herald

Wednesday 7 December 2016

'Case closed' on mystery death of Fr Niall Molloy

Father Niall Molloy
Father Niall Molloy

The controversial death of Fr Niall Molloy does not require any further inquiries, an independent examination has ruled.

Fr Molloy's body was found in the home of Richard and Theresa Flynn at Kilcoursey House, Clara, Co Offaly, on July 8, 1985.

A garda file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions and Mr Flynn was charged with manslaughter and assault.

But at his trial, the jury was directed to find him not guilty on both counts.

Fr Molloy's death, Mr Flynn's acquittal and other allegations that surfaced since then, resulted in a major controversy.

The Garda Serious Crime Review Team carried out a review of the case following a report written by journalist Gemma O'Doherty.

Review

Senior counsel Dominic McGinn was appointed by the Government to take a fresh look at the garda review of the force's investigation. It concluded that some of the concerns expressed about the garda investigation were not supported by the evidence.

But Mr McGinn said that, given the passage of time, the death of so many pertinent witnesses and the reluctance of others to give evidence, it was unlikely any further inquiry would have a reasonable prospect of establishing the truth.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who published the report yesterday, said she accepted Mr McGinn's recommendation while fully appreciating that it would come as a disappointment for Fr Molloy's family and for those who campaigned on his behalf.

The minister said Mr McGinn's report brought greater clarity to many of the issues regarding the case and outlined how some of the concerns expressed were simply not supported by the evidence.

The report sets out some shortcomings in the original garda investigation, while acknowledging that the events surrounding the priest's death could not now be ascertained.

One of the unanswered questions is the precise time at which Fr Molloy sustained his injuries, as the medical evidence suggested he did not die for a considerable period after being hurt.

Inexplicable

The calm attitude of Richard Flynn when the gardai arrived at Kilcoursey House was a feature of the case, which many would find inexplicable. But without knowing more about Mr Flynn's usual demeanour, it was impossible to say if this was out of character.

In light of the confession made on a number of occasions by Mr Flynn to inflicting the violence on Fr Molloy, the direct acquittal of Mr Flynn at his trial was extraordinary, Mr McGinn found.

While much of the criticism for this had been directed at the trial judge, Frank Roe, a careful reading of an assessment by prosecution counsel of the evidence revealed that the decision might have been partly attributable to the concessions made by State Pathologist, Dr John Harbison, under cross examination.

Rumours

"The extent of the rumours, gossip and speculation surrounding the events at the house and in respect of the trial has been significant but, perhaps, to be expected given the shortcomings in the 1985 garda investigation, the lack of a credible explanation of events on the night and the outcome of the criminal trial," he added.

Mr McGinn said his task was not to establish the truth of what had taken place but merely to identify any issues of public interest.

hnews@herald.ie

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