Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy has said he fully accepted the Morris Tribunal report's findings, adding that it was a matter of profound regret that the families involved were mistreated by the force.
“I want to take this opportunity to apologise to those people,” he said.
Detectives manufactured evidence, made wrongful arrests and acted completely improperly towards prisoners during a botched murder investigation, the damning report found today.
The findings of the sixth report of the Morris Tribunal into corruption by rogue gardaí in Co Donegal also found that officers had cheapened justice and damaged the reputations of innocent families.
The long-standing inquiry, which has led to ongoing reforms of the force, warned that the investigation into the death of cattle dealer Richie Barron, in Raphoe, Co Donegal, in October 1996 had severely damaged the reputation of gardaí.
Mr Murphy said he was deeply disappointed that the Tribunal also found that some of his officers were less than forthright with the inquiry.
“The vast majority of gardaí perform their duties in an ethical manner, never violating or abusing the authority granted to them and working at all times to meet the needs of the communities they serve,” he said.
“The small minority who fail to observe those professional standards do a grave disservice to their colleagues and dishonour the history and tradition of a proud organisation.”
“It cheapened the presumption of innocence and undermined the truthful resolution of a very tragic case,” inquiry chairman Mr Justice Frederick Morris said in his latest report.
The former High Court judge said his latest findings were concerned with the potential for catastrophic injustice when laws are flouted, protections abandoned and lies told by some gardaí in pursuit of those whom they regard as guilty.
“That unhealthy focus or tunnel vision in the course of the Barron investigation led to manufactured evidence, wrongful arrests and completely improper behaviour by gardai towards prisoners in their custody,” he said.
“It dominated the lives and struck at the reputations of two families: the extended Quinn family and the McBrearty family. It did serious damage to the reputation of An Garda Siochana, and its integrity and professionalism.
“It contributed towards social division in the town of Raphoe where bitterness and resentment related to the death of the late Richard Barron and the subsequent Garda investigation continue to this day.”
Justice Minister Brian Lenihan, who was accused by the Opposition of trying to bury the embarrassing report on the day the new Taoiseach took office, said the unlawful arrests and mistreatment of people in custody had no place in a disciplined police service.
“The disgraceful behaviour of a small number of gardaí in Donegal during a period in the 1990s should not be allowed to overshadow the dedication to the State and to public service shown by the vast majority of members down through the years,” he said.
“It is important to make it clear at this juncture that very significant reforms have now been put in place, arising from findings of previous reports of the Morris Tribunal, which greatly strengthen the protection of the rights of persons in Garda custody.”