Ex-gardai insist no protection of possible Lynskey killer

Sunday Independent
March 25 2012

Retired gardai have said they do not believe claims that members of the force concealed the identity of an IRA man allegedly connected to the 1971 murder of a 19-year-old civil servant in Co Meath.

Una Lynskey was abducted in Porterstown after she arrived home by bus on October 12, 1971. Her body was discovered in the Dublin Mountains two months later.

A cause of death was never fully established but detectives believe Ms Lynskey suffocated when she was stuffed into the boot of a car after being overpowered, bound and gagged.

In November 2010, Martin Conmey, 59, from Co Meath, the only person ever convicted in relation to the killing, was finally cleared by the Court of Criminal Appeal of his conviction for manslaughter — for which he had previously served three years in prison.

Mr Conmey and another man, Dick Donnelly, were both convicted of manslaughter but Mr Donnelly’s conviction was overturned in 1973. Mr Conmey had fought for 39 years to have his name cleared.

It has since emerged that details of the garda investigation have been brought to the attention of the Smithwick tribunal, which is investigating allegations of garda collusion in the IRA killing of senior RUC officers, Bob Buchanan and Harry Breen, in south Armagh in March 1989.

Sources close to the tribunal said lawyers are looking into the possibility that Una Lynskey was murdered by a member of the IRA who was either living in the area near her home or was in the area when the teenager got off the bus.

The possibility that a garda acted to protect an IRA figure who may have carried out the murder is “not being ruled out” by the tribunal.

Lawyers acting for the Smithwick tribunal have requested papers from the Court of Criminal Appeal and from the gardai about the quashing of the case.

However, yesterday retired Garda Detective Superintendent John Courtney, who headed many of the Republic’s major murder investigations during that era, said he could not recall any attempt to cover up the involvement, suspected or otherwise, of any IRA man in Ms Lynskey’s murder.

“Nobody ever tried that with me. If there was an IRA fellow I would have questioned him and anyway I would never have been compromised by any IRA man or anyone like that. I investigated the murders of eight gardai by the IRA and brought charges,” he said.

Other sources told the Sunday Independent that gardai were satisfied that two men had attempted to abduct Ms Lynskey with the intention of raping her but that she had suffocated.

One of these suspects was Martin Kerrigan, a young local man who is believed to have been one of two men who abducted Ms Lynskey and, after she died, partially buried her body in the Dublin Mountains.

Ten days after the discovery of her body, Kerrigan was himself abducted, taken to the spot where Ms Lynskey’s body was found and beaten to death. An attempt was made to castrate Kerrigan with a shovel. Three men, John and James Lynskey, and John Gaughan, were subsequently convicted of Kerrigan’s manslaughter and given two-year sentences.

Former garda detectives who re-examined details of the case said they were unaware of the involvement, suspected or otherwise, of any IRA man.

One said he was “certain” no attempt was made to conceal the identity of such a man and said all the officers he knew to be involved in the investigation would not have any reason to protect such a man.

In 1971 the Provisional IRA was in its infancy following the split with the Official IRA. Garda Richard Fallon had been murdered the previous year in Dublin by a splinter republican gang known as Saor Eire, which had Provisional IRA links, and gardai nationwide were investigating the activities of the emerging Provisional IRA even though it had allies at government level in the Republic.