PB February 2024 February 2024 33
he Sallins Train robbery occurred in
Ireland on 31 March 1976. The Cork to
Dublin mail train was robbed near
Sallins in County Kildare.
Approximately £300,000 was stolen.
Five members of the Irish Republican Socialist
Party, Osgur Breatnach, Nicky Kelly, Mick
Plunkett, John Fitzpatrick, Michael Barrett, and a
former member Brian McNally, were arrested in
connection with the robbery. The subsequent
arrest of a large number of members and persons
associated with the IRSP constituted an assault
on a registered political party.
During incommunicado detention and
interrogation in Garda Síochána custody, all
except Plunkett and Michael Barrett signed
alleged confessions, all presenting with
extensive bruising and injuries they claimed were
infl icted by members of the gardaí.
All the Sallins Men denied their involvement in
the robbery. In 1980 the Provisional IRA claimed
responsibility for it.
The Sallins men are long resigned from the
All the Sallins Men claimed they were held
unconstitutionally and illegally; threatened with
assault on themselves and their families; all
su ered psychological and physical torture to
obtain compliance in signing statements.
All claimed untrue inculpatory verbal
statements were attributed to them.
Some of the Sallins Men were told that their
arrest was to ensure people did not join the
political party of which they were members or
The Sallins Men claim that gardaí conspired to
maliciously prosecute them.
The Garda File presented to the DPP included
forgeries and omissions.
The police station evidence of the
interrogations (including the names of Garda
o cers) was unlawfully removed.
The Sallins Men claim they were denied bail for
a period that coincided with their bruises
The trial of Plunkett, McNally, Kelly, and
Breatnach in the Special Criminal Court became
the longest-running trial in Irish criminal history,
at 65 days, before it collapsed due to the death
of one of the three judges, Judge John O’Connor
of the Circuit Court. Complaints that the judge
slept throughout the case were ruled against by
the trial court (including the ‘sleeping judge’) and
subsequently, on the basis of res judicata, by the
High Court and Supreme Court.
In e ect, an evidential requirement of proving
innocence was placed on the Sallins Men, thus
branding them guilty until proven innocent.
Pursuing their civil cases, all were denied the
right to sue for assault and battery by use of the
notorious Birmingham Six judgment of estoppel
and res judicata based on unfair trial judgements.
In 1993, the State, without any admission of
liability, entered into a monetary settlement of
the civil actions. At the time of settlement internal
state papers, including a case review of the
criminal prosecution carried out by the Director
of Public Prosecutions, were not openly disclosed
by the State.
The State has never apologised, admitted any
culpability or disclosed implicatory
documentation in its possession.
At no stage has it sought to hold their own
o cers and agents to account, at all times
maintaining that the o cers and agents had not
engaged in wrongdoing.
All legal costs were guaranteed by the State to
gardai being sued by the Sallins Men and for any
future Sallins related cases.
Irrational and damaging fi ndings by the trial
court still stand due to res judicata (e.g., that the
Sallins Men conspired to lie about their torture to
blacken the gardai; that the injuries sustained by
the Sallins Men were self-in icted or infl icted
Sallins Petition awaits government response
By Suzie Mélange
upon each other).
A Petition on the Sallins Case was submitted
to the Minister for Justice in November 2023 but
remains unanswered.
It is an application to the Minister for Justice
and Equality made by the Irish Council for Civil
Liberties (ICCL), Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) and
Committee for the Administration of Justice (CAJ)
to establish a Statutory Inquiry into the
convictions following the Sallins Train Robbery
The men are now elderly and vulnerable.
Their treatment constitutes inhuman or
degrading treatment and punishment and
Financial compensation does not equate to
truth, justice, and accountability.
The investigation would be conducted in
accordance with the human rights standards
demanded by the United National Convention
against Torture (UNCAT) and the European
Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and must be
e ective, independent and enable the e ective
participation of those who su ered abuse.
There has never been a public statutory,
inquiry into the Sallins Case.
As Supreme Court Justice Adrian Hardiman
noted in 2007:
Twenty years ago, when Irish society was
gripped by the fate of the Birmingham Six, the
Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven, those
principles would, I think, have been widely
acknowledged. But even in those days there was
a contradiction in our attitudes: miscarriages of
justice, lies or other short-cuts by the investigators
– these were things which took place in other
countries, by corrupt or racist police – and were
smugly criticised here, where, of course,
everything was perfect. The fact is that, during
much the same time as these miscarriages of
justice were unfolding, so too, in Ireland, was the
Sallins mail trail robbery case which led to
massive settlements and grave damage to the
reputation of our policing and criminal justice
But we have never, as a country or as a
community, internalised the lessons of that event
or of the other declared miscarriages of justice
which have taken place since”.
Men have never received
apology and many illicit
ndings remain undisturbed
Some of the Sallins Men were told that their arrest
was to ensure people did not join the political party
of which they were members or supporters


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