Diary - August 1984: Justice, Drugs and Mountjoy
IN JANUARY THIS YEAR a meeting was held between the senior garda officers innvolved in the Nicky Kelly case and the Director of Public Prosecutions. The DPP wanted to know why John Fitzpatrick had not been arrested and charged with the Sallins train robbery which had taken place eight years earlier. The meeting discussed whether it was now possible to charge Fitzpatrick with the robbery.
This information has been revealed in "Round Up The Usual Suspects", by Derek Dunne and Gene Kerrigan, which is published today.
Fitzpatrick was first arressted under Section 30 on April 5 1976 and held for 48 hours. His first statement was an account of going to Limerick with Micnael Barrett on the day of the Sallins robbery. His second statement made at 8.15 in the morning of April 7 admitted to the robbery but did not name anyone else. He was also alleged to have made verbal statements naming all the other IRSP members supposedly on the robbery.
Fitzpatrick got bail along with the others accused of the robbery and spent eight months waiting for the case to come to trial. Then Justice o hUadhaigh dismissed the case. In December 1976 word came from the DPP's office: arrest and charge Nicky Kelly, Brian McNally, Osgur Breattnach, Mick Plunkett and John Fitzpatrick. The day the others were arrested the gardai raided Fitzpatrick's parents' home but Fitzpatrick wasn't there.
That was the end of his involvement in the case. Seven years passed.
In October 1983 proceee"mgs began for taking Nicky Kelly's case to the European Court. Also, John Fitzpatrick gave a press conference in Dublin. He told the press that he had an alibi for the night of the robbery when he had stayed with various members of the Hayes family in Limeerick. If he was brought to court and his alibi stood up there would be a problem. Not alone had he confessed to the robbery but he was named in Nicky Kelly's connfession. If he was elsewhere that night, why did he connfess and why was he named in Nicky Kelly's confession?
Either the press conference or the European hearing alerrted the DPP's office to the existence of Fitzpatrick. Senior gardai were summoned to a meeting. When asked why they hadn't arrested Fitzzpatrick as they were ordered to do, they said that they couldn't find him, that he had fled the country.
According to "Round Up The Usual Suspects", Fitzzpatrick says he never left the country during this seven year period except to go on holidays. He says that during this time he lived in constant fear of being arrested again and charged. He claims that h,e was seen by the Special Branch just three months after the others had been recharged.
So the senior gardai sat in the DPP's office in January of this year and they discussed whether they should re-arrest Fitzpatrick and if not why not. It was concluded that the grounds of appeal which had been successful in Osgur Breatnach's case would also be likely to be successful if Fitzpatrick be tried and connvicted on the basis of the statement which he made. So the outcome of the discussion between the gardai and the DPP was that Fitzpatrick would not be prosecuted.
So, John Fitzpatrick, against whom there was preecisely the same evidence as Nicky Kelly was not prosecuted. For seven years, while Kelly was being tried, absconnding, on the run in Dublin and America, and in prison in Portlaoise, John Fitzpatrick walked free.
"THE DIFFERENCE BEEtween their approach and mine," said Barry Desmond about Sinn Fein, "is that I am prepared to combat the evils of drug abuse in a demoocratic manner." Speaking at St Colrncille's Hospital in his Dun Laoghaire constituency last month Desmond had
nothing good to say about the local Provos and their innvolvement in the anti-drugs campaign. He promised that "financial resources" would be made available to approved voluntary groups, that a new extension to the hospital would be equipped to handle drug cases and that further facilities would be provided at a planned new health centre in Loughlinstown.
In considering Mr Dessmond's proposals Dun Laoghaire citizens should have a good look at the exxperience of the people of St Teresa's Gardens.
Agitation about heroin in St Teresa's Gardens did not come out of nowhere suddennly last summer. It began in May 1981 when the then Health Minister, Michael Woods, was presented with a petition asking him to take action about the "heroin epidemic" in the area. This followed a speech by the Minister in Maynooth College in which he had claimed that there was no serious drug problem in the Republic.
