Dáil Éireann - Volume 595 - 14 December, 2004
Written Answers - Garda Investigations.
Mr. Costello Mr. Costello
306. Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the circumstances surrounding the decision to redesignate the Garda investigation into the death of a person (details supplied) from one of a murder inquiry to one of dangerous driving causing death; if he was in possession of this information when he addressed Dáil Éireann on 28 March 2002 prior to Dáil Éireann voting to establish the Morris tribunal; the reason the information was not made available to the coroner’s inquest into the death of this person seven months later; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33020/04]
Mr. McDowell Mr. McDowell
Mr. McDowell:In the ordinary course of events the Department is not concerned with the designation of an incident on the Garda computer. The question of how an incident is to be treated is an operational matter strictly within the province of the Garda Síochána. Consequently, the question of informing the Department of a change in this designation does not arise.
The facts of this matter, as I understand it, emerged in the context of the Morris inquiry, which in its current module is examining the Garda investigation into the death of the person concerned. As a result of questions from one of the parties concerning his status as a suspect on the Garda computer, the chairman, Mr. Justice Morris, asked the Garda legal representatives whether this could be checked. The Garda Commissioner subsequently wrote to the party on 19 November 2004 to the effect that the designation of the death on the Garda computer had been changed from “murder/manslaughter” to “hit and run” on 13 February 2002 and that neither party concerned nor an associated party was a suspect.
For its part, the Department was generally aware in late 2002 that the focus of the Garda investigation into the death of the person was on  the possibility of a “hit and run” but it only became aware that the designation on the Garda computer had been changed when the content of the commissioner’s letter emerged at the tribunal. The change in designation occurred in November 2002 whereas the Morris tribunal had been established in April of that year. While it might have been useful had the Department been aware at that time, it would not have materially altered the approach taken. The situation in Donegal merited the establishment of the tribunal to get to the truth in any event.
All the papers in the Department related to the events in Donegal have been transferred to the tribunal and it is for the tribunal to determine the significance or otherwise of the alteration in the designation. Finally, my Department had no role in and is not in a position to comment on the evidence given at the inquest into the death of the person referred to by the Deputy.
Dáil Éireann 595 Written Answers Garda Investigations.