Couple seek change in how gardai deal with young people 

A couple who lost their son to suicide have written to the Garda commissioner to request that policies around the arrest and detention of young people on minor offences be reassessed.
Couple seek change in how gardai deal with young people 

John and Johanna O'Hara, at their home near Granard, Co. Longford. Photo: Bob Morrison

A couple who lost their son to suicide have written to the Garda commissioner to request that policies around the arrest and detention of young people on minor offences be reassessed.

Johanna and John O’Hara firmly believe that their 20-year-old son Niall was devastated over his detention on a public order issue on a student night out in Sligo two weeks before his death.

Niall was in his third year at Maynooth University and displayed no signs that would suggest he was unhappy until after his arrest in Sligo in early March 2019. 

He didn’t tell his parents about it but on the night before his death he spoke to a number of friends about his trepidation at the upcoming court appearance. 

On that night he drank to excess again and was arrested for a second time on another minor public order incident. 

John and Johanna O'Hara, with a picture of their son, Niall, at their home near Granard, Co. Longford. Photo: Bob Morrison
John and Johanna O'Hara, with a picture of their son, Niall, at their home near Granard, Co. Longford. Photo: Bob Morrison

He had never previously been in any trouble and the following day his mother found his body near the family home outside Granard, Co Longford.

His parents have requested a meeting with the commissioner, Drew Harris.

“We, Niall’s heartbroken parents, are now writing to you to highlight our concerns as a matter of urgency in the hope that it will prevent similar tragedies in the future,” the letter reads.

“We are confident that you too will realise the urgency of these concerns and will do everything in your power to affect the necessary change.” The couple have also encountered what they believe was major resistance in their attempts to find out what happened to Niall. They want policies around the adult caution system, family liaison officers, risk assessment and the duty of care of the gardaí to be examined.

“We have so many questions unanswered and we deserve the right to get those questions answered by the gardaí and then we can move on and grieve,” John O’Hara says.

“Let Niall be the catalyst for change,” Johanna says. 

“There is massive reform required. Considering what we’ve lost, what we’re asking for isn’t much. If the commissioner could walk one mile in our shoes he wouldn’t hesitate to make the changes.”

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