Death of Person in Garda Custody.

I move:

That it is expedient that a tribunal be established for inquiring into a definite matter of urgent public importance, that is to say, the facts and circumstances surrounding the death in Garda custody on 30th May, 1967 of Liam O'Mahony.

Most Deputies will probably have seen the statement that I issued on Tuesday last concerning my intention to move this motion. I felt it necessary to issue that statement for two reasons: first, so that my intention to move it would be known, thus putting an end to speculation, and secondly, so that the reason for proposing an inquiry should not be misrepresented.

In the public statement, I said that I would give details of the proposal in the Dáil. My intention is to appoint a Tribunal of three persons, namely, a Judge of the Supreme Court, who will be chairman, a Judge of the High Court and a Judge of the Circuit Court. I have asked and secured the consent of Mr. Justice O'B. Fitzgerald, Mr. Justice Murnaghan and Judge Conroy to act on the Tribunal.

The object of the inquiry, and therefore the Tribunal's terms of reference, will be to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Liam O'Mahony while in Garda custody. It will be for the Tribunal themselves to decide what is or is not relevant to that inquiry.

That, then, is my proposal. In view of what has already been said in this House, and outside it, I think it is right that I should be very specific as to why I am asking the House to approve of this motion, seeing that I recently rejected suggestions that such a Tribunal be set up. It is all the more necessary that I should do this because, if some of what has been said, here and outside, goes unanswered, there is a real danger that the purpose and value of one of our traditional institutions—an institution that this House decided in an enactment passed as recently as 1962 to preserve—namely, the Coroner's inquest, will be undermined. I therefore have to give, not only reasons that weighed with me but also the reasons that did not weigh with me.

I think it is essential that I should, first of all, correct certain statements that have been made about some aspects of this matter. It was said here, for instance, that the function of a Coroner's inquest is limited by law to ascertaining the cause of death, the implication being that this means cause of death in the medical sense. That is not correct and in the present context it is gravely misleading. It is the function of an inquest to determine how, where and when the death occurred and, in the present instance, the jury's verdict said specifically that they had insufficient evidence to determine how and where—I repeat, how and where—the injuries were received.

Deputy Barrett objected, here and in a daily newspaper, to my saying that some Deputies opposite did not adopt an impartial attitude. Perhaps they were not deliberately partial but Deputy Barrett himself clearly stated that the deceased man received his injuries in the Garda station—a statement which the ordinary listener would certainly take to mean that the injuries were inflicted by the gardaí. The jury on the other hand had explicitly said that they—who had heard all the evidence—could not say where the injuries were received. Perhaps Deputy Barrett had not adverted to this, but, objectively speaking, his comment was not impartial. Neither were the comments of some other Deputies who sought to discount the jury's verdict on the basis—which I have shown to be misconceived—that the jury were not empowered to investigate how the injuries were received.

There is another major misconception which I feel it is essential to correct. Deputy Barrett took me to task for what I had said about the absence of a stenographer at the inquest. He said that I, as a lawyer myself, must know that a shorthand note is regularly taken in civil proceedings in court, where there might be an appeal. And he went on to suggest that it was equally important, at an inquest, that there should be a verbatim account so that, as he puts it later in his letter, it should be possible—here I quote—"at the highest—that is, Ministerial— level to assess the facts on all the evidence before the Coroner's Tribunal".

I do not want to exaggerate but I think that the implications of this— coming from a man who is a lawyer —are startling. We are speaking of an inquest at which there was a jury. The jury not only heard every word of the evidence but had the opportunity to observe the demeanour of witnesses and they reached a verdict. Yet, it appears to be seriously suggested by Deputy Barrett that I, as Minister for Justice, could have some kind of appellate jurisdiction in relation to their verdict —that it would be open to me to reexamine the written record of the evidence and possibly substitute my own opinion for the unanimous verdict of a jury of ten.

May I say that some of the Deputy's colleagues who have, in the past, gone out of their way to defend the value of juries' verdicts would do well to ponder the implication of what has been said on this occasion? If the day ever comes when, on a factual issue, the conclusion of one man—even a Minister acting as such—is given greater weight than the unanimous verdict of a jury of ten on the very same evidence, then we will have reached the stage when our jury system might as well be abandoned altogether.

