Mae Sexton on Vincent Browne

Last Thursday, June 23rd, there was a discussion on the Vincent Browne show on RTE Radio 1. The panel included various politicians, including Mae Sexton, PD TD for Longford/Roscommon.

The debate in question centered on the death of Brian Rossiter in Garda custody in Clonmel in 2002. I have transribed a portion of the debate, but the audio will be available on archive at the RTE website.

I have highlighted some curious remarks by Mae Sexton.

VB: Mae Sexton, how could we be in a situation like this after all that has come out about the Gardai. How could the Minister for Justice behave like this yet again?

MS: Well I suppose, could I first of all say that it is regrettable that anyone would die in Garda custody. Can I just ask this question by the way for clarity. Is this the young boy whose parents decided to leave him in the station over night to teach him a lesson?

VB: His father did yeah. By the way it was illegal to have him remained, to have him retained in the station, but anyway..

MS: Yeah but I mean first and foremost, as I say, it’s regrettable that any child, at the end of the day it’s a child

VB: We all know that, and when somebody starts off…

MS: Ah no no

VB: …some blather…diversionary blather..

MS: Not it’s not, it’s not. In defference to the family because they’ve lost a child.

VB: We know, everyone knows that…

MS: Just want to say….secondly, certainly if my 14 year old was arrested there’s absoultely no way, Vincent, that I would allow him to remain in a Garda station, no matter what he had done. Like he’s still a child, and…

VB: Deal with the main points

MS: Thirdly, this young man appears to have been assaulted before he ever got to the Garda station. He had been on the streets for a number of nights, apparently, before it happened.

VB: He’d been playing around the streets beforehand…on the streets doesn’t mean that he was living rough or something. He wasn’t.

MS: Well he was on the streets anyway and he was obviously being watched by the Gardai, because…I am only sayingthat this is my comprehension of what I’ve read, eh, about the case. And, so, I have to ask the question, y’know, why was he brought in and left there by his parents who should have been there…

VB: His father…

MS: Somebody should have been there…

VB: His father..

MS: Well his father but someone should have been there in loco parentis, that’s the first thing I’d say in this particular case.

VB: That’s the first thing you’d say? My god. Breathtaking.

MS: Having said that, I am trying to defend what you are saying in relation to the reports that appear to have been given by Michael McDowell or to Micheal McDowell from the Gardai. I imagine that the first report would have been pretty much the same as any other reports, you can’t get involved in a case that is being pursued by the Gardai until it’s finished. I understand that there was a civil case being pursued as well which would have excluded the Ministers involvement in it.

VB: No, no, no, no. What happened was that the fella who assaulted…and this too is a bit worrying, I would have thought. The fellow who assaulted him on the Sunday night was charged with manslaughter. So get in first and charge this fellow with manslaughter, fix the blame straight away. Now they’ve backed off that and they’re not going to charge him with manslaughter anymore they are just going to charge him with assault.

MS: I’ll just finish the point I’m making, that there would appear to be a whole load of people responsible for what has happened. I would absolutely agree with you though, and Vincent I grew up beside the Garda barracks in Longford and I have the height of respect for the Gardai. But I am also fully aware that there are groups, in the country, of Gardai, who are capable of doing things that they shouldn’t do but I would be concerned first of all to hear exactly what the assault that took place was, and the reports on that assault.

VB: Mae, Mae. The fact of the matter is that a boy, a 14 year old boy, died in Garda custody.

MS: Absolutely

VB: Wouldn’t you think that would necessitate an independent examination on it’s own?

MS: Well I, yes I would imagine that will happen now..

VB: It didn’t happen

MS: Well…

VB: It hasn’t happened since, just a minute, just a minute. And then when this evidence begins to mount that there’s reason to be greviously worried about what happened to a boy in Garda custody. Wouldn’t you think after all we know about the Gardai that the Minister for Justice woul day, would now have the sense to say, let alone the humanity, but the sense to say ‘My god we better make sure we are not caught on the wrong side on this one, let’s have some independent examination of this’.

The conversation then broadens, but comes back to VB versus MS:

VB: Mae Sexton’s first response was to fix blame on the father

MS: I absolutely believe that as a parent I have a responsibility…my 14 year old, anytime…and I make no apologies for that Vincent. Even though I am sorry for the father who didn’t….I still believe I would not leave my 14 year old in a Garda station. And I’ll tell you what, particularly when you talk about the McBrearty case and all that has gone on, who in their right mind would leave a 14 year old in the custody of Gardai?

VB: You go on about this as a diversionary tactic to avoid the responsibility of Michael McDowell.

MS: I’m not, I would welcome an investigation…absolutely

The above marked comment is very strange indeed. Mae Sexton is saying that no minor is safe to be held in any Garda station anywhere, and by implication I would assume that if a 14 year old boy is not safe, then neither is anyone. Bringing the McBrearty case into only deepens the hole she has already gotten herself in. The question she poses is correct, but she doesn’t seem to realise that it makes her look incredibly hypocritical. Who indeed would either leave a 14 year old in Garda custody, or indeed an 18 year old, or a 30 year old, or anybody for that matter?

