21 February 2018


Statement by Minister for Justice and Equality Charles Flanagan T.D.

to Seanad Eireann re: the death of Aidan McAnespie



I thank Senator Gallagher for raising this matter on this poignant day. 



The Senators will recall that Aidan McAnespie, a 24 year old man from Co. Tyrone, was fatally shot as he walked through the British Army checkpoint at Aughnacloy, on 21 February 1988.   I would say at the outset that what happened on this day thirty years ago was a devastating tragedy for Aidan McAnespie’s family and, indeed for the community at Aughnacloy.  His death was needless and I am very conscious of the continued suffering of his family. 



Given the widespread public disquiet at the death of Aidan McAnespie, the Government requested that an inquiry be carried out into the shooting and surrounding circumstances. 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 Prof. 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.