Gardaí to apologise over Carthy shooting - McDowell


The Garda Síochána will apologise to the Carthy family when it has fully considered the Barr report into the manic depressive's fatal shooting, Minister for Justice Michael McDowell said today.

Mr McDowell and the Taoiseach have already issued apologies over the garda handling of the 2000 siege in Abbeylara during which Emergency Response Unit members shot John Carthy.

A heavily-critical report by Mr Justice Robert Barr blamed three senior gardaí for the 27-year-old's death and called for a radical overhaul of garda command structures.

Mr McDowell said today: "The gardaí themselves are studying this report. It's 750 pages long. I haven't read it all yet myself. "

The Garda Commissioner has had a number of very significant issues to deal with and I am sure that when he comes to a considered view in this report that he will of course share in my apology to the Carthy family for the very fact that the management of this siege was unsatisfactory and that John Carthy need not, in the particular circumstances, have ended up a casualty."

The Carthy family said last week that the Barr report had laid bare the Garda's gross negligence and incompetence during the siege and it was time to admit responsibility.

A statement added: "After six long years, the truth has been established and it is incumbent on those responsible for the series of errors to be held to account."

Last Friday the Garda officially expressed its regret at the death of Mr Carthy and offered the sympathy of all its members to his family.

A Garda spokesman said several of the recommendations had already been addressed and that Commissioner Conroy was studying remaining deficiencies highlighted by Justice Barr.

Mr Carthy was shot dead by two members of the Garda Emergency Response Unit following a 25-hour siege in Abbeylara, Co Longford.

Mr Justice Barr also called for the introduction of non-lethal weapons and training for garda officers in dealing with people suffering from mental illnesses.

But Mr McDowell insisted today that Emergency Response Unit members at the siege, even though he believed they were mismanaged, were dealing with a life and death situation and it was their lives which were on the line.

He added: "I do agree with the Commissioner that the Emergency Response Unit are not some group of trigger-happy buccaneers. They are people who have put their lives on the line for Irish people time and time again, confronting very dangerous people, subversives and criminals.

"It is a common case that they were not trained to deal with a psychiatric siege."

Mr McDowell said he hoped an identical incident would not happen again and added: "All the training manuals are very different now. Psychiatrists will be called in if a similar incident were to happen again."

The minister said progress was being made on major reforms within the Garda Síochána.

"A huge process of change is taking place right across an Garda Siochana. It's not going to be easy to bring it about and it is taking some time but I'm delivering on that.

"What we are looking at here is a situation that existed literally in the last century. We are now dealing with another situation."