Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice Martin Kenny TD has called for a state apology and full independent inquiry into the Garda and judicial system that were in breach of the law, forcing confessions and illegally convicting innocent people.
This follows last night’s broadcast of Crimes and Confessions by RTÉ, which investigated the existence of the Garda ‘Heavy Gang’ in the late 1970s and 1980s.
Speaking after the broadcast, which detailed the forced confessions of a number of men by Gardaí at the time of the Sallins train robbery, Teachta Kenny said:
“Many of the same Gardaí last week accused of using heavy tactics in relation to the Úna Lynskey case appear again here in the Sallins train robbery case.
“It seems that a small number of this Garda ‘Heavy Gang’ were repeatedly promoted to powerful ranks within the policing service, which gave credibility to the brutal tactics they employed.
“This occurred despite the international outcry at the time from Amnesty International and other human rights organisations.
“Garda management have never acknowledged the use of these tactics, which led to many of the false confessions detailed in this series.
“There are likely to be hundreds of low profile cases around the country where similar tactics were used against often vulnerable individuals over the decades.
“In the case of the Sallins train robbery, the way the trials were conducted clearly laid bare the worst excesses of the Special Criminal Court system.
“Both Osgur Breatnach and Brian McNally were eventually released by the Criminal Court of Appeal; Nicky Kelly, however, did not face the same fate.
“Although Nicky Kelly was eventually released, this was after a number of appeals and high profile campaigns, including a 37-day hunger strike.
“His release occurred without an admission from the state that his confession was coerced under forceful means. That vindication only came with a presidential pardon many years later.
“What many arms of the state have failed to acknowledge since this miscarriage of justice, is the toll it has taken on the lives of those wrongly accused.
“The state has yet to launch a thorough investigation into their own role.
“I am calling for a full public inquiry into the activities of the Gardaí and the utter failings of the justice system.
“Without learning from these horrifying events, the state risks repeating the wrongdoing of its past.”