Pressure is growing on the 26-County Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell after has was forced to apologise twice for political outbursts while controversy mounts over unexplained deaths in police custody.
First he apologised on radio to Fine Gael’s finance spokesman Richard Bruton, for comparing him to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels after Mr Bruton quoted new statistics about the shortage of garda police officers on the beat in Dublin.
Speaking in parliament later, the minister publicly withdrew remarks he made in the chamber two weeks ago during a row with constituency rival John Gormley of the Green Party suggesting that the people who attacked the Progressive Democrats’ party headquarters in the recent Dublin riots looked like Green Party supporters, claiming they wore open-toed sandals and smelled of muesli.
Meanwhile, two families of two young men who died in suspicious circumstances after being arrested and detained by gardai have demanded inquiries into their deaths.
Relatives of 20-year-old Terence Wheelock, who died in September last three months after he was found unconscious in a cell in Dublin’s Store Street Garda station -- joined forces with the Maloney family, whose son John Jr collapsed and later died after being released from Garda custody.
Terence Wheelock would have been 21 yesterday. According to gardai, he tried to hang himself.
The relatives and friends of the two dead men protested outside the Dail.
Both families urged the government to set up independent probes into the two deaths, claiming they had been denied justice.
Larry Wheelock, Terence’s brother, said there were too many unanswered questions and a string of inconsistent accounts from state bodies.
“All we are looking for is answers into Terence’s death and an independent public inquiry is the only way to get those. That is not too much to ask for in a civilised society,” he said.
“I’m sure Michael McDowell would expect the same if he was in a similar situation.”
Teenager John Maloney Jr, from Crumlin in Dublin, was arrested in May 2003 and detained at Rathfarnham Garda station. He was found lying unconscious less than an hour after his release. He died 11 days later in hospital.
An open verdict was returned at an inquest into the 18-year-old’s death.
John’s mother Sandra Maloney said: “They denied they ever had my son. I heard it on the radio that there was a lad found unconscious, and I recognised that it was my son. My husband went to the Garda station and they said he was in Tallaght Hospital with a bump on his head.” Mrs Maloney said her son had not signed any release forms before leaving Rathfarnham Garda station. She said his body had been covered in bruises on his chest, hips, back and neck and that he had had marks on his kneecaps.
24-year-old Dwane Foster, from Finglas, also died in unexplained circumstances while in Garda custody earlier this month. Foster was the chief suspect in the investigation into the shooting dead of mother-of-one Donna Cleary.