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Patrick Nugent, RIP, pictured in his place of work. He died in 1984.

Nugents will not meet cold case team until concerns addressed

A SIXMILEBRIDGE family has vowed not to meet members of a Garda Cold Case Review Team until its concerns are addressed about the process of conducting a Garda review of previous Garda investigations into the death of a 23-year-old banqueting manager.

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.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee has confirmed the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris 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, 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.”

Apart from an acknowledgement that their letter had been passed on to the Deputy Commissioner in Garda Headquarters, a family spokeswoman said none of their concerns concerning the cold case review have not been addressed.

“We are waiting to get a response from the Garda Commissioner. We are not going to meet the Cold Case review team until we get a response from the Garda Commissioner. We are not saying we will never meet the Cold Case team but not at the moment until we get this response.

“None of our questions, fears or concerns have been addressed. We would have expected a response from the Garda Commissioner before any one contacted us about the appointment of a liaison person to address our concerns about the independence of this investigation.

“It looks like we are back to where we were again in 1984. There is no independence if you have Gardai investigating Gardai.

“The independence issue is a massive thing for us. We want an independent investigation and the Garda Commissioner hasn’t commented on that,” she said.

In a letter to the Nugent’s solicitors on May 27, KRW Law, the Garda Commissioner’s Private Secretary, Paul Minogue acknowledged receipt of correspondence of May 24, which has been forwarded to the Deputy Commissioner, Policy and Security at Garda Headquarters, Dublin.

The Minister for Justice’s Private Secretary, Emma McHugh, stated in a letter to KRW on June 2 the minister’s position remains as set out in her letter dated March 24. Ms McHugh also confirmed the decision not to publish the Section 42 report was taken on foot of the minister receiving legal advice and was not as a result of any specific request from the Garda Commissioner.

KRW has asked the Garda Commissioner in a letter dated June 24 while the Gardai has appointed an officer to engage with them in relation to the matters which are the subject of ongoing communication between ourselves and the commissioner without taking cognisance of previous representations that have been made to him.

If the nomination was in fact made on foot of the ongoing communication between the legal firm, then KRW described this as disappointing in that it serves to compound the families concerns as articulated in their previous representations dated April 13 and May 24.

Pending a formal substantive response from the commissioner, KRW requested Commissioner Harris to suspend this appointment on the basis of unresolved issues raised in their correspondence. In a letter to Commissioner Harris last April, KRW asked Commissioner Harris if he had considered an outside appointment like what was done to examine the murder of Seamus Ludlow in May 1976.

“In particular, we cite issues of concern which gave rise to the Minister recommending a Section 42 inquiry into this case. Those issues and concerns were not eliminated or otherwise reduced following the said Section 42 inquiry by Judge Clyne.

“Those concerns were compounded by the Section 42 hearing and the eventual findings. The basis for the inception of a Section 42 inquiry in this case was confirmed by the conclusions. To that
end we have to query the decision taken by you to accept the Ministers appointment for Gardaí to conduct a Cold Case Investigation.

“We want to know what criteria if any, were considered by you before accepting the recommendation of the minister? We say that on any analysis of the case history from 1984 through to the findings of a Section 42 inquiry and representations made by this office to the minister on March 7, 2002 then at the very least you were required to provide a reasoned analysis and assessment to rebut any allegation of lack of independence and that same in turn ought to have been communicated to the next-of-kin,” KRW outlined.

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