavonia… committed massacres against Serbian civilians” during the Balkan
wars that marked the break up of Soviet Bloc countries in Eastern Europe. [141] RozsaFlores, the Front Line report noted, “was suspected of involvement in massacres during
the Yugoslav civil wars and admitted that he intended to form an armed secessionist
militia in Santa Cruz.” [142]
After the killings, the Bolivian authorities alleged that a mercenary group, headed by
Rozsa-Flores and including Dwyer, planned to assassinate the country’s president and
destabilise its left-wing government.
Rozsa-Flores appears to have had considerable funds. In an RTE Prime Time
programme, it was claimed that in an email to potential backers, he had stated that he
already had expended $25 million. Dwyer was shown counting $100 bills into at least
ten individual piles. Pistols lay nearby. A former mercenary, Alejandro Hernandez

Page 46 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
Mora, who asserted that he had met Dwyer in South America, told Prime Time that “the
money, which was crazy, came from oil companies, gas companies, trading companies
and NGOs”. [143]
Dwyer had gone to Bolivia – with three former security guard colleagues at Shell’s site
in Erris – after his security guard contract had expired, ostensibly to attend a bodyguard
training course. When the course fell through, Dwyer stayed on. The other three, all East
Europeans, left. One of these, it is claimed, had introduced the Irishman to Rozsa-Flores.
This man was a member of the Szekler Legion, described in the Front Line report as a
“paramilitary group that seeks autonomy for the Szekler region [in Romania] and has
provided military training to its members.” [144]
There is no indication, or suggestion, that either Shell or the security firm knew of or
approved of the four men’s visit to Bolivia. Neither is there any evidence that Dwyer
knew what he was becoming involved in when he linked up with Rozsa-Flores, or knew
anything about the man’s paramilitary background.
However, the revelations surrounding the deaths in Santa Cruz must raise serious
questions: Why were so many Eastern Europeans employed by Shell’s security contractor?
 How many of these had paramilitary links or martial training?
 Did the security contractor vet the Eastern Europeans before employing them and,
if so, what did this entail?
 Did Shell ever seek to see the contractor’s files on these men?
 Were any East Europeans on duty at the time and place that Willie Corduff and
his brother-in-law were, allegedly, badly beaten at Glengad?
 What investigations, if any, did gardaí carry out into these assaults and into the
sinking of Pat O’Donnell’s fishing boat?
 Did gardaí interview or seek to identify the men allegedly wearing balaclavas at
Glengad? If not, why not?
 Why were the – to date – unidentified men, allegedly allowed to wear balaclavas?
If these men were security guards, then gardaí, and Shell, should have ensured
that they wore their security guard clothing, with identification badges and
numbers clearly visible. They could then be held accountable for their actions.
The perception of Garda collusion with, and deference to, Shell officials and contracted
security guards is pervasive in the Rossport community. Rossport 5 member Vincent
McGrath recalled how, in the early days of the protests, when there was only a handful of
campaigners, he and Willie Corduff tried to hinder Shell personnel attempting to trespass
on Corduff’s land. “Shell beckoned to the guards [gardaí] to come and take our names…
it was a pathetic sight to see such fawning servility on the part of the sergeant who took
our names. The Shell engineer snapped his fingers and the sergeant almost tripped in his
eagerness to get there. I know he had a job to do but he could have shown a lot more
dignity.” [145]]
Mary Lawlor, executive director of Front Line, has commented on “the overall
pattern of failure to take issues raised by protesters and residents seriously – even
when they have the law on their side.” [146]

