Thursday, July 20, 2006


Barr Tribunal farce

I'm shaking my head in disbelief at today's findings by the Barr tribunal which has found fault with the decision by garda officers to shoot dead John Carthy (pictured left) after he emerged from his house brandishing an armed shotgun.

In 2000, in Abbeylara, John Carthy, who suffered from depression and who had been treated by a psychiatrist, ordered his mother out of the family home leading to a long siege between him, the gardaí, members of the Armed Response Unit and trained negotiators.

During this time John Carthy had fired at gardaí a number of times and efforts by the local priest and friends to get him to come out without the gun failed.

Carthy eventually left the house at around 5pm carrying the shotgun, refusing to comply with garda requests to put the weapon down. As he advanced towards the gardaí he was shot a number of times and was killed.

Now there was a tribunal into this incident which cost €18m and I still can't help but wonder - what exactly was wrong with the gardaí's response?

I understand that the man had some personal problems but at the end of the day he had been shooting at gardaí and had advanced towards them whilst carrying a shotgun! The officers involved had to think of the safety of themselves, their colleagues and everyone else around them and so they had to make a difficult split-second decision. As tragic as this incident was, Carthy brought it on himself.

Bafflingly, as RTE report, Justice Robert Barr has stated that:

"he was satisfied that responsibility for Mr Carthy's death rested primarily with the scene commanders, and to a lesser extent with the Emergency Response Unit tactical commander.

"Mr Justice Barr said the greatest garda mistake was not preparing for an uncontrolled exit by Mr Carthy from his home. He also found failings in garda actions relating to the family, Mr Carthy's doctor and his psychiatrist. The judge found however, there was insufficient evidence that the shooting was an unlawful act.

"The judge has recommended that there be an urgent review of garda command structures and said there needed to be training."

Apparently what the gardaí should have done as a man approached them brandishing a shotgun was to apprehend him with some pepper spray.

The Carthy family have welcomed the report with John's sister Marie commenting that:

"Right now over 300,000 Irish people suffer from depression. In April 2000, at the age of 27, John was shot dead by members of the Garda Siochana.

"For my only brother to die in such circumstances was heartbreaking. Words cannot describe the pain and suffering John’s unnecessary death has caused my family.

"Life has never been the same for us since John died. John’s death has left a huge emptiness in our lives which will remain forever.

"To this day, my family believes that there was no just cause to shoot John."

While I sympathise with this woman and the rest of her family, I believe she is placing blame on the wrong shoulders.

Clearly there are some troubling issues involved with this case. Particularly the fact that John Carthy was allowed to attain and keep hold of a gun despite serious psychological problems and despite a history of offensive and threatening behaviour.

I reiterate my view that the actions of the gardaí in Abbeylara were justified considering the situation they faced. This isn't a situation akin to the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes by British officers, John Carthy instead brought this situation upon himself.

The gardaí should not be criticised for it.


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