MS: You have already said that the charges have been changed from what were orginally manslaughter charges to assault charges, I presume he is trying to find out if the assault happened prior to i mean there’s natural justice here Vincent and I still say I would not have left my 14 year old son in a Garda station

MS: (speaking over VB) to learn a lesson, Vincent come here listen, there is personal responsibilty on parents. You know there wouldn’t be any need for ASBOs and all the things that are needed if parents took responsibility for their children. Simple as that. Simple as that. And I fully accept that the Gardai are entitled to be defended, just because you find one group…

VB: (speaking over MS)It’s shocking, shocking, shocking that you fix responsibility on the father for this appalling thing, is really appalling, it really is, I am actually sorry I brought it up, I didn’t think there would be anybody as cynical as you are to blame the boys father in the circumstances. Sorry about this, let’s go to a break.

The above passage was a shouting match. Vincent became so angry he cut to a break.

Brian Rossiter

Vincent Browne has taken this story to heart. It is an extremely serious incident, and one that I believe people do not know enough about. In fact it’s not extremely serious, it’s blatantly and completely unbelievable that this could happen in any country that claims to be a democracy.

The long and short of it is, that in 2002 in Clonmel, a 14 year old boy went into a Garda cell and came out of it, for all intents and purposes, dead.

There are very serious inconsistencies in this story, that would lead a reasonable person to call for a fully independent investigation into the circumstances of the death of Brian Rossiter.

But the arms of the State do not see it that way. There are extremely serious questions to be asked of the behaviour of the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell. Various things about this story could shock a reasonable person, but to me, what is most shocking is the behaviour of An Garda Siochana and the Minister.

Here is the Irish Times reports on it:

Brian Rossiter was involved in a row with an older man in the town around September 8th, 2002, during which he received a black eye. He was also complaining of headaches.

Two days later he was arrested and taken into custody on suspicion of having committed public order offences following the breaking of windows in the town.

His father Pat Rossiter said he consented to his son being held overnight in custody at the time because he felt that a “short, sharp shock” would teach him a lesson.

Gardaa­ told him Brian had overdosed on alcohol and ecstasy, but two toxicology tests showed no alcohol or drugs in his system.

So prima facia the Gardai lied to the family. It is also illegal for a 14 year old to be held in a Garda cell overnight. Brian was taken from the cell in a coma, and died after having his life support machine switched off.

There are reasonable grounds for an independent, non-Garda investigation into the circumstances of someone becoming comatose in Garda custody and subsequently dying. More importantly when that person was a minor.

I will be coming back to this story following the outrageous comments of Mae Sexton (PD) on the VB show last night.

Man claims he was paid for setting up McBreartys

If you don’t know anything about what happened in Donegal, this is small example of the kind of thing the Gardai were up to. And this is a very very small example. There were much more serious goings on than this.

A man from Sligo said yesterday that he received payment from a detective sergeant for getting caught drinking on a premises owned by the McBreartys.

Key witness Bernard Conlon (49), said he testified against the McBreartys after being asked by Det Sgt John White to get caught in Frankie’s Nightclub in Raphoe.

The tribunal is inquiring into an allegation that Det Sgt White set up the McBreartys by asking Mr Conlon to get caught after hours and be a State witness.

It is alleged that a Detective Sargeant perverted the course of justice, bribing a citizen in order to prosecute another citizen, during a vendetta by the Gardai against the McBrearty family. This is actually small fry at the Morris Tribunal, why are Irish people not getting worked up about this?

And how much does it cost to bribe someone to stay late?

Det Sgt White then visited him at home in Sligo. “He said to me I’ve done a good job and he gave me some money as far as I recall in a brown envelope from his back pocket. As far as I remember it was £200,” he said. He made a statement in Sligo station. Later, he received a summons to appear at Letterkenny Court as a witness.

Former Revenue chief tells of Dunne meeting

Yet another lapse of memory at the Moriarty Tribunal. There is definately something in the air at Dublin Castle that prompts people to forget important information.

The former chairman of the Revenue Commissioners, Philip Curran, said he had forgotten by the time of the McCracken (Dunnes Payments) tribunal that his predecessor had met Ben Dunne.

However he did not tell the tribunal that his predecessor, Sa©amus Pairca©ir, had also met Mr Dunne.

Mr Curran said he must have seen a Revenue briefing note of March 1988 stating that Mr Dunne had a number of meetings with his predecessor.

“It would not have surprised me because chairmen sometimes meet people.”

By 1997, at the time of the tribunal, the issue did not occur to him, and if it had he would have thought other people had dealt with the matter. He said that when the tribunal had contacted him in 1997, by way of the Revenue, he “felt it was best” to mention his meeting with Mr Dunne. “It didn’t occur to me that I should talk about meetings others had.”

Mr Curran was a commissioner with the Revenue from 1983 and was appointed chairman in 1987. He retired in 1990. He said he was requested to go to Mr Haughey’s office in March 1988 and did so. Mr Haughey told him Mr Dunne wanted a meeting to discuss his tax affairs.

Speed of Garda Bill criticised

It is scandalous. And the Garda Bill 2004 has now been passed by the Dail.

