Commissioner accused of 'sex crime' smear on whistleblower
Garda chief denies spreading allegations
The Dáil has been rocked by allegations that Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan sought to link Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe to sex crimes.
The claims by former minister and Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin provoked a furious response from the commissioner, who was last night clinging on to her position in An Garda Síochána.
Mr Howlin stunned TDs after claiming he received information from a journalist who claimed to have direct knowledge of Commissioner O'Sullivan contacting a number of other journalists in 2013 and 2014 to allege that Sgt McCabe was involved in "sexual crimes".
The allegations were put on the Dáil record by the Labour leader just hours before the publication of a report by retired High Court judge Iarfhlaith O'Neill, who has spent several months probing the alleged smear campaign by Garda management against Sgt McCabe.
This report centred around allegations made by Superintendent David Taylor, who claims that he was directed by former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and successor Nóirín O'Sullivan to destroy Sgt McCabe's character.
Mr Justice O'Neill has now provided an explosive terms of reference to Supreme Court Judge Peter Charleton (inset), who will now lead a wider Commission of Investigation.
Former Garda press officer Supt Taylor has claimed that he was told to brief the media that Sgt McCabe was "motivated by maliciousness and revenge".
But in a dramatic development last night, it also emerged that Mr Justice Charleton has also been tasked to establish Supt Taylor's claims that he was "directed" to draw journalists' attention to an "allegation of criminal misconduct made against Sgt McCabe".
Mr Justice Charleton will examine nine issues including whether Commissioner O'Sullivan knew about a smear campaign against Sgt McCabe, or if she played any part in directing it.
The Charleton Commission will also examine over two years of telephone contact between Commissioner O'Sullivan, Mr Callinan and Supt Taylor.
Reporting by RTÉ will also be examined, while a secret meeting held between former Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman John McGuinness and Mr Callinan is also part of the terms of reference.
Just hours before the document was published in redacted form by Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, Mr Howlin went a step further and claimed Sgt McCabe was linked to sex crimes by the commissioner.
He called on her to stand aside pending the outcome of the investigation. Mr Howlin said in any other walk of life a person in such a situation would have to go on "administrative leave".
Hours later, Commissioner O'Sullivan released a statement in which she vehemently disputed Mr Howlin's claims.
"The commissioner has no knowledge of the matters referred to by Deputy Howlin and refutes in the strongest terms the suggestion that she has engaged in the conduct alleged against a serving member of An Garda Síochána," Commissioner O'Sullivan's statement said.
"This is the first occasion on which the commissioner has been made aware of the allegations made by Deputy Howlin and to her knowledge no report having been made to the Garda Siochána Ombudsman or elsewhere relating to the specific allegations," it added.
While both Sinn Féin and the Labour Party have called for Commissioner O'Sullivan to step aside pending the outcome of the Charleton Commission, Fianna Fáil pointedly is backing the commissioner until its completion in nine months' time.
However, senior Fianna Fáil figures say they remain deeply uneasy about Commissioner O'Sullivan remaining in situ, with one source saying the party may change its position if further controversies develop.