The family of a suspected killer who died in garda custody today branded as "unlawful" delays to a public hearing into the death.
Angry exchanges erupted as the inquest into Dwayne Foster’s death was adjourned again at Dublin City Coroner’s Court.
The 24-year-old chronic heroin and cocaine user died while under arrest as the chief suspect in the shooting dead of young mother Donna Cleary at a house party in Coolock, north Dublin two years ago.
Superintendent John McMahon of the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation told Dublin City Coroner Brian Farrell a further adjournment was needed in the inquest because of developments in a criminal investigation.
But Michael Finucane, solicitor for Mr Foster’s family, strongly objected to what he described as another lengthy delay in an inquest that has already been adjourned several times.
“I say that’s unlawful, quite simply,” he said.
The solicitor said the family had rights under Article 2 of the Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights to a prompt and public inquest.
Stephen Byrne, barrister for An Garda Siochana, accused Mr Finucane of making a veiled suggestion that the application by Superintendent McMahon – on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) – was other than bona fide or genuine.
In an angry response, Mr Finucane said the comments were designed as a personal attack on him.
“That is an absolutely outrageous allegation and I demand that Mr Byrne withdraw it immediately,” he said.
“I do interpret it as personal and I will take it up in another forum.”
It is understood he has asked to see a transcript of the exchanges with a view to making a complaint to the Bar Council.
Mr Farrell briefly postponed the hearing to seek an assurance in private from Superintendent McMahon that the delay was genuine.
But as he moved to adjourn the inquest for three months after he was satisfied with the DPP’s application Mr Finucane again resisted the delay.
The solicitor said the hearing was unlawfully being postponed on the basis of a private submission without the family being notified of the underlying reasons.
“In simple terms, I submit, coroner, you have done something that you have no lawful jurisdiction to do,” he said.
Mr Finucane said the coroner’s court was legally obliged to carry out the inquest as promptly as was possible.
“It would be a fettering of your discretion not to do that,” he said.
Mr Farrell repeated that he was satisfied the DPP was considering important and weighty matters relevant to any future criminal proceedings and adjourned the inquest until July 4.
Mr Byrne, for the gardaí, said he was almost bemused by Mr Finucane’s persistence in the case.
“I am again repeating to you in open court that the application was bona fide made, that the period requested was bona fide made.”
Mr Foster, of Woodbank Avenue, Finglas, Dublin died on March 7, 2006.
Two days earlier Ms Cleary, 22, was shot dead at a house party on Adare Green, in Coolock, by a gunman who had earlier been refused admission to the birthday celebrations along with a number of other men.