Saturday 3 December 2016

Ahern pledges to publish report into leaked letters

AINE KERR

Published 01/03/2010 | 05:00

A report by the Garda Commissioner into the leaking of letters which triggered Trevor Sargent's resignation from government will be published when the inquiry is over.

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Justice Minister Dermot Ahern last night pledged to make the inquiry's findings public following a week of claims and counterclaims over who was responsible for putting letters, written by former Green Party junior minister Mr Sargent to the gardai, into the public domain.

"I've given a commitment, even though there are some people I know who said I shouldn't have made this commitment, but I believe, in particular because of the political row, that it is important to publish that report," Mr Ahern said.

"If there's anyone who has committed an offence, then that's a matter for the Garda Siochana and the DPP to decide," he added.

The minister said he was not privy to the ongoings of the Garda Commissioner's investigation which is believed to be examining the phone records of individuals, including journalists.

Initially, the finger of blame for the leaked letters had been pointed at Fianna Fail and Mr Ahern after the Greens had applied pressure on the then defence minister Willie O'Dea to resign. But the finger of suspicion appears to have now turned towards gardai.

The minister himself robustly denied any involvement last week amid suggestions from opposition parties that the Department of Justice was linked to the controversial leak.

An inquiry is now being led by Chief Supt Michael Finn, of Cork, and Det Supt John McMahon, of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Meanwhile, Dominic McGowan, who was the subject of the representations made by the Green Party TD to gardai, has filed a complaint with the Garda Ombudsman. He claims he was told by a garda that criminal charges would be levelled against Mr Sargent for contacting the force if the TD persisted with the issue.

The Dublin North TD wrote letters to gardai on Department of Agriculture headed paper in which he said it would be "wholly inappropriate" if Mr McGowan was prosecuted.

Prosecution

Mr McGowan has denied he asked Mr Sargent to attempt to halt his prosecution. He said: "I did not direct Mr Sargent to do any such thing. I only went to my local politicians. Mr Sargent was good enough to contact the (gardai) to say, 'Well, why haven't my witnesses been interviewed?' and that's it.

"There was no deviousness. Maybe it shouldn't have went to the particular (garda) himself, it should have went to the superintendent. But, as a minister, Mr Sargent has indicated he wasn't trying to get the particular (garda) in trouble."

The letters written by the Green Party TD were later leaked to the media, effectively ending the former Green Party leader's ministerial career.

With the inquiry firmly under way, gardai have been focusing on who had copies of Mr Sargent's letters before they were sent.

They will also look at what access lawyers for Mr McGowan and court officials might have had to the letters during the court hearings that arose out of the row between Mr McGowan and his neighbour, Stephen Mulvany, that led to the two of them being charged.

Inquiries will focus on gardai stationed in Balbriggan and at Garda HQ in Harcourt Square, where a garda involved in the investigation of the row was subsequently transferred.

Irish Independent

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