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Family secure inquiry into Bunratty death

A Clare family has won a drawn-out campaign to secure a State inquiry into the death of a 23-year-old banqueting manager in Bunratty in 1984.

The terms of reference for the inquiry into the death of Patrick Nugent, Feenagh, Sixmilebridge  are still to be determined, but his family has called on the Department of Justice to set up a wide-ranging sworn public inquiry as quickly as possible.

Mr Nugent died at Bunratty Folk Park in the early hours of February 11, 1984. His late parents, Joe and Nellie, and his brothers, Martin and John, have been campaigning for justice since then.

The death of Mr Nugent was one of the cases examined by the Independent Review Mechanism set up by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, in June 2014, after a complaint made by the family relating to alleged Garda misconduct.

Minister Fitzgerald appointed a panel of barristers to conduct a review. Their role was to review the correspondence and other documentation in each case, examine the action that had already been taken in relation to the issues raised and to advise what further action, if any, might be appropriate.

Having considered the papers in this case, counsel recommended that the minister should appoint a person pursuant to Section 42 of the Garda Siochána Act to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Nugent.

In a letter to John Nugent, the minister confirmed she had accepted the recommendation of counsel.

John Nugent said the family do not want the inquiry to be established solely on the provisions of Section 42 of the Garda Siochána Act. If this provision is only applied, he said its findings can’t be admissible in any subsequent criminal proceedings, which is not acceptable to the family.

A Department of Justice spokesman said in some cases the counsel panel made recommendations for special inquiries under Section 42, which the minister accepted.

“Section 42, as amended by section 42 of the Criminal Justice Act 2007, sets out the statutory scheme for the establishment of a special inquiry under that section. In the first instance, the Minister will be consulting with the Attorney General in relation to the setting up of the special inquiries recommended by the panel,” he said.

Martin Nugent said the 19-month delay involved before the completion of the independent review was difficult for the family as this latest process was akin to reliving the time after Patrick’s death.

The family want an input into the completion of the terms of reference for the new inquiry to ensure it is open and transparent and providing the answers to a number of unanswered questions surrounding Patrick’s death.

They believe the new inquiry should examine evidence providing during the  trial and inquest, which attracted huge local and national media coverage at the time, the subsequent garda internal investigation and all parties involved in these proceedings.

They are seeking legal advice in relation to how the new inquiry should proceed and believe it must have the statutory powers to compel witnesses, if necessary, to give evidence concerning the circumstances surrounding his death.

John Nugent said the family wanted to make written submissions to the inquiry and don’t want it to be conducted behind closed doors.
“We want this inquiry to be completed in a timely fashion as quickly as possible and don’t want it dragging on for years and years. We need the inquiry to give us answers over what exactly happened Patrick that night.

“This inquiry should have been conducted at least 25 years ago. I suppose it is better late than ever,” he said.

“It is a relief that Patrick’s death will be the subject of an inquiry because he had almost lost hope because this was going on so long,” he said.

He made a fresh appeal for anyone who may have seen something suspicious that night to come forward and provide new evidence to the inquiry to facilitate some answers for the family so that his brother can rest in peace.

On June 3, 2014 John Nugent wrote to Justice Minister Fitzgerald seeking justice for his beloved brother. He enclosed a copy of the rider attached by the jury following an inquest in October 1985, which called on the Minister for Justice at the time to have this matter further investigated.

In this letter, he stated that he didn’t want a “garda bashing exercise, but just wanted the “truth so my brother, Patrick can rest in peace”.
He also outlined several questions the family raised 31 years ago that still remain unanswered.

“Who struck Patrick before he died? If Patrick was simply knocked down, who moved his body and why? Why was there such a delay in informing local gardai about this death. Why were the family told different reasons as to how Patrick died? ” he asked.

Dan Danaher

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