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Saturday 20 September 2014

Claims Garda whistleblower is still being harrassed are being investigated, Commissioner says

Noirin O'Sullivan has asked senior Garda managers to engage with Sgt McCabe to investigate those claims

Daniel McConnell, Group Political Correspondent

Published 28/05/2014 | 14:30

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Noirin O'Sullivan
Noirin O'Sullivan

Claims that Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe is still being harrassed by fellow officers are being investigated by senior Garda management.

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Acting Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan has asked senior Garda managers to engage with Sgt McCabe to investigate those claims.

Ms O'Sullivan was speaking in the wake of reports that Sgt McCabe is still being victimised by fellow officers, and said senior management are in "daily contact" with him.

She told the Oireachtas Justice Committee that she has also called on the interim Garda Confidential Recipient to engage with Sgt McCabe's legal team to investigate the claims of continued harassment.

Speaking at the committee, she said: "We are committed to hearing our members who want to raise matters of concern. They may not always be right, but they must be listened to."

"We must discuss things in a much more open way."

The acting Garda Commissioner, Noirin O’Sullivan, has said the police force must become more tolerant of dissenting voices, saying “dissent is not disloyalty.”

Her comments come a day after Independent TD Mick Wallace told the Dail that Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe is continuing to suffer harassment from fellow members of the force.

In her first major address to the Oireachtas Justice Committee since taking up her role, it is also her first time appearing before an Oireachtas committee since the resignation of her predecessor Martin Callinan.

She said major reforms are needed to ensure an Garda Siochana is fit for purpose.

“An Garda Síochána has to become more open to internal and external criticism and feedback. Dissent is not disloyalty, and different and differing views need to be heard and supported as they can help improve the service we provide,” she said.

As she was leaving Leinster House, in front of observing media, Commissioner O'Sullivan crossed the Plinth to have a conversation with whistleblower retired John Wilson.

Ms O'Sullivan spent several minutes speaking to Mr Wilson who raised the treatment of Sgt McCabe with the Commissioner.

Speaking to Independent.ie, Mr Wilson said that he called on the Commissioner to "ring McCabe directly" and forget about delegating the matter to other senior managers.

"I told her to ring him personally and reassure him of her support," he said.

Sgt McCabe who is on sick leave as of last Monday, has reportedly registered 13 different instances of alleged harassment in the past month.

The family of Sgt McCabe have described the commissioner's assertion that Garda headquarters are in daily contact with him as "bullshit".

Sgt McCabe and his family are said to be "disgusted" after hearing Ms O'Sullivan's evidence before the Justice Committee yesterday afternoon.

The Irish Independent understands he took sick leave from his job on Monday after filing 13 separate bullying and harassment complaints in the last month.

Sgt McCabe's family claim they have had no support from the commissioner since he was reinstated on the PULSE system.

"If there has been constant contact there should be logs registered of all the interactions," a source said.

"It's complete bullshit - he was forced to take stress leave again this week and he wouldn't have done that if everything was okay," the source added.

Sgt McCabe told his superiors in Mullingar Garda Station he needed to take sick leave on Monday after alleging a number of incidents of harassment and bullying.

The most recent complaint involved a colleague telling him he "ruined" the force with his allegations of garda misconduct.

Earlier, the interim Garda Commissioner had said the force is at “a defining moment”, and that she has already commenced substantial reform.

Referring to the turbulent relationship between the force and the Garda Sioachana Ombudsman Commission, Ms O’Sullivan said that where Gardaí are involved in any wrongdoing, misbehaviour or misconduct, “we must engage with GSOC to ensure these matters are dealt with effectively.”

She informed the committee of three recommendations she is proposing in regard to changes to the operations of GSOC.

They include that Gardaí should not investigate Gardaí. All complaints of a serious nature should be investigated by GSOC personnel. 

Secondly, the definition covering what incidents fall into the “serious harm” category should be extended.

Finally, she wants to enable GSOC to resolve complaints by way of informal resolution with the consent of the complainant and the member complained of.

She also said that many recommendations proposed in relation to the force and its various oversight bodies require resource investments which are difficult in the current climate in which An Garda Síochána – like other public bodies - has had to operate.

“These restrictions have meant that difficult decisions have had to be made and highly successful leadership and personnel development programmes have been suspended and innovative ICT developments have been put on hold,” she added.

She also said she welcomes the proposed establishment of an Independent Police Authority.

“We know that there are examples on these islands and further afield of how such authorities can operate. The key element for us is to ensure that the authority and its members are consistently guided and motivated by what’s good for the community and good for policing,” she told committee members.

Speaking at the same hearing, Baroness Nuala O’Loan, who served as Northern Ireland’s first Police Ombudsman from 1999 to 2007, said the role of Garda Commissioner must be made subject to GSOC oversight.

“GSOC cannot currently investigate complaints or allegations against the Commissioner. I do not know of any other similar organisation where this is the case. It is not sustainable if GSOC is to be perceived as effective. As it is there will always be the suspicion that accountability is OK for junior officers but the Chief must be protected,” she said.

She also said GSOC needs an uninterrupted, immediate right of access to search police premises. “This does not exist and is necessary.  The Garda Commissioner should be under a stated obligation to secure, preserve and provide evidence in every case,” she told committee members.

The under fire Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Brian Purcell, is due up before the committee later this evening. He has sought to restrict the committee from asking him about his role in the departure of Mr Callinan, but members of the committee are expected to challenge him nonetheless.

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