A former Garda detective who was at the centre of the Morris Tribunal for the planting of bogus explosive finds along the Donegal border, has been awarded a silver Scott Medal for bravery.
He was among 15 serving and retired members of An Garda Síochána who were formally recognised for their bravery in rescuing kidnapped businessman Don Tidey almost 38 years ago.
Three of the Scott Medals were awarded posthumously including a gold medal to Garda Gary Sheehan (23) who was shot dead during the rescue operation. Army Private Patrick Kelly was also fatally wounded by IRA gunmen when a search team located Mr Tidey in Drumcroman Wood, Ballinamore in County Leitrim on December 16, 1983. Soldiers from Finner Camp were brought in to assist the operation.
The former Donegal-based Det Noel McMahon received the medal for his part in the armed rescue of Mr Tidey after 23 days in captivity.
The citation states tht Det McMahon was detailed to assist the search of the woods. As he approached he heard shots and took cover then heard a large blast of gunfire.
“Detective McMahon observed the suspects approaching in a vehicle at high speed and coming to a sudden stop. Four men dressed in paramilitary fatigues and carrying rifles exited the vehicle and opened fire in the direction of Det McMahon. Fearing for his safety and that of his colleagues Det McMahon broke cover and returned fire until the suspects were out of sight.
“Det McMahon was approached by a member of the force saying colleagues were trapped in the outskirts of the woods and he provided cover until called upon to search the area.
“Det McMahon accompanied by colleagues assisted with a sweep of the wood area where Army Private Patrick Kelly was located having suffered fatal gunshot injuries. Det McMahon remained with Army Private Kelly until the remainder of the search party continued with the search at the far side of the bank.
“For exceptional courage and bravery involving personal risk to life in the execution of his duty the Silver Scott Medal is awarded to Detective Garda Noel McMahon,” the citation states.
The medals were presented by Commissioner Drew Harris with Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys present at the Memorial Garden. Mr Don Tidey and the family of Private Patrick Kelly were also present.
Minister Humphreys told those present “your actions on that day were truely heroic. You performed your duty as garda members and for that we are thankful. You are honoured with this exceptional award”.
Former Det McMahon, who had lived in Buncrana, resigned from the Gardai in 2004 after he had received a letter from then Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy seeking his views on the findings of the Morris Tribunal.
The tribunal was set up in 2002 to investigate allegations of abuse of garda powers in Donegal.
In 2004 one of the five modules of the tribunal found members of the Garda in County Donegal were responsible for “setting up” arms finds to advance their careers. The report found “gross negligence” on the part of senior gardaí in the county with regard to the handling of the arms ‘finds’. It also found that Supt Kevin Lennon and Det Garda Noel McMahon were responsible for the bogus finds.
Det McMahon was facing dismissal from the force following the scathing criticism contained in the interim Morris report about his activities in Donegal in the 1990s.
According to the Morris report he was found to have told lies during his evidence to the tribunal and to have corruptly orchestrated, along with Superintendent Kevin Lennon, the planting of ammunition and hoax explosives in Donegal and across the border in Strabane in 1993 and 1994.
This was the most sensational finding in a report that also highlighted gross negligence involving senior officers in the division at the time. Both Garda McMahon and Supt Lennon were suspended from duty.
The findings were described by then Justice Minister Michael McDowell as “a dark day for the Garda force”.
Posted: 1:00 pm October 4, 2021