16 January 1997 Edition
Gardai assault drug activists
Independent inquiry called for
by Rita O'Reilly
A member of ICON's Drug Addiction Committee in Dublin's north inner city and his son were beaten by Gardai in a shocking new-year demonstration of community relations on Tuesday night, 14 January. Sinn Féin Councillor Christy Burke is calling for an independent inquiry to be set up to investigate ``this brutal assault in police custody''.
``These heavy gang tactics are no more acceptable now than they were in the mid-70s,'' the Councillor said.
Jimmy Mulhall and his son Denis had separately attended a march on a number of drug dealers' flats in Ballybough at 8pm. Gardai first tried to drag him down as he followed other activists up a flight of stairs to knock on the door of a dealer's flat. Five minutes later, as another dealer's house was being marched on off Ballybough Road, up to six police vans and three Special Branch cars were present. Jimmy told An Phoblacht that when he heard the Gardai were looking for him, he went over to talk to them, as it appeared that they were preparing to disrupt the march. People present report that a number of Gardai had their batons drawn.
Gardai took Jimmy Mulhall into the back of a police van. One minute after the van pulled off it stopped and two more Gardai got into the back. ``They hammered into me,'' Jimmy Mulhall says, his facial bruising still coming through on the following day. He was beaten in the van and again outside a cell in Fitzgibbon Street Garda station.
His son Denis describes leaving the march in Ballybough ``as things looked like they were getting heavy''. He was walking home when a Garda car stopped and he was asked his name. He was handcuffed behind his back and was hit in the side of his face. His head was banged off the door of the Garda station as he was dragged into it and he was again beaten. Left in a cell from 9:15 until 12 midnight, he was then released.
Jimmy Mulhall says that when he finally saw a doctor, no examination took place save for a two-minute stand-off from the door of his badly-lit cell. At 11:30pm Gardai tried to get him to sign what they claimed was a bail form. When he discovered it was a blank piece of paper he refused to sign it, until a real bail form was presented to him after midnight following a visit to the station by local Councillor Christy Burke of Sinn Féin.
The father and son were then taken by ambulance to the Mater hospital where nine x-rays were taken of Jimmy.
Jimmy Mulhall was to face charges of assaulting a police officer and using abusive language but the arresting officer failed to turn up in court the following morning. He may yet face such charges. His son Denis faced similar charges and was remanded on bail until 12 February.
Jimmy Mulhall has been a tireless activist in the campaigns in the north inner city to end drug abuse and dealing in the area. In September 1995, An Phoblacht reported that his other son Corry had been beaten up by Gardai following a drugs meeting in Amiens Street. The Sunday Tribune published photos of Corry's injuries [see picture].
Sinn Féin Councillor Christy Burke has called for an independent inquiry into the assaults on the father and son. He was initially refused access to the prisoners when he called at Fitzgibbon Garda station but was allowed to see them after two hours. Christy Burke says the arrest of 18 anti-drug activists on the northside of Dublin since the beginning of January has undermined his position of arguing for co-operation with the Gardai. In light of the assault, he says, the anti-drugs movement will have to review its policy of co-operation with the force.