Page 47 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
After the April 2009 hospitalisation of Willie Corduff, four Erris groups issued a
joint statement disparaging Garda unwillingness “to take seriously the sinister
assault on Mr. Corduff”, which “could have led to Willie’s death”. The local
community had “now lost total faith in the ability of An Garda Síochána to
discharge their duties in a fair and unbiased manner when it comes to the Corrib
gas project”.
The activities of Shell security guards have caused widespread anger in the Erris region,
as has Garda tolerance of their activities. The July 16 2008 edition of the Mayo Echo
reported how security guards at a new Shell compound at Glengad “have been filming
swimmers, including very young children as young as four, at a local beach, and
harassing locals and visitors alike.” When local musician Colm Henry complained to
gardaí that he and family members were under constant surveillance by the security
guards, he was told it was a “civil matter”. This Garda response was spurious. As
barrister Brian Barrington stated in his Front Line report, “harassment – which is what
Mr. Henry complained of – is a crime.” [147] Section 10 (1) of the Non-Fatal Offences
Against the Person Act 1997 clearly states that harassing a person “by persistently
following, watching, pestering, besetting or communicating with him or her” is a criminal
Several protestors allege that they have been assaulted by security guards and – in the
cases of Willie Corduff and Pat O’Donnell – by unidentified men wearing balaclavas or
wetsuits. Nobody was ever arrested for the alleged offences. Why? Section 2(1) of the
above act defines assault as an action by a person “who, without lawful excuse,
intentionally or recklessly – (a) directly or indirectly applies force to or causes an impact
on the body of another”, or (b) causes another to believe on reasonable grounds that he or
she is likely immediately to be subjected to any such force or impact.”
Irish Times journalist Lorna Siggins has written about the alleged experience of Pat
O’Donnell, when two trucks hired by Shell “appeared to be trying to force him off the
road. When he pulled up, two drivers tried to haul him out of his vehicle, he said
afterwards. A third driver intervened, but O’Donnell was sufficiently shaken to report
the incident to Belmullet Garda Station. He was later told that gardaí could not pursue it
as it was a civil matter.” [148] If O’Donnell’s version of events is accurate, the incident
almost certainly constitutes an assault – a criminal offence that gardaí should have
investigated, but didn’t.
An Garda Síochána, seemingly, has granted an exemption to Shell-connected personnel
from complying with laws that gardaí are supposed to enforce. As the Sunday Times
pointed out, what “mostly antagonises the protest movement is their perception that the
gardaí have been acting as a private security force for the energy company.” [149]
The local belief that Shell sets the agenda in the area is reflected in posters carried by
protestors, such as those carrying the message ‘Shell Hell’ and ‘Welcome to
The Corrib gas controversy took a particularly sinister turn at the start of 2011, when it
was revealed that an undercover British police intelligence officer, Mark Kennedy, had
infiltrated the protest movement in Rossport and had, according to protestors, acted as an
agent provocateur, encouraging confrontational tactics by campaigners – presumably to
discredit them. The Irish Mail on Sunday, in its January 23 2011 edition, quoted him as
saying that it was his “understanding that the Irish Government requested the assistance

Page 48 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
of the [British] National Public Order Intelligence Unit to see if it could provide
intelligence on protests against Shell in Rossport”. It is very difficult to understand why
a British intelligence agent would have a reason to travel to Erris to infiltrate and spy on a
peaceful protest movement that posed no threat whatsoever to Britain. The Department
of Justice in Dublin denied he had spied on behalf of the Irish authorities. Is it possible
that an undercover British police officer could be sent to spy in Ireland, without the
knowledge and collusion of An Garda Síochána? The Sunday Times claimed that
Kennedy “had been permitted by gardaí to spy on Corrib protesters.” [150]
Trust in An Garda Síochána is also abysmally low. It is widely believed in the area that
gardaí applied laws improperly and unevenly, to stifle dissent. When being inducted into
the force, new gardaí swear an oath to discharge their duties “with fairness, integrity,
regard for human rights, diligence and impartiality… according equal respect to all
people.” The force’s Declaration of Professional Values and Ethical Standards specifies
that “Respect for the human dignity of all persons is the primary value on which the
policies, practices and procedures of An Garda Síochána rest… we may never deprive
persons of their innate personal dignity”. The people of Erris have seen little evidence of
these beautifully phrased values being actually implemented.
Locals have shown remarkable self-restraint, as they have watched their sons, daughters,
wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, parents, friends and neighbours being provocatively
and brutally batoned or injured by gardaí. They allege that some police spent nights
drinking heavily, and then drove Garda vehicles just hours afterwards. They tell of
women being gripped on an arm by gardaí, as if in a friendly manner – whereas their
arms were being painfully squeezed or pinched, leaving bruises. Viewing some of the
hundreds of hours of video footage and the innumerable photographs recorded by
Terence Conway, Risteard Ō Domhnaill, John Monaghan and others is an experience that
will upset and anger many viewers. Terence Conway estimates that he himself has been
assaulted around thirty times and been arrested on six or seven occasions. For John
Monaghan, the figures are four arrests and around twelve assaults. Neither Terence nor
John was ever assaulted with a baton.
Around twenty campaigners spent some time in jail. Pat ‘The Chief’ O’Donnell has
been imprisoned for a total of around five and a half months.
“There is a sense the law is being used to kick people into submission”, according
to local parish priest Fr. Michael Nallen. “The State seems to be able to bend the
law to help a multinational but not address the real concerns of a community.”
Politically, he claimed, “this project has been through unsafe hands”, with the
community being victimised by “tarnished and untrusted holders of political office”.
Fr. Sean Noone, parish priest of Pollathomas, opined that opponents of the onshore
pipeline, “portrayed as baddies by Shell, are the prophets when it comes to our
environment.” [152]
In April 2011, the issue of Garda standards, behaviour and attitudes in Erris became,
briefly, the focus of attention from the national news media. A video camera –
confiscated by police from two young female protestors who were visiting the area –
recorded the conversation of gardaí after the two women were arrested. Gardaí can be
heard joking about threatening to arrest, rape and deport one of the women. The word
‘rape’ is used four times, followed on two occasions by raucous laughter and, on another,

