21 April 2005

Daily Ireland

Donegal gardaí ‘informer’ is vindicated

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What you are about to read is a true story. In saying that, never before has the cliché “incredible but true” seemed so inadequate or trite.
You don’t have to believe Adrienne McGlinchey’s version of events or that she is innocent.
After hearing evidence for 150 days, Mr Justice Frederick Morris completely, unequivocally and publicly vindicated her in a tribunal. It is worth remembering this when reading her story.
One other point to remember is that, although Adrienne McGlinchey was blackmailed, framed, exploited, beaten, tormented, hunted and trapped by the Donegal gardaí, she is not bitter.
“Oh God, no,” she says. “Sure, what’s the point in being bitter? I’ve put it behind me and I want to get on with my life.
“I don’t want to look at every guard I come across and think he is a bad person. I know everyone isn’t as rotten as McMahon or Lennon.”
Detective Garda Noel McMahon’s wife described him as a “Starsky and Hutch-type cop”.
In 1992, Sergeant Kevin Lennon was on traffic duty. By 1995, he had become superintendent of the Co Donegal division.
The Morris tribunal was set up in 2002 to investigate incidents of Garda corruption in the Donegal division. The subsequent Morris report, published last year, identified widespread malpractice among the force.
Adrienne McGlinchey was the main witness to one of the modules of the tribunal, dubbed a “whistle-blower” in the media.
Mr Justice Morris found her innocent of claims by the two rogue Donegal gardaí that she was an IRA informer and bomb maker.
The judge refused costs to Noel McMahon and found that Kevin Lennon had “lied to the tribunal on almost every issue”.
Adrienne McGlinchey, her mother Liz and sister Karen owned a late-night restaurant in Letterkenny, Co Donegal. The Steers restaurant was open 18 hours a day and was a favourite spot with guards.
On July 15, 1991, Adrienne McGlinchey went to see the builders who were doing work on her mother’s home. They had left scaffolding up around the front of the house and had not turned up to remove it.
The McGlincheys regularly collected or left staff home after work. That day, Adrienne McGlinchey had young staff member Yvonne Devine in the car with her.
On her way home, she noticed a Garda car behind her, flashing its lights. She pulled over and the guard who approached the car told her a lorry bomb had been discovered in the area the night before. Both women were arrested under section 31 of the Offences Against the State Act.
Unbeknown to Ms Glinchey, gardaí had the builders’ house under surveillance for some time. They suspected that the commanding officer of the Red Tyrone brigade of the IRA was staying in the house and they linked the lorry bomb with the presence of subversives in the area.
Steers staff members lived beside the house. So too did Ms McGlinchey’s best friend, whom she visited regularly.
When questioned about regular Garda sightings of her around the suspected subversives’ house, Ms McGlinchey could say nothing. One detective said: “She would talk about everything and anything except the reason she was arrested for. She knew nothing of that.”
Ms McGlinchey had a row with her mother and sister when they chastised her about getting involved, however innocently, in something so serious. She moved out of the family home, and she and Yvonne Devine found themselves a flat in Buncrana.
Gardaí kept up their surveillance of the pair and constantly reported back to the worried McGlinchey family in Letterkenny. Gardaí told Karen and Liz McGlinchey that the young women were drug addicts and were using Steers company cheques to fund the IRA. They said Adrienne McGlinchey was planning to liquidate her share of the business.
Naturally concerned, Liz and Karen signed a statement to say the chequebook had been stolen.
Too frightened and embarrassed to return home and facing suspicion from the guards, Adrienne McGlinchey felt she had nowhere to turn. Just then, when she was at her most vulnerable, Noel McMahon made his move.
Finding her alone one evening, Detective McMahon said he would help her with the charges of stolen company cheques in return for help from her.
“My life had taken a nosedive and I was a mess,” says Ms McGlinchey today. “I had spent a lot of money and felt awful about leaving mum and Karen to do all the work. Now the guards were after me and McMahon said he would help.
“McMahon said: ‘I need information about your associates in the republican movement.’ When I told him I knew nothing, he said: ‘I can’t help you with the cheques if you don’t help me.’ He told me the most valuable asset to a Border detective was finding information on the IRA,” she recalls.
Detective McMahon told her that his boss wanted her arrested and charged and that she was looking at a prison sentence.
He told her to go along with his story that she was an IRA informer. She could be seen to be passing him titbits of information, which he would provide. It would impress his boss and get her off the other charges.
Ms McGlinchey agreed to help him once. So began one of the most complex webs of Garda corruption in the history of the state.
One tip-off to Noel McMahon’s boss was not enough. When Ms McGlinchey tried to walk away, from his scheme, he reminded her that she was already in too deep.
In 1992, Kevin Lennon was promoted to inspector and he moved to Buncrana. He and Noel McMahon had been flatmates when they were training as guards. Ms McGlinchey became a slave to their egos, and the manipulation and corruption began in earnest.
Noel McMahon suggested she be seen carrying a bag with some bullets. With her fingerprints over confiscated bullets, Detective McMahon was able to bribe her into committing more absurd incriminating exercises.
He suggested she spread ground-up feriliser around the carpet in her flat. Detective McMahon would tip off uniformed guards, who would later “discover” it.
In 1993, Detective McMahon and his new colleague Kevin Lennon arranged for her to take a bomb to Strabane in Co Tyrone, causing a massive security alert. Between them, they managed to plant 1.25 tonnes of fertiliser in seven different hoax bomb finds across the county. One was planted after the 1994 IRA ceasefire.
On the orders of the two gardaí, Ms McGlinchey turned her flat into a bomb factory. The gardaí supplied her with the tools and material to make IRA-style rocket launchers. She was known on both sides of the Border as the guards’ informer. Kevin Lennon and Noel McMahon often went to the RUC in Derry with the latest information or the prototype of a new rocket.
Detective McMahon, who was a violent alcoholic, and Superintendent Lennon were not adverse to using their fists on Ms McGlinchey if she refused to comply with any more of the crazy schemes. They had taken over her life and used her to attain their own ends — promotion and recognition as the top detectives in the Garda Síochána, with the most successful record of counterterrorism in the the history of the state.
The nightmare only ended for Ms McGlinchey through a twist of fate. Noel McMahon threatened his estranged wife, also an alcoholic, that he would “take the law into his own hands” if their children were taken into care. His wife Sheenagh McMahon then went to the Garda authorities.
She threatened the guards that she would tell Martin McGuinness, Sinn Féin’s chief negotiator, of her husband’s hoax IRA bomb finds and the fake informer who had the RUC and gardaí on high alert.
In 1999, the gardaí instigated their own internal inquiry. The Carty inquiry failed to find any evidence of Garda misconduct and painted Ms McGlinchey as a liar and fanatic — the town fool.
The independent Morris tribunal and the subsequent report was more damning. In all, 17 gardaí were found to have lied in their evidence. The tribunal found that they had been grossly negligent and, in some cases, completely failed to carry out their duties.
Noel McMahon and Kevin Lennon were refused costs.
It was only through the Morris tribunal that the real nightmare endured by the McGlinchey family began to emerge.
Karen McGlinchey tells her sister Adrienne’s story in a new book, Charades, published by Gill and Macmillan and available now.

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