Garda/State corruption: The facts

The Garda Inspectorate report has been published and already we’re witnessing the usual bullshit response particularly from politicians with a vested interest in defending our corrupt political/administrative system.

So for anybody out there who may be unsure of the facts surrounding this scandal here they are – without any bullshit:

Fact One: Ireland is an intrinsically corrupt state. We see this fact constantly reiterated when the corrupt political/administrative regime works day and night to protect the interests of the corrupt.

Fact Two: The inspectors report confirms that there is widespread corruption within the Gardai. This fact has been publicly known since the Morris Tribunal.

Fact Three: No prosecutions were brought against any Gardai as a result of the Morris Tribunal.

Fact Four: No prosecutions will be brought against any Gardai as a result of the current spate of corruption.

Fact Five: The then Justice Minister, Michael McDowell, failed to introduce effective measures to eliminate Gardai corruption. This failure can only be because McDowell is an incompetent or the legislation was deliberately formulated to give the impression of accountability and transparency while allowing the widespread corruption to continue. I suspect the latter is the case.

Fact Six: The events in the run-up to the establishment of the Morris Tribunal are practically identical to the events in the run-up to the current spate of corruption.

That is:

Denial – secrecy – blame the whistleblowers – secrecy – attack those calling for an investigation – secrecy – refuse to apologise when the truth outs – secrecy – pretend to act as a result of the investigation – secrecy – allow the corrupt system to remain in place in order to protect the interests of those who benefit.

Fact Seven: Political/administrative corruption lies at the heart of all our problems. Corruption is so ingrained, so much a part of our culture that it’s not even recognised as a problem.

The disease of corruption will continue to inflict horrendous damage on Ireland and its people until such time as it is acknowledged and acted upon as the core reason for our failure as a state.

Low grade public representatives; misplaced loyalties

Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Coughlan proudly
displays the following quote on her website.

‘Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.’

Unfortunately for the citizens of Ireland Ms. Coughlan doesn’t actually live by the sentiments expressed in the quote. She does not stand up for ideals, she does not act to improve the lot of others and she most certainly does not strike out against injustice.

About ten years ago the shocking scandal of Garda corruption in Donegal first became public. Over that period the Morris Tribunal has published six reports on the matter revealing the following outrages.

The framing of innocent citizens for murder, planting of explosives in order to gain promotion, unlawful arrests, mistreatment of citizens in custody, procurement of false confessions, perverting the course of justice and perjury. Not a single police officer has been charged in connection with any of these serious crimes and it is a certainty that none ever will.

In all those years, while all this slime was seeping from the national police force in a county where Ms. Coughlan is a public representative, a public representative who claims to strike out against injustice, had absolutely nothing to say on the matter until last Friday.

During an interview on RTE (1st report) in which the presenter, Sean O’Rourke, described the scandal as a tragedy for the Gardai in Donegal, Ms. Coughlan was asked if she was satisfied that the Gardai were now operating to the very highest standards.

The following is her reply with my comments in brackets.

“Well, I have to be very careful with this being married to a member of the force and therefore have not until today made any public comment on the matter.”

(This low grade politician is asking us to believe that she has remained silent on this national scandal for ten years because she’s married to a member of the police force. Her mealy mouthed and cowardly words are an insult to the intelligence of all right thinking citizens.)

“There are many issues that are being addressed by the Garda authorities and by the relevant ministers over the last number of years.”

(When the Deputy Commissioner of the force was asked what action was being taken against the rogue policemen he said he was powerless to act against them. It’s five years since the first report was published and we are still waiting for the matter to be seriously debated by our irresponsible and incompetent politicians in our national parliament.)

“This has been very fundamentally difficult time for many members of the force who have found that perhaps they have been let down or that there was public vilification of them even though they may not have been involved.”

(Look again at the above list of outrages perpetuated by Donegal Gardai, outrages that have destroyed the lives of dozens of innocent citizens, outrages that will never be accounted for and decide if the Gardai are deserving of the Minister’s sympathy.)

“But I think there has been a lot of lessons learned, good management structures are there and people are moving on and taking the lessons of what has happened. But of course one has to await the final outcome and the public discourse that will take place and my view on all of these issues is that very serious issues arose, very serious lessons have been learned and arising from those lessons the fundamentals are being rejuvenated into members of the force in my county.”

(This is a typical example of the unintelligible drivel Irish citizens are constantly assaulted with by our low grade public representatives. The insulting waffle is laced with the usual inane excuses for incompetence and inaction – lessons have been learned; new management structures have been put in place;; have to await the final outcome of the tribunal; we must move on blah, blah, blah.)

