TDs question garda conduct in several cases

Paul O’Brien

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte has requested Justice Minister Michael McDowell to have the investigation into a hotel fire in Donegal in 1980 reopened following allegations of garda interference with evidence in the case.

However, Mr McDowell has refused to do so, insisting “there is no information currently available to justify re-opening the investigation”.

Ten people died in the inferno at the Central Hotel in Bundoran on August 8, 1980, despite the best efforts of fire fighters to bring the blaze under control.

The exact cause of the fire was never conclusively established. The proprietor of the hotel has insisted for several years that gardaí interfered with evidence in the case.

In addition to wanting the investigation reopened, Mr Rabbitte asked Mr McDowell to consider widening the Morris Tribunal’s terms of reference so that it could inquire into the matter. A similar request was made two years ago by Fine Gael senator Jim Higgins.

However, in his response to Mr Rabbitte’s questions, Mr McDowell said the incident had been fully investigated. “The indications were that the cause of the fire was an electrical fault leading to overheated wires behind facia boards,” he said, adding: “No evidence of criminality was found.”

If the proprietor had new information, the minister indicated, he should make it available to the garda authorities “or indeed to the Garda Complaints Board, to whom any complaint about the manner in which the Garda investigation was conducted should ordinarily be addressed”.

Meanwhile, Labour TD Ruairi Quinn has raised with the minister the manner in which gardaí dealt with an attempted abduction of a 12-year-old girl in Co Meath.

It has been alleged that the person who attempted to abduct the girl was a serving member of the force. The girl’s father has also alleged that the local garda station refused to take his complaint of the incident.

Mr McDowell said he was “acquainted with the incident and the allegations” and had sought a report from the garda authorities. However, he understood the force had forwarded a file on the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), meaning charges could be imminent.

Elsewhere, Independent TD Jerry Cowley accused the gardaí of failing to adequately investigate a road traffic accident in Donegal last December in which a young woman lost her life.

But Mr McDowell said he understood “a full investigation was carried out in this case and a file submitted to the DPP for directions which are awaited.”

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