Justice Minister Alan Shatter says he regrets the fact that eight days elapsed before the family of double killer John Gallagher’s victims were told Gallagher had returned to the Central Mental Hospital in Dublin.
On May 14th, almost 12 years after he went on the run, John Gallagher returned to the hospital in south Dublin. The Department of Justice was told the next day and it wasn’t until the 22nd of May that the family of Anne and Annie Gillespie was told that Gallagher had returned to the hospital.
Speaking to RTÉ’s Prime Time programme last night, Minister Shatter said he regretted the fact that the family of Anne and Annie Gallagher were not told until Tuesday last, May 22nd, of Gallagher’s return to the Central Mental Hospital.
“I regret that they weren’t informed earlier. The Central Mental Hospital advised the HSE and the Department of Justice that Mr Gallagher had returned and I understand they started an assessment process. They (the family) should have been informed earlier. There should have been a process in place to ensure they were informed,” the Minister stated.
The Minister admitted on the Prime Time programme that there is “ a major gap” in the Irish legal system which allows a person to go across the border to Northern Ireland and not be returned to the Republic of Ireland or vice versa.
The Minister made the comment in the context of the double killer John Gallagher case who lived in Strabane for many years, a short distance away from the homes of relatives of his victims, Anne and Annie Gallagher.
“I think this case highlighted a very major gap in the legal system,” Minister Shatter told Prime Time.
He revealed he was meeting his Northern Ireland counterpart and would be seeking to have a reciprocal arrangement put in place to ensure a person who absconded from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland or vice versa is returned to the relevant jurisdiction.
“I think this case highlighted a very major gap in the legal system in this area,” he added.
On Tuesday Minister Shatter said John Gallagher could be released within weeks or months from the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum. “It is possible he could be released within a few weeks, within a few months. I don’t know what decision the Heath Review Board will take in regards his current mental health, it’s not something I would be qualified to make an assessment on nor would it be appropriate.
“He is entitled to apply, as is any other patient in the Central Mental Hospital to the independent Mental Health Review Board for release. Under that statutory provision they make that decision based on an assessment of his mental health,” said the Minister.
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