Page 49 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
by the remark “I wouldn’t go that far yet… she was living down at that crusty [Rossport
solidarity] camp. Fuck sake, you never know what you might get”, which elicited
another bout of merriment among the gardaí. [153]
At a press conference on April 7, one of the women, a post-graduate student in her midtwenties, stated that she had little hope of a satisfactory outcome from an investigation
being carried out by GSOC, pointing out that “111 complaints [about alleged Garda
misbehaviour in the Erris region] were made in the two and a half years after the
Ombudsman was set up and no garda has ever faced a single consequence for any
physical assault, the verbal abuse, the intimidation they have subjected the community
to”. [154]
A year later, GSOC recommended that disciplinary proceedings should be taken against
just one of the five gardaí involved in the taped scandal. A sergeant who was involved
had since retired and, hence, could not be subjected to Garda disciplinary proceedings.
The other three gardaí had already been exonerated by GSOC.
In an April 1 2006 article, Irish Times legal affairs correspondent Carol Coulter wrote of
an incident in Tallaght Garda station two years earlier, when two detainees were recorded
by a video camera, while being interrogated, being threatened by police with rape by
prisoners. It was not an April Fools Day joke.
The threat of rape is an odious and menacing means of instilling terror in people. Even
to make rape a topic of jest among colleagues is utterly contemptible – more associated
with the earth’s low-life than with professional policemen.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) is the professional staff association
representing around 11,500 members, of garda rank, in An Garda Síochána. As such, it is
in a position to promote the concept of a disciplined police force, worthy of public
admiration, trust and respect. The issue of discipline within the force surfaced after the
October 2005 announcement by Justice Minister Michael McDowell of plans to create a
1,400-strong Garda Reserve, to supplement the existing Garda force. Reservists would
work on a voluntary unpaid basis. Seven months later, during a media briefing, a
candidate for the presidency of the GRA, John Egan, warned the government that, unless
plans for the reserve force were cancelled, the GRA proposed to target a number of
government TDs in marginal constituencies in the forthcoming general election. The
implications of this threat were astonishing. In effect, he was warning that – unless rank
and file gardaí got their way on the issue of the reservists – they would attempt to topple
the government. Amidst a rising wave of condemnation, GRA General Secretary PJ
Stone asserted that GRA members had not agreed on any scheme to become involved in
politics. [155]
Years later, in May 2014, the issue of the Garda Reserve was discussed on Joe Duffy’s
Liveline radio programme, with reservists outlining how some gardaí ignored them in the
station or refused to work with them.
Non-cooperation by serving gardaí with Acts passed by the Oireachtas – such as
legislation setting up the reserve force – appears to breach the oath they have taken to
uphold the law. When a national police force cannot be trusted to uphold the law, one
must fear for the long-term survival of democracy in that country.
At its April 2011 annual conference, the GRA unanimously agreed to seek the abolition
of the Garda Reserve.