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte asked why the Taoiseach proposed to adjourn the Dail on July 1st.

“This is unprecedented in my memory. What possible excuse is there for adjourning this House on July 1st, except that the Taoiseach and his Government want to escape the chamber?”

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said that there had been a long debate on the Bill.

“The heads of the Bill were published and a consultation process was initiated.”

Fine Gael justice spokesman Jim O’Keeffe said that established parliamentary procedures, dating back to the 19th century or before, were in place to enable legislation to be considered properly over different stages.

“Such procedures have been followed as long as we have participated in parliamentary democracy on this island and on our neighbouring island.”

McDowell denies he wanted to sack Garda chief

Bitter exchanges in the Dail between Pat Rabitte and Michael McDowell.

Minister for Justice Michael McDowell angrily denied he had wanted to sack Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy.

The denial came amid heated Dail exchanges with Labour leader Pat Rabbitte, who had asked Taoiseach Bertie Ahern if the Minister had sought to remove the commissioner.

“That is an outrageous allegation,” said Mr McDowell, who was sitting on the Government benches. “There is no substance in it. The deputy has no principles.” Mr Rabbitte said he had not made any allegation. “I asked a question and I am very interested in the impact it has on the Minister.” Mr McDowell said it was a question similar to “when did you stop beating your wife?”.

The full debate can be read here.

State may face €100m legal bill for planning tribunal

It should be remembered however that a far larger sum than €100 million has been recovered by the State in terms of unpaid tax revenue.

A decision by the planning tribunal to award legal costs to most witnesses has left the State with a bill running into ten of millions of euro.

The chairman of the tribunal, Judge Alan Mahon, said yesterday he would award costs “save in exceptional circumstances” to witnesses who had co-operated with the inquiry and against whom no adverse finding had been made.

His decision paves the way for most of the 170-plus witnesses who appeared before the tribunal between 1998 and 2002 to have their costs paid by the State.

Informed estimates say the bill for their legal costs could approach €100 million, on top of the running costs of over €30 million for the tribunal itself. This amount far exceeds the €34.5 million paid to the Revenue Commissioners in connection with tribunal-related inquiries up to 2002.

'Unusual' to see witness in canteen at Garda station

Latest from the Tribunal:

A witness for the prosecution in a case against the McBreartys under the licensing laws went back to the Garda station canteen in Letterkenny with senior officers, a Garda sergeant said yesterday.

Garda Sgt Sarah Hargadon said Bernard Conlon came back to the canteen and it was unusual for a civilian to be there.

One of the allegations being looked into by the tribunal is one made by Mr Conlon that he was asked by Det Sgt John White if he was willing to be caught on the premises of a night-club owned by the McBreartys in Raphoe after hours and become a State witness against Frank McBrearty snr.

Minister defends OPW over spending accusations

Yet more juicy stuff from the Public Accounts Committee.

The report says that over €19 million has been spent acquiring accommodation for asylum seekers which was never used. It also says it is likely that a considerable amount of this investment will be lost when the properties were sold.

The report also says that the cost of renovating a property for the Probation and Welfare Service ran to 10 times the original estimate of €150,000.

It also criticises a lease arrangement, originally entered into by Cork County Council , for the provision of temporary premises for Cork courthouse.

The report also reveals that the provision of overtime cover for prison officers on sick leave cost €8.6 million in 2002.

The Irish Times report continues:

The vice-chairman of the committee, John McGuinness (FF), said there had been a number of “ridiculous decisions” taken by the OPW in relation to property projects. He said that he hoped that the same would not happen in the roll-out of the Government’s decentralisation programme.

Mr McGuinness said he believed that if the OPW was a private company that it would be closed down as it could not go on with such losses. He said if Mr Parlon did not believe there were problems he should “take his head out of the sand”.

However, Sean Ardagh (FF)said that he would not accept that there was incompetence within the OPW.

Mr Parlon told The Irish Times yesterday the committee’s report was dated and unfair to the OPW.

He said the OPW had been involved in the provision of accommodation for asylum seekers in 120 locations around the country and the committee had highlighted five centres which were held up due to local legal challenges.

Mr Parlon said the OPW had generated €100 million last year from sales of State property. He said that if OPW was a private company he would be in line for a bonus payment. Mr Parlon described Mr McGuinness as “an opposition spokesman within the Government”. He said that Mr McGuinness was a constant critic and that he did not know what axe he had to grind.

Law will make sacking of gardaí easier

Given that Gardai can’t really be sacked – no matter how corrupt or criminal they are found to be, this on the surface seems like good news. But I seriously doubt it will ever actually be used, afterall the acts carried out in Donegal by Gardai don’t get much more serious – and no one has been sacked.

The significant new powers, described as “revolutionary” by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, are likely to provoke fury among the Garda Representative Association and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors.

Once the powers are implemented, the commissioner will be able to bypass long-running disciplinary appeals rules and sack gardaa­ if their presence in the force “undermines public confidence”. Five gardaa­ sharply criticised by the Morris tribunal have been transferred to the Garda headquarters in Dublin from Donegal, but they have yet to face disciplinary proceedings.