This page contains links to documents relating to the parliamentary inquiry into the Abbeylara incident published by the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights 1997 - 2002, the Sub-Committee on the Abbeylara Incident 2000 - 2002, and the subsequent Tribunal of Inquiry.
1. The Abbeylara incident is by now a well-known matter of public concern. On 20 April 2000, Mr. John Carthy was shot dead by Gardai at Toneymore, Abbeylara, Co. Longford. Following the shooting there was an internal Garda inquiry (conducted by a Chief Superintendent) into the circumstances surrounding the events at Abbeylara. A report of that inquiry was submitted to the Commissioner of An Garda Siochana who, in turn, submitted his own report to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (“the Report”). The Minister referred the Report to the Oireachtas, following which both Houses referred it to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights (“the Joint Committee’) and the Report was (with the benefit of parliamentary privilege) then made available to the public.
2. The Joint Committee considered the Report in private on 26 October 2000 and decided to invite submissions from the public by means of newspaper advertisements. Twenty-one such submissions were received – most of them critical of the Report’s conclusion that the shooting of Mr Carthy was necessary to protect the lives of Gardaí.
In view of these submissions, the Joint Committee established a Sub-Committee (“the Sub-Committee to Inquire into the Abbeylara Incident”). The Sub-Committee was conferred with compellability powers conferred by the Houses of the Oireachtas pursuant to the Houses of the Oireachtas (Compellability, Privileges and Immunities of Witnesses) Act, 1997 (“the 1997 Act’)and on 24 April 2001 the Sub-Committee embarked on public hearings. Members of the Sub-Committee visited Abbeylara on 25 April 2001 and had further public hearings on 26 April 2001, 27 April 2001 and 30 April 2001, at which juncture the hearings were adjourned for 30 days in consequence of the making of a reference to the Ceann Comhairle on behalf of nine members of An Garda Siochana’s Emergency Response Unit pursuant to a provision of the 1997 Act claiming an exemption from giving evidence.
3. Before that 30 day period had expired, 36 members of An Garda Siochana (each of whom had been directed to attend before the Sub-Committee) issued judicial review proceedings against 19 members of the Joint Committee as well as against Ireland and the Attorney General. These proceedings were separately defended on behalf of the Joint Committee, on behalf of Deputy Alan Shatter (representing himself) and on behalf of Ireland and the Attorney General. Following a High Court hearing before a Divisional Court of three judges (which commenced in July 2001 and resumed in early October 2001 after an adjournment during August/September 2001), the High Court, in a judgment of 23 November 2001 (inter alia) declared that the conduct of a public inquiry (with the aid of the power of the State and conducted by members of the Oireachtas under the aegis of the Houses of the Oireachtas and with the authority thereof) liable to result in findings of fact or expressions of opinion adverse to the good name, reputation and/or livelihoods of persons not members of such Houses was ‘ultra vires’ the powers of such Houses.
4. This decision of the High Court was then appealed by all the Respondents to the Supreme Court, which appeal was heard in January 2002 before seven members of the Court.
The Supreme Court, in a 5-2 decision delivered on 11 April 2002, dismissed the appeal (with separate lengthy judgments from each of the seven members of the Court), but narrowed somewhat the principal declaration of the High Court as referred to above. A brief and necessarily preliminary legal analysis of the implications of the Supreme Court judgments is contained in Appendix 1 to this Report.
5. On the same date as the Supreme Court decision (11 April 2002), the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform initiated the process for the establishment of a Tribunal of Inquiry into the Abbeylara Incident pursuant to the Tribunal of Inquiries Act, 1921 (as amended).
- Extract from the Report of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights on the Work of the Sub-Committee on the Abbeylara Incident (23 April 2002)