RYLE DWYER: After 39 years, truth about death of brave garda must finally be told

ON Monday the attention of the nation was focused on two funerals — that of Garda Robert McCallion, who was mown down in Donegal, and Roy Collins, the businessman shot in Limerick.

Ironically that night, RTÉ was re-running the Garda Ar Lar programme on the murder of Garda Richard Fallon in April 1970. Garda Fallon, 44, was shot dead as he and another garda chased armed raiders who had just robbed the Royal Bank of Ireland on Arran Quay, Dublin. He was the father of five young children.

Then Taoiseach Jack Lynch assured the nation that everything would be done to bring “the perpetrators of this foul deed” to justice. The army was called out to assist the gardaí. “Helicopters and scout planes swept overhead as armed patrols checked vehicles along the border to stop any escape into the North,” according to press reports next morning.

The gardaí, who were following a definite line of enquiry, took the extraordinary step of publishing the names and addresses of seven people that they thought “may be in a position to help them in their enquiries”.

Garda Fallon’s funeral was a massive occasion. He was the first garda murdered in the line of duty in almost 28 years. Three of his four brothers were serving gardaí at the time. Some 1,000 gardaí attended the state funeral.

One might think that no stone would have been left unturned to uncover the killers of a garda, especially when he had three brothers in the force. In fact, the fourth brother, Martin, who was working in England at the time, returned home to join the force, at the minister’s invitation.

Richard Fallon was posthumously awarded the Scott Medal for Bravery. He certainly deserved it. But nobody could blame members his family, if they concluded it was just an effort to buy their silence in the face of outrageous behaviour.

The investigation was pathetically botched. No effort was made to cordon off the crime scene. Children found spent cartridges at the scene and handed those to the gardaí. Questions must be asked as to whether the investigation was deliberately fouled up. Three of the seven men listed by the gardaí were subsequently charged, but they were each acquitted.

The explanation may have had more to do it with incompetence than intrigue, but the ensuing story involved a frightening collection of people with close contacts in the corridors of power.

Gardaí were convinced that members of Saor Éire were responsible, as they had carried out some 17 robberies since 1967. One of those involved later told the Fallon family “that one of the gang members had been smuggled out of the Republic in a State car”.

That story has been doing the rounds for over 30 years. Gerry L’Estrange told the Dáil on November 4, 1971 that “one of the men who murdered Garda Fallon was brought down to Greenore ferryboat in a State car”. He did not name the minister responsible in the Dáil, but gardaí were convinced it was Neil Blaney.

Barely a month after the killing, the arms crisis erupted, and people on both sides of the Fianna Fáil divide shamelessly played politics with the Fallon murder.

For instance, Jack Lynch used the Fallon murder in a grubby effort to cover up the fact that he had demanded the resignation of Minister for Justice Micheál Ó Moráin, who was incapacitated by chronic alcoholism. He should have been removed months earlier.

“I wish to state that Deputy Ó Moráin’s condition is not unassociated with the shock he suffered as a result of the killing of Garda Fallon,” Lynch told the Dáil. “I wish to repudiate emphatically that no attempt was made by this government, by any member of it or by any person associated with it to ease up in any way on the hunt for the perpetrators of this foul deed.”

The same day Neil Blaney told a reporter that “those working in the ‘Super-Special Branch’ would be much better employed tracking down Garda Fallon’s killers than spying on those elected to serve the people of the country.”

He was using the Fallon murder for his own sordid ends by essentially questioning why he was being investigated.

“In view of all the developments we have heard about in recent months,” he told the Dáil on July 29, 1970, “I would query how active these forces have been in apprehending the murderers of Dick Fallon? The murderer was witnessed by some members of these forces and yet the people involved in the murder have escaped the net.”

Having had his driver, a garda now dead, help one of the wanted men to escape, he was now taunting both the Government and the gardaí. One of those arrested for questioning on suspicion of possibly habouring the raiders was Con Ahern, the father of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Des O’Malley — who was Minister for Justice when Blaney made his reprehensible statement — told the Dáil in July 2001 that “there is some reason to believe Garda Fallon may have been murdered in April 1970 with a weapon which had been part of earlier illegal arms shipments into this State.

There is also reason to suppose that some senior gardaí suspected that a prominent politician was fully aware of this earlier importation and had turned a blind eye to it.”

Investigators believed that Pádraig “Jock” Haughey had smuggled a consignment of pistols in through Dublin Airport the previous September.

The prominent politician in question was, of course, Jock’s brother Charlie Haughey, who was in charge of Customs at the time. In the run up to the arms crisis he actually ordered customs not to inspect that shipment.

In the circumstances surely checks were made as to whether he had issued a similar order in relation to Jock Haughey’s consignment. What did they learn? Such scandals have a way of gathering a momentum when not properly investigated.

THE murdered garda’s son, Finian, was not yet even three years old when his father was murdered, but he has taken it upon himself to search for answers.

Thirty years after the murder he went in search of the files relative to the murder, but they were withheld. Why — who is being protected? “It is my belief,” he told the Garda Ar Lar programme, “that the Government, or elements within the Fianna Fáil Government of the day, were embarked on a common endeavour with subversives to supply arms to the North for whatever reason, and that one of the guns made its way into the hands of the gang, or members of the gang, called Saor Éire, who supposedly killed my father, and in the aftermath of that I believe that the Government had to cover up those circumstances.”

Finian’s elder brother, Richard, obviously shares those suspicions.

“If he is wrong we would absolutely be delighted to be assured of that,” Richard said.

They are enormous grounds for suspicion as the behaviour of successive governments has been an affront, not only to the Fallon family but to the Garda Síochána as a whole.

Such shabby treatment of the family of the man posthumously awarded the Scott Medal was also an insult to all other medal holders.



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