Seven hours elapsed on Saturday between the fatal shooting at Coolgraney, St Mullins, Co Carlow, of computer graphics expert Jim Healy, 30, and the subsequent suicide of farmer Michael Kehoe, 38, the man who shot him in a bitter dispute over land.
Mr Kehoe had initiated civil legal proceedings against Mr Healy over a land deal, gardaí said, but would not confirm the nature of the action.
A trained scene commander to coordinate the efforts of everyone in Carlow was available to gardaí, but negotiators had not arrived at the farmhouse on the Carlow/Kilkenny border before Mr Kehoe turned his gun on himself.
The negotiators, specifically trained to talk to people in such situations, were en-route when Mr Kehoe committed suicide, Garda Chief Superintendent at the scene Pat Murphy confirmed.
Fine Gael’s Justice spokesman Jim O’Keeffe has called for an independent examination to be carried out into the events surrounding the murder/suicide and the results of that probe to be made public.
“We need a system which permits such expert personnel to be dropped in by helicopter if necessary. We’re not trying to point the finger of blame, but there needs to be a deep examination of what happened, how and why.”
Local Fine Gael TD Phil Hogan insisted that gardaí working in such a fraught case need better support.
“This has all the hallmarks of an Abbeylara II. Promises were made at that time that gardaí would have better resources. Those resources now have to be delivered,” the Carlow/Kilkenny TD added.
Garda Chief Superintendent Pat Murphy said reinforcements were called in and were all at the scene.
“No trained negotiator was at the scene. They were on the way and they were in contact with the people here on the ground, advising them. A trained scene commander from Co Wexford was here throughout the time from 4pm to 6pm. We are investigating the entire matter and it is at a very early stage but it appears there was an issue in relation to land,” he said.
A garda spokesperson in Dublin said that officers at the scene were satisfied with the level of resources available to them.
“We are happy with the resources deployed and the way the scene was managed. Obviously we are not happy with the outcome and what happened was a tragedy. We are going to investigate all the circumstances and if changes are required, they will be implemented,” the spokesperson added.
The Department of Justice said the matter was one for the gardaí, and that if the Garda Commissioner feels that additional resources are required in the wake of this weekend’s tragedy, they will be considered by the Government.