Shane Tuohey death – a significant breakthrough


While on a night out in Clara, Co Offaly in February 2002 Shane Tuohey disappeared. His body was found by his brother a week later in the river Brosna. His family suspected foul play, the Gardaí treated it as if it was a suicide.

At the time Gardaí collected CCTV tapes from around the town. Those tapes would have been critical to establishing what happened that night but Gardaí lost them. Now I have seen correspondence which shows that thirteen years on those tapes have been found, and the facts about what happened may now be established.

The Gardaí investigating this case appear to have operated on the basis that Shane had taken his own life. But there was a lot of evidence pointing towards Shane having been assaulted. Two independent coroner’s reports concluding homicide. Contradictory witness statements from his alleged assailants.

However nobody’s movements on the night could be verified because all the tapes that were collected by Gardaí went missing while supposedly in Garda care. The cameras from which the tapes were taken covered all the parts of the town where Shane was last seen alive.

But – Two separate Garda investigations were carried out without those tapes being available to the investigating detectives.

Simply put those tapes may show exactly what happened to Shane and why he ended up in the river. Or at the very least they will show if Shane’s alleged assailants were at home while Shane was known to still be alive – as they claim. Or if the statements they gave to Gardaí were wrong – and they were still in Clara after Shane was last seen alive.

How they have turned up now is almost as great a mystery as what happened to Shane. The Tuohey family had been led to believe them to be missing all this time.

On the basis of what he had been told the then Garda Commissioner, Noel Conroy, wrote to me in 2006 confirming the tapes hadn’t been available to the investigation team. He wrote that “a more professional investigation would have made reference to the CCTV which should have been available”

But they weren’t available, at least not to anybody investigating Shane’s death. I have obtained correspondence which indicates that 17 tapes related to the investigation are in Portlaoise Garda station in addition to other unspecified evidence.

What is even more puzzling is that it is evident that nobody looked at the tapes. The file sent to the DPP with a Garda recommendation that there was no foul play involved makes no mention of any CCTV evidence.

So Shane’s father Eamonn and his brother Edwin are now very keen to get their hands on these tapes and get them to the Independent Review Mechanism in the Department of Justice that is currently considering Shane’s case. I spoke to them earlier this week – that interview is podcast here.

So naturally I asked the Garda Commissioner would she send the tapes to the Independent Review Mechanism, and at the same time asked the Department would the review panel be requesting the tapes.

The Dept of Justice told me it has nothing to add to the statement issued to me from Gardai. And for their part Gardai said they could not comment because the matter is being considered by the Dept of Justice’s review mechanism.

That is as perfect a piece of inter agency stonewalling as you are ever likely to see. Stand back and admire it.

This is one of the most serious cases to end up before the Review Mechanism. Not alone is there the mystery of Shane’s death but also the improbable conundrum of how Gardaí came to take a statement suggesting Shane killed himself which was proven to be false. And the further mystery of how an assault on Shane is described in one statement to Gardaí but absent from a subsequent statement from the same person. There is also an alleged miscarriage of justice which flows directly from the investigation into Shane’s death.

In short the allegations and unaswered questions in this case are as troubling as they come. And in all probability examination of these tapes would confirm things one way or another. At the very least it would confirm whether an investigation needs to be re-opened.

Leaving them sitting in a box in Portlaoise Garda Station cannot be an aceptable answer.

Eamonn and Ann Tuohey on teh banks of teh River Brosna in Clare where Shane's body was discovered

Eamonn and Ann Tuohey on the banks of the River Brosna in Clare where Shane’s body was discovered



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Ian #Bailey V Ireland ~ Court reports


Links to podcasts of my Drivetime reports from the trial.

“You’ll be found dead in a ditch” Day 2 – Bailey claims Gardai made a death threat

“I felt like I was being eaten alive” Day 3 – Bailey on media scrutiny of his life

“Very sinister, very frightening” Day 4 – Bailey on the alleged Gard conspiracy against him

“I’m not making this stuff up” Day 5 – Bailey cross examined on his career in journalism

“My eternal shame” Day 6  –  Bailey cross examined on his violence towards his partner

“The French Connection” Day 7 – Bailey claims aspects of Sophie Toscan Du Plantier murder were not investigated.

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Ian Bailey V Ireland – a conspiracy of silence?

