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Sunday 22 October 2017

Officers keen to 'air other side of the story' at McCabe inquiry

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan pictured yesterday at Griffith Conference Centre for the quarterly meeting of Garda management with the Policing Authority. Photo: Colin Keegan
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan pictured yesterday at Griffith Conference Centre for the quarterly meeting of Garda management with the Policing Authority. Photo: Colin Keegan
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

One of the country's most senior gardaí has said a number of officers are anxious to give their side of events to the public inquiry that will investigate an alleged smear campaign against whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Assistant commissioner John O'Driscoll also said he believed that any dent in public confidence in An Garda Síochána will be repaired by the tribunal.

He made the comments at a meeting between senior gardaí and the Police Authority oversight group.

At the meeting, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan admitted the McCabe controversy has had a "huge impact in terms of perception of the force".

Fielding questions about how morale was being affected internally, assistant commissioner O'Driscoll, who is in charge of special crime operations, said: "There is a frustration that there is another view of events that has not been aired yet."

He told the authority that personnel were greatly reassured by the fact they would have the opportunity to provide this information.

"Bearing in mind they know this information, but they just cannot impart their knowledge of particular events without having a forum such as the public inquiry," he said.

The comments are the latest indication that senior officers are set to come out fighting against allegations of the existence of an orchestrated campaign to smear Sgt McCabe.

Commissioner O'Sullivan has already denied involvement in any such campaign, and rejected calls for her resignation in recent weeks.

Attitudes

At the meeting with the authority yesterday, Ms O'Sullivan said Garda management was working to ensure that "attitudes and values" are in place across the force to prevent a similar controversy arising again.

Ms O'Sullivan also welcomed the fact Mr Justice Peter Charleton's inquiry will be held in public and insisted her appearances before it would not deflect her from plans to reform the force.

She said that a team had been put in place to deal with the needs of the tribunal and she did not expect it to distract from the reform programme, which she described as the largest in the force's 94-year history.

Commissioner O'Sullivan pointed out that there had been "significant controversies and crises" over the past three years and vacancies at senior levels in the force.

Read More: Commissioner says McCabe case has impacted on perception of Garda force

But she said that these issues had not stopped it from tackling major issues such as property crime, organised crime and dissident activity.

The tribunal is to investigate the extent of Commissioner O'Sullivan's knowledge of the alleged smear campaign against Sgt McCabe and how a file containing a false claim of sexual abuse came to be opened by Tusla, the child and family agency.

Former head of the Garda press office, Superintendent David Taylor, claimed in a protected disclosure that he was directed to send text messages to gardaí, journalists and politicians about Sgt McCabe.

He also claimed that Ms O'Sullivan was aware of the campaign to undermine the whistleblower. This has been denied by the commissioner.

She was not asked direct questions by the Policing Authority about her alleged role in the controversy.

Authority chairperson Josephine Feehily said it was restricted in the range of questions which could be directed to the commissioner, who was accountable to the Government.

She said this was a clear statutory distinction the authority had to be mindful of.

It meant it could not ask questions about ongoing investigations, including tribunals of inquiry.

Irish Independent

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