Dara Quigley’s family is “bitterly disappointed” at news that the garda who filmed video footage of her before her death will not face charges, said her mother, Aileen Malone.
“Naturally we would have hoped for more. We would have hoped to feel that there was some accountability and transparency,” Malone said.
Quigley, an activist and journalist, had what her mother called a “psychotic episode” in April 2017 and ended up walking naked down Harcourt Street. After Quigley was arrested by gardaí, someone shared a video of the incident online, where it was widely viewed. A few days later, Quigley killed herself.
Quigley’s mother says the incident on Harcourt Street was caught on Garda CCTV, which covers parts of the city centre, and that after the arrest, a garda went to Pearse Street station to a CCTV control room, rewound the video to show the incident, and while it was replaying, recorded it on their phone.
That garda then shared the clip with a WhatsApp group that included other gardaí. Someone from the group then shared it to Facebook, and from there, it spread, Malone says. “We know she [Quigley] saw it [the video], but we have no proof she saw it,” she says.
Malone and the family have issued an appeal on Facebook for “anyone who was in communication with Dara between Friday 7 April 2017 and Wednesday 12 April 2017 when she died”, and in particular, anyone “who has any information about Dara seeing the video posted online of her”.
The Gardaí referred the incident to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) for investigation.
A spokesperson for GSOC declined to comment on Quigley’s case, but said that the organisation’s procedure is to first investigate whether a criminal offence has been committed, and if a criminal case does not go forward, to move on to a disciplinary investigation.
Said Malone: “We got a letter from GSOC two weeks ago saying it would be dealt with under Garda disciplinary procedures.”
Again, speaking generally, and not about Quigley’s case in particular, the GSOC spokesperson said that if a GSOC investigator finds that a “member” or garda has breached discipline, GSOC would send a report to the Garda Commissioner, who would then decide how to proceed.
Malone says that’s not good enough. “At the moment, I think the whole country doesn’t have a lot of faith in the guards disciplining themselves,” she said.
A report from GSOC has noted that, in such cases, “even if the GSOC investigator has highlighted evidence of a breach, the Garda Síochána may decide that there is no breach, take no action and provide no rationale to GSOC. This happens often. It contributes to a feeling of futility for a complainant and for us …”
Rather than relying on Gardaí to discipline the garda involved, “A solicitor recommended we take a civil case. But that’s not going to bring Dara back. That’s not going to bring a lot of satisfaction,” she said.
Malone said she would like the Gardaí to apologise for what happened. But she says the family hasn’t had any contact from the Gardaí at all, much less an apology.
Gardaí declined to comment on queries about the case, and whether the lack of prosecution reinforces a public perception that Gardaí enjoy impunity and do not face real consequences for their actions.
In response to the same queries, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice cited the procedure for GSOC to investigate complaints against gardaí and refer them to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
But Sinn Féin spokesperson for justice and equality Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD said that “GSOC does not have adequate powers, to properly hold gardaí to account for wrong doing, and we have been vocal in seeking reform, and additional resources for that body”.
(Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan did not respond to queries sent Sunday about this case or these issues by the time this was published.)
The legislative changes are aimed at, among other things, increasing GSOC’s independence, and streamlining its processes so it can more more swiftly. And, in terms of resources, GSOC – which had a cap of 87 staff at the time – asked for 37 additional staff, at an additional cost of €1.7 million per year.
“[T]he reduction in our staffing level over the period 2009–2016 coupled with an expanding set of legal obligations and an increasingly complex investigations environment has had an adverse effect on GSOC’s ability to provide the service and meet the objectives set for the organisation at its foundation,” according to the “business case” for more staff that GSOC submitted to government earlier this year.
GSOC is in talks with the Department of Justice and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform about its proposals for changes to legislation and additional staff, the GSOC spokesperson said.
Ó Laoghaire, the Sinn Féin justice and equality spokesperson, said that if Quigley’s case had exposed a hole in current legislation, that should also be addressed.
“If there is some deficiency in the legislation of some kind that has led to this, and I hope the DPP may state this if it believes so, this may need to be considered, as it is important that there are serious consequences for Gardaí who are responsible for such releases,” Ó Laoghaire said.