By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Following a visit to the small town of Abbeylara, Co. Longford, former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds has cast doubt on the official version of events surrounding the recent two-day siege that resulted in gardai shooting dead a local man who had firing on them with a shotgun.
Gardai said they had been called to the scene after builder John Carthy, 27, ordered his mother, Rose, out of their home on April 20, but Reynolds said he had been surprised when she had told him she left to visit a relative.
"She told me they never had cross words between them," Reynolds said. "When she left the house that day she left to go out and visit her sister, which she did every day at the same time and he [her son] wasn’t surprised to see her going.
"She didn’t leave under threat of a gun or anything like that," Reynolds said. "When she was leaving the house he had the gun in his hand but he had a licensed gun and she didn’t particularly pass too much attention on that."
Gardai say Carthy was shot while carrying a double-barrel shotgun, which, they said, he had used to fire more than 20 shots at them.
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According to police, Carthy was repeatedly warned to put the gun down. He had walked from his front door to the road before the fatal shooting occurred.
The siege at the cottage had begun the day before when, gardai say, they were called after Carthy had ordered his mother out of the house. When they arrived he fired a number of shots, one of which hit an unmarked Garda car. No officers were injured. Carthy then barricaded himself into the cottage and fired shots at Gardai as the 26 hour siege continued.
A heavily armed emergency response unit were called in and a trained negotiator made contact with Carthy, who, it is believed, had a history of recent illness.
Reynolds, who is TD for the Longford-Roscommon constituency and was out of the country when the standoff ended in tragedy, said he could not pin down to his satisfaction why gardai had been called in the first place.
Fine Gael justice spokesman Jim Higgins will raise the matter when the Dail resumes after the Easter holiday recess this week.
Justice Minister John O’Donoghue has refused the family’s request for an independent inquiry, but his office said he intends to make public the results of an internal Garda investigation.
Reynolds said he had been briefed on what happened by many local people and had found a "very deep anxiety in the whole community and the family itself to make sure the investigation brings out all the facts.
"There are a lot of things, a lot of bits and pieces that have to be tied up to really establish what the facts were and what the truth is," Reynolds told RTE. "There are so many different stories running around that it is difficult to separate them."
He said it had never been regarded locally as a siege and there seemed to be surprise that there was not some other way of overwhelming the man.