The Minister attended a meeting in Teresa's Gardens in the first week of June 1981 when he was told by local parents and community workers that children as young as twelve were affected by heroin in Teresa's Gardens. The delegation gave the Miniister a list of demands, the first of which was for a local drugs treatment centre.
For eleven months nothing happened, apart from endless lobbying from local people of TDs, the Eastern Health Board, the Department of Health and the Garda Drugs Squad.
In April 1982 at the launching of the community magazine "Gardens" a senior Eastern Health Board official announced that a "rehabilitaation centre ... the first of its kind in the country" would be set up in the locality. The
official, Ms Aine Flanagan, gave a detailed account of how the centre would be run. It was to be managed by a committee chaired by an Easstern Health Board social worrker and including representaatives of the local development committee, the clergy, a docctor and a health nurse. It would provide a day-time
drop-in centre, therapy for drug abusers and education on drug abuse aimed partiicularly at young people. There would be three fullltime posts. One had already been advertised. All that was needed were premises.
For more than a year nothing happened apart from the taxi traffic jams at the entrance to the Gardens as addicts poured in to do busiiness with the local pushers and the lobbying of every official who could be found to do something about the problem.
Then Fergus O'Brien spoke on "Today Tonight" about the government Task Force report on drug abuse. He announced that premises had been found - a four classroom school building owned by the Sisters of Mercy In reasonably nearby Weaver Square.
The premises existed and they still do. They are empty and they are falling asunder.
On April 9 this year Barry Desmond attended an open day at a community club in the Gardens and was pleased to announce that the Weaver Square premises had now been purchased. He wasn't as specific as Aine Flanagan had been two years earlier about the running of the centre, although he did promise that local people would have a "major say". Possibly encourraged by the Minister's speech, Aine Flanagan spoke at a seminar in Trinity College on May 31 in terms which left some of her listeners with the impression that it was already in operation.
In fact it would take up to 12 months to do the place up and there is no sign of the three full-time workers, not even the one whose post was advertised in April 1982. The earliest the centre will open - if it ever does open ˜will be the summer of next year.
This saga provided a full explanation for the emerrgence of the Concerned Parents movement in St Teresa's Gardens in June last year. Two years had passed since it had been made known to the Department of Health that heroin abuse was epideemic in the area. During this period all the democratic methods urged by Desmond on the people of Dun Laoghaire had been tried. They achieved nothing.
AT LUNCHTUME LAST Friday eighty prisoners sat on the ground in the exercise yard of A-Wing. Later thirrteen prisoners climbed on the roof of A-wing. Eleven stayed there for 28 hours without food or water. On Sunday morning at Mass a student priest received minor injuries to his neck when he was attacked by a prisoner. Another prisoner took the microphone and shouted "Let's get the screws." Other prisoners stood on their seats and began shouting and channting.
The Department of Justice informed the public that there was "no reason" given for the protests. The General Secretary of the Prison Offiicers Association said that the problem was lack of discippline.
There were, however, reasons for the protests. The first was the events of Thurssday, the day before the prootest, when an assault case against two prison officers, arising out of the riots in the prison last November was dismissed on a technicality. The prison officers in court were jubilant in court and those prisoners who had been brought. to court as witnesses went back to Mountjoy and relayed the news.
Last month we revealed that 400 letters were found' in Mountjoy which had not been delivered to prisoners. The Department said it was enquiring into it; nothing has happened about it. .
Mountjoy prison is still overcrowded; many of the prisoners have a heroin probblem. There is no treatment for drug addiction. The prisooners still wash in cold water. They get only one shower and change of clothes a week. There is still no work for the prisoners in . A wing because the workshops were destroyed in last year's riots. Prisoners still spend over fifteen hours a day locked in their cells.
IN THE LAST ISSUE IN AN analysis of the Euro-election results we said that the Labour vote in Dublin South East had been seven per cent, which if transferred to a general election would mean that Ruairi Quinn would lose his seat. In fact the figure was eleven per cent which will still leave Quinn in trouble but with some chance of regaining his seat.
And now for some more good news. The circulation of Magill has gone up from 30,500 in the last six months of 1983 to 33,045 in the first six months of 1984.