Laois TDs want case of the death of Durrow man Kieran Monaghan to be reopened

Minister for Justice tells TDs Director of Public Prosecutions decided against prosecution in killing of Laois man in Kilkenny at St Valentine's night party

By Conor Ganly

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By Conor Ganly

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Kieran Monaghan.

DPP will not prosecute anybody over the death of Durrow man in Kilkenny.

Laois TD Sean Fleming has called for further Garda investigation into the death of a Durrow man in Kilkenny as a result of a stab wound to the chest.

The Fianna Fáil TD raised of the case of Kieran Monahan from Durrow who died as a result of a stabbing in Kilkenny city of 15 February 2012. Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley also called for the case to be brought to court. Kieran died after suffering a single stab wound at a St Valentine's night party.

"I do not believe an adequate investigation was carried out by the Garda at the time of the murder. I want the Garda to carry out a further examination," said Deputy Fleming in the Dáil.

Deputy Stanley said the case was dealt with under a relatively new law which allows for some degree of self defence but he said this must be tested in court.

"The murder was dealt with under the Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Act. This must be tested in court and the Monahan family is entitled to its day in court. Kieran Monahan deserves justice and so do Jim and Mary (his parents)," said Dep Stanley.

However, a reply given on behalf of Minister of Justice Frances Fitzgerald said she had been advised by the Gardaí  that the incident in question was the subject of an investigation by An Garda Síochána in 2012 but the Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to prosecute.

"Whereas the Tánaiste appreciates the ongoing distress of family and friends in the aftermath of this tragedy, it is not open to her to intervene in regard to the DPP's decisions in individual cases," Minister of State at the Department of Health Deputy Catherine Byrne told the TDs on behalf of the Minister.

The following is the full text of the debate in the Dáil on Wednesday, February 22.

Deputy Sean Fleming: It is disappointing that the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality is not present in the Chamber to deal with this matter, which relates to the administration of justice by the Garda Síochána and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. I had hoped to raise directly with her the death by stabbing in Kilkenny city on 15 February 2012 of Kieran Monahan from Durrow, County Laois, and to ask her to make a statement on this case. Mono, as he was known to people who knew him well, was a young man in his early 20s. I wish to extend my sympathies to his father, James, his mother, Mary, his sister, Susan, and his brother, Ryan. The post mortem examination on Kieran showed that he was killed by a single stab wound to the chest.

I would like to raise two issues regarding the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, not to prosecute this case, quoting the Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Act 2011 and on the basis of the evidence supplied by the Garda Síochána. I do not believe an adequate investigation was carried out by the Garda at the time of the murder. I want the Garda to carry out a further examination. Statements from those who were present at the scene were not taken sufficiently quickly. This might have allowed people to meet to agree their statements before those statements were made to the Garda. The DPP has confirmed that Kieran was killed by stabbing on the stairs in the dwelling but his body was found outside in an open area. Clearly, many of the events on the night have not been adequately explained and further examination is needed. That is why I am calling on the Minister to make a statement. The family and the public are entitled to know what happened to Kieran on the night in question. We all understand the boy is dead and cannot come back but his family must get some closure through the establishment of the facts of the events of that night.

Deputy Brian Stanley: The case of Kieran Monahan is an extraordinary one by any standards. As Deputy Fleming has outlined, he was murdered on 15 February 2012. I knew Kieran and I know his family. I know his parents, Jim and Mary. According to the post mortem on Kieran, he died as a result of a single stab wound. He had been to the dwelling where he was stabbed earlier in the night. He knew the people who were present in the dwelling, including the person who allegedly inflicted the fatal stab wound. A number of men were present at this dwelling. No one has ever been convicted in this case. In fact, no one has ever been charged or brought before a court for this murder.

It has been deemed that the case comes under the remit of the Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Act 2011, which had just been put on the Statute Book when Kieran died. We remember that legislation going through the House. Like the members of Kieran's family and their solicitor, as a local Deputy I am very concerned about this decision. The 2011 Act provides that someone can use force against another person if "he or she believes the other person has entered or is entering the dwelling as a trespasser for the purpose of committing a criminal act" and "the force used is only such as is reasonable in the circumstances" to protect himself or herself or his or her property or to prevent the commission of a crime. This defence was never tested in this case because it never reached court.

This person had a single stab wound to the heart. By any standards, stabbing an acquaintance would seem excessive and extreme, but this must be tested in court. This is not a court so I will not get into the detail. The murder was dealt with under the Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Act. This must be tested in court and the Monahan family is entitled to its day in court. Kieran Monahan deserves justice and so do Jim and Mary.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Catherine Byrne): On behalf of the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, who, unfortunately, cannot be here, I thank the Deputies for raising this important matter. The Tánaiste is aware of the reports surrounding this tragic case and sympathises greatly with the family and friends of Kieran Monahan. I am sure everyone in this House is conscious of the very serious impact of violent crime on victims and their families.

