The Morris Tribunal and the Wall of Silence

The sixth report of the Morris Tribunal was published today.

If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you might know something about the disgraceful behaviour of the Gardai in Donegal that led to the setting up of the tribunal.  They framed, suspects, beat them up in custody, manufactured evidence, lied to their superiors and ultimately tried to lie their way out of the tribunal.

But Mr Justice Fred Morris is a crafty old bird and he saw through the lies.  I’ll just give you a flavour of what he said in his report and you can read the whole lot on the tribunal web site if you want to.  Have a look at these extracts in Morris’s own words:

  • Once again, the Tribunal was faced with Garda­ who were determined to hide the truth of what happened. They made statements to their superiors which were in many instances minimalist in their detail and failed to give a fully truthful account; in a number of instances the statements were a complete fabrication.

  • It was disturbing to find a  deep seated reluctance to concede that a colleague had acted  incorrectly or wrongfully or that the complaints made by the detainees were true the wall of silence was maintained.

  • Unfortunately, this approach extended to and was encouraged by senior officers in this investigation and in the overall approach adopted by An Garda Síochána to external complaints.

  • The deficiencies observed by the Tribunal in the manner in which An Garda Síochána acted in these matters, by their nature, are not peculiar to Donegal. Issues of accountability, tunnel vision, the proper investigation of offences, the treatment of persons in custody, and responsible leadership of criminal investigations, are all issues related  to general policing.

  • The Tribunal has already referred to the wall of silence that has been experienced in dealing with policemen at home and abroad when they  are faced with allegations of misconduct. This may be viewed with the  other phenomenon of Garda speak which the Tribunal has  encountered over the last number of years, and an understanding by Garda­ that they are expected only to give the minimum amount of  detail in respect of any controversy in which the Garda­ are involved.

  • Gardaí­ should give a full and truthful account in every statement which they make in all cases whether civil or criminal. It is regrettable that  such a basic proposition in relation to telling the truth should have to be spelt out in this way.

  • False evidence was manipulated by members of An Garda Síochána in an effort to implicate suspects whom the Gardaí­­ believed were responsible for the Late Richard Barron’s death. Proper methods of investigation were not employed. Statements were not properly taken from witnesses.

  • Lies and negligence led to the arrest of innocent people and the disruption of  their lives, at a terrible human and social cost for some of them.

  • The most obvious forensic manifestation of this disaster was the procurement from Mr. Frank McBrearty Junior of a false confession, which coincided to a large extent with the incorrect theory upon which the investigation had proceeded. The statement itself was the product of a complete and systematic failure of policing at a number of levels, from the most senior officers leading the inquiry, to those conducting the interviews of certain witnesses and suspects, and a failure to analyse statements and evidence obtained.

  • In this jurisdiction, unfortunately, this has not been a unique occurrence. The Tribunal is now aware of the case of the Late Dean Lyons, in which a false confession was also obtained by members of An Garda Síochána in the course of a murder investigation. Thus, in two very serious recent inquiries, two detainees have yielded false confessions in respect of crimes of which they were innocent.

This is only a small sample of the things Mr Justice Morris has to say about our police force.  He accuses them of dishonesty, incompetence, and institutionalised abuse of suspects throughout Ireland.  Despite what the Justice Minister, Brian Lenihan suggested today, it was not the work of a small number of policemen in Donegal.  This problem is nationwide, and anyone who takes the trouble to read Morris’s reports will be able to see that plainly.

At a time when we need it more than ever, our police force is in deep trouble because of a lack of professional management, professional standards and professional skills.  It’s a cloistered, monastic cabal that regards the population at large as the enemy.  It’s quite willing to harass the average citizen for a minor infringement while at the same time being more than happy to avoid confrontation with the serious criminals who threaten the very existence of civil society.

If our police force is such deep trouble, then we, the citizens are in very serious danger, and nobody in government seems to have the imagination to see that and do something about it.  Fred Morris has done a tremendous job protecting our democracy, and yet Brian Lenihan cynically tried to bury the report by releasing it on the same day a new Taoiseach takes office.  This is a disgrace, but it’s revealing.  This shows you a political mindset that can’t see the danger in having a corrupt and demoralised police force.

We are in big trouble.





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16 thoughts on “The Morris Tribunal and the Wall of Silence

  1. we are in trouble ,I agree and this cant be solved by persons of limited power, what we need is a real life action hero with super powers, and who better to take on the Guards but a criminal, a thief, a robber even,(see where I’m going with this) thats it we need Bock the robber, so put on your cape or a red nighty even and just cake yourself with over the top colouredy make up and free us Bock we need you (we’ll work on the super powers but at least that’d be a start)

  2. Problem Child: I doubt it, though it would be handy, with all the houses they build in their spare time.

    Mr Thelaw: What a good idea, and what a fine, sensible, perceptive fellow you are.