Page 50 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
A year earlier, in April 2010, the GRA had also been in the headlines. A statement by
the outgoing GRA President, Michael O’Boyce, was released to the news media
castigating the government, especially Fianna Fáil. Gardaí, he stated, were “angry at the
arrogance of a Government corrupted by years of power… A Government whose only
agenda is to protect the economic traitors.” He accused the government of mismanaging
the country’s wealth for over a decade, allowing national assets to be “plundered and
robbed” by bankers and land speculators. These had “bought your party [FF] and in
return you have sacrificed the greater good and prosperity of the Irish nation for the
benefit of the few… Truly, a government of national sabotage”, he stated. [156]
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern spelled out the seriousness of Mr. Boyce’s intervention
in political affairs. “These are the custodians of the law… if this was to happen in the
Army, it would be regarded as mutiny”, he opined. [157]
There is much in the history of Ireland’s post-independence police force to be proud of.
However, this pride is tainted by the wrongdoing, indiscipline and corruption of
numerous gardaí. The force’s history began with an armed mutiny. It was followed by
decades of repression – at the behest of Irish governments – of the working class:- the
brutal suppression of striking postal workers in 1922, Garda violence against unemployed
workers and striking dockers in the 1930s, more Garda violence in the 1950s against the
Dublin Unemployed Association and the Unemployed Protest Committee, savage attacks
by police on participants in Dublin Housing Action Committee protests in the late1960s
and early 1970s, Garda harassment of Dublin street traders in the 1980s, harassment of
the Traveller community, and unprecedented levels of suppression of dissent in Erris in
the early years of the new century.
In a true democracy, police can only function with the consent and trust of the people.
However, a February 2004 Irish Times/ TNS mrbi opinion poll found that 54 per cent of
18 to 24 year old respondents, and 22 per cent of over 65s, had no confidence in the Irish
police force. [158] A May 2014 Sunday Independent poll found that 57 per cent of
respondents have lost some confidence in gardaí, and 67 per cent ‘strongly agree’ that
management of the force should be independent of politics. [159] A 2004 Transparency
International survey found that – of fifteen national institutions and sectors from which
Irish respondents could choose – An Garda Síochána was perceived to be the fourth most
corrupt. [160]
There is, clearly, a considerable estrangement between An Garda Síochána and
Irish citizens and also widespread public distrust of the force. Such estrangement
and distrust make the force ‘unfit for purpose’ in a, purportedly, democratic Irish
society. It has been the experience of too many citizens that their ostensible
protectors – their police force – became their oppressors and tormentors, with the
apparent support of their political masters.
The warning of Professor Dermot Walsh – that Ireland’s “huge concentration of
police power in the hands of central government in the absence of adequate
constitutional checks and balances is uncomfortably close to the arrangements
associated with a police state” – cannot easily be ignored.
Radical reform of An Garda Síochána must become an urgent priority. However, before
any meaningful reform can be undertaken, it will be necessary to identify what needs to
be reformed. An in-depth independent review and analysis of all aspects of policing in
Ireland must first be undertaken. The compass of any analysis must include the historical

Page 51 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
use of An Garda Síochána – since its inception – to crush political and social dissent,
most recently in Erris, County Mayo, located in the constituency of current Taoiseach,
Enda Kenny.
There have already been numerous calls for an impartial investigation into Garda
policing and behaviour in Erris. Recently – in the Dáil on May 27 of this year – Deputy
Mick Wallace asked that Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald “immediately permit
GSOC to open a Section 106 inquiry into Corrib Gas. What happened to the people there
beggars belief”, he stated. Two months earlier, South African archbishop Desmond Tutu
and Denis Halliday, a former United Nations assistant secretary general, called for an
“urgent and comprehensive” independent inquiry into policing in Erris. In 2007, GSOC
sought permission from the minister for justice to investigate Garda management of
protests in the area. Consent was refused. No reasons were given. This, according to
Front Line, “has created the impression that the State does not want the Garda Síochána
held properly to account over the policing of the Corrib dispute.” [161]
In 2010, Front Line advised that GSOC should again seek permission for such an
investigation, and “recommended that the Minister (for Justice) give that consent.” [162]
In November 2012, Margaret Sekaggya – United Nations Special Rapporteur on the
situation of human rights defenders – visited Ireland on a fact-finding mission. In a
subsequent report, she stated that, during her visit, she had “received credible reports and
evidence, including video footage, indicating the existence of a pattern of intimidation,
harassment, surveillance and criminalization of those peacefully opposing the Corrib Gas
She suggested that GSOC should again seek ministerial consent to conduct a “practice,
policy and procedure” investigation into the public order aspects of the Corrib dispute.
In the meantime, the report of the internal Garda inquiry into alleged wrongdoing by
gardaí in Donegal – the Carty Report – must be published, so that the Irish public can
know the inquiry’s secret findings as regards the extent of criminality and other
wrongdoing and shortcomings within the Donegal Division.
As new Garda whistleblowers emerge, public trust and confidence in members of An
Garda Síochána is dissipating further.
The Morris Tribunal reports into Garda wrongdoing in Donegal, revealed a Garda
division that had become hugely dysfunctional, corrupt and indisciplined. The
Smithwick Tribunal found that gardaí in Louth had collaborated with the
Provisional IRA. The Barr Tribunal into the killing of John Carthy in a Longford
town revealed Garda incompetence on a frightening scale. What if independent
inquiries were held into Garda operations, competence and discipline in other
counties – especially in the Rossport area of Mayo? The mind boggles at what
might emerge.
Trust and confidence in the force can only be restored when all Garda divisions are
subjected to in-depth investigations; when radical root and branch reforms have taken
place throughout the force; when errant gardaí have been disciplined or dismissed; when
the force’s affairs are seen to be transparent; when appointments to the force are no
longer decided or influenced by politicians; and when Ireland’s police are themselves
properly policed.

