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Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Mullingar Inquest.

Wednesday, 15 June 1966

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 223 No. 4

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26.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne asked the Minister for Justice if his attention has been drawn to reports of the inquest held at Mullingar on 3rd June into the death of Mr. Patrick Cunningham of Dublin; and if he will make a statement on this matter, with particular reference to the part played by the Gardaí in the incident.

Minister for Justice (Mr. B. Lenihan): Information on Patrick J. Lenihan Zoom on Patrick J. Lenihan I have read the Garda reports in the case and several newspaper accounts, including an extensive local newspaper report, of the proceedings at the inquest referred to by the Deputy. I am aware that the Garda made appeals to anyone who might be in a position to give evidence to appear at the inquest. I have read the depositions of the various witnesses at the inquest, which, I need hardly remind the House, were made under oath.

The evidence at the inquest was, to my mind, conclusive that this man died as a result of striking the back of his head against the roadway when he fell accidentally. In particular, I quote from the newspaper reports of the evidence of the State Pathologist. He said “Damage to the brain led him to speak with confidence of the cause being a fall. He would not expect that type of brain damage to follow from a blow of a baton, which would not produce the type of fracture he found”. Two Gardaí gave evidence as to the accidental fall. There was no evidence to contradict their evidence.

One witness who was in a passing car while the Gardaí were bringing the man to the station, said that she saw one of the Gardaí kick him and strike him with a stick or baton—but this was not in the immediate vicinity of the fall. There are significant points in relation to that statement: firstly, two other persons in the same car gave evidence that while they saw the two Gardaí and the man they did not see the Gardaí kicking or beating him; secondly, these two persons say that their companion in the car made no [539] mention whatsoever about seeing the Gardaí strike or beat the man and, indeed, the person in question admits that she saw nothing at the time; thirdly, neither of the Gardaí was carrying a stick or baton on the occasion—it is not the normal practice at this station for Gardaí to carry batons; fourthly, the doctor who attended the injured man gave evidence at the inquest that when he called at his wife's request on the following day she then told him that “the two Guards had been very nice and obliging”; and the doctor said that he himself saw the man crawling on the floor hitting into furniture; fifthly, the man himself, although speaking coherently to both the sergeant and the doctor in the Garda station, made no complaint to either of them or, later, to his wife; again, the Coroner who heard the evidence of all parties said in his summing-up to the jury that the evidence of this woman who alleged that—from a passing car —she had seen the Gardaí kick the man and strike him “did not seem very credible”, and he went on to say: “There was no doubt about it being an accident and the evidence pointed to that quite clearly”.

I may add that the two Gardaí, who were on street duty at the time, took the man in question into custody as a result of reports to them that he had assaulted one person, was himself assaulted and had been forcibly restrained from carrying out threats to assault others.

Having regard to the extensive information before me, the evidence at the inquest, including the medical evidence, the Coroner's summing-up and the jury's verdict that the injuries which caused death were due to an accident, I am satisfied beyond any measure of doubt that the Gardaí in the case did not behave otherwise than as they should have in the course of their duty.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne I did not make any suggestion of misbehaviour on the part of the Garda and therefore the Minister knocked down an obstacle that was not there in wishing it on me. I want to ask the Minister is he aware that there is very widespread [540] public concern about this incident, and also doubt?

Mr. B. Lenihan: Information on Patrick J. Lenihan Zoom on Patrick J. Lenihan I appreciate that, and that is why I personally made very extensive inquiries into the matter and gave what I feel is a very exhaustive reply to the question.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne Does the Minister consider that perhaps it would clear the air further—one has to be very specific, particular and careful in all matters relating to the discharge of justice in the country—and would he consider it would be helpful to have a full public inquiry into the matter so that everybody will know exactly what happened and so that there will be no doubt?

Mr. B. Lenihan: Information on Patrick J. Lenihan Zoom on Patrick J. Lenihan If after the exhaustive inquiries I made there had been any doubt in my mind as to the suggestion that was made about the matter, I would have ordered such an inquiry but I have absolutely no doubt in my mind having regard to the facts I have stated in my reply.

Dr. O'Connell: Information on John F. O'Connell Zoom on John F. O'Connell Is the Minister aware that there is public fear in regard to this matter and that to allay it a public inquiry might be no harm?

Mr. B. Lenihan: Information on Patrick J. Lenihan Zoom on Patrick J. Lenihan I think I have given a very full reply to the question.


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