There has been some commentary on social media about coverage of the action Ian Bailey is taking against the state and the Gardaí.

Some people have suggested a media conspiracy that in some way seeks to present something other than the full picture being reported.

I had thought it could be taken as something most people would be familiar with but maybe it’s worth going over the reporting restrictions in a jury action.

Although this is a civil case and not a criminal one it is being heard before a jury of eight men and four women. That means for the duration of the case you can only report what takes place in front of the jury.

You cannot report legal argument between opposing counsel that occurs in the absence of the jury, even though it has taken place in open court with the public in attendance.

You cannot report anything not heard by the jury even if you know it to be a fact. So if the witness does not say in evidence that it rained yesterday, you can’t report that even though it’s as plain as the nose on your face.

You cannot report evidence that probably will be heard at some point in the trial for fear it won’t be heard and that may be prejudicial to one side or another.

The other side of the equation is balanced by the fact that you have privilege (immunity from prosecution) in reporting the allegations or unproven claims of a witness. If the witness in his or her evidence claims rain made them turn to a life of crime, you can report it no matter how unfair or damaging it is to the reputation of rain.

It may seem proscriptive but those are the rules while the case is running. Breaking them runs the risk of being found in contempt of court and that would be an unnecessary distraction from the job at hand.

And yes, if you’re asking yourself “Has Philip really written a blog to shut a few Twitter trolls up?”, I have. The bus from RTÉ to the Four Courts takes 20 minutes and I wasn’t doing anything else.


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You must see this film


On Saturday night I was talking to Sean O’Byrne at the premiere of a film in the IFI. He is Christina Noble’s brother and the film was about her work and how it developed out of the injustice of their early lives.

I bought Sean a drink and we were chatting away happily when we were joined by a very pleasant, charming and well spoken man in his early sixties. They shook hands and Sean said without hesitation, “I can see your story is the same as mine.”

The hair stood up on the back of my neck. There was nothing in this man’s appearance that would suggest an early life of abuse at the hands of the church and the sadness of a family ripped apart by malign figures in officialdom. But Sean spotted it straight away.

They walk among us, that generation of poor children turned hurt adults. You will never know them unless they reveal their sadness and you may never understand the depth and breadth if that pain unless you see this film.


“In a house that ceased to be” is the most honest and unflinching documentary film of its kind I have ever seen. You may think you’ve seen or read interviews that explain the work that Christina Noble does in Vietnam and Mongolia. You may think that you’ve seen or read pieces that explain the lasting damage caused to residents of Institutional Homes. You haven’t until you’ve seen this film.

Director Ciarín Scott (far right beside Sean in the pic above) has got inside a family deliberately thrown to the four winds by church and state. In an amazingly sensitive piece of journalism and film making she has got right under their skins and laid bare the lifelong toll of allowing monsters into the lives of children.

You have to see this film. You will have by now have heard about the more publicised movie “Noble” which is also about Christina. And I’m sure it’s a great drama, but you have to see this film, “In a house that ceased to be”.

It’s about Christina’s work, it’s about her sad childhood, her family’s painful reunion after 50 years apart. But that is a very prosaic description because it is about so much more.

It’s a meditation on good and evil, and how love and humanity can flourish in the face of unspeakable abuse. It is funny, infuriating, inspiring and sad. It is a part of what being Irish is sadly, and it is about those who walk among us whose pain you can never hope to understand.


Christina rages in the film at one point about how it is impossible for her to explain what happened to those committed to the torturous care of those running Residential Institutions. At our talk after the premiere of “In a house that ceased to be”, she acknowledged this film does that job.

It’ll be screened on RTÉ next year and will pop up elsewhere between now and then. Go and see it.

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The law of god and the church, not a child’s feelings.

Almost literally the last thing Emily Logan did before leaving the Office of the Ombudsman was to send copies of a report (which it is not intended will ever be published) to the families of several children who have made allegations of sexual and physical abuse against teachers in their school. The nine children were all between the ages of 5 and 11 at the time of the alleged abuse which they claim was inficted on them at the hands of three female teachers.

I have seen that report, and people may be familiar with the allegations of the children from Justine McCarthy’s reporting of it in The Sunday Times. Emily Logan’s report finds that the HSE did not properly investigate the claims of the children even though they were numerous and in large part supported each other. It also finds the School’s board of management and the Department of Education were deficient in their actions too.