Page 52 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose

Compiled by: -

Tom Hanahoe (former journalist, Irish Press newspaper group).
Terence Conway (Spokesperson Shell to Sea).
John Monaghan (Spokesperson Pobal Chill Chomáin).

Page 53 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
1; Irish Times June 9 2007. Paul Cullen, ‘Political Control of Garda attacked’.
2; Vicky Conway, The Blue Wall of Silence (Dublin; Irish Academic Press, 2010), p.1.
3; Risteard Ō Domhnaill’s film documentary The Pipe (2011).
4; Quoted in Tom Garvin, 1922; The Birth of Irish Democracy (Dublin: Gill &
Macmillan, 2005), p.114.
5; Fearghal McGarry, Eoin O’Duffy: A Self-Made Hero (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2005), p.275.
6; JJ Lee, Ireland 1912-1985: Politics and Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1990), p.175.
7; Conor Brady, Guardians of the Peace (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1974), p.167.
8; Timothy Pat Coogan, Ireland Since the Rising (London: Pall Mall Press, 1966), p.48.
9; Western People, April 24 2012 – citing article by retired garda Michael Canney, Garda
Review magazine, October 1977.
10; Report of an International Fact Finding Delegation to County Mayo, Ireland
February 23-27, 2007 (
11; Michael McCaughan, The Price of our Souls: Gas, Shell and Ireland (Dublin: Afri,
2008), p.120.
12; For testimony of witnesses see and hearingtrans.pdf
13; Lorna Siggins, Once upon a time in the West: The Corrib Gas controversy (London:
Transworld Ireland, 2010), pp 214-215.
14; Fergus Finlay, Notes from the Margins: A Decade of Irish Life (Dublin: Hachette
Books, 2009), p.43.
15; See The Limits of Liberty, presented by Diarmaid Ferriter, shown on RTE One
television, June 1 2010. Also Diarmaid Ferriter, The Transformation of Ireland 19002000 (London: Profile Books, 2005), p.256.
16; Conor Brady, Guardians of the Peace, p. 115.
17; Donal Ō Drisceoil, Peadar O’Donnell (Cork: Cork University Press, 2001), p. 61.
18; Conor Brady, Guardians of the Peace, p.217.
19; Western People, February 26 1938, ‘Exciting time at Ballina Quay’.
20; Irish Press, February 18 1938, ‘Ballina Dock Scenes’.
21; Western People, February 26 1938, ‘Exciting Time at Ballina Quay’.
22; Diarmaid Ferriter, The Transformation of Ireland 1900-2000, p. 492.
23; John Horgan, Noel Browne: Passionate Outsider (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 2000),
24; Garret FitzGerald, All in a Life (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1991), p. 48.
25: Diarmaid Ferriter, The Transformation of Ireland 1900-2000, p.490.
26; Noel Browne, Against the Tide (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1986), pp. 254-255.
27; Ibid, p. 255.
28; Brian Hanley & Scott Millar, The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and
the Workers’ Party (Dublin: Penguin Ireland, 2009), p. 239.
29; Brendan Ryan, Keeping Us in the Dark: Censorship and Freedom of information in
Ireland ( Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1995), p. 54.
30; Conor Brady, Guardians of the Peace, p. ix.