Some of the critics did, apparently, see the implications of what they were saying and they realised that, unless they were to attack the entire jury system, the only way to undermine the jury's verdict on this occasion was to undermine confidence in the jury members themselves. I dealt with that already in the House but I would like to clear up just one point: Deputy Dillon seemed perturbed at my suggestion that the Garda went out of their way to select jurors whose character, reputation and general standing were such that nobody could question either their impartiality or their competence. The Deputy thought that any such selective process is illegal. I am glad to assure him that it is not. Coroner's juries are not, and in the nature of things cannot be, assembled in the same way as juries in ordinary court proceedings. There is always some element of selection—for instance, the Garda obviously will not select somebody they know to be mentally retarded—and there is certainly nothing either illegal or objectionable in their taking more care than usual in this case to select men whose verdict ought to be accepted as a true verdict.

In view of the criticisms, direct and implied, that have been directed at the jury, I should like to put on record not only my own complete acceptance of their impartiality but the Coroner's opinion of them as expressed to me in writing: he said that they were intelligent, conscientious and hard-working —above average; that he could not see how any inquiry more exhaustive could be held; and that the criticisms directed at the limitations on their powers under the Coroners Acts appeared to him to be futile as he was unable to see how, no matter how much their power was extended, they could, on the evidence, have brought in any other verdict.

What, then, has changed? Public agitation has developed. I do not accept, and I would not ask this House to accept, that it is in any way representative but what I do say is that, largely through a distortion of the facts, the agitation itself has created public unease and the stage has now been reached where a failure to hold a further inquiry is open to grave misrepresentation. It is on that basis that I come to the House and ask for approval of this motion.

Mr. G. Goldberg, a solicitor who took part in the inquest proceedings, has made certain suggestions as to what the Tribunal might be asked to inquire into. As far as I am concerned, and I am quite definite about this, the Tribunal is being set up to investigate the full facts and circumstances of a man's death. Whether any particular point will or will not be covered will depend on the Tribunal's decision as to its relevance to that investigation. What I am not going to do is to cloud the central issue by asking the Tribunal to refer specifically to particular points which might or might not turn out to be relevant. And the judge of relevance will be the Tribunal, in the light of the facts before them.

There is one thing more that I would like to say about my position in this matter. I have already pointed out that the accusation that my Department was dilatory in not having a stenographer at the inquest was based almost entirely on the assumption, which is totally a false one, that it would be desirable or possible for the Minister for Justice to set himself up as a judge of facts superior to the jury who sat in the case. In saying this, I am not to be taken as saying that I, as Minister, had no interest in or concern with what went on before and at the inquest. Of course I had. My concern and the concern of the Garda authorities in this matter have been as follows: first, to ensure that every possible avenue was explored to secure every relevant item of evidence; secondly, to ensure that the evidence was presented in advance to the solicitor for the next-of-kin and, in due course, at the inquest; thirdly, to ensure that if anything new and relevant transpired at the inquest it would be brought to my notice and, fourthly, to ensure, by a subsequent check, that everything that ought to have been done was done. To fulfil these functions, however, it was wholly unnecessary to have a verbatim account of the proceedings.

We had in attendance throughout the inquest not only the State Solicitor but two superintendents and if there had been any material deviation that concerned the Garda, either under cross-examination or otherwise, from what was said in the statements, this would have been brought to notice. The superintendents, to whom a specific query was put, said that there was no such deviation. In fact, nobody has suggested otherwise. All sorts of suggestions have been made as to what might have happened. We are concerned with realities. The absence of a stenographer's note has nothing whatsoever to do with the situation that has arisen. Nobody—I repeat, nobody—has suggested that anything hinges on anything alleged to have been said at the inquest and not reported. If anybody wants to suggest that now, he will have an opportunity of doing so to the Tribunal. If we had a verbatim record, the present situation would not be in the slightest degree different. We should still be faced with the jury's verdict—a verdict which, may I repeat, was a unanimous one of the ten members, even though the law provides that a majority verdict by a coroner's jury is sufficient. This talk about a verbatim record of the inquest, is, to put it plainly, trailing a red herring from start to finish.

I should like, also, to put it on the records of the House that the full evidence collected by the Garda and communicated to the Coroner's Court was also submitted by the Garda authorities to the Attorney General who decided, and has authorised me to announce, that his conclusion is that on that evidence no criminal offence is shown to have been committed by any person.

