Sunday 26 March 2017

Cracks appear in Cabinet over Garda crisis

Halligan, Doherty and Canney urge Commissioner to release statement

Nóirín O’Sullivan: urged to issue clarification statement
Nóirín O’Sullivan: urged to issue clarification statement

Cormac McQuinn and Niall O'Connor

The fallout from the O'Higgins Report is overshadowing the work of government while uncertainty about the Garda Commissioner lingers, senior political figures admit

Newly-appointed Minister of State John Halligan last night failed to express confidence in Garda chief Nóirín O'Sullivan as unease grows over the fallout from the O'Higgins report.

And he admitted Ms O'Sullivan's failure to clarify the instructions given to her legal team has overshadowed the work of the government.

The Independent Alliance TD called on Ms O'Sullivan to "make a statement, clarify some issues and be done with it and let's move on because we don't want this hanging over our heads".

And in a move that upped the ante, Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty also warned that the controversy is "hanging over" the Garda chief.

"It is up to the Government to pursue this. There is an air of inconsistency between what was leaked and what the commissioner said and you cant just have that hanging out there," the Cabinet minister told the Irish Independent.

John Halligan. Photo: Tom Burke
John Halligan. Photo: Tom Burke

Despite the pressure, Ms O'Sullivan has made no further statement since fresh revelations emerged about instructions given to her counsel during Judge O'Higgins' inquiries into allegations of garda malpractice.

But the commissioner was yesterday summoned by Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald to the Department of Justice for an hour-long meeting as the controversy rumbles on.

However, sources say Ms O'Sullivan may wait until next week before providing a further explanation in relation to the instructions given to her legal team to question the credibility of garda whistleblower, Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

It is now clear that the controversy is causing serious strain between Fine Gael and the Independents who are propping up Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Regina Doherty. Photo: Tom Burke
Regina Doherty. Photo: Tom Burke

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Halligan said he is "flabbergasted" that there is another controversy in justice.

Asked if he had confidence in the Garda Commissioner, the Waterford TD replied: "I'd like to hear what she has to say ... I think that's a reasonable request."

And when asked if Ms O'Sullivan needed to make a statement before she would have his confidence, Mr Halligan said: "I think people are just taken aback at this stage that this has come up again and we have a Garda Commissioner embroiled in controversy."

Mr Halligan advised Ms O'Sullivan