What people will find shocking regardless of whether there was any abuse or not is that as recently as 8 years ago, and with all the supposed checks and protections that exist, that this very serious series of allegations was never investigated properly by any of the people who were supposed to have children’s welfare as their number one priority

It started in the Summer of 2006 with allegations of bullying and physical assault being made by parents and children against one teacher at the school and unfolded horifically for all concerned over the subsequent two years.

“It was alleged that the child had been pinched leaving two bruises. The Parents of Child E made a formal written complaint to the chair concerning Teacher B, for the alleged assault, and the principal, for the handling of the complaint.”

The parents of another child also came forward with complaints of bullying and harsh treatment, this time against the principal

“The parents of Child A sought dialogue with the principal. The principal originally refused to meet with the parents until the allegation which the principal denied, was withdrawn.”

Those complaints were dismissed by the Board of Management at the school with no explanation of what had happened or consideration of the report of the child’s GP.

“The Board of Management at its meeting considered, in great detail, the complaints which you made and concluded the complaints are not substantiated.”

As the new school term began more disclosures were made by children and this time the allegations were of potential sexual abuse by the teachers.

“Children E and F alleged that teacher A had engaged in acts taking place in the toilet involving the use of a thorny stick that were physically and potentially sexually abusive of them”

The parents of children E and F made statements to the Gardai, but prompted perhaps by the summary dismissal of previous complaints by the schools board of management they met with other parents in a local community hall to discuss the allegations. At the conclusion of that meeting several parents were in tears. Three days later the parents of Child D came forward disclosing …

“…an incident of potentially inappropriate of potentially sexually abusive nature that occurred in teh school toilet between Child D and Teacher A when Child D was in Senior Infants. This involved assistance with toileting which the parent believed was not warranted given the age and development of the child.”

Of significance was that this child also disclosed that Teacher A had a stick. Two months later Child K and Child L came forward.

“The parent asked Child K if Teacher A ever took any children out to the toilet. Child K said that Teacher A would take boys and girls who were bold out to the toilet. Child K stated that if the thorn stick was in the classroom, teacher A would bring it out. Child K stated that the children would always be crying when they came back into the classroom. Child K recalled hearing Teacher A say to one child coming back from the toilet “don’t tell your mammy or daddy”

The Special Needs Assistant present in that classroom said that no such incident occurred. Child E was assessed by a psychologist who arrived at the view that it was impossible to determine conclusively whether the child had been abused or not. Anxiety over the allegations and their repeated discussion in the child’s home could have made the child suggestible. But the psychologist noted other things they found “Very concerning”

“Child E has described indiscriminate and frequent slapping of Child E and other pupils by Teacher A with sticks, one of which was described as a thorny stick. I am particularly concerned by accounts of the child and the child’s classmates being brought individually to the toilet and slapped there.”

The psychologist knew there was an ongoing Garda investigation but added the recommendation that the HSE “Investigate concerns regarding the use of corporal punishment and harsh treatment of pupils”

However when parents of the children asked the HSE what action they were taking on foot of the children’s disclosures they effectively said that whatever the school did had nothing to do with them. “… the HSE remit was in relation to the welfare of the children and that matters or actions in relation to the school were outside the HSE control”

 The HSE also did not inform the board of the school that the psychologist who had examined the children had recommended that the use of corporal punishment should be investigated. And somewhat improbably the HSE also told the Department of Education that it was, “not in receipt of a complaint of corporal punishment in relation to the any child attending School B”

Emily Logan’s report notes the case to be precisely the opposite of what the HSE stated.

Teacher A was placed on administrative leave by the board. Throughout the early part of that year more children came forward with more allegations of an overtly abusive nature. Child B reported being brought to the toilet by Teacher A who also brought the thorn stick.

“Child B also alleged that the stick was pressed against the child’s private parts through clothing. Later that summer Child B made disclosures involving a stick that were more clearly of a sexually abusive nature”

Child D came forward with a similar disclosure but only after the child had been taken out of the school and moved to another. Child D told a parent that Teacher A had hit the child’s private parts with a stick. The parents reported that Child D had stated that the child did not disclose earlier out of concern that the principal would be informed.