I have thought it desirable, in order to clear the air and to avoid misunderstanding, to go back on certain matters that were raised before. I will state quite frankly that I would not, if the situation had not been confused by agitation, have chosen the present moment to establish this Tribunal—I would have preferred to wait and see if some new evidence or new lead could be found. In that connection I feel that I should mention that the Garda authorities have continued to investigate actively the circumstances of the death and have gone so far as to send a senior Garda officer to London in the last few days to interview a witness who, it was thought, might be in a position to amplify an earlier statement.

It may be that the opportunity to reexamine witnesses in public will itself lead to some new light being thrown on the problem. I sincerely hope so. We have, at any rate, reached a stage where a formal judicial inquiry has become essential in order to clear away the atmosphere of suspicion that has been created.

I recommend the motion to the House.

So far as this Party are concerned, we are glad that the Minister has taken the decision to hold this inquiry and to set up the Tribunal. The House will be aware that Deputies from these benches urged this course on the Minister. To my mind, it is rather extraordinary that in introducing this motion, which was clearly going to have agreement, that the Minister should do so in what seems to me to be a most contentious manner. I believe the Minister is doing the right thing. I think he is doing it at the wrong time and perhaps for slightly wrong reasons. I think he is doing it at the wrong time because, to my mind—I think this is shared by many others—the Minister should have ordered an inquiry or established a tribunal such as this without any hesitation and without the initial resistance which he demonstrated when he was questioned about the matter in this House some while ago. I believe the Minister's reasons are somewhat wrong in that he seems to me to be putting the horse behind the cart when he refers to certain newspapers, certain public representatives and others stirring up agitation which makes, in the words of the Minister's statement as I recall it, public disquiet inevitable.

There would have been no occasion for any agitation from any source if the Minister had chosen to establish this inquiry at an earlier stage and without the resistance and reluctance which he displayed when he was questioned about it in the House. The Minister's statement suggesting this inquiry seems to me to have been made in a rather contentious manner. It seems that the Minister felt he was on the defensive and that it was necessary to make some kind of statement to exculpate himself for his delay in acceding to the request for this Tribunal. I am sorry that he should feel like that, if in fact he does, because so far as I am concerned, and I think I can speak for my colleagues in this matter, we would have been quite prepared to laud and commend the Minister for showing the courage to change his point of view. I do not think it is at all a fault in a Minister who makes what might be regarded either by other Deputies or by his colleagues as a decision which is too hasty or which is wrong, that he should have the courage to reverse himself and change his mind. Indeed, if some of the Minister's colleagues found it possible to depart from a particular attitude, the business of the House might go through a good deal quicker.

Having regard to the fact that we feel that way about the Minister, that he is doing the right thing now, I am sorry he chose this occasion to make the type of critical reference he did make to Deputy Barrett. I have no doubt that Deputy Barrett who has yet to conclude his speech on the Estimate for the Department of Justice would like an opportunity of explaining his position more fully but I doubt if he would feel it proper to do that now, in view of the fact that the Tribunal is being established. That is all the more reason for saying it is unfortunate that the Minister should have introduced the motion in this way. However, I am glad that he is doing this. I think the Garda Commissioner was quite right in welcoming the Minister's decision to have this Tribunal established. We certainly will support it.

I assume that the establishment of the Tribunal in the wording of this motion will give the Tribunal all the necessary power to require the attendance of witnesses, the taking of records and so on.

So far as the personnel of the proposed Tribunal is concerned, I do not want to make any comments, other than that I personally feel that an excellent Tribunal has been chosen that will make a very full and thorough investigation.

We also welcome the establishment of this Tribunal. I was rather surprised at the length of the Minister's speech and the matters to which he referred. At this stage when I suppose the whole matter ought to be regarded assub judice, I regret that any sort of political contention should have crept into what we trusted would be a very short debate. The Minister said that the inquest did not establish the cause of death. I can look at this objectively and I can say that as far as I know, the public were not just satisfied with the result of the inquest. No matter how well-intentioned anybody who participated in that inquest was——

We had better not discuss the matter that will go before the Tribunal, even by implication. The matter to go before the Tribunal for decision should not be referred to.

The Minister for Justice can talkad lib about this and Deputy M.J. O'Higgins is invited to speak on it, and I am not.

No; the Minister did not refer to the manner in which persons made statements.

