Former attorney general dies, aged 87

 

THE TAOISEACH Brian Cowen has led tributes following the death of former attorney general Colm Condon SC, who had responsibility for prosecuting then minister Charles Haughey in the arms trial of 1970.

Mr Condon, who had a distinguished career at the Bar spanning more than half a century, died on Saturday in the Blackrock Clinic in Dublin. He was 87.

Mr Condon was called to the Bar in 1944 and became a senior counsel in 1959. He was first appointed as attorney general in March 1965 by taoiseach Seán Lemass and later served when Jack Lynch became taoiseach. He stood down in 1973 when the Fine Gael-led coalition came to power.

The highest profile case in which Mr Condon was involved was the arms trial. Until the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions was established in 1973, it was the attorney general who prosecuted criminal cases.

As such, Mr Condon took, on behalf of the State, the prosecution against Mr Haughey on charges of conspiring to import arms at a time when both were members of the cabinet.

However, in 1997, Mr Condon, along with Eoin McGonigle, was one of two senior counsel who appeared for Mr Haughey at the Moriarty tribunal and in High Court proceedings challenging the inquiry's powers.

Mr Condon also played a key role in drafting legislation that led to the establishment of the modern Special Criminal Court in 1972. Upon returning to the Bar in 1973, he was assigned by the Supreme Court to argue against the constitutionality of legislation that gave legal effect to the Sunningdale Agreement in the South.

In a statement issued through the Bar Council, its chairman Michael Collins SC said that Mr Condon's high-profile cases may have given a somewhat wrong impression.

"It tends to hide the fact that the vast majority of the work he did was for ordinary people," he said.

In 2001, a new controversy emerged on the events of the arms trial when RTÉ's Prime Time revealed that a statement made in 1970 by Col Michael Hefferon, the head of military intelligence, was changed to protect Jim Gibbons, the minister for defence and to buttress the State case against Mr Haughey and Neil Blaney.

The documentary disclosed that the original statement made by Col Hefferon was withheld from Mr Condon, who, as attorney general, was preparing the case.

Mr Condon, who lived in Dalkey, is survived by his wife and four children.