1997 campaign’s ‘heavy gang’ claims

ÁRAS archives — the stories that made the news in past presidential elections.

* Background: In 1997, there were five candidates: Mary McAleese, Mary Banotti, Adi Roche, Dana and Derek Nally. The latter, who ran as an independent, was a former garda who had taken to the justice minister in the 1970s his concerns about the brutality of the so-called “heavy gang” in the force. Two decades on, the repercussions were still felt.

* The headline: Nally wants ‘possible assassins’ to identify themselves.

* The story: Presidential candidate Derek Nally described as scandalous and sad an allegation by a group of former gardaí that there were people who would be willing to put a bullet in his head.

He called on those gardaí to come out publicly and make the allegations against him.

“I want to be able to identify the people who are making the threats and identify my possible assassins,” he said in Limerick.

Mr Nally was speaking on allegations made on RTÉ’s Primetime and a suggestion that a group of ex-gardaí might come out against him, as a group had done to Adi Roche.

“I am not afraid of any physical violence that could be perpetrated against me,” he said.

Mr Nally believed he was being subjected to threats because of speaking out in the 1970s against some of the force.

“I spoke about a small handful of unrepresentative gardaí who in my view were bringing the force into serious disrepute,” he said.

There were allegations coming into the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors when he was general secretary that gardaí were ill-treating prisoners.

“I never saw any of this, but it was a very strong view in the Garda force at the time and I brought the matter to the attention of then Minister for Justice, Paddy Cooney.

“I think it is scandalous and sad that a group of people who were supposed to be the protectors of the criminal justice system, to be protectors of law and order and protections [sic] of the rule of law, would come and say these kind of things.”

Mr Nally said he was sure the former gardaí were not speaking about his support for Sergeant Tom Tully of Boyle, Co Roscommon, when he opposed the Garda authorities and the then minister for justice in their attempts to transfer him.

“I got 100% support for my stand on that.”

Meanwhile, the Garda Representative Association and Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said they knew nothing of plans by members or former members to make allegations against Mr Nally.

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