Besides the core of this story, McDowell said something very curious in the Dail recently.
But Mr McDowell said a doctrine existed at the time that it was for ‘senior gardaa in consultation with the DPP to decideâ€? what he and the then Justice Minister, John O’Donoghue, could see in respect of the Donegal investigations.
Mr McDowell said this doctrine was based on the ‘profoundly legally mistakenâ€? belief that the Garda Saochana was ‘in privityâ€? with the DPP – meaning they kept between themselves matters of such importance.
The Gardai in privity with the DPP? What? How long has this been going on?
When the DPP was established in 1974 by Professor John Kelly it was said that was on of its primary aims was:
…to ensure, as will be generally agreed to be desirable, that our system for the prosecution of offences should not only be impartial but should be seen to be so, and that it should not only be free from outside influence but should be manifestly so.
In 1999 the then Minister for Justice, O’Donoghue said:
I have respected and will continue to respect the separate role of the Garda Saochana in the investigation of crime and of the DPP in prosecuting crime.
But all this time they were working together? Is this only news to me?
The full, and indeed fascinating debate from Friday’s session (the session that is not broadcast on Oireachtas Report) can be read here, with a lengthy explanation from McDowell. The full quote reads:
Unfortunately, it was the case at the time, doubtless in good faith, that there was a doctrine that the Garda Saochana was in privity with the Director of Public Prosecutions and that it was open to senior gardaa in consultation with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide what the then Minister, Deputy O’Donoghue and myself could see in respect of the investigations being carried out in Donegal.
As I pointed out later, that view was profoundly legally mistaken.
The debate continues with some clarifications and background, and harsh exchanges with Brendan Howlin who said that
There are people who have suffered, who continued to suffer and who still feel we are exposing the truth like an onion, layer by layer. They feel there is now a rush to say there is an awfulness ‘out thereâ€? and we will close that chapter and move on. That will not wash now. It will not wash to have partial solutions railroaded through this House next week. This House watched with horror miscarriages of justice elsewhere in the world. We have our own scandal here and now, our Birmingham Six and Guilford Four and much more. Few issues matter more to the well-being of our citizens than good policing. For once, let this House be strong enough to do all that is required.