25 June 2005


McDowell must go - Opposition

25/06/2005 - 21:00:48

Opposition politicians tonight called on the Taoiseach to consider removing the Justice Minister Michael McDowell from his post.

Fine Gael’s MEP Jim Higgins made the move after it emerged the Government had damning information on some Donegal gardaí as far back as five years ago.

Mr Higgins said Bertie Ahern should consider removing Mr McDowell from the Justice portfolio, after it was reported that gardaí had passed on hard-hitting information on activities of Donegal garda to the Government in 2000.

However, Mr Higgins said the Morris Tribunal to investigate complaints by the family of publican Frank McBrearty Snr against gardaí in Donegal during the 1990s was not set up until two years later in 2002.

“The Taoiseach should seriously consider the position of Michael McDowell because he really has been dismal in relation to the manner in which he handled this particular case,” Mr Higgins told RTÉ News.

“He has been arrogant, he has been indifferent, he has never seen himself as being in sympathy with the McBrearty family or the other families who were grossly victimised by gardaí in Donegal.”

The second report from the Morris Tribunal found that the investigation into the death of cattle-dealer Richie Barron in Co Donegal in 1996 was “prejudiced, tendentious and utterly negligent in the highest degree“.

Two senior gardaí resigned in the aftermath and five officers were transferred from Co Donegal to Dublin postings.

TDs made the call for the resignation of Mr McDowell after it emerged a damning summary of an investigation by an Assistant Garda Commissioner detailing activity of some gardaí in Donegal in the 1990s was allegedly sent to the Justice Department in August 2000.

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Justice said: “The Justice Minister has dealt with this at length in the Dáil over the last couple of weeks.”

She said there was nothing new in reports that information on garda activities in Donegal had been passed on to the Government in 2000.

It is believed this document made several damaging accusations and recommendations about the situation in Donegal.

Labour's Brendan Howlin said the then Minister for Justice, John O’Donoghue and former Attorney General, Michael McDowell, must explain the reasons that a year after receiving the report they voted down moves to establish an inquiry in 2001.

He said: “At a very minimum it is now essential that Minister O’Donoghue should come into the Dáil next week and make a full statement on why he turned down requests for an inquiry when he knew the situation was so serious. The two year delay in establishing an inquiry prolonged the suffering and trauma of the McBrearty family and others in Donegal.”

Joe Costello, the Labour Party’s spokesman on Justice, added: “It is now imperative that the Minister for Justice then, John O’Donoghue, comes into the Dáil and makes a statement on the matter. I think that if he is not prepared to do that himself then the Taoiseach should ensure that he does so.”

Meanwhile, PJ Stone, the general secretary of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), said no decision had been taken by the organisation over any attempt to stop the transfer of gardaí from Donegal.

He said around two out of the five officers transferred to Dublin in the aftermath of the tribunal report may be appealing individually to the Garda Commissioner through an internal mechanism.

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