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

Inquiry needed into Garda killings

by Michael Murphy

THE MURDER of two men attempting to rob the post office in Lusk in North County Dublin by members of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) marks a new turn in the state's attempt to deal with crime, particularly armed robbery. There is much unease in society at the spate of bank and cash delivery robberies this year and also the number of killings involving criminal elements in society.

These shootings were clearly designed to send a warning from the government to all those involved in this type of crime. According to the gardai, one of the dead men had a gun but the other was "armed" with a hammer. The gardai have claimed the man with the hammer ran at them and left them with "no option" but to shoot him! No shots were fired at the gardai by the raiders, yet two men are dead.

The gardai had planned its operation supposedly to foil this robbery, over months. Yet why, as it seems, was no serious attempt made to arrest the men they subsequently killed. There could have been a blood bath in Lusk on that day, particularly given the callous decision by the gardai not to inform the staff of the local shop housing the post office about what was coming.

The government has refused to establish an independent inquiry into these killings, instead they have appointed a senior garda from Cork to investigate the actions of the ERU. But as the Morris Tribunal has shown, the garda cannot be trusted to investigate themselves.

Politicians from all the establishment parties have weighed in with gushing praise for the actions of the gardai. Bertie Ahern has accused those who have questioned the gardai's methods as being "weak kneed" on crime.

Many of these same politicians raised questions and called for independent enquiries in the past when republicans were shot by the British state in suspicious circumstances. Yet when the gardai are involved in similar "execution" style killings, these same politicians have become cheerleaders for this act being carried out by the Irish state.

This is not the first time that the ERU have been involved in controversial killings. We should not forget the hand played by the ERU four years ago when they killed John Carthy in cold blood at a siege outside his house in Abbeylara, Co. Longford.

With the increase in violent crime and robberies in the recent period, many people may believe that these criminals got what they deserved and that the gardai had no choice but to kill them. Yet the facts that have come to light so far indicate that the gardai deliberately set out to kill them. Was this a premeditated decision involving senior gardai and the Department of Justice? What was Michael McDowell's role in these events? Has a political and policy decision been made that will result in killings such as these becoming a regular occurrence?

The events in Lusk cannot be allowed to pass by without question and open investigation otherwise it will set a dangerous precedent and can create a climate in which it is acceptable for the gardai to carry out summary justice. The ERU were involved in policing the anti-war demonstrations at Shannon; would they have opened fire if demonstrators had broken through the airport perimeter fences? Or if protestors had broken through security cordons at Dromoland Castle at the time of the Bush visit?

If the government and senior gardai are allowed to get away with creating an environment whereby it becomes an accepted norm that gardai are armed and will discharge their weapons more regularly, then armed gardai opening fire on political protestors can become a real possibility.

An investigation into the events at Lusk must be carried out not by the gardai or the government, but by an independent public inquiry in which all information is open and accessible to public scrutiny.

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