Page 54 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
31: Patsy McGarry, While Justice Slept (Dublin: Liffey Press, 2006), pp.244-245.
32; Kevin Farrell, It’s all news to me (Dublin: Paperweight Publications,2011), pp. 35
and 37.
33; Robert Allen and Tara Jones, Guests of the Nation: People of Ireland versus the
Multinationals (London: Earthscan Publications, 1990), p.105.
34; Ibid., p. 109.
35; Irish Times, June 8 2005, Peter Murtagh, ‘A law unto himself in a strange and
menacing era’.
36: Joe Joyce & Peter Murtagh, The Boss: Charles J. Haughey in government (Dublin:
Poolbeg Press, 1986), pp. 272-273.
37; Fearghal McGarry, Eoin O’Duffy: A Self-Made Hero, p. 116.
38; Bruce Arnold, Jack Lynch: Hero in Crisis (Dublin: Merlin, 2001), pp. 123, 126.
39; Brendan Ryan, Keeping Us in the Dark, p. 53.
40: Hibernia magazine, April 18 1975.
41: Patsy McGarry, While Justice Slept, pp. 46-47.
42; Garret FitzGerald, All in a Life, p. 313.
43; Irish Times, December 31 2007, Stephen Collins, “Lynch urged to act on Amnesty
report into Garda ‘heavy gang’”.
44; Joe Joyce & Peter Murtagh, Blind Justice (Dublin: Poolbeg Press, 1984, p.124.
45; Ibid., p.335.
46; Ibid., pp. 337-338.
47; Derek Dunne & Gene Kerrigan, Round Up The Usual Suspects: The Cosgrave
Coalition and Nicky Kelly (Dublin: Magill Publications, 1984), pp. 205-207.
48; Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry – Set up Pursuant to the Tribunal of Inquiry
(Evidence) Acts 1921-2002 into Certain Gardaí in the Donegal Division [The Morris
Tribunal], Term of Reference (i) – 6.09.
49; Ibid., Term of Reference (a) and (b) – 1.07.
50; Ibid., Term of Reference (a) and (b) – 5.109.
51; Ibid., Term of Reference (b), (d) and (f) – 3.21.
52; Ibid., Term of Reference (b), (d) and (f) – 3.144.
53; Ibid., Term of Reference (b), (d) and (f) – 4.183(2).
54; Gerard Cunningham, Chaos and Conspiracy: The Framing of the McBrearty Family
(Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 2009), p. 189.
55; Ibid., pp. 204, 215, 250, 320.
56: Morris Tribunal Report, Term of Reference (h) – 3.309.
57; Ibid., Term of Reference (a) and (b) – 1.61 and 1.73.
58; Irish Times March 22 2007, Mary Carolan, Paul Cullen and Conor Lally, ‘Nightclub
owner awarded increased damages’.
59; Morris Tribunal Report, Term of Reference (i), pp. 258 and 140.
60; Ibid., Term of Reference (i), p. 187.
61: Ibid., Term of Reference (i), 6.10.
62; Ibid., Term of Reference (g), p.52.
63: Karen McGlinchey, Charades: Adrienne McGlinchey and the Donegal Gardaí
(Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 2005), p. 272.
64; Morris Tribunal Report, Term of Reference (a) and (b), 9.25 and 9.28.
65; Ibid., Term of Reference (a) and (b), 1.12.

Page 55 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
66; Irish Times January 9 2004, Conor Lally and Mark Hennessy, ‘Commissioner
concerned at retired judge’s allegations’.
67; Sunday Times May 29 2011, ‘Time for a fresh look at leniency for gardaí’. See also,
Irish Examiner May 28 2011, Liam Heylin and Jennifer Hough, ‘Jail too hard for garda;
68; Irish Times March 13 2010 and February 1 2014.
69; Mary T. O’Connor, On the Beat: A woman’s life in the Garda Síochána (Dublin: Gill
& Macmillan, 2005), pp. 187, 185, 191, 193, 187, 196.
70; See Sunday Times May 19 2013, Matt Cooper, ‘Penalty points scandal is another fine
mess we can’t ignore’’; Irish Times May 17 2013, Conor Lally, Garda investigated for
points fraud’.
71; See Sunday Independent March 16 2014, Jody Corcoran, ‘Callinan and Shatter still
have their careers on line’.
72; Martin Callinan and John O’Mahoney at Public Accounts Committee hearing,
January 23 2014.
73; Irish Times March 26 2014, Colin Gleeson, ‘Misconduct within force ‘frightening’,
claims whistleblower’.
74; The Phoenix magazine September 6 2013, ‘New INM Code: Don’t mess with the
75; Clare Daly TD, Dáil Ēireann December 4 2012.
76; Mick Wallace TD, Dáil Ēireann February 26 2014.
77; Mick Wallace TD to Pat Kenny, RTE Radio 1 May 20 2013.
78; Quoted in Irish Times May 18 2013, Mary Minahan and Conor Lally, ‘Shatter
defends disclosing Wallace Garda information’.
79; Pat Flynn, Catherine and Friends (Dublin: Liberties Press, 2010), pp. 58, 56.
80; Karen McGlinchey, Charades, p. 5.
81; Ibid., pp. 6-7.
82; Ibid., p. 7.
83; Sunday Independent November 26 1978, Hugh Leonard Column.
84; Eamon Dunphy, The Rocky Road (Dublin: Penguin Ireland, 2013), p. 318.
85; Morris Tribunal Report, Term of Reference (a) and (b) – 1.105.
86; Ibid., Term of Reference (i) – 6.02.
87; Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into suggestions that members of An Garda
Síochána or other employees of the State colluded in the fatal shootings of RUC Chief
Superintendent Harry Breen and RUC Superintendent Robert Buchanan on the 20 th
March 1989 [The Smithwick Report]. – 23.2.5.
88; Ibid., 23.2.7 and 23.2.8.
89; Ibid., 23.2.7 and 23.2.11.
90; Ibid., 6.1.10.
91; Ibid., 10.2.1.
92; Ibid., 11.2.3.
93; Ibid., 11.2.6.
94; Ibid., 11.12.3.
95; Ibid., 11.2.11.
96; Ibid., 11.2.11 and 11.2.8.
97; Ibid, 10.6.11.