Child F made further extremely graphic disclosures. Allegations of physical and sexual abuse by Teacher A while the child was blindfolded. The child claimed Teacher B was present while the abuse took place. The child added that Teacher D had been told about the abuse and …

“The father stated that Child F said that the principal hurt them more than Teacher A and that they were more afraid of the principal.”

Child C came forward the following month reporting physical and sexual abuse in the toilets by Teacher A and that Teacher B and the principal had observed this. Of difficulty to anyone assessing the allegations was that these children reported seeing others being taken to the toilets by Teacher A but the parents of those other children denied any abuse had occurred. Indeed letters were circulated at the time claiming that Teacher A had the support of 90% of the parents in the school.

In August 2008 a garda file went to the DPP who recommended no prosecution. The principal was interviewed on the allegations by the School’s board of management and the board voted unanimously that the allegations were “without foundation, unwarranted and unsubstantiated”. A similar vote was held in Teacher A’s case, again it was unanimous, and Teacher A was invited to return from administrative leave. Both continue to teach at School B to the pres

The Children’s Ombudsman is not tasked with investigating individuals or establishing the truth or otherwise of the allegations made by the children. And the ombudsman notes that Teachers A and B and the Principal are entitled to and enjoy the full presumption of innocence.

That said you cannot escape Logan’s conclusion “Children A,B,C,D,E and F at various times made allegations of being hit by a stick. Many described the stick as a thorn stick. Children E and F complained at the time of being sore. Given the similarity in the allegations, this office believes that these allegations should have been investigated as allegations of potential physical abuse”

And not as corporal punishment as the HSE classified the claims. The Ombudsman says the HSE failed to investigate, as did the School’s board and the Department of Education should have been monitoring child safety more closely. This arose in part because Parents of two of the children attempted to get evidence from the board of management of the school about the implementation of the Stay Safe programme at the school. It had been introduced by the Department of Education in the early nineties and instructed young children in how to deal with unwanted advances and who to report them to. It transpired that the school’s policy on the Stay Safe programme regarded it as a …

 “…teacher’s aid to be used in accordance with the Catholic ethos which demands that the law of god and of the church, and not of the child’s feelings, be the guiding principle”

The child’s feelings were not the guiding principle in the school’s written policy at the time the alleged abuse took place eight years ago. The law of god and the church were. There is no mention of what the school’s policy on the law of the land is.

Emily Logan makes a number of recommendations for the HSE, The Department and The Board of Management of the school concerned. But clearly that is about process and procedure. The real issue is that there is a school in the system over which a major cloud now hangs because two of the accused are still teaching there, one is the principal. The Ombudsman couldnt say anything about the guilt or innocence of those accused – that’s not her brief – but she could not be more explicit about these allegations not being properly investigated.

Tusla – the child and family agency – which has taken over child protection from the HSE says it is considering the findings.

I’ve been in touch with parents of the allegedly abused children. They say the School, the HSE and the Dept of Education have been given four weeks to indicate how they are responding to this report. They too are waiting and watching.


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“We didnae have the guts to fail on our own like you”

I’m sitting at Gate 15 of Edinburgh Airport as I write this, waiting to board my flight back to Dublin. Next to the little Aer Lingus prop aircraft that’ll bring us home is a large grey RAF troop carrying aircraft. There’s three buses parked alongside and as I sat down the last of what I assume were young Scottish troops were boarding. Bound one assumes for unpleasant duty in any one of a number of global scrapes the United Kingdom is embroiled in.

How different that all might have been today. Even on the No side I didn’t detect any huge enthusiasm for Britain’s military adventures overseas. But that is not the way the Independence debate was framed.

Fear works. As a political tool its value has proven immeasurable to the Unionist parties. And that was those parties greatest success. Making a vote on self determination a vote about fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of change, and that deep seated fear in all of us that maybe we’re just not competent enough to do the job ourselves.

IPSOS/MORI polled Scots on their reasons for voting before going to the polls. It was striking that 80% voting yes did so out of a sense of hope whereas 58% of No voters were in their own words driven to the polls by fear.

“You’re Irish? I cannae hold my head up in yir company. I’m so angry that we didnae have the guts to fail on our own like you”, said one man yesterday morning just an hour or so after it became clear how sizeable the silent majority was. And how spectacular our failure has been in recent years I prompted him. “Dinnae matter, would ha’ been worse if somebody else had inflicted it on you.”

