Martin Ferris in the Dáil today

Mr. Ferris: Like previous speakers, I welcome the second report of the Morris tribunal. The belief that what happened in Donegal was as a result of a small number of gardaí effectively being out of control is something that needs to be examined. If that were the case, one would assume there was never a heavy gang in the State. While a prisoner in Portlaoise Prison in the 1970s, I witnessed at first hand Nicky Kelly, a colleague of Deputy Rabbitte, being helped up the stairs after being brutally assaulted and beaten by members of the special branch. Not one member of this heavy gang was held accountable for their brutal actions.

This also calls into question the sacrosanct evidence accepted by the Special Criminal Court, where the word of a special branch man as against a defendant is taken as absolute, even to the extent that verbal admission, regardless of how it is extracted, is accepted as evidence to secure convictions. As elected representatives, we must ensure that what took place in Donegal and what is taking place in many other areas does not happen again. Since becoming a Member of this House, I have been trying to get the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to examine the planting of a gun in a man's car, but to no avail. The gun was subsequently destroyed on the orders of the Minister. This speaks volumes about this man who opposed the setting up of this inquiry. He has resisted it from the beginning. As Deputy Gormley said, he is now saying he delivered on this.

We must also examine the convictions secured on evidence produced by the senior gardaí mentioned in this report. Where do the victims stand in all of this? It is likely that many innocent people in many counties were convicted on verbal admissions or signed statements, regardless of how they were extracted. I attended meetings with Joe Costello in the 1970s and 1980s when there was an attempt to raise this issue, but the State stopped it. I recall the Fianna Fáil Party in Opposition speaking out against the heavy gang, but when it went into Government it did nothing about it.

There are many issues to be examined in this regard. I suggest that the Morris tribunal should include in its terms of reference the collusion in the assassination of Donegal county councillor, Eddie Fullerton. He was shot dead in his home and nothing has been done about it. The investigation has been hindered because elements in control of the British forces were involved in the case. We must also examine the use of informers - people who would sell their soul for money. These people were being used without any accountability.

An Ceann Comhairle: As I pointed out to Deputy Rabbitte, a brief comment is in order this morning on the Morris tribunal report and a more detailed comment may be made in the debate which has been promised in coming weeks.

Mr. Ferris: With respect, I would be failing in my responsibility as a public representative if I did not bring to the notice of the House today the use of Garda informants in the Donegal matter, which was very evident in the report. I welcome the fact that this issue will be debated. The debate must take into account all the aspects I have raised, including issues that were hidden by this House and the State in the past. People were never held accountable for the wrongs and injustices they perpetrated against victims inside Garda barracks. Members of the special branch were given the freedom to do what they wished. I look forward to the debate to which I will contribute in due course.

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