An electrician arrested for questioning about the death of cattle dealer Richie Barron was afraid to tell the truth about his activities because it might embarrass his wife, the Morris Tribunal heard today.
Damien McDaid, 43, from Newtowncunningham, Co Donegal, said he hadn’t been sure if he had been with another woman or not on the night the cattle dealer died in October 1996.
“I don’t know what happened that night, because I was hammered. I was full. I didn’t know if I was in Raphoe,” he said.
The semi-illiterate Donegal man, who had employed five people in his successful electrical contracting business, was arrested by gardaí on December 17, 1996 for questioning about his activities on the night of Mr Barron’s death in Raphoe.
Mr McDaid has alleged that a detective thrust a handgun into his mouth in Letterkenny garda station as officers tried to force him to confess to playing a part in the death of Mr Barron.
After being given more than an hour and a half to consider his position, Mr McDaid told the tribunal that there were some things he had been worried about discussing.
“I’m sorry judge, it’s just this woman, I didn’t want my wife to hear about it.”
The father-of-two, who is now separated from his wife, told gardaí in 1999 that some of his wife’s relations had been at the disco and that he did not want them to see him with the woman. He left early in his van and dropped the woman home.
Judge Frederick Morris said that considering Mr McDaid was now saying that he had not been with his girlfriend that night, it was utter rubbish for him to claim that he would be afraid to tell gardaí the full story.
“Listen, you have to make sense for God’s sake. Mr McDaid, there’s no use trying to pretend you’re not able to cope with this. You’re a highly intelligent person who has employed five people from time to time. You know where this story has come from, you produced it or he did.”
Mr McDaid said that he had been too drunk to remember what had happened and so half of his account in 1999 had come from gardaí and half from him.
“That’s what they said to me. They said you were up the road, you had this woman with you in the van. I didn’t know, I had to say ’Aye’.”
He said that after gardaí arrested him for questioning, he had lost his livelihood, his wife and his two children. He also said members of the force had constantly harassed him.
“I was tortured with them. They were outside my house. If you wanted one, you had to head to my house,” he said.
He later sent a letter to his solicitor, saying: “I cannot step out my door for the gardaí on my back because I was in Frankie’s nightclub on the night Richie Barron was killed and the guards think I have something to do with it but I do not.”
Earlier, the tribunal heard that the garda notes taken during his 1996 interview recorded Mr McDaid saying that he had seen two IRA men arguing with staff members in the car park of the Parting Glass pub on the night of Mr Barron’s death.
But Mr McDaid’s denial of this, and his conflicting and evasive answers led Judge Frederick Morris to warn him to think about his answers.
“You’re telling me that in this first interview, they made up the notes. But when you’re interviewed another time by another two guards, and they produce the notes from the first interview, that was your chance to say ’I never said those things’. But you didn’t, you gave an explanation,” he said.
Senior counsel Paul McDermott, representing the tribunal, asked Mr McDaid why there were so many contradictions in what should have been a simple story about the events on the night of Mr Barron’s death.
“Because I can’t mind that I was in Raphoe. Because I can’t mind that I was pissed,” replied Mr McDaid.