I did not cast any reflection on the inquest. I said, well-intentioned as they were, they might not clearly establish as well as this Tribunal might the cause. This is the reason the Tribunal is established and this is something that has to be said. If we accept that the inquest was the be-all of it, there would be no need for a tribunal. As far as I and my colleagues know, there is uneasiness in the public mind and I do not think, contrary to what is being said by the Minister, that that has been engendered in any way by what has been said in the Dáil arising out of questions or by way of reply or retort by the Minister for Justice. There would always be a certain amount of suspicion, if the matter were left at the state in which it is now. It would be unfair to the Garda that it should be left in the air, and if only for the promotion and establishment of the good name of the Garda Síochána it is right that this Tribunal should be established.

The Minister is rather thin when he says that he is reported as having said in a recent statement that this Tribunal has been established—and these are his own words — because of a campaign by certain newspapers and certain individuals. That is not true at all. I do not think that anybody could think that newspapers are vindictive towards the Garda or that the people who requested the Tribunal were vindictive towards the Minister for Justice. They have reflected, as they do in many cases, the thinking of the people to a great extent and they are entitled to express the latest view always. Theirs is an independent comment to which all of us must have regard. If this Tribunal were to establish some new form of procedure, even that will have justified the establishment of the Tribunal. In my view, nothing but good can come of it.

It seems to me that the Minister appeared to justify the establishment of a Tribunal, and as he was being questioned by those who appeared to know a lot about this matter, to my mind he seemed to look for an excuse to establish it. He said that if concrete evidence were available, he would consider establishing it. Therefore, we support this because we believe good will come of it but we do not believe that the Minister should use the injustices of the alleged campaign as a mere excuse for establishing the Tribunal.

This is a matter in which I have some interest. I think the Minister's decision to establish this Tribunal is the right decision but his manner of commending it to the House is very foolish. I shall not put it further than that. He tries by making an assault on Deputy Barrett, who does not happen to be here at the moment, to vindicate himself of having misjudged the situation. The strange thing is that having misjudged the situation, instead of expressing gratitude to the Members of this House who directed his attention to certain aspects of the situation as it developed, the Minister appears to resent this. I think we may assume that by introducing this motion, he believes himself to be doing the right thing, or else he would not introduce it. Why should he find fault with those who induced him to do the right thing? Either he is right in doing what he is doing today or he is wrong in resenting those who urged him to do it. Far from slighting those who directed his attention to the publicmalaise that is growing, which I think is now effectively controlled by the establishment of the Tribunal, he should sing the praises of a liberal independent of the free press which draws, through that medium, the attention of a Minister of State to certain facts or tendencies to which no other source could have drawn his attention.

This matter is of some consequence, but I notice the Minister says and I quote his statement:

Deputy Dillon seemed perturbed at my suggestion that the Garda went out of their way to select jurors whose character, reputation and general standing were such that nobody could question either their impartiality or their competence. The Deputy thought that any such selective process is illegal. I am glad to assure him that it is not. Coroner's juries are not, and in the nature of things cannot be, assembled in the same way as juries in ordinary court proceedings. There is always some element of selection—for instance, the Garda obviously will not select somebody they know to be mentally retarded—and there is certainly nothing either illegal or objectionable in their taking more care than usual in this case to select men whose verdict ought to be accepted as a true verdict.

The relevant section of the Coroners Act, 1962, says:

Whenever a jury is required for an inquest at any time and place, the coroner shall so inform a member of the Garda Síochána and the member shall assemble not less than six and not more than twelve persons qualified to be jurors at the inquest at such time and place and may, if he thinks it necessary, serve summonses in the prescribed form to ensure their attendance.

I think that in that section is clearly implicit that such persons should be gathered at random. One of the things we must carefully avoid in a case of this kind is the possibility that it might be suggested that the Garda authorities would choose men who, in their judgment, would be dependable. The other purpose of a coroner's inquest is that it seeks average men and women, between six and twelve, to sit down and bring in their verdict be it inimical or otherwise to the authorities, the executive or to the Government if it is deemed necessary to say definitely when, where and how the person on whom the inquest is being held has met his death.

I do not want to press this point. The Act here does not say "at random". It ought not to go on record that the process of selection such as the Minister indicates should be the normal procedure for selecting a coroner's jury. In so far as it is practicable, in so far as a civil or criminal jury is concerned, the names are drawn by lot of those summoned under the jurors' roll. That is not a subject on which I wish to dwell but it is necessary to demur to the Minister's asseveration here today that he thought it entirely proper that the Garda should normally depart from a random procedure of seeking to recruit a coroner's jury.