If all but one of your newspapers, a long line of business leaders, the machines of all the major political parties tell you something is to be feared chances are fear will colour your decision making. And it is striking now how yes campaigners realise how they were totally outclassed and outgunned by The Machine, that informal coalition of governing parties and business interests. Duly assisted by a media that reflects those priorities more prominently than others.

It was one of those lucky privileges that my job affords me to have been in Scotland to the energising of the country by a debate on what it means to be who you are. My last conversation before leaving today was with a 41 year old Taxi Driver who had never voted in his life before Thursday. He was well informed, taught me lots in twenty minutes, but just never saw the point in voting in Westminster elections when he knew he would always be unrepresented in the make up of the government.

In the drug and unemployment blighted suburb of Niddrie I spoke to young men who had never had a single days work since leaving school never mind having not voted before. They were passionate and convinced of their arguments. They were also flattered that for the first time ever their opinions counted for something. This debate delivered a super charge of civic mindedness, dynamism and inclusion to the Scottish national grid.

But the Westminster consensus has put the matter of Scottish independence back in a box. I’ve met and interviewed Nicola Sturgeon, she is a seriously impressive person. But she faces a Herculean task getting independence back on a ballot paper during her political lifetime. My colleague in The Irish Independent, Kim Bielenberg, was asked by an official in the Holyrood parliament if he was going to be there tomorrow. “Nobody is going to be here tomorrow”, was his brutally frank reply. The travelling circus has folded its tent and moved on. Scotland’s moment has passed, and won’t likely come again while anyone reading this draws breath.

There are two things about this campaign we might consider taking on board back at home. Telling 16 and 17 year olds they’re too immature to give proper consideration to electoral matters does us a disservice and infantilises them. Adults in Scotland were forced to listen to newly enfranchised teens and argue by persuasion not virtue of seniority. I ear wigged the bus stop conversations of loads of school kids during this campaign and was very impressed. The experience undoubtedly matured them and if some of them were swayed by arguments as superficial as which way Andy Murray did or didn’t vote how many adults must the same thing be true of.

The other thing … 86% turn out was achieved without a single politician’s mug staring down at you from a lamp post. Not a single poster on any form of public property. On this we can only hope Scotland will lead the way.


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“Little faith” in alleged Garda corruption probe.


Shane Tuohey’s  body was found in 2002 in the River Brosna in Clara Co Offaly following a night out with friends. The Gardai were swift to conclude that Shane had killed himself but there was a lot of evidence – pointing towards the possibility of foul play – that was not considered by the guards in a timely fashion.

The scene where his body was found was not preserved for forensic examination. No attempt was made to recover CCTV of the night he disappeared and the one tape that was secured was subsequently lost. Allegations of an assault on Shane were not investigated until six months later. Gardai produced a witness statement from a woman claiming Shane was suicidal that was later denied in its entirety by the woman.

I investigated this case first eight years ago and to my amazement got a letter from the then Garda Commissioner admitting the investigation could have been “more professional”. But they stood by that investigation and the system has turned a deaf ear on the Tuohey’s quest for justice since then.

The Tuohey family have been dogged though. Gradually securing more and more paperwork that raises more and more questions about the Gardai’s prosecution of the case, and the Department of Justice’s commitment to transparency. They recently obtained one document that I had sought eight years ago. It bears a handwritten note which reads “Not to be seen by Philip Boucher-Hayes”.

This podcast from Drivetime is a short summary of a very detailed and complex case.

One of the first actions taken by Frances Fitzgerald when she suceeded from Alan Shatter at the Department of Justice was to establish an Independent Review Mechanism into the allegations of Garda Corruption made to Government. That review will now consider 220 separate cases including some allegations involving the possibility of wrongful deaths, of cover up or failure to investigate a crime and of possible Garda brutality.

Those making the allegations were promised that they would meet with the barristers conducting the review and would be able to present their grievances, but yesterday the Department of Justice confirmed to me that the review would be a paper only review.

Several I have spoken to are worried that if they are not interviewed the Independent Review Mechanism might be given a very partial or self serving version of events. Because the Garda file is by no means the totality of evidence that should be considered.

Given their history of antagonism with the Gardai and with the Department of Justice they say they can have little faith in a Review Mechanism that doesn’t at the very least hear from them. The Minister promised them they would now be heard, but many are feeling that the system is once again finding a way to turn a deaf ear.


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