Mary Coughlan is one of those politicians who steadfastly stood by Bertie Ahern even as his fantasy tales changed by the week and became ever more bizarre. Her blind loyalty to Ahern was a betrayal of the Irish people and her unquestioned loyalty to Brian Cowen, a man who rates loyalty to party above loyalty to country bodes ill for the people of Ireland.

Copy to:
Ms Coughlan

Ex-Garda confirms parts of White's allegations

This has been a pet subject at Public Inquiry – but one that has received little media attention. The Irish Times reports:

A former garda said he was told by another officer that a room in Letterkenny Garda station was set up to secretly record conversations and visitors before several people were arrested during the investigation into the death of cattle dealer Richie Barron in 1996.

Martin Leonard said he was told afterwards that Sgt Joseph Costello had been brought down from Garda HQ in Dublin to bug rooms in the station.

“It was discussed afterwards. Tina Fowley was the one I heard on about it, that she had prepared that particular room,” Mr Leonard said.

“That’s the only one I heard on about it. That somebody had asked her to get an armchair for it, something about an armchair,” Mr Leonard added.

Mr Leonard said that Gda Fowley told him “that he [ Sgt Costello] was brought down and that the room was set up to listen to visitors.”

The former garda said he thought secret taping would be inappropriate, but it would not be wrong, because “it wasn’t a privileged conversation between a solicitor and a client.”

Mr Leonard said there was no question of gardaí bugging conversations between solicitors and clients.

This adds further weight to Sgt White’s allegations.What Leonard does not do is say that solicitor-client conversations were recorded – something that White has alleged. But looking at the tribunal transcriptions reveals some surprising details. Garda Leonard appeared to see nothing wrong with bugging conversations, or even more strange activities:

Chairman:Was it wrong to be doing that in your view?
Leonard: I don’t think so, you know
Chairman: What?
Leonard: I don’t think so.
Chairman: No?
Leonard: Not if you want to establish the truth about something, I don’t think so.
Chairman: Yes.
Leonard: I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with it fundamentally. It wasn’t a privileged conversation, you know, between a solicitor and a client. I mean, for example, would you think it’s an awful thing supposing that you had somebody in a cell, right, and you believe in your heart and soul that they committed murder, would you think it an awful thing for a guard to go in and say — as another prisoner, be brought in and threw into the cell that night, throw drink on him, on the guard let’s say and pretended he was drunk, adn then he might get some information from the person you believed committed murder, I wouldn’t see anything wrong with that at all.
Counsel (McDermott): That has led to terrible miscarriages of justice throughout the common law world.
Leonard: No, no, no, wait.

Bugging interview rooms

I touched on this subject back in April, when at the time I wondered why the Irish media seemed to be asleep at the wheel when it came to the significance of the allegations John White had made concerning garda bugging of interview rooms.

Six months later, the Sunday Independent leads with a story concerning the allegations. I’ll quote the whole lot to save you registering.

SENIOR gardai sanctioned the bugging of solicitors, a priest and relatives of prisoners held in garda stations, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Details of the systematic use of eavesdropping equipment emerged following reports that a bug was installed in Letterkenny Garda Station to listen in on conversations between members of the McBrearty family, between periods of interrogation, in December 1996.

One of the detectives involved in the McBrearty case, Det Sgt John White, has made a statement to the Morris inquiry outlining the common use of such techniques.

In his statement, he names several senior gardai, retired and serving, who he said sanctioned the illicit eavesdropping. White’s claims have been supported by other detectives who say the practice was carried out regularly in major investigations.

He said the quipment was a “Nagra” recorder, manufactured by the Swiss electronics firm, Kudelski, which specialises in security and listening equipment. White said that the buggings were most commonly used in cases where the prisoners were not serious criminals or subversives. Professional criminals and IRA members were least likely to discuss matters of interest to investigators.

He also claimed he came across bugging about 50 to 60 times during his period of service in the Murder Squad between 1980 and 1994.

He said the secret information was never discussed at major investigation conferences, where between 20 and 40 gardai might be present, but at “mini conferences” of between five and 10 officers.

The most common question at these meetings, he said, was, “Anything from the tapes?” and the answer would usually be given by a detective superintendent or detective inspector.

He had never heard the detectives raise concerns about the practice. He said there was little cognizance given to conversations with solicitors whose advice to clients – in what should under law have been private – invariably involved advice not to answer any more questions.

He said: “I cannot remember any earth-shattering revelations being made by prisoners to their solicitors.”

White, who was acquitted last July of planting a shotgun in a travellers’ site in Donegal, in 2001, but who was subsequently criticised in three reports of the Morris tribunal, said that during his time as a detective the process of bugging prisoners’ private conversation was called “boxing”.