The Minister said at a later stage:

I should like also to put it on the records of the House that the full evidence collected by the Garda and communicated to the Coroner's Court was also submitted by the Garda authorities to the Attorney General who decided, and has authorised me to announce, that his conclusion is that on that evidence no criminal offence is shown to have been committed by any person.

I want to ask the Minister—seeing that he has seen fit to make that declaration himself today—on what date did the Attorney General receive those reports?

Quite recently, anyway; I will get the exact date.

I think this is an issue of substance. The Minister went on to say:

I have thought it desirable, in order to clear the air and to avoid misunderstanding, to go back on certain matters that were raised before. I will state quite frankly that I would not, if the situation had not been confused by agitation, have chosen the present moment to establish this Tribunal—I would have preferred to wait and see if some new evidence or new lead could be found.

Then the Minister speaks of an unknown garda going to London to seek further information.

Let us not dismiss from our minds the situation obtaining: a man died in a Garda Station, without medical aid, from injuries which at post mortem were discovered to consist of a ruptured spleen and eight fractured ribs.

Is the Deputy not infringing on what is to go before the Tribunal?

I do not admit at all that these matters aresub judice. No person is on charge; no court proceedings are in contemplation. You will remember that another famous Tribunal — under another similar motion in this House—sought to subpoena me and I told them to take a running jump at themselves.

Any matter which is likely to go before the Tribunal is not a matter which can be discussed publicly here.

I do not want to connive with you, Sir. I do not accept the principle but I do not want to discuss it here. But remember our position is this: on these facts, a Tribunal is now established. I want to emphasise to the House this very important fact. In my opinion, this Tribunal is established so that we can say—each one of us—to the rumour-monger; who is coming with stories of this having happened, and that having happened: "Do not come with your rumour to me; bring the rumour to a Tribunal presided over by a Supreme Court judge, a High Court judge and a Circuit Court judge; if you have any information, they will not resent your going to them, even if on inquiry it proves that you are suffering under an illusion; but there is no use whispering to me when you meet me on the street." And: "If you do not know how to go, if that is your problem, come with me now and I will show you where to go. But the all important thing is, do not be whispering; now is the time to cry out aloud. If you know anything, if you have heard anything, let it be brought to the attention of the Tribunal, through the Minister, his Department or the Garda; go there yourself and they will be very glad to hear you."

That brings me to the last point I want to raise. I cannot agree more fully with Deputy M.J. O'Higgins when he says how satisfactory are the personnel and character of this Tribunal and how well calculated it is to commend the full confidence of every rational citizen of the State. But how will the proceedings be conducted? Who will elicit the evidence? I want to have this to say to any rumour-monger who comes to me: "Mr. So-and-So is charged to bring to the attention of the Tribunal every conceivable tittle of evidence which comes forward from anybody." Will the Tribunal have what a Congressional Committee equips itself with, that is, counsel? Will there be any officer of the Tribunal charged with the responsibility of saying: "Now, Mr. X, Y or Z has placed this allegation in my hands. He does it from a sense of public duty; and he is prepared to go into the public witness box and testify to what he knows in order to assist the Tribunal."

I want to say to the Minister that if our purpose is, as I think it ought to be, effectively to put an end to rumour-mongering and to establish facts, whomever they may hurt, we ought to be able to say to those rumour-mongers: "Mr. So-and-So is appointed counsel to this Tribunal and is charged with responsibility of bringing everything before the Tribunal so that they may weigh it and investigate it as far as it is humanly possible so to do." If the Minister has not considered this matter before, I do not press upon him a sudden and blunt decision, but I do suggest that unless there is someone associated with the Tribunal of a character like counsel to a Congressional inquiry, then we are in the difficulty that the person who believes—however ill-founded his belief may be—that he has some knowledge that the Tribunal ought to have, is at a loss to know where to go with it. I want to be in a position to tell him: "Do not be coming to me; go to Mr. So-and-So and, if you do not know your way there, come take my hand and I will bring you to him."

It appears from statements in the papers and the discussion here today as if the Tribunal is being set up for the purpose of establishing the fact that the Garda were not responsible for the man's death. I am putting this very bluntly. The result of the inquest seemed to be an extraordinary one because, if the man had been found dead on the road, most certainly there would not have been a jury's verdict that they could not find out how the man got the injuries from which he died. I would suggest that no matter what happens, all the angles of this case must be looked at: where the injuries were received and by whom inflicted. If he did not get them in the Garda barracks, where he actually got them must be investigated fully. I would suggest that this is one of the most important things the Tribunal must straighten out because, if not, there will be a feeling of unease in the country, as there was until the Minister announced his intention of setting up a Tribunal.

