Report says justice was compromised in Sheedy case

Friday 16 April 1999 19.04
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Mr Justice Hugh O'Flaherty, Has asked to be allowed make a statement to the committee
Mr Justice Hugh O'Flaherty, Has asked to be allowed make a statement to the committee
Mr Justice Cyril Kelly, Suspended the remainder of Philip Sheedy's sentence
Mr Justice Cyril Kelly, Suspended the remainder of Philip Sheedy's sentence
Chief Justice Liam Hamilton, "Intervention was inappropriate and unwise"
Chief Justice Liam Hamilton, "Intervention was inappropriate and unwise"

The Chief Justice's report into the Philip Sheedy affair has concluded that Mr Justice Cyril Kelly's handling of the matter, and Mr Justice Hugh O'Flaherty's intervention compromised the administration of justice. Mr Justice Hamilton said that he accepted that Mr Justice O'Flaherty became involved in the case in a spirit of humanitarian interest. But he said his intervention was inappropriate and unwise. The Chief Justice also said that Mr Justice Kelly, then a Circuit Court Judge, should not have reviewed this case.

Mr Justice Hugh O'Flaherty has written to the Chairman of the Justice, Equality and Women's Affairs Committee, asking to make a statement to the committe as soon as possible. In a statement he stressed that his attendance would be entirely voluntary and at his own request. He said it would not therefore create any problem relating to the constitutional separation of powers. In a letter to the committee, Mr Justice O'Flaherty also expressed his deep regret for what he called his own "inappropriate and unwise action" in the Sheedy Case.

The Committee has decided not to debate the Sheedy case report from the Chief Justice but instead to publish it and to formally refer it for debate to the full Dáil and Seanad. It also agreed to publish the letter received today from Mr Justice Hugh O'Flaherty.

The The Taoiseach has described the conclusions of the report into the Sheedy affair as "stark". In Donegal this afternoon Mr Ahern said he was suprised at the content of the report but when asked if either of the two judges concerned should resign he said everybody should be given due prossess and the report would be dealt with in the Dáil on Tuesday. The Fine Gael leader, John Bruton has expressed serious concern about the contents of the report, and said a number of questions still needed to be answered.

The Minister for Justice John O'Donoghue has written to Judge Hugh O'Flaherty and Judge Cyril Kelly following this morning's Cabinet meeting which discussed the report on the Philip Sheedy court case. He has told them that the Cabinet takes a very serious view of the contents of Judge Hamilton's report and he will be reporting to the Dáil on Tuesday.

The Tánaiste Mary Harney said that the Chief Justice's conclusions were very strong and the government took them very seriously. She said she was happy that there was never any political connection involved in the issues which are central to the Sheedy affair and that she had full confidence in the way the Minister for Justice had handled the case.

Fine Gael Deputy Jim Higgins has said the initiative on what to do about the case should come from the Government. Labour's Deputy Brendan Howlin said there were legal difficulties with the issue and he was anxious that it be dealt with in a manner that would ensure the public has confidence in the administration of justice.

The Bar Council says everybody who has been involved in the Sheedy case must do all in their power to restore public faith in the judicial system. In a statement tonight, the barristers' ruling body said steps must be taken to ensure that the judicial system was not only fair and impartial, but was also seen to be fair and impartial.

Mr Justice Hamilton's report looks into the circumstances in which Dublin-man Philip Sheedy had the remainder of a four-year jail sentence suspended after serving one year. Mr Sheedy had been convicted of dangerous driving, causing death.