Shane Tuohey’s family has yet to be told what form the inquiry will take, who will lead it or when it will begin. They now say they fear they will not be able to support it and that the truth of what happened to Shane will lie buried indefinitely.
“We have contacted the Department of Justice repeatedly but we have got clarity on nothing,” said Shane’s sister, Gemma Guinan. “We were led to believe the inquiry would be up and running quite quickly but now there’s no timeframe. They are just running circles around us. “
The Department of Justice said consultation with the Attorney General about the terms of reference for the inquiry was ongoing and it could not comment further.
Shane Tuohey, 23, from Derrycooley, Rahan, Co Offaly, disappeared on February 2, 2002 and his body was found in the Brosna river a week later. His inquest recorded a verdict of suicide but his family do not accept this and say evidence that he was assaulted before he vanished was not investigated.
The family’s campaign led to an internal review in 2006 which found flaws in the investigation but the inquest verdict was upheld.
However, the family continued their campaign and had a breakthrough in 2015 when they discovered CCTV footage of Clara village where they believe Shane was assaulted, that they had been told had gone missing, was actually sitting safely in a Garda station. They have been fighting since for access to the recordings, or at least to the report that was drawn up on them.
Their case was one of 320 referred to the independent review mechanism set up by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald in 2014 to consider complaints of Garda failings and misconduct in criminal investigations.
It was one of five of those cases that were declared last June to warrant inquries. Ms Guinan said the family had greeted that decision with caution at the time and they now feared their reservations were justified.“It’s very hard to believe what you are being told when you haven’t had the truth for 15 years.
“We never got the reports of the internal reviews — not even the report of the independent review mechanism that recommended the inquiry — and now we’re not getting answers about how the inquiry will proceed. We have two big concerns. The gardaí involved in Shane’s case — 99% of them are retired — will they be compelled to appear? And will we be allowed cross-examine witnesses? If not, this will be a fruitless exercise.”
The minister, in reply to a parliamentary question last month, rejected claims her officials were not communicating with the Tuoheys’ solicitors, saying they had addressed general issues. Her department added yesterday: “The department is still consulting with the AG regarding the terms of reference and the legal format for the orders setting up the inquiries. We hope to have this completed shortly.”