Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has said he would consider a proposal to contact people who gave evidence to an inquiry into the fatal shooting of Aidan McAnespie to ask their permission for the release of the report to the McAnespie family.

The request came from Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin after Mr Flanagan earlier said the Crowley Report cannot be released as it would be "a breach of trust" to the people who contributed to it on "an assurance of absolute confidentiality".

Mr McAnespie was shot dead 30 years ago today.

He had just walked through a British Army checkpoint at Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone on his way to Aghaloo GAA grounds to play a football match.

Mr Ó Caoláin said: "Following the murder of Aidan McAnespie there was a whole community that straddled the border that was deeply affected and some, especially those who travelled through the Aughnacloy checkpoint daily or regularly, were certainly fearful for their safety.

"I would suggest 30 years later that we are in a very different time and place and that those fears no longer exist."

He asked the minister to proactively establish the number of witnesses who presented before Deputy Commissioner Eugune Crowley or forwarded written evidence to his inquiry.

He also asked the minister to "establish the number of those to whom some form of confidentiality understanding applied".

Mr Ó Caoláin asked the minister "if he will undertake to contact each of those to establish if, 30 years later and in very different times, they are now willing to allow the release of their evidence as part of the overall Crowley Report to be given to the McAnespie family in line with their wishes".

Mr Flanagan said: "The Irish Government is fully committed to the consensus that has been achieved in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement on the framework of institutions to assist families access information about the deaths of our loved ones as a result of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

"The full implementation of that agreement is being hampered by the lack of a resolution on the re-establishing trhe executive in Northern Ireland. 

"I have listened to what Deputy Ó Caoláin said regarding the witnesses. I will therefore reflect on what options might be viable to further assist the McAnespie family in these circumstances."


Listen: RTÉ Drivetime series on the death of Aidan McAnespie


The minister has agreed to meet the McAnespie family after the matter was raised in the Seanad this morning by Fianna Fáil Senator Robbie Gallagher.

Earlier, Mr Gallagher recalled that 30 years ago today Mr McAnespie was shot after walking through the British Army checkpoint on his way to play a football match.

The Monagahan senator joined the chorus of calls from politicians and GAA figures for the Government to release the report on the killing by an 18-year-old British soldier.

He said: "Manslaughter charges were brought against the soldier but were later dropped. He was fined shortly after that for negligent discharge of a weapon and allowed to return to duty. He was given a medical discharge from the British Army in 1990.

"The British Army later claimed that three shots were fired after a general purpose machine gun, which the soldier was holding, slipped out of his hands, which we were told were hit at the time.

"Mr McAnespie was hit in the back by one of those stray bullets, it was claimed, which had ricocheted off a road a short distance behind him.

"Before his death, Mr McAnespie had claimed many times that he had been constantly harassed and threatened by British soldiers as he walked through that checkpoint."

Senator Gallagher said the killing caused "widespread anger and the government under the stewardship of Charles J Haughey appointed Deputy Garda Commissioner Eugene Crowley to investigate the killing.

"However, the findings of that report have never been made public. The ... Government has the power to hand over the Crowley Report. It would be another step in getting the truth of what happened on that morning."

He said that the family deserves to know the truth and said: "Aidan McAnespie's father John is now 82 years of age and in failing health. He, along with his family, are looking for the truth about what happened."

Mr Flanagan said: "What happened on this day 30 years ago was a devastating tragedy for Aidan McAnespie's family and, indeed for the community at Aughnacloy."

He explained that public anger over the death led to the then government requesting that an inquiry be carried out into the shooting and surrounding circumstances.

He said: "The then Deputy Garda Commissioner, Eugene Crowley, was appointed to conduct this inquiry.

"However, because of fears that many people in the local community expressed to him as to their safety and security, they co-operated only and explicitly on the basis of an assurance of absolute confidentiality and that what they related to Deputy Commissioner Crowley was for the government only.

"This report was submitted to the Minister for Justice in April 1988. To release the full content of the Crowley Report, even at this stage 30 years later, would be a breach of trust of the Irish government to those parties.

"In 2002, the government approved an outline summary of the Crowley report's conclusions and it was provided to the McAnespie family.

"At that time, detailed consideration was given to producing an edited or redacted version of the report that would be meaningful, would not compromise confidentiality and could be provided to the family. However, given the nature of the report it did not prove possible to do so.

"I have recently arranged for further copies of the limited summary and the post mortem report prepared by Professor John Harbison to be provided to the McAnespie family through their legal representatives.

"The Senators will appreciate that the Government has a persisting obligation to the commitment that was given to those people in the locality and elsewhere who co-operated with the inquiry. Regrettably, under these circumstances it is not considered possible to publish or further disseminate the report.

"It is a source of regret to me that this will inevitably be a disappointment to Aidan McAnespie's family who suffer from his tragic loss to this very day. However, the fact is that I must have full regard to the expectations of the many people who contributed in good faith to the Crowley inquiry on the basis of a guarantee of absolute confidentiality and to the persisting obligation in that regard."