Remembering John Carthy, with hope

The Longford man's sister tells Alison Healy the tribunal of inquiry into his shooting may finally reveal the truth

The Longford man's sister tells Alison Healy the tribunal of inquiry into his shooting may finally reveal the truth

Three years after John Carthy was shot dead in Abbeylara, his mother and sister still receive cards and letters from well-wishers.

The number of cards and letters increased when the Barr tribunal began hearing evidence last month, as part of its inquiry into John Carthy's death on Holy Thursday in 2000.

Holy Thursday was a significant date for John Carthy, as his father and grandfather had died on that day.

Now, since his death, it has become an even more significant date for his mother Rose and sister Marie.

John (27) was shot dead by members of the Garda Emergency Response Unit at 5.45 p.m. on April 20th, after a day-long stand-off with gardaí at his home outside the Longford village.

The incident started sometime after 3.40 p.m. on the previous day, when he fired two shots from the house. He was apparently upset about the family's move into a new council house beside their home.

His mother grew worried for his safety and left the house, asking relatives to phone the gardaí so they could remove her son's gun.

The first gardaí arrived at the house at about 5.55 p.m. and Garda numbers swelled to about 60 as events spiralled into a tense stand-off. He was shot four times when he left the house the following evening.

The Carthy family are now preparing for John's anniversary Mass on Easter Sunday, but this year Marie Carthy may remember his death with more hope than before.

Since his death, she has been asking for the truth to be told about the incident. Now, a tribunal of inquiry is finally under way.

This is the fifth inquiry into the death following the inquest, the Garda report into the incident, the FBI report and the aborted Oireachtas inquiry.

John Carthy suffered from depression and was described at the Barr tribunal as a very sensitive and vulnerable young man, with a keen awareness of his illness.

One wonders what he would have thought of so many inquiries into his life and death. "I never really thought about that," said Marie.

"But if he was looking at it happening to someone else, I know he would think there should be a peaceful way of resolving it."

She said she was "very happy" at the way the tribunal was progressing. "A lot of important questions are being raised and answers looked for," she said. It was essential that these questions were answered. "All we have ever wanted is to get the truth."

She plans on attending the tribunal most days. Her elderly mother has not travelled to Bow Street in Dublin yet to see the tribunal at work, but both women are scheduled to give evidence sometime after Easter.

Mrs Carthy has been described at the tribunal as a "quiet and shy woman". Marie said she expected the experience of giving evidence would be very difficult for her mother, but she would have to go through with it.

The tribunal is moving quickly through its work, which is divided into six modules. It has already heard evidence from medical practitioners who dealt with John Carthy, some gardaí and some neighbours.

The second and possibly the most detailed module will look at the circumstances of the shooting, including the Garda handling of it and the effect of the media presence on the incident.

Other modules will look at the gun licence law in this State, the handling of similar stand-offs in other states and the history of the Emergency Response Unit.

It has been estimated that the tribunal could hear all its evidence within six months, although this depends on the length of its summer break.

Whatever might come out of the tribunal, Marie Carthy says that she is hopeful that the publicity surrounding the shooting will ensure that nothing similar ever happens again.

She also hopes the highlighting of John's illness will help people who have depression. "So many people suffer from it. There's not a family in the country that doesn't have a relative or friend with depression," she said.

Many people were driving to the country for their Easter break when they heard about John Carthy's death. The letters, cards and phone-calls suggest that people will still pause today, three years on, to remember the events. "It had such a big impact on people," said Marie. "John's friends still ring up, especially his friends in Galway. People have not forgotten."

The Carthy family erected a memorial plaque outside their home yesterday.