Dáil debates

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Adjournment Debate

Garda Investigations.

8:00 pm

Photo of Margaret ConlonMargaret Conlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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I have raised this matter because I wish to highlight the horrendous murder which happened in my constituency, Cavan-Monaghan, at Tullycora, Oram, County Monaghan, last Saturday.

First, I to extend my sympathies to Paul Quinn's parents, Stephen and Brid, and to his family and friends. This murder was one of the most barbaric acts ever committed on a human being in this country. It only takes one person to kill another with one blow. This young man was lured to an isolated rural area, man-handled out to a shed and up to 15 people with bats, crowbars and pickaxe handles brutally ended his young life.

The point has been made that these savages did not mean to kill Paul Quinn. What other outcome could be expected when a gang of masked men repeatedly attacked one lonely man with weapons? Several politicians were quick to claim they knew who did not commit this awful atrocity. However, there are people who know who did and there are people who instructed that this savage act be carried out.

As a public representative for my constituency, I hope and expect that any honourable citizen of this island, north or south of the Border, who knows anything would give such information to the Garda or the PSNI. I commend Senators Eoghan Harris and David Norris on their statements of a similar nature today in Seanad Éireann.

If there was any paramilitary involvement in this murder, it could have serious ramifications north and south of the Border. We cannot afford to regress and undo the years of hard work which has delivered the new institutions in Northern Ireland. I will always advocate a peaceful resolution to any problem. We have learned over the years that violence is not a resolution to any dispute or cause, and the people who committed this barbarous act are nothing but thugs.

The wall of silence that surrounded the murder of Robert McCartney in Belfast must not be repeated in this case. A newspaper at the time said the dogs on the street knew who did it but still no one has been convicted of his murder. It could well be the same with this case. No one has the right to take the law into their own hands. In the McCartney case, the complete lack of respect for human life coupled with walls of silence has led to no prosecution since that awful killing in Belfast in January 2005. This must not be repeated in this case.

Tied in with this case, it must be noted that Ireland's homicide rates are due to hit a record high this year. I urge the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Brian Lenihan, to introduce new legislation which favours the victims not the criminals. Zero tolerance has become something of a dirty phrase in political circles but that is what is needed to protect the silent majority who are law-abiding citizens.

We, as legislators, must act for the welfare of all citizens of this island. We must act with strength. We must pass anti-racketeering legislation, make our criminal legislation more victim-centred and allow the Garda and the PSNI to cross the Border while in pursuit of criminals. As a Border constituency Government Deputy, I will be pushing this at every opportunity.

Murder is murder. The Lord giveth life and only the Lord may taketh away. There is not just one victim of this crime. A community is in mourning. Paul Quinn's friends, who unwittingly were forced to call him to his death, must be badly affected and traumatised. It is his family who are ultimately left devastated by this heinous crime. They must live with the consequences of these thugs' ruthless and savage actions and their personal loss for the rest of their lives.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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I thank Deputy Conlon for raising this serious matter. I also condemn the dreadful nature of this crime. I am certain Deputy Conlon will understand I am somewhat constrained, however, in what I can say in the House on this matter. There is an ongoing investigation into this appalling crime in two jurisdictions. Nothing I say, therefore, should interfere with that process. I have a particular responsibility as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in this regard.

All Members were shocked to hear of the vicious murder of Paul Quinn last weekend. I extend my sympathies to his family and friends who have been robbed of him prematurely.

From the information available at this stage, it appears that Paul Quinn was lured to a farmhouse near Castleblayney, County Monaghan, where he was set upon by a number of individuals. The Garda Síochána was made aware of the incident at 6:10 p.m. on Saturday 20 October. Gardaí arrived at the scene at 6:20 p.m. and found Paul Quinn badly injured. Basic first aid was administered at the scene, and he was transferred by ambulance to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda. He was found to have serious injuries to the head, lower body and legs. Despite the best efforts of the medical staff in Drogheda, he was pronounced dead at 8:40 p.m.

There has been speculation that the intention behind this vicious assault was not to kill but to teach a lesson. That is utterly irrelevant to the barbaric and fatal outcome. Likewise, there has been speculation that the attack was linked to illegal activities in the Border area, including fuel-laundering. Again, whether there is any truth to this, in my view it is irrelevant to the heinousness of the crime.

The Garda Síochána, in close co-operation with its colleagues in the PSNI, is carrying out a full and comprehensive investigation into the murder. It will pursue those responsible with the utmost vigour. In so doing the Garda will have our full support. I urge any member of the public with information on this matter to come forward. If any member of the public can give information on a confidential basis to the Garda Síochána, I would urge them to do so.

I share the Deputy's concerns but, as I have already indicated, there is a limit to what I can say on an ongoing and active Garda investigation. The investigation is at an early stage.

The Garda Commissioner has advised there is no information available to the Garda which suggests that this attack was carried out by, or on behalf of, any paramilitary grouping. The Chief Constable of the PSNI shares that view.

The Garda has appealed for anyone who has knowledge of the attack to come forward. It is vitally important that people with information which might help the Garda find the people responsible and bring them to justice make themselves known.

The details of this murder have already been subject to various theories and speculations, one or two of which I have mentioned, and none of which can at this time be verified. I hope people will allow the investigations of the two police services to run their course and not seek to prejudge this matter. None of us must lose sight of the central fact here, the murder of a young man, the brutal taking of his life by those to whom humanity and decency are complete strangers. Deputy Conlon expressed it very well in her contribution and I echo the appeal of the Garda Commissioner and others for anyone with information about this matter to co-operate with the gardaí and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Deputy Conlon touched on the whole subject of reform of the criminal law and mentioned a number of topics in that connection. One topic she mentioned concerned the whole question of whether officers in the PSNI or the Garda Síochána could have powers of arrest on the other side of the land frontier. It is a measure of the advance we have made in the mutual confidence in policing in this country that a Deputy for a Border constituency can call for that to happen. Certainly, I am prepared to discuss with the Garda Commissioner what can be done to further enhance co-operation between the two police forces on this island. Co-operation between the two forces is already at a very high standard and we must build on that. Any constructive suggestions in that regard will be taken on board. Bringing the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice must be a top priority.