130. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her plans for an independent review of all files held by the State into the circumstances surrounding the death of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly in July 1985; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19369/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy will be aware, on 31 March 2015 I published the report by Mr. Dominic McGinn, SC, who was appointed to carry out an independent examination of the report of the Serious Crime Review Team (SCRT) relating to the Garda investigation into the death of Fr. Niall Molloy. The report was published with a number of redactions which were made following consultation with the Attorney General and in agreement with Mr. McGinn.
It is important to acknowledge, as I did when publishing the report, that first and foremost this case involves the tragic death of a man much loved by his family and by those in the community.
On foot of concerns raised by the family of Fr Molloy, the SCRT carried out a major review of the case which involved an extensive examination of the original investigation, as well as detailed inquiries into the additional issues raised. The SCRT report was submitted to the DPP who advised that there be no further prosecution in the case.
While I, as Minister, have no role in the prosecution process I am of course very aware of the claims which have been made about Father Molloy’s death over many years. In an effort to address concerns about this matter, it was decided to appoint Mr. McGinn to independently assess what information could be put into the public domain in relation to the SCRT review of the case, and to advise as to whether further inquiry would be warranted. This was an exceptional course of action, motivated by the desire to bring the greatest possible transparency to bear.
The thrust of Mr. McGinn's report has been to shed light on as many issues as possible in order to minimise the number of unanswered questions regarding the case. The report outlines how some of the concerns expressed about this case are simply not supported by evidence. It also details shortcomings in the original investigation, which were identified by the SCRT Review.
While unanswered questions do remain, the report concludes that the precise events surrounding Father Molloy’s death cannot now be ascertained. It concludes that, given the passage of time, the death of many of the pertinent witnesses, and the reluctance of others to give evidence, that it is unlikely any further inquiry would have a reasonable prospect of establishing the truth. In these circumstances I have accepted the report's recommendation that examination by a further inquiry would not be warranted, and accordingly have no plans to commission a review along the lines referred to by the Deputy.
I acknowledge that this is not the outcome that Fr Molloy's family have sought but I believe it is the only reasonable conclusion that can be reached following Mr McGinn's careful analysis of the SCRT review.