He said: “Officers and members, including myself, believed that we were entitled to use covert recording equipment in the struggle against crimes of murder and other very serious crimes.

“It was not a case of being entitled to do so by law, but on the assumption that the equipment would not harm any innocent person and that the persons being listened to were either persons who had committed a very serious criminal act or were murderers.

“It was quite clear that this system could not have operated for so many years without the knowledge and approval of the most senior authority within An Garda Siochana. This system of covert recording was being used as a tool by detectives, in an effort to solve crime, and while it could not be regarded by any member of An Garda Siochana as being lawful, it was not regarded by those aware of its existence as being morally wrong.

“I heard many times the phrase ‘to box them’ being used by officers and members in relation to the covert recording of meetings between prisoners and other prisoners, and between prisoners and visitors. This was a reference to placing the respective parties together in a room that was bugged.”

Det Sgt White also said that while he had no documentation on the recordings, there should be in existence – “if they have not been destroyed” – written requests from divisional and district offices for the listening equipment.

He said these forms were known as A 85 and A 13.

He said that two retired detectives stated that they had reported allegations of recordings to their authorities, the Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, and the Morris tribunal, in writing. They informed me that their superiors had not taken the matter seriously and that they believed a proper investigation was not undertaken and that the matter was being covered up by the Garda Authorities.”

Why it took six months I don’t know. But the seriousness of White’s allegations are the same now as they were six months ago. The mini-module relating to the bugging will begin at either the end of November or early in the new year. The repurcussions of it could be huge. The tribunal has listed the following people to appear in relation to the bugging mini-module:

Detective Sergeant John White

Garda John Dooley

John Fitzgerald

Joseph Shelly

John McGinley

Sergeant Joseph Costello

Denis Fitzpatrick

Detective Chief Superintendent Austin McNally

Paudge Dorrian

Garda Tina Fowley

James Sweeney

John Costello

Superintendent James Paul Sharpe

Morris reports show "endemic" failures

Ireland on Sunday carried a report yesterday that the three Morris Reports given to the Minister for Justice recently, make rather serious charges against far more than Gardai in Donegal. Apparently, and unsurprisingly to me at least, the reports may allege that corruption goes all the way to the top echelons of the Gardai.

Ireland On Sunday quotes one source who has read the three unpublished reports as saying that if the NBCI is seen to have been falsifying evidence, thousands of convictions could possibly be unsafe.

And we have yet to see the bugging mini-module report, the three reports relates to the Ardara, Burnfoot and Silver Bullet modules.

McBrearty vows he will go to jail rather than testify

Frank McBrearty has warned that he will not be attending the Morris Tribunal, he will likely face the almost crazy prospect of being prosecuted by a Tribunal he helped set up.

“I’m prepared to go to jail. I’m not afraid of Michael McDowell or anything he might threaten me with,” Mr McBrearty Jnr told the Irish Independent from Florida, where he is on holiday.

“Me and my family have been the biggest victims of a miscarriage of justice in Ireland and have been treated like second-class citizens. Why should the Garda Commissioner and Minister for Justice have their legal fees covered while we don’t?

“The thing that hurts us most is that we have put an awful lot of effort to get a public enquiry into this scandal investigated in the first place,” he said.

The tribunal is due to investigate the circumstances surrounding Mr McBrearty’s detention in Letterkenny garda station in December 1996.

He was filmed being pulled unconscious down corridors by gardai. He also allegedly signed a confession stating he had murdered cattle dealer Richie Barron. It is now accepted that Barron died as a result of a hit-and-run incident.

The hearings on the module are due to begin in July. Anyone who refuses to co-operate could face a possible €12,750 fine, up to two years in prison, or both.

“Look at the Rossport Five and the support they got,” Mr McBrearty said. “Think of the support we would get. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, but I have told Minister McDowell that I am prepared to go to prison.”

What John White alleged

Here are some parts of the transcripts from Morris. Morris reacted with exasperation that Gardai may be bugging solicitors.

Chair: You have mentioned bugging and similar type activities?
White: There was Chairman, yes
Chair: Are you aware of other members who actually witnessed this type of unauthorized activity?
White: I would be aware from experience, Chairman, of particular members in Dublin. But in relation to bugging and perhaps this is of no interest to you, but it is of interest to me, it’s outside of Donegal but Sargeant Thomas Murphy and Garda James McGrath did witness bugging of an interview room and they were beside the man and the machine and they can name the man that was using it and the made statements to that effect. They cam to the Tribunal here one day and they met me at the back of the Tribunal in the corner there some time ago, maybe a year and a half ago, and they told me that they were quite willing to give evidence about all this. It was in a murder case in Cork in ’92 and they can definitely give sworn evidence that the interview room was bugged and they saw it happening and they heard it happening.
Chair: Are they prepared to come forward and confirm that to the Tribunal?
White: They are and they have made statements to their own superintendent about it. There was supposed to be an investigation but I believe it was a cover-up – – well they believe it was a cover-up and they have told me that. They have all the reports, all the documentation necessary to show that.

