The Tribunal of Inquiry into complaints concerning some Gardai of the Donegal Division(Morris tribunal) was established in March 2002 by the then Minister for Justice John O'Donoghue. Its purpose was to investigate allegations of abuse of Garda powers in Donegal during the 1990s and early 2000s.
Widely referred to as the Morris tribunal after its chairman, Mr Justice Frederick Morris, a former president of the High Court and a judge of the Special Criminal Court, the tribunal first sat in 2003 and concluded its public hearings in 2007.
The tribunal was broken up into five modules each culminating with the publication of a report.
Each published report examined allegations of unethical and criminal behaviour by gardai in the Donegal division. Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Frederick Morris has estimated that 1,000 witnesses appeared before the tribunal since its first day of evidence on March 3rd, 2003.
In addition to complaints arising from the garda investigation into the death of cattle trader Richie Barron, the tribunal has examined allegations that two detectives planned fake bomb finds to promote their careers, and allegations that false evidence was planted by gardaí.
The death of Mr Barron has since been deemed to have been due to a hit-and-run car crash. An estimated €14 million in compensation has been paid by the taxpayer to date as a result of civil claims brought against the State and while the final cost of the tribunal itself is not yet known, but to date, the bill runs to €37.5 million, according to recent figures.
Report 1 published 15th July 2004
Subject of report:Explosives "find" in Donegal
Key findings:Members of the Garda in Co Donegal were responsible for "setting up" arms finds to advance their careers. The report found "gross negligence" on the part of senior gardaí in Co Donegal with regard to the handling of the arms 'finds'. It also found that Supt Kevin Lennon and Det Garda Noel McMahon were responsible for the bogus finds.
Report 2 published June 1st 2005
Subject of report:Investigation into the Death of Richard Barron and The Extortion calls to Michael and Charlotte Peoples.
Key Findings:The reports found that gardaí were negligent in their inquiry into the death of cattle dealer Richie Barron in a hit-and-run accident in October 1996. Mr Justice Morris found the inquiry was "prejudiced, tendentious and utterly negligent in the highest degree". He singled out Chief Supt Denis Fitzpatrick (since retired), Supt John Fitzgerald, Det Supt Joseph Shelley and Det Insp John McGinley who "all share in various degrees the burden of fault for this matter".
Report 3 – Silver Bullet Module – Published August 17th 2006
Subject of report:That that a member of the public, Mr Bernard Conlon, was induced by former Detective John White (assisted by Garda John Nicholson) with the promise of reward to be found being served alcohol after hours on the licensed premises of Mr Frank McBrearty Snr.
Key Findings:Det Sgt White was found to have induced Bernard Conlon to be found after hours drinking on the premises of Frankie's nightclub, owned by the McBreartys, in Raphoe in August 1997. This he did in co-operation with Garda John Nicholson of Sligo. "The tribunal is satisfied that Det Sgt White and Garda Nicholson told lies in their evidence to the tribunal in respect of this issue. They also deliberately deceived their Garda colleagues as they tried to deal with these matters," the report said.
Report 4 - Ardara module
Subject of Report:Report on the garda investigation of an arson attack on property situated on the site of the telecommunications mast at Ardara, County Donegal in October and November of 1996
Key Findings:That an explosive device was caused to be put on a television mast by Det Sgt White, with the intention of arresting protesters against the mast.
Report 5 - Burnfoot Module – Published August 17th 2006
Subject of Report:Investigated the arrest and detention of seven persons at Burnfoot, Co Donegal on the 23rd of May 1998.
Key Findings:The report into the Burnfoot module found Det Sgt White planted a very old double-barrelled sawn-off shotgun, with clothes and cartridges, at the Traveller encampment on May 22nd, 1998 to secure the arrest of seven Travellers so they could be queried regarding the murder of Edward Fitzmaurice. Det Sgt White had always denied the allegation. In July 2006, he was acquitted of planting the shotgun at Letterkenny Circuit Court.
Report 6 - published May 7th, 2008
Subject of Report:The Garda investigation into the discovery of Mr Barron's body on the roadway outside Raphoe, Co Donegal, in the early hours of Monday October 14th, 1996.
Key Findings:A number of gardaí mistreated several people who were detained unlawfully during the investigation into the death of Co Donegal cattle-dealer Richard Barron.
Two further reports are awaited, Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan said.
These relate to the term of reference (c) concerning allegations of harassment of the McBrearty family and associates, term of reference (j) concerning the effectiveness of the Garda Síochána complaints inquiry process in that regard and term of reference (h) concerning information received by TDs Jim Higgins and Brendan Howlin that two senior members of An Garda Síochána may have acted with impropriety.