Gardaí probe granting of firearms cert

AN internal garda inquiry into the handling of the murder and suicide that cost the lives of two young farmers in Co Carlow will probe why the killer was granted a firearms certificate when complaints had been made about his threatening behaviour.

Michael Kehoe, 39, used his legally held shotgun to shoot dead his neighbour, James Healy, 30, before turning the gun on himself on September 3 following a long-running dispute over land ownership.

A senior garda yesterday confirmed that local gardaí had been contacted about Mr Kehoe's behaviour towards other people in the area on a number of occasions prior to the incident. In spite of this, he was not refused a gun licence by his local station when it came up for annual renewal.

Fermoy-based Chief Superintendent Gerry Phillips has been appointed by Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy to carry out a review of the garda handling of the incident.

Superintendent Kevin Donohue of the Garda Press Office said yesterday it was expected one of the issues Chief Supt Phillips would focus on would be Mr Kehoe's access to firearms.

He said: "Chief Supt Phillips was directed by the Commissioner to review all the circumstances surrounding the incident and how it came to happen so I have no doubt he will be looking at that. It is relevant to his enquiries.

"I think you can be satisfied that we were aware of issues arising involving Michael Kehoe and that as a result, people had expressed concerns."

Supt Donohue added: "It is normal to look at the history of the gun and that involves its ownership and licencing history."

Firearms certificates can only be issued by gardaí of superintendent rank or higher and can only be refused if the superintendent has solid grounds to believe an applicant is not of sound mind or temperate manner as a refusal can be appealed in the district court.

Mr Justice Robert Barr, who chaired the tribunal of inquiry into the fatal shooting of John Carthy, who also had a legally held shotgun despite concerns about his behaviour, has queried whether the issuing of licences should be tightened up and whether applicants should have to produce proof of mental fitness.

He is expected to make recommendations on the issue in his final report due in the coming months although gun clubs have said they would be opposed to any further restrictions.

Michael Kehoe was a member of the Glynn and District Gun Club which yesterday defended its decision to form a guard of honour at his funeral despite the upset of mourners.

Club member Lar Cushen said Mr Kehoe had been a very good neighbour and dismissed as "lies" reports that he was a loner and "no angel".

"What happened on the morning wasn't done by the Michael Kehoe that was known around by his neighbours. We don't know what happened Michael that morning. His mind obviously flipped so that's why he committed that offence."

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