Garda police in Donegal tried to frame two innocent men for murder, according to a damning tribunal report which has shaken the Dublin government.
One of the men cleared in the report, Frank McBrearty Jnr, has called on the 26-County Prime Minister, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, to sack both Justice Minister Michael McDowell and the Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy.
He was speaking after the Morris Tribunal confirmed that he and his cousin were the victims of a conspiracy to frame them for the murder of Donegal cattle dealer Richie Barron in 1996, when in fact Mr Barron died in a hit-and-run accident.
Mr McBrearty Jnr said there had been a “state cover-up” and he called “on the people of Ireland to stand up like they did in 1916. I want people to email and post letters to the Taoiseach demanding these sackings.”
The stinging second interim report of the Morris Tribunal was released, with scores of recommendations for Garda reform.
The McBrearty family has been campaigning for their legal costs at the Tribunal to be covered by the state in the same way as those of the Justice Minister and Garda Commissioner.
“Victims like the McBreartys have been left fighting on their own against the heaviest hitters in the legal profession without any legal costs,” Mr Higgins said.
Mr McBrearty Jnr pledged: “We will never go back to the Morris Tribunal because that Tribunal denied us our legal costs at a time when it was known that myself and Mark McConnell were innocent.”
FIne Gael leader Enda Kenny said that Michael McDowell had questions to answer about his attitude to the matter.
Mr Kenny said the current Justice Minister, in his previous role as Attorney General, “advised the then Government on every occasion that there was no need for a public inquiry into these matters”.
He called for a police ombudsman with exactly the same powers as Nuala O’Loan has in the North of Ireland, a call that was widely echoed by opposition politicians.
Green Party chairman John Gormley said that Mr McBrearty, who spoke at the party’s recent conference, was “ruthlessy and viciously framed by the gardai”.
Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson, Aengus O Snodaigh TD, said the report showed a need for root and branch reform of the gardai -- but suggested the guilt went even higher up.
“The Morris Tribunal terms of reference must be widened to include examination of the respective roles of the Attorney General, the Garda Commissioner and the Department of Justice, including the Ministers for Justice,” he said.
Sinn Féin also called for an investigation into other systematic injustices by the Gardai such as the actions of the Heavy Gang, misconduct by the Special Branch, and the Garda informers system.
Deputy O Snodaigh pointed out that Michael McDowell had blocked a public inquiry into a similar case in Kerry, and had also refused to publish the findings of the reinvestigation into the assassination of Donegal Councillor Eddie Fullerton.