Monday, August 28, 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 .

James Keegan and Jack Mahon knew each other for about twenty-five years ; during their incarceration they talked about old times and James Keegan sang a number of songs , some of them more than once . Jack Mahon said that at around 2am he looked at his watch and noted the time . Shortly afterwards , James Keegan said " Jack , I'll never be in a cell again . This is the last time I'll be behind these bars ". Jack Mahon told James Keegan that he would be getting out shortly . James Keegan said he was going to hang himself .

Throughout the period when both men were in their cells , Jack Mahon said that he never saw a garda , although he could hear footsteps . Mahon said that Keegan tore at something for about ten minutes in the corner of his cell and that he then wrapped a piece of blanket around the bars of his cell . Mahon says that he was calling for the gardai but that nobody came : James Keegan then tied the blanket to his neck , slumped forward with his hands down by his sides , gave a few snorts , and then there was silence .

Mahon said that it was between thirty and forty-five minutes between the time James Keegan started to tear the blanket and when Garda John Boyle came into the cell . While Jack Mahon's evidence was made to appear vague and unspecific at times during the inquest - for example , he could not be sure if James Keegan tied the blanket to the bars or his neck first - the general thrust was the same as his statement . If he was correct about the time scale , then it should have been possible to see James Keegan perform some of his last acts at 2.45am , the time at which Garda John Boyle says he last checked the two men.......

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 Dublin Administration have decided to investigate , rather belatedly , some of the allegations made by Messrs Colin Wallace and Fred Holroyd , two former British intelligence officers . Many will ask why substantial , albeit far from conclusive , evidence of British intelligence involvement in the indiscriminate bombing of civilians , murders and kidnappings did not merit very thorough investigation before now .

Unhappily , convictions in Irish (ie Free State) courts , as in Britain , are not above suspicion any longer . The Sallins mail robbery had its moments of farce with a Judge who , unfortunately , as later events were to show was dying , asleep on the bench during much of the trial . This was ignored even when drawn to the attention of the Court by independent witnesses . That , of course , was a case with political overtones , a fact which may have lessened public concern - this despite the fact that there should be absolutely no distinction between politically-motivated 'crime' and any other crime when they come before the Courts .

Apart from any politically-related 'crimes' , there is much in Irish (ie Free State) law enforcement which not everyone will feel proud of . The notorious Kerry Babies case was , in the view of many , handled in a very heavy-handed way both by the gardai who originally investigated it and by the subsequent Tribunal which investigated it.......

From 'NEW HIBERNIA' magazine , March 1987 .

The visits go on until nearly 2am . The circumstances of the people we meet don't really change : the one thing they do have in common is that they are homeless and 'living' in miserable conditions .

The last visit is to a chap called Michael who is living in a disused car in a car park off Kevin Street . The stench from the car is nauseating - mouldy sandwiches , sour milk and rotten fruit are scattered throughout the car . Whiskey and wine bottles by the dozen . Michael is permanently in bad health as a result of his chronic drinking bouts .

At 2am all the co-workers return to the hostel where they write up their comments on the people they visited . This is so the workers on the route the next night can check up on the people they are due to visit . The stories some of the other soup run workers have to tell seemed less harrowing . Probably . One of the women they visited in the flats had been badly beaten up and was afraid to divulge the name and identity of her attacker . It was'nt the first time either . Another group bring back two women they found sleeping in a doorway . There are no beds left for them and they will have to sleep in the kitchen area.......