The Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, has told the Dáil that some of his legal advisers had come to the conclusion in early 2002 that serious conspiracies had been occurring in Donegal.

Mr McDowell said this happened after the advisers received the full Carty report on the internal garda inquiry into the events surrounding the McBrearty family in January or February 2002.

He was speaking during a special Dáil sitting to debate the findings of the first two reports of the Morris Tribunal.

Mr McDowell said he 'will not decapitate the head of the Garda Siochana as a gesture'. He was responding to calls for the resignation of Commissioner Noel Conroy. He said it would not achieve any good and he added that the commissioner was a man of consummate decency and honesty

Mr McDowell also said that suggestions that there had been pressure not to investigate garda misconduct in Donegal were not true.

He said that his predecessor, John O'Donoghue, had been most anxious that the truth of the McBreartys’ allegations against the gardaí be examined.

He said it was his advice at the time, as Attorney General, that criminal prosecutions going on should be allowed to proceed but that in the event of the truth not emerging from those cases, a tribunal should be established.

O'Keeffe critical of McDowell response

The Fine Gael Justice Spokesman, Jim O'Keeffe, has criticised Mr McDowell’s response to the Morris reports as being defensive and narrow in scope.

Mr O’Keeffe told the Dáil of a culture of deceit among some gardaí in Donegal, and called on Mr McDowell to introduce measures to empower whistle blowers.

He also described the minister's proposal to introduce the new Garda Bill within 14 days as a recipe for disaster.

Barrons to sue the State

In a separate development, the family of cattle dealer Richie Barron, the man Frank McBrearty Jnr was falsely accused of murdering, plans to sue the State.

The Barron family will initiate legal proceedings as a result of the Donegal-based garda corruption scandal.

Papers due to be served today accuse the Minister for Justice and the Attorney General of negligence and dereliction of duty in their failure to ensure a proper investigation into the death of Mr Barron.