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'He needed help, not bullets': George Nkencho's family call for public inquiry ahead of GSOC meeting

George Nkencho was shot dead by gardaí on 30 December.

Gloria Nkencho outside Leinster House today.
Gloria Nkencho outside Leinster House today.
Image: PA Images

THE FAMILY OF a man shot dead by gardai have called for a public investigation into his death.

George Nkencho, 27, was shot multiple times outside his home in Clonee, west Dublin, on Wednesday, 30 December.

He was allegedly brandishing a knife and threatened gardai before he was shot by members of Blanchardstown Garda Armed Support Unit.

Mr Nkencho was suffering from mental health issues at the time.

His sister Gloria has raised concerns about the progress of a Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) investigation into his death, and has called on the Justice Minister to support an independent inquiry.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, she said: “This is an unimaginable pain that I do not wish upon anyone. The death of my brother has caused a vacuum in my home.

My mother has described it as a wound that can never heal. My family are forced to relive our trauma every day when we walk past his room, when we walk down the stairs and see where we stood as he was shot and killed.

“We see the bullet holes on the door by our window. This shouldn’t have happened, he didn’t deserve to die. He needed help, not bullets.

“He is not here to speak for himself so we must. We need a full, public, independent investigation into his death. We need truth and justice.

My brother is gone and will not be coming back. What we can do is ensure that his death is not in vain, that it never happens to another family again and the most vulnerable people in our society are given the care that they need.

Politicians including Solidarity TD Mick Barry, former Dublin West TD Ruth Coppinger and Blanchardstown councillor John Burtchaell today wrote to Justice Minister Helen McEntee calling for an independent inquiry.

The letter warned that the “unprecedented and shocking killing has serious implications for the relationship between the community and gardai.”

It raised concerns over the fact that a person “with no criminal convictions and a history of mental ill-health was shot dead so quickly after being engaged by the gardai”.

It alleges that the GSOC investigation is “seriously flawed” and does not meet the criteria set out by the European Court of Human Rights that investigations into killings by police forces must be “official, independent and thorough”.

Ms Coppinger said: “In the six weeks since the shocking death of George, GSOC is failing to meet any of the standards, be they human rights or legal standards, that are required of an investigation into a Garda killing.

Key witnesses, including the arms response unit officer believed to have fired the shots, have not been interviewed after six weeks. That’s the information that the family have.

“Vital pieces of evidence, including all the bullet casings from the day, have not been accounted for or secured by GSOC.

“The family themselves were not interviewed for 28 days, having been vital witnesses.”

Gloria Nkencho said that while race may have been a factor in her brother’s death, the issue that should be examined is class.

george-nkencho-death Politicians Ruth Coppinger and Mick Barry with Gloria Nkencho today. Source: PA Images

She said: “I think the issue we should look at here is class. The different classes of people in society, sometimes there can be a bias from the gardai, I think that’s the issue we should look at here.

“Of course race plays a factor, but class is the issue we should look at here.

I think a public inquiry would be essential in this situation. It allows proper independence and allows us to see a greater picture of what happened that day.

“I just want to make it clear that this isn’t a time for divide. I know there’s a small percentage of society that’s trying to turn this into a major race thing.

“This isn’t the time for that. We as a community, as a society, should focus on a life that’s taken. We shouldn’t let the small section of society that are trying to turn this into a big race thing, turn it into black against white.

“We’re Irish. We’re here. We’re a community. My brother was taken, a person, a human life.”

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The Nkencho family and GSOC were due to hold a meeting on this afternoon.

Ms Nkencho said her hope for the meeting is that her family gets some answers.

In a statement, GSOC said the question of whether a “public investigation or a commission of inquiry” is to be held is one for the government.

GSOC says that it is an independent body, separate to An Garda Síochána, and is “carrying out an independent investigation into all of the circumstances surrounding the death of George Nkencho”.

“Statements have been taken from witnesses, including family members, and other evidence has been gathered. The investigation is ongoing and further statements and other investigative actions will be taken,” GSOC says. 

It adds that it will satisfy all ifs legal obligations including that “a death following police contact be independently investigated”

“GSOC has been in regular contact with the family of Mr Nkencho since the day of Mr Nkencho’s death through a family liaison officer (FLO) appointed by GSOC that evening. As the family engaged legal representation, GSOC has also communicated with the legal representative.”

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy

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