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15 Jul 2004 16:00
Members of Ireland’s police force planted hoax Irish Republican Army weapons finds in the northwest of the country in 1993 and 1994 in an effort to boost their chances of promotion, a judicial inquiry reported on Thursday.
Justice Minister Michael McDowell said the government regarded the findings with the “utmost seriousness”.
Two years ago parliament set up an inquiry tribunal under the former president of the High Court, Frederick Morris, to investigate a series of allegations against police based in the border county of Donegal.
In a damning 544-page report, Morris found members of the Irish police, or Garda, “planted” alleged Irish Republican Army arms and bomb-making equipment in Donegal and later purported to discover the hauls or ensured they were uncovered by third parties.
The Irish Republic Army is Northern Ireland’s largest Roman Catholic paramilitary organisation.
Political opinion in the province is split between mainly Catholic Republicans, who want Northern Ireland reunited with the Irish Republic, and Protestant Unionists, who want it to remain part of the United Kingdom.
“The Tribunal has reluctantly been forced to come to the conclusion that there was corruption among a small number of individuals within the Donegal [Garda] division.”
“But it has also been compelled to find that this situation could not have flourished and gone unchecked had the leadership of the Donegal division not behaved negligently and slothfully,” Morris says in his first report.
“In the discharge of their duties certain senior officers fell below the standards that the public might reasonably expect of them.”
“Corruption can occur in many guises: here it was the abuse of police investigation for personal self-aggrandisement through fraud. That can happen again.”
“The most shocking aspect of the Donegal investigation has been the extent to which ill-discipline came to pervade the Garda through the abdication by senior officers of their duty to maintain the men and women under their command in good order and in the pursuit of standards based upon truth,” the report says.
McDowell described the report’s findings as “clear and stark”.
“The extent of culpability ranges from instances of negligence to, in the cases of a superintendent and a detective—both currently suspended from duty—corruptly orchestrating the planting of ammunition and hoax explosives.”
“Clear and immediate questions are raised by the findings about the position of the Superintendent and the Detective Garda as members of the Garda,” he said.
A police spokesman said it was “a dark day for the force”.
In a statement, police commissioner Noel Conroy said he was immediately setting up a working group under deputy commissioner Peter Fitzgerald to examine the report’s recommendations “so that appropriate action can be taken as soon as possible”.—Sapa-AFP
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