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Friday 22 September 2017

O'Sullivan to remain in her post as judge to lead commission looking at garda whistleblower allegations

Garda chief Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Garda chief Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan will be allowed to cling on to her post despite now being the subject of a Commission of Investigation established to examine allegations of a smear campaign against garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

The judge-led commission has been given nine months to investigate claims members of garda management, including Ms O'Sullivan and her predecessor Martin Callinan, directed or had knowledge of a campaign to discredit Sgt McCabe.

The claims have been examined by a retired member of the judiciary, Iarfhlaith O'Neill, who has told Government that they now warrant a commission of investigation.

The commission, chaired by Supreme Court judge Peter Charleton, will have direct powers to compel witnesses. It's understood a budget of €1.2m will be set aside.

The commission's establishment was agreed by Cabinet on the back of a recommendation by Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who has for the past few weeks been examining the contents of the scoping exercise completed by Mr O'Neill, a retired High Court judge. His conclusions, recommendations and proposed terms of reference for the commission will be brought before the Dáil today.

A Government spokesman said the full report will not be published on the back of advice received by Attorney General Máire Whelan.

One of the main players at the centre of the controversy is Superintendent David Taylor, the former head of the Garda Press Office.

Supt Taylor has been on suspension with reduced pay for 21 months, despite never being charged with any offence.

Both Supt Taylor and Sgt Maurice McCabe submitted protected disclosures to the Justice Minister, who referred them for further examination.

Speaking on Wednesday Ms O'Sullivan again repeated that she had no involvement in any alleged effort to discredit Mr McCabe.

A lot of work has been done to culture and the environment  in the gardai more supportive she said.

“We’re learning all of the time,” she told RTE Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke program.

When asked to categorically deny that she played no role in attempting to discredit Sgt McCabe, she said she was already on record on the matter. 

“I’m on record from the very start when these issues were raised as saying that I had absolutely no knowledge nor was I privy to any campaign to undermine any individual ," she said.

Fine Gael sources who were present at yesterday's Cabinet meeting said Ms O'Sullivan's position was not questioned.

Read more: 'My mother insisted I get a good, pensionable job' - Noirin O'Sullivan admits she didn't always want to be a guard

One minister said there is no "appetite politically" for the Government to lose another commissioner until the "firm facts" are established. Fianna Fáil has welcomed the establishment of the commission, with sources agreeing the party is not yet prepared to "seek the head" of Ms O'Sullivan.

The commission will seek to establish whether Supt Taylor was directed to lead the smear campaign against Sgt McCabe by former commissioner Callinan. Crucially, it will also examine whether Ms O'Sullivan had direct knowledge about the smear campaign itself.

Both Ms O'Sullivan and Mr Callinan have fervently rejected the allegations.

Speaking yesterday, Mrs Fitzgerald said the claims have not yet been proved. "Let me say to you that these are allegations. There is no prima facie case against anyone," she said.

A garda spokesman said: "An Garda Síochána welcomes and will co-operate fully with the Commission of Investigation chaired by Mr Justice Peter Charleton so that the truth and facts are established."

Irish Independent

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