Might I ask the Minister is it proposed to set up the Tribunal under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act of 1919?

Of 1921. It is under the 1921 Act that previous sworn tribunals of this kind were established.

I want to assure Deputy Tully it was to meet the point he raised that the motion has been phrased in the widest possible terms:

That it is expedient that a tribunal be established for inquiring into a definite matter of urgent public importance, that is to say, the facts and circumstances surrounding the death in Garda custody on 30th May, 1967 of Liam O'Mahony.

There is no question of this Tribunal being established to defend or ascertain, to defend any particular group or to ascertain any particular aspect of the matter. They are to look into the facts and circumstances surrounding the death. The motion is in the widest possible terms, and the investigation by the Tribunal will proceed on that basis. It is a matter for a Tribunal of this distinction to establish its own procedure. But it can be taken that all the facts of the case will be presented by counsel; that the Garda will be represented by counsel; that counsel for the next-of-kin will be present, as well as counsel on behalf of anybody who has an interest in the facts and circumstances surrounding the death.

It is not for me to devise the Tribunal's method of procedure but I envisage that they will subpoena all the witnesses who have appeared already in the matter, that they will publish notices, meeting Deputy Dillon's point, in the press inviting anybody who may wish to come forward to give evidence to the Tribunal so to come forward. I would envisage the Tribunal sitting at some stage in early August and I imagine the procedure will be established fairly shortly and a registrar will be made available to the Tribunal, which will hold the inquiry down in Cork city itself.

I do not see anything more that can be done beyond this House passing a motion which is in the widest possible terms and, in order to interpret, administer and adjudicate on those terms, to have a Tribunal of very great distinction, to put it mildly, a judge each of the Supreme Court, the High Court and the Circuit Court. I have just indicated general lines of procedure which they will, in all probability, adopt but the actual details of that procedure will be a matter for themselves to adopt.

Deputy Dillon queried the question of the Attorney General's advice which I saw fit to give and which he authorised me to put in my statement. The Attorney General has the function, in regard to any matter——

I only asked one question: when did he get the papers?

He got the papers immediately, of course, from the Garda. He awaited the outcome of the inquest; he considered the evidence in a manner which befitted his consideration, in a calm and objective manner, and I received his opinion on 10th July——

When did he get the Garda file?

That was not the question Deputy Dillon asked: he asked when I received the advice of the Attorney General.

No, no. The Minister quoted the Attorney General and I asked when did the Attorney General get the Garda file in this matter.

This would be entirely within the province of the Attorney General. I cannot answer that on anad hoc basis. I got the file from him a week ago and I took it that was what Deputy Dillon's query was related to—when I got the advice from him.

I believe the Attorney General did not get the file until very recently and I would not have mentioned it if the Minister had not brought him into this. However, let it pass.

I put this in my statement because I think it is important that every relevant reason for my deciding to put down this motion should be shown to the public. Some Deputies said that I may have been too contentious in my remarks. I do not think so. It is my duty to explain precisely how the misconception arose. The misconception arose here in the House particularly in regard to the function of the Coroner and his jury and these misconceptions got some publicity. They received comment as if they were valid conceptions in the public press. It is specifically stated in the Coroners Act that the functions of the jury are not limited to the question of mere ascertainment of the cause of death in the medical sense. Section 30, to which I might refer Deputy Dillon, of the Coroners Act, 1962 says:

Questions of civil or criminal liability shall not be considered or investigated at an inquest and, accordingly, every inquest shall be confined to ascertaining the identity of the person in relation to whose death the inquest is being held and how, when, and where the death occurred.

A running misconception in the course of the question and answer debate in the Dáil, a running misconception through the whole debate was that the Coroner's inquest was confined merely to ascertaining the medical cause of death, when, in fact, section 30 of the 1962 Act is quite global and enables the Coroner's jury to come to a conclusion on all those very important non-medical aspects which are causing the concern which has been expressed here in the House by Deputies and by newspapers outside. I want to put it on the record that the Coroner's jury was fully entitled, if it had evidence before it, to come to conclusions as to how and when and it what manner this unfortunate man met his death, but the only evidence they had was on the medical aspect and they quite clearly brought in their verdict that they had no evidence on any other aspect of how and when——

Not "by whom". They have no power to determine by whom.

