Friday, August 25, 2006

James Keegan died in Granard Garda Station last September (1986) . Earlier this month , an inquest was held in Longford to ascertain the cause of death.
The central question - how James Keegan managed to tear a blanket and hang himself within four minutes - still remains unanswered .
DEREK DUNNE reports.
From 'IN DUBLIN' magazine , February 1987 .

At 2.45am , according to the garda evidence at the inquest , Garda John Boyle said that he came back from his break and went straight in to check the prisoners without any consultation with Garda Eugene Watters . Garda David Martin had been in the Garda Station between 2am and 2.45am , according to the evidence , despite the fact that he had been off duty since 2am . He said that he was catching up on some writing he had to do . He lived only 200 yards from the Station . He could not remember who was in the office , or much of what went on , but he says that he left for home around 2.45am .

At 2.49am , as a result of some particularly loud shouting on the part of Jack Mahon , Garda John Boyle went into the cells : Mahon pointed to the other cell . James Keegan was hanging from a torn blanket wrapped around the bars of the cell . His feet were on the ground and he was facing the cell door . Garda John Boyle opened the cell door , relieved the weight of the body and freed James Keegan - he took him over to the bunk-bed and found that his pulse was weak but his heart was still beating . He radioed Garda Eugene Watters to get a doctor and when he returned to the cell James Keegan was dead . He tried artificial respiration without success . Dr. Donohue was called .

The purpose of an inquest is not to apportion either criminal or civil liability ; the purpose is to find out who died , where they died , when they died and how they died . Jack Mahon was immediately driven home by the gardai and was released without Garda John Boyle asking him what had happened . In the circumstances of the moment , this would appear natural enough . Garda Boyle , in his own words , "...could see quite clearly what had happened.. " . Jack Mahon made a statement to the gardai in which he set out the sequence of events from the vantage point of his cell , across the hall from James Keegan.......

Many who fully support the concept of law and order cannot but feel some disquiet about developments in recent years .
From 'New Hibernia' magazine , April 1987 .
('Editorial' page)

The British response to the mounting evidence of innocence rather than guilt has done little to inspire confidence ; the British judiciary appears to take the view that nothing should be done : re-trials which overturned previous convictions would show that mistakes had been made , a development which the judiciary cannot contemplate . The British Government has allowed this approach to stand .

Nowhere is there an indication of any realisation by the British government that the case for putting bombers behind bars is not helped by jailing innocent people . Concern about the judicial system is not confined to cases which have political overtones ; multi-channel television viewers in Ireland had the opportunity recently of seeing the process used to convict four men of the murder of Carl Bridgewater - one of the convicted , an Irishman , has since died in jail . The television evidence of innocence appeared to be considerably stronger than the evidence originally used to convict the four men .

Matters could be worse in all cases , of course , and they may well be in the near future . The lives of , possibly innocent, people which have been wrecked by long terms of imprisonment could have been ended if the death penalty , a penalty for which there is increasing demand in Britain , applied . In Ireland , the cases may not be quite as stark or as strong but one does not have to search far to find cause for concern about the entire system of law enforcement and security . Successive Irish governments (sic) appeared to prefer to ignore allegations of British security involvement in criminal activity , including very many murders in this State.......

From 'NEW HIBERNIA' magazine , March 1987 .

Ringsend is our next stop , to see a man called Pat , who sleeps in a small hut on waste ground near the Pigeon House : he is a real loner and the 'soup run' workers always have a problem tracking him down . Usually they leave his food with a night-watchman nearby but , when they have managed to catch up with him they have found it extremely hard to talk to him , as he prefers to be left alone .

Joe is another customer : one can find him along the beach at Sandymount ; he is a lively character and is well liked around the area . By the time we get to him he is fast asleep in his little Barna shed which was donated to him by an anonymous person when they heard that someone had burned his last one down . Joe is a small bearded man with all the presence of the archetypal English colonel , and is as deaf as a post . He has been waiting for some time now for the Health Board to get him a hearing aid . He loves to talk about Barry McGuigan , and had an autographed poster of him in his last hut but it was lost in the fire . You would love to stop and talk a little longer but it is getting late and there are several more calls to make .

A disused shed in Rathgar is where you will find Eamon : he is a traveller in his mid-sixties , with a face which is both weather-worn and scarred from fighting . The shed is cold and extremely damp . He is surprised to see us , and has been drinking all day as his dole money is gone . He , like all of our customers tonight , was glad of the soup . He explains to us why he had a board along the door which would'nt close properly - it was to keep the rats out , but they had no problem whatsoever in getting in anyway . Earlier on that day somebody stole Eamon's blankets and he now needed new ones . His trousers were also badly torn , and Peter will organise for the workers on the soup run the next night to bring him a new pair.......