Justice Minister John O'Donoghue has said both he and the government want all of the facts in relation to the "Sheedy case" out in the open. Philip Sheedy was convicted in 1997 of dangerous driving causing the death of a young woman. He was released after serving only one year of a four year prison sentence. The matter was raised in the Dail this morning by Fine Gael's Nora Owen. She said she wanted an urgent statement from the Minister on the matter.
Mr O'Donoghue has said a number of investigations are ongoing and that they should not be prejudged, but he said if action was necessary, it would be taken. Mr O'Donoghue also said he would be making a full statement once the investigations are complete. The Minister also referred to what he described as an "innuendo" that he had tried to conceal something, he said this was scurrilous. He said he did not know the defendant in the case but insisted there had to be fair play in the investigation.
This morning in the Dáil the Tánaiste said she would try to arrange for the Minister O'Donoghue to make a statement to the Dáil tomorrow about what she called “unusual procedures” in the court case. She agreed to this after Labour's Pat Rabbitte said he had contacted the Minister about this case last month so that Minister O'Donoghue should have had time to make inquiries about it. The Tánaiste agreed she too was familiar with the case as the family involved had been in touch with her. She said the Gardaí were carrying out an inquiry into how the case was reviewed in court, on behalf of the Minister.
The deputy leader of Fine Gael Nora Owen said the Minister could phone his own civil servants in the courts and ask them how that case came to be listed for hearing, when there was no review date set. The Tánaiste said that the Attorney General has been in touch with the Chief Justice to express the Government's concerns about some unusual procedures in the case. She said the Chief Justice is undertaking an inquiry into that case.
There were angry exchanges as Nora Owen called for a statement by the Justice Minister before the House breaks for Easter. Mrs Owen said there was a Cahirciveen connection to this case and all sorts of things about it were undermining the judicial process. The Tánaiste said the Deputy was making allegations that should not be made as the Minister for Justice had had no involvement in that case.
Deputy Owen said one of the people involved in the case, which was dealt with on November 12 last, had since been promoted by the Government. She asked what the Government knew about this case before they promoted that person. The Deputy also demanded that the Minister say what his own role had been in the case, what the role of the judges had been and what the role of the court registrars had been. Fine Gael has said if it is not satisfied with the Minister's explanation, the party may invoke a constitutional article calling for the Dáil to consider removing a judge from the bench.