The Tánaiste is advised by the Garda authorities that the incident in question was the subject of an investigation by An Garda Síochána in 2012. A file was then submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, who directed that there be no prosecution in this case. The Deputies will appreciate that criminal investigations are properly dealt with by An Garda Síochána in the first instance and that the Tánaiste has no role in particular investigations. It must be also stressed that the DPP is an independent body, which makes decisions as to whether a person should be prosecuted and for what offence. Whereas the Tánaiste appreciates the ongoing distress of family and friends in the aftermath of this tragedy, it is not open to her to intervene in regard to the DPP's decisions in individual cases.

It is worth noting that there is provision to allow for certain people, including a victim's family, to seek reasons for a decision made by the DPP. I understand that details of the procedures in this regard are available from the office of the DPP. This tragic case highlights the trauma and damage that can occur where knives are used in dispute situations. There is a robust legal framework in place on the illegal use of knives. Under the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, the maximum penalty for possessing a knife in a public place without good reason or lawful authority was increased from one to five years. An Garda Síochána also has an extended power of search without warrant regarding knives and offensive weapons. It should be noted, however, that many incidents involving knives occur in domestic settings and on the spur of the moment, which increases the challenges for preventative policing and enforcement.

At an operational level, An Garda Síochána proactively targets public disorder and anti-social behaviour, including knife-related crime, through the strategic deployment of Garda resources. In this regard, detective units and divisional crime task forces may be utilised to provide a high-visibility presence in areas such as late night bars to deter and detect possible altercations. Finally, the accelerated programme of Garda recruitment underlines the Government's commitment to tackling all forms of criminality and providing communities with visible and effective policing.

Deputy Sean Fleming: I acknowledge the response from the Minister of State, which does not deal with the issue at all. I was very careful with my language when I spoke today in saying that the post-mortem examination indicated that this person was killed by a single stab wound to the chest. In view of the fact that the defence of the family dwelling legislation had never been used as a defence, the Oireachtas - which enacted the legislation and which serves the people of Ireland - and the DPP was entitled to see how the legislation worked in a court of law. It is not a matter for the DPP to interpret how the legislation would play in a court of law. We want to see the facts coming out in court to deal with this.

I am extremely concerned by what I heard from my colleague a few moments ago. I wanted to come here to seek justice and a court case but the Deputy beside me used the word "murder" on several occasions. I never used that word. The several statements that this was "murder" have prejudiced the possibility of a trial ever taking place. I was very careful to say the man was killed by stabbing. I cannot prove murder and that is for a jury. A Deputy has referred to what occurred as murder on several occasions, which has jeopardised the possibility of the case ever progressing to trial. A conclusion has been reached in the House that should not have come about.

Deputy Brian Stanley: I thank the Minister of State for her reply. I accept that the DPP is a separate entity but the question here regards the investigation and the contents of the file presented to the DPP. There are serious questions as to why An Garda Síochána and the DPP came to the conclusion that the Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Act should have been used in this way. I call on the Minister to have the Garda investigation reopened, with a senior officer from a separate Garda division taking charge. We need to have all aspects of the issue investigated and what happened, along with subsequent events, should be re-examined. I ask the Minister of State and the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, to have the DPP re-examine the file and take account of new evidence. This needs a day in court and the family is entitled to justice. This was a serious incident and it was one of the first times this Act was used. When it was brought before the House, it was not envisaged it would lead to cases such as this. It was passed with a different intention. The Act is there but this a very extreme interpretation.

Regarding the use of the word "murder", I am very concerned about the case and I apologise if I used strong language. The death of this young man is serious and the fact that it was never tested in court is the big issue.

Deputy Catherine Byrne: I assure the Deputies I have taken notes on the remarks they have made and I will certainly bring them to the Tánaiste's notice. She apologises for not being here and would like to thank the Deputies for raising the issue. The Tánaiste is aware of the report to the effect that a decision not to prosecute in the case may have been taken in light of the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Defence and Dwelling) Act. This legislation clarifies the law concerning defence of the home and recognising the special constitutional status of an individual's dwelling. However, the Deputies will appreciate it would not be appropriate for the House to attempt to second-guess the independent assessment of this or in any case by the DPP.

I again take this opportunity to sympathise with the family on the loss of their soon, which can be a tragedy for any family. It can be very hard for anybody to feel they have not found some kind of justice at the end of the day. I extend my sympathy and that of the Tánaiste. I assure the Deputies that I will make very clear to the Tánaiste the points that have been raised this afternoon.

For Dáil report click here