Page 56 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
98; Irish Times January 9 2004, Conor Lally and Mark Hennessy, ‘Commissioner
concerned at retired judge’s allegations’ – citing RTE Prime Time interview.
99; Western People April 7 2004, Michael Gallagher, ‘Judge: Can I trust Gardaí in
Mayo?’. Irish Times April 2 2004, “Case dismissed after statement altered to save
100; Irish Times July 26 2006, Vincent Browne, ‘Culture of Garda is flawed’.
101; Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Facts and Cicumstances Surrounding the
Fatal Shooting of John Carthy at Abbeylara, Co. Longford on 20th April 2000. [The Barr
Tribunal], pp. 456-459.
102; Ibid., p. 415.
103; Ibid., p. 462.
104; Ibid., pp. 461-462.
105; Nell McCafferty, A Woman to Blame: The Kerry Babies Case (Cork: Attic Press,
2010), p. 174.
106; See Irish Times March 3 2012, ‘Questions for the Garda’. Sunday Times March 4
2012, Justine McCarthy, ‘Zero tolerance of crime and garda corruption must be aim’.
107; Sunday Times April 6 2014, John Mooney and Justine McCarthy, ‘Gardaí discussed
cash for testimony’.
108; The Phoenix magazine May 4 2012, ‘Marie Farrell and the scandalous pursuit of Ian
109; Sunday Tribune September 7 2008, Ken Foxe, ‘Garda wrongdoing costs millions a
110; Sunday Times April 26 2009 ‘Put our own justice system in order’. Also John
Mooney, ‘State helps drug trafficker Boylan create new identity’.
111; See Tom Hanahoe, America Rules: US Foreign Policy, Globalization and
Corporate USA (Dingle: Brandon, 2003), p. 17.
112; Quoted in Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global
Dominance (London: Penguin, 2003), p.16.
113; Al Gore, The Future (WH Allen, 2013), p. 121.
114; Tony Judt, Ill Fares the Land (London: Penguin, 2010), pp. 155-156.
115; Noam Chomsky, What We Say Goes – interviews with David Barsamian (London:
Penguin, 2009), p. 5.
116; Kristen Iversen, Full Body Burden (Harvill Secker, 2012), p.160.
117; Quoted in Noam Chomsky, What We Say Goes, p. 4.
119; Sunday Tribune August 26 2007, Sara Burke, ‘I go to sleep not sure if I’ll wake up.
Frightened is what we are’.
120; Frank Connolly and Dr. Ronan Lynch, The Great Corrib Gas Controversy (Dublin:
Centre for Public Inquiry, 2005), p. 43. Brian Barrington, Breakdown in Trust: A report
on the Corrib Gas Dispute (Dublin; Front Line, 2010), p. 22.
121; Western People March 8 2005, Christy Loftus, ‘Corrib Gas: The dashed hopes and
the lowered expectations’.
122; Corrib Project Overview leaflet – posted to homes in North Mayo by Shell E & P
Ireland Ltd., in August 2005.
123; Western People July 12 2005, Cróna Esler, ‘Professor of Physics Launches a
scathing attack on pipeline plan’.

