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.
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
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.