No, but they could say so, if they were satisfied that a person or persons inflicted injury on the deceased. They are free to bring in a verdict accordingly.

Oh no. Section 31 expressly forbids them. Section 31 of the Coroners Act, 1962 reads:

Neither the verdict nor any rider to the verdict at an inquest shall contain a censure or exoneration of any person.

This is not the point.

They cannot find any person guilty or not guilty.

I have taken the fullest advice available to me in this matter and I am reading the plain meaning of the section, and the plain meaning of the section is that the jury can in ascertaining, in inquiring into the death, inquire also into how, when and where the death occurred.

Not by whom.

Not by whom.

There was no evidence available to indicate to the jury, and the jury so found, as to how this unfortunate man met his death.

I want to emphasise again what I stated here in my statement that although the Attorney General advised me one week ago after his mature consideration of all the papers in the matter that there was no evidence of a criminal act by any person, I ordered the Garda to intensify their investigations into the matter, into any possible lead which could lead to some ascertainment of the cause of death. In the course of that investigation, they pursued one lead to London to see whether a witness might be able to amplify a statement already made before the inquest.

I want to mention that we have been at pains at all stages since this matter has broken, and indeed the Garda Commissioner, at my direction, at the very beginning, issued a statement in which he said that every help would be given to the solicitor for the next-of-kin, that the full statements available to the Garda would be supplied well in advance to the solicitor for the next-of-kin. Indeed the Garda witnesses showed a total interest in the presentation of all their evidence at the inquest—indeed to the extent that statements made by them might appear to an ill-minded person to point suspicion at the Garda, but these statements were given in evidence by them freely and voluntarily at the inquest. My attitude from the initial stage, and the attitude of the Commissioner, was to facilitate in every possible way the ascertainment of what happened in this case.

So far, the central issue remains unresolved. The Commissioner, the Coroner's jury, the Garda, the Attorney General and everybody concerned have not been able to ascertain how this happened. Public unease has developed largely for the reason mentioned by Deputy Dillon that the rumour-mongers—with certain encouragement, I must say—have been holding sway and matters are being said without any basis in fact and this has unfortunately led to a situation where I felt that there was no alternative to holding a sworn inquiry, a judicial inquiry at which sworn evidence would be heard. Deputy O'Higgins suggested that this should have been my decision in the first place. If, every time rumours gather and rumour-mongers start their dirty work, I as Minister for Justice should automatically hold a sworn public inquiry, presided over by judges, this would obviously undermine the whole structure and administration of justice in this country. I will not, and I do not think any other Minister for Justice would, automatically order a sworn inquiry of this nature merely at the drop of a hat because rumour-mongers are active. That is not my conception of my position. If, every time an incident of this kind occurred, or a similar incident, because people started to talk, I were to react immediately——

A man is dead in a Garda station without medical aid. That is not a trivial matter.

——and have a sworn inquiry or a judicial tribunal of this kind, I would be making nonsense of the whole system of the administration of justice. It is precisely because I regard this matter as other than a trivial matter that I decided not to order a judicial inquiry lightly, at the drop of a hat. I decided to come to the House and to answer a question put down by a Fianna Fáil Deputy from Cork city.


A Fianna Fáil Deputy from Cork city had it put down for me to answer so that we could discuss the matter. He decided to put down this question which could be answered fully and comprehensively, and this was done for the purpose of having the most comprehensive investigation into the matter.

Why not stop there? We agree with the motion.

I am not going to be stopped.

Deputy Corish means that we do not want to hear any more Fianna Fáil secrets.

This is most embarrassing.

It is not a bit embarrassing in the world.

If it is not embarrassing for the Minister, it ought to be.

Deputy Wyse put down the question in order that we might discuss the matter here. I was glad to answer it fully and comprehensively in the House. I decided not to advise a sworn inquiry as a matter to be done lightly and immediately. I decided to answer the question fully here, and to hear the comment that would take place. As Deputy Dillon said, the rumour-mongers were getting active and public unease was caused. Because of development of this public unease, I decided to change my mind. That was the reason and the only reason.

You have done right. God bless you, and say no more.

It was necessary in order to allay public suspicion to have the inquiry which we are now going to have, and which will take place in accordance with proper procedure.

Hear, hear.

Question put and agreed to.