  3. Yep, the timing of this reports release was absolutely and unashamedly cynical. And needless to say unsurprising.

    Hopefully it will stay in the news long after the triumphal elevation of Biffo to Glorious Leader has passed. It’s way past time that this institution was given a root-and-branch cleanout. Trouble is, I can’t see any administration in this State having the balls to do so.

  4. I used live in donegal i didn’t think the guards there where that bad … i remember lots and lots of late night drinking and loads of poteen around and the guards didn’t say anything !! The guards in limerick are way worse .. thats what i think anyway

  5. I see. So you have some inside information about the McBrearty case, the Frank Shortt case and the Adrienne McGlinchy fiasco then.

    Who killed Richie Barron?

  6. What power does the tribunal have?
    Can it recommend sacking?

    If a fair quantity of heads were seen to roll, and not just small fry but a few of the brass also, it might put the fear of god into the rest of them around the country and maybe they’d start getting their act together.

    Not a perfect world, though, is it…

    First stop. Clean out the training centre. Get rid of the thickheads and the brainless. This should be a modern police force, not a sheltered workshop.
    Second step. Insist on further education for the lot of them as they progress through the ranks. Nothing too hard, say, let’s start with basic primary school stuff. then on to secondry, etc…

    Ah, well… what’re the odds…

  7. The Garda here were traditionally Knights Of Columbanus rather than free masons – a Catholic version where they also dressed in silly robes and machinated behind closed doors. Those days of funny dresses are gone but some of the old, insular mindset remains. That said there’s new sheriff in town!

    There’s hope yet.

  8. A picture of the extent of the problem may be seen by the fact that the Garda Ombudsman Commisson is struggling to cope with the volume of complaints against an Garda Siochana.And its a fair bet that those 3000 or so complaints are only the tip of the iceberg.The Gardai have been left do as they like and have answered to nobody for the last eighty something years.During that time they have slowly evolved into a putrid mess.

  9. The Gardai are deeply embedded in society as is the corruption of the law. They are easily corrupted and only increased policing (and punishment) of the Gardai will reduce it.

    But who do we get to police the police?

    We ARE in deep deep trouble.

  10. I suppose that would the same gardai that failed to investigate corrupt politicians. A bit of mutual back scratching perhaps.

  11. well what i meant to say that is i think the guards
    in limerick would give u a “clattering” miles faster than the ones in donegal. It was twelve years ago since i lived up there maybe i am nostalgic . i can remember the stuff in the Dillion bros carpark the rest was after i had left. The main problem with the police as far i can see is that it is a political police force protects the “guys” up top and the rest is extra. If i meet up with any of the donegal lads i will email you with they say Bock.

  12. ferdia 2010 you are correct in your assertion that the the Gardai are a political police force.It states in the leaflet sent to homes last year..An Garda Siochana summary of policing plan 2007..strategic objectives.. their first objective is to maintain national and international security.The afterthoughts are..crime..road safety..public disorder..nurturing respect and trust..and last meeting the needs and priorities of the people of Ireland..Does anybody have any idea why state security would be the first priority of a so called civil police force.What threats to its existence either external or internal does the Republic of Ireland face at this moment ?. Yet this is to be the priority of its police force.Especialy at a time when crime is getting out of control in Ireland but still this is not their first priority but second on their list.Not only have they given Irish state security but in fact international security is also their top priority.They have by extension decided to protect the state security of all the nations on earth.A somewhat grandiose mission by a little Tin Pot Police force in the middle of nowhere.It is interesting to note that it is at the bottom of their list to provide a police force that reflects the needs and priorities of the people of Ireland

  13. What you are saying so William is that you think its perfectly OK for Al-Qaeda et al to operate freely in this country once there is a 100% detection on burglaries?
    As regards the Garda being a political police force please tell me which country has a police force totally independent of Government? It does not exist and in the USA for instance local police forces are controlled directly by an elected Mayor.
    What people seem to forget during these orgies of armchair criticisms of the Gardai are the thousands of Gardai that go to work every day and do a perfectly good and honest days work. Of course DonegaL was a disaster that should not have happened. That it has been investigated and remedial action taken shows the system does work. But to then paint everyone in the Garda Siochana as corrupt gangsters is the same as calling all Muslims terrorists.

  14. “and yet Brian Lenihan cynically tried to bury the report by releasing it on the same day a new Taoiseach takes office.” No shit.

    What is he trying to hide now?

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