Ref 747:

McDermott: Just in relation to the bugging issue and the reference which you made in the broader sense to the existence of bugging in other circumstances, on other occasions and the one incident that you were able to concretize in relation to the Chairman in relation to the Cork matter?
White: Yes
McDermott: And the two men you named, and we won’t name again. I have asked for a search to be done in relation to correspondence to the Tribunal and just as a matter of record, one of the gentlemen did initially write to the Tribunal concerning a matter in Cork relating to bugging and was told by the Tribunal that it was outside the Terms of Reference of the Tribunal. Of course strictly speaking it was. Now, your allegation in relation to the bugging, the generalized bugging issue is now a much wider allegation as and of course what you are saying now is in relation to that particular incident is that as far as you are concerned, it is an example of your general allegation that this was widespread throughout the force; isn’t that right?
White: Yes. Mr. McDermott, that’s right.
McDermott: Thereby making what well may be or may have been deemed to be a matter outside the Terms of Reference relevant to your presentation to the Tribunal. That’s why you are referring to it; is that right?
White: Very strongly, Chairman, yes. I find it very difficult to get people to come forward in relation to this. That is one particular situation. I would very much appreciate if the Tribunal would hear evidence in the future.

Ref 288:

Chairman, at this stage it would be appropriate for the senior Garda authority to come clean in relation to bugging. It cannot be covered up. There are at least two hundred men alive at the moment, and women, probably a lot more, who know exactly what went on over the years, some of them are still serving in the job, and to try and cover it up on a nationwide scale, it can’t be done. It just can’t be done. It did happen. The equipment was bought and purchased at extensive cost to do it. It was not a universal approach, in certain cases they were done and it’s not just down to interview rooms. It’s houses, cars, apartments and phones. And it’s done illegally, totally illegally, and the senior Garda authority know this is the case. I know that I am saying it on oath. I can give you specific – in the next module.
Chair: Sargeant White, what concerns me is the suggestion, more than a suggestion, the statement that is apparently before, that solicitors consultation were being bugged.
White: Yes.
Chair: Whether listening devices are used outside of that –
White: Oh yes.
Chair: – is a matter that I haven’t got to concern myself with. But I do have to concern myself with the allegation that in these particular cases the solicitors’ consultations were bugged.
White: Yes
Chair: You’re saying that happened
White: It happened
Chair: And you saying that it happened as a matter of practice elsewhere; is that correct?
White: Yes
Chair: Solicitors’ consultations?
White: In face I personally heard, Chairman, that one priest was bugged talking to a prisoner. I can give the name of the prisoner. It’s quite some time ago.
Chair: Solicitors, is that what we are talking about?
White: Right, yes. Yes, of course to try and glean any information that would progress the investigation. It wouldn’t be used afterwards, it couldn’t be used obviously, look, I did it but I’m not going to say a word, I am going to keep quiet. Then you’d be on the right track, you couldn’t use it but it would be a great help.
Chair: And that was done with the knowledge and approval of senior officers, you’re saying?
White: It would be done, yes, with the D/I or the D/Super in the area.

An issue for bloggers?

The Morris Tribunal has recently made transcriptions available to the public. The day I have been most interested in of late is Day 434. It occurs to me that certain aspects of placing this material online have not occurred to the Tribunal.

For example at Ref 666:

Chairman Morris:

…So I’m going to make a request to the media for the moment that those names be excluded from any reports there may be. By all means report in full the contents of what Sargeant White has said, but please do avoid using the names in a way that would identify the two people involved until such time as we have had an oppurtunity of considering where we go from there.

But the two Gardai are clearly named by White a paragraph above. What do bloggers do in this situation?

Gardai 'never told to be aggressive in interviews'

The Irish Independent reports that a superintendent from Donegal has said that John White had not been given instructions to engage in tough interviews – contrary to what John White alleges.

John McGinley, who retired after being criticised in a Morris Tribunal report, said Det Sgt John White had not been given instructions to engage in tough interviews while probing Richie Barron’s death. “There were no instructions given to anybody to go outside the just treatment of persons in custody rules, or Criminal Justice Act of ’84, in any shape or form,” he told the tribunal.

“These structures are in place to ensure that such abuses don’t happen, I am disappointed and saddened that it did happen, as alleged.

“However, if two people go into an interview room and do something such as that there is very little that anybody can do about it at the time.”

The Irish Examiner reports the same story here.