Article from the June 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI

Tribunal exposes Garda corruption

by Paul Murphy

THE SECOND report of the Morris Tribunal has found that the investigation into the death of Richie Barron "was prejudiced, tendentious and utterly negligent in the highest degree." Aisling Reidy, Director of the Irish Council of Civil Liberties concluded, "The report is not simply about a handful of corrupt, lying, abusive Garda officers - it is a damming indictment of the structure, management and the ethos of impunity instilled by senior management within the Garda."

The Morris Tribunal opened in November 2002 to investigate the corrupt behaviour of the Gardai in Donegal, including threats of extortion and the framing of Frank McBrearty Jnr. for the murder of Richie Barron. From the start, the McBrearty family, the people at the centre of the controversy weren't represented at the Tribunal because they couldn't afford legal representation.

Richie Barron died on 14 October 1996 in a hit-and-run traffic accident. From that point, a number of Gardai consciously framed Frank McBrearty Jnr. and his cousin Mark McConnell for murder because of the McBrearty family's refusal to pay extortion money to them. Neither the scene, the body nor the clothing of the victim were preserved, while the Gardai coerced a local man into making a statement that he had seen Frank McBrearty Jnr. and Mark McConnell near the scene of the accident.

Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell claimed that the report made for "disturbing and depressing reading". Garda Commissioner Conroy has defended the garda investigation as "run in an efficient and thorough manner", that "in a significant regard met the standards of "best policing strategy"!

This report simply confirms what many working class people suspect, that the Garda Siochana is a force riven with corruption that operates without any democratic accountability to the communities it is meant to serve.

This government and a number of successive Ministers for Justice need to also be exposed for the role they have played in this major miscarriage of justice. This government opposed the extension of the Tribunal's terms of reference three times between 2001 and 2002 to avoid an investigation into the role of the Department of Justice.

Frank McBrearty Jnr commented that he would probably be in jail if his family had not been fortunate enough to have the money to fight his case. This of course raises the pertinent question that justice in this society is denied to many working class people and poor because they don't have the money for proper legal representation.

An independent open public inquiry is now needed to investigate all of those involved in this travesty; the role-played by senior gardai including garda commissioners, officials at the Department of Justice and all who have served as Attorney General and Minister for justice during the last nine years.

Garda corruption is nothing new and despite Michael McDowell's Garda Bill, the Gardai will continue to be ultimately accountable to their political masters at the Cabinet table. The police in this country need to be fundamentally restructured from top to bottom. The Garda Siochana's primary role in our society is to protect the private property and wealth of big business. Government regularly deploys the gardai as a political weapon against strikers and working class people involved in struggle.

What we need instead are community based policing services that are democratically accountable to the communities that they serve, not a corrupt centralised police force that represents the interests of the establishment.

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