Man alleges gardaí pointed guns at his children during Co Louth raid

Complaint made to Gsoc over operation in which officers were seeking mobile phone

  A complaint has already been made to the Gsoc over the raid and solicitors for Mr Quinn McDonagh are preparing a civil case against the Garda. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

A complaint has already been made to the Gsoc over the raid and solicitors for Mr Quinn McDonagh are preparing a civil case against the Garda. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

A complaint has been made to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) over a raid by armed gardaí in Co Louth during which guns were allegedly pointed at children.

Members of the Armed Support Unit (ASU) forced their way into the home of Michael Quinn McDonagh during an early morning raid on May 23rd, which was part of an investigation into an alleged breach of postal legislation.

Mr Quinn McDonagh said gardaí bound all seven members of his family with plastic handcuffs during the raid and separated the adults from the children.

He said gardaí pointed weapons at three boys, aged between 13 and 16, and at his 19-year-old son who has autism.

Mr Quinn McDonagh said gardaí knew his son had special needs. He said the teenager suffered a panic attack during the raid and was left traumatised. His younger children were also left deeply shaken by the raid and have been referred for counselling by their local GP, he said.

Before the raid, gardaí obtained a warrant as part of an investigation into the alleged illegal sharing of information contained in a postal letter, an offence under the Postal Services Act 2011.

It relates to a letter sent to another house by gardaí informing the intended recipient that drugs charges against him were being dropped. A photograph of this letter was taken by another person who shared it widely online among the community in Dundalk through WhatsApp.

Gardaí alleged one of Mr Quinn McDonagh’s sons was involved in sharing the letter and wanted to seize his phone.

Preparing civil case

A complaint has already been made to the Gsoc over the raid and solicitors for Mr Quinn McDonagh are preparing a civil case against the Garda.

Mr Quinn McDonagh, a local campaigner for the Traveller community, said he believes his family were unfairly targeted because they are Travellers.

Search records seen by The Irish Times show 14 gardaí, including seven members of the ASU, which is equipped with specialised weapons, took part in the raid after a warrant was obtained from the District Court.

A risk assessment listed the potential hazards as “assaults, injuries, cuts/bruises”. It does not mention that three of the occupants were minors or that one had special needs. An attached plan of the house consists of an image from Google Maps. A phone was seized during the raid but no charges have been brought to date.

“Let’s look at the bald facts. Heavily armed gardaí wearing balaclavas and boilersuits carrying semi-automatic weapons forced entry into a house predominantly occupied by vulnerable children and dragged them out of their beds tying their wrists with cable-tags,” said the family’s solicitor, Ciarán Mulholland. “This was all in pursuit of a mobile phone that may have been of possible trivial evidential value.”

‘Discriminatory policing’

Mr Mulholland called the raid an “example of over-zealous and discriminatory policing against members of our Travelling community by gardaí”.

When asked about the search operation, a Garda spokesman said the force does not comment on operational matters.

“The search was conducted under warrant and is in relation to an ongoing criminal investigation. This matter is still under investigation and no arrests have been made to date,” he said. “Where a person believes they have been subject to Garda misconduct they can make a complaint to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.”

A Gsoc spokesman said the commission “does not confirm receipt of any complaint received for confidentiality reasons, for the complainant and the Garda member concerned”.