Page 57 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
124; Western People October 18 2005, Orla Hearns, ‘Explosion would destroy
everything within 250 yds.’ Irish Times October 13 2005, Lorna Siggins, ‘Corrib hearing
aims for ‘post hoc’ justification’.
125; Irish Times May 28 2009, Lorna Siggins, ‘Expert warns on risks of explosion’.
126; The Great Corrib Gas Controversy – see Appendix, p. 1.
127; Irish Times June 4 2009, Lorna Siggins, ‘Gas explosion fears raised at hearing’.
Lorna Siggins, Once upon a time in the West, p. 310.
128; Lorna Siggins, Once upon a time in the West, p. 310. See also, Lorna Siggins, Irish
Times June 4 2009, ‘Gas explosion fears raised at hearing’.
129; Brian Barrington, Breakdown in Trust, p. 28.
130; Ibid., pp. 35-36. See also, Would You Believe: Living on the edge, RTE One
television, October 25 2009.
131; Lorna Siggins, Once upon a time in the West, p. 336.
132; Brian Barrington, Breakdown in Trust, p. 36.
133; Ibid., p. 38.
134; Would You Believe: Living on the edge, RTE One television, October 25 2009. See
also Breakdown in Trust, p. 52.
135; Pete Lavelle at a public meeting in Inver Community Hall, April 30 2009.
136 See Brian Barrington, Breakdown in Trust, p. 55.
137; Village magazine June 2009, Miriam Cotton, ‘Irish media failing over Rossport’.
138; Liam Corduff at a public meeting in Inver Community Hall, April 30 2009.
139; Lorna Siggins, Once upon a time in the West, pp. 370-371.
140; Ibid., p. 315.
141; Prime Time, RTE One television December 3 2009, Death in Santa Cruz.
142; See Brian Barrington, Breakdown in Trust, p. 42.
143; Prime Time, RTE One television December 3 2009, Death in Santa Cruz.
144; Brian Barrington, Breakdown in Trust, p. 43. The Irish Mail on Sunday, May 31
2009, Michael O’Farrell and Paul Henderson, ‘Licensed to Kill’.
145; Mark Garavan, ed., Our Story: the Rossport 5 (Wicklow; Small World Media,
2006), p. 184.
146; Brian Barrington, Breakdown in Trust, p. v.
147; Mayo Echo July 16 2008, ‘Community Outrage as Children Filmed at Beaches’.
Brian Barrington, Breakdown in Trust, p. 4.
148; Lorna Siggins, Once upon a time in the West, pp 211-212.
149; John Mooney in Sunday Times April 10 2011.
150; Irish Mail on Sunday January 23 2011, Larissa Nolan, ‘State asked UK spy to
infiltrate Shell protests’. See also, John Mooney in Sunday Times April 10 2011; Irish
Times January 17 2011, Mary Fitzgerald, ‘Appeals for inquiry into British police spy’s
activities’; Sunday Times January 16 2011, Harry Browne, ‘Adventures of Mata Hairy
undermine ecological activists’; Sunday Times January 16 2011, Tim Rayment and
Robin Henry, ‘Revealed – The secret family of undercover cop’; Irish Times January 15
2011, Lorna Siggins and Mary Fitzgerald, ‘Eco-spy infiltrated Irish protests’.
151; Sunday Times June 28 2009 Āine Ryan, ‘Local fishermen claim dirty tricks in
pipeline fight’; Mayo News October 5 2010, Āine Ryan, “Project has been victim of
‘tarnished politicians’”; Irish Times September 30 2010, Āine Ryan, ‘Corrib area a victim
of politicians, says priest’.

Page 58 of 59

An Garda Siochana: An Analysis of a Police Force unfit for purpose
152; Irish Times September 22 2007, Lorna Siggins, ‘Trouble in the pipeline’.
153; Irish Independent April 6 2011, Edel O’Connell and Brian McDonald, ‘Young
woman just terrified of being hurt’.
154; Irish Examiner April 8 2011, Cormac O’Keeffe, “Rape remark victim has ‘little
faith’ in inquiry”.
155; Irish Times May 13 2006, Kathy Sheridan, ‘True Blues’.
156; Irish Independent April 28 2010, Tom Brady, ‘Fight crime and stay out of politics,
warns commissioner’. Irish Times April 28 2010, Conor Lally, ‘Minister cries off in face
of criticism by gardaí’.
157; Irish Times April 29 2010, Elaine Edwards and Conor Lally, Fianna Fáil TD calls
for O’Boyce to be fired’.
158; The Irish Times Tns/mrbi poll – Irish Times February 10 2004, Mark Brennock,
‘Majority have confidence in fairness of Garda, poll shows’.
159; Sunday Independent/ Millward Brown poll – Sunday Independent 18 May 2014,
Maeve Sheehan, ‘Poll shows 57% have lost some confidence in gardaí’.
160; The Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer 2004 found that Irish
people – given a choice of fifteen national institutions and sectors – believed that their
political parties were, by some distance, the most corrupt of the broad spectrum of
institutions and sectors on the Transparency International list. The judiciary/ legal
system was perceived to be the next most corrupt of the fifteen, followed closely by the
Dáil and Senate. In joint fourth place were An Garda Síochána and the business/ private
161; Brian Barrington, Breakdown in Trust, p. 60.
162; Ibid., pp. 60-61.
163; Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders,
Margaret Sekaggya – mission to Ireland (19-23 November 2012).

Page 59 of 59