Wednesday, August 30, 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 .

Even supposing that Jack Mahon is wrong about the time , due to the amount of drink he had taken , there is other evidence to suggest that James Keegan could not have carried out everything he was supposed to have done in the four minutes between 2.45am and 2.49am .

Dr. Donohue was called to Granard garda station and arrived at 3.05am , sixteen minutes after the discovery of the body ; he noticed no piece of blanket hanging from the bars of the cell and , in fact , did not even know that James Keegan had hanged himself . He had been treating James Keegan for a heart complaint and thought that the man had suffered a heart attack . He proceeded to administer a heart stimulent - to no effect . In any event it made no difference . On the RTE News the following morning , the doctor heard that James Keegan had hanged himself ; he visited the garda station again . He saw the torn piece of blanket tied to the cell bars .

Two post mortems were carried out : the first was done by a Dr. Cunnane , and the second was performed by State Pathologist Dr. John Harbison . While their findings were slightly different , they were not inconsistent . Dr. Harbison found that death was due to asphyxia (lack of air to the lungs) and cerebral anoxia (compression of arteries and veins in the neck) . In effect , James Keegan died not from hanging , but from strangulation which was self inflicted.......

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)

People have died in Garda Stations in circumstances where the State accepted responsibility and paid compensation to relatives . People have been ill-treated in Garda stations and this has been accepted by the Courts . In no case has it been possible to find evidence to convict any garda responsible . A death in Bunratty , in County Clare , has never been satisfactorily explained . The failure to come to terms with these isolated incidents can only damage the very high reputation of the Garda , a reputation and a public acceptance which is envied by police forces throughout the democratic world * . ( * '1169...' Comment - .......or at least in Garda Headquarters !)

Irish (sic- 26-County State) courts , Judges and justices have shown an amazing inconsistency in passing sentence on convicted criminals . A foreign national recently walked free after being convicted of the possession of a very substantial quantity of herion : it was speculated widely that an address in certain parts of Dublin could have earned that woman a sentence of up to 10 years .

People whose work takes them to the District Courts on a regular basis claim that , very often , justice is of the 'hit and miss' variety , with sentencing apparently at the whim of the particular District Justice in some cases.......

From 'NEW HIBERNIA' magazine , March 1987 .

At 2.15am there are about twelve men and women in the kitchen area : some of them are chatting and some of them are asleep on the floor . Tea is available for them right through the night . The two women that were found sleeping in a doorway only a short while ago are annoyed that there is no bed for them , but finally accept that they will have to try and get the head down in the kitchen . It is warmer there than the doorway of a bookshop .

Once the co-workers have gone , plans get underway for the breakfast which will be served at nine in the morning , then the preparation for the lunch begins . Some of the residents will help out in the shelter if they stay . Dinner is always between 7pm and 7.30 pm - the routine is always the same and the faces seldom change .

Some of the residents live in hope of bettering their plight , others are doomed to live out their lives moving from shelter to shelter or from doorway to doorway , trying to hold on to what little they have left.......