A FORMER Minister for Justice has sidestepped questions about the appropriateness of a cold case Garda review into the death of a 23 year-old banqueting manager in 1984.
Former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald appointed retired District Court judge Patrick Clyne to lead an inquiry into the Garda investigation and disciplinary inquiries that took place following the death of Patrick Nugent (23) Feenagh, Sixmilebridge at the end of a 40th wedding anniversary party in the early hours of February 11, 1984.
His death was one of the 320 cases examined by the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) set up by Minister Fitzgerald, following a complaint made by the family relating to alleged Garda misconduct in June 2014.
Rural and Community Development Minister Heather Humphreys visited the Lisdoonvarna Fáilte centre, which is accommodating Ukrainian refugees on Thursday. She previously took on the role of Justice Minister while the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee was out on maternity leave.
Minister Humphreys was asked if she supported the recent decision by the Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris to conduct a cold case review of the Nugent file in light of Judge Clyne’s findings concerning the initial garda investigation in view of the fact she would have dealt with this case when she deputised for Minister McEntee.
Minister Humphreys said, “It would be wrong of me to comment on a case at the top of my head because there are a lot of cases and files that come across my desk.
“I can’t remember that specific one but I am happy to get my colleague Minister Helen McEntee to provide you with an update.”
The Minister was informed the case related to the death of Bunratty banqueting manager, Patrick Nugent in 1984, problems arose in relation to the Garda investigation and this case was included in
Garda Mechanism Review, which resulted in a report completed by Judge Patrick Clyne and has also been raised in the Dáil.
“It did come across my desk as minister. But to tell you exactly what the position is, it would be unfair of me to do that as I may give the wrong information.
“As far as my memory serves me, there was engagement with the family on this. There is no point in me in saying anything as I could be giving you the wrong information. I don’t have the file to hand.
“There are a lot of files as I am sure you can appreciate. I am not trying not to answer you as I don’t remember. A lot of things have happened since I was in the Justice Department. I will ask my colleague Helen McEntee to contact you with an update on this.”
A spokeswoman for the Nugent family stressed they have been thinking and living this case every single day since February 11, 1984.
“I suppose to a certain extent, this is what the problem is. Ministers come and go. It’s been passed down since 1984.
“Probably like many ministers, Minister Humphreys doesn’t remember. The Nugent family do. We have been thinking about and living this every single day since February 11, 1984.
“It’s easy for the ministers to not remember, it’s not easy for the family,” she said.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee recently confirmed the Garda Commissioner has instructed that a fresh investigation be undertaken into the matters as part of a so-called cold case review, which Judge Clyne determined required further investigation following consideration of his final report.
In a letter to the Nugent’s legal team KRW Law, Minister McEntee’s private secretary, Emma McHugh stated the Garda Commissioner has instructed an investigation would be undertaken as part of a cold case, which would be given to a “fresh team to fully investigate”.
“It is not the minister’s decision, or indeed within her powers, to instruct any such investigation.
“In so far as you suggest that alternative forms of further inquiry should be considered by the minister, the minister would note none of the alternatives suggested would have the criminal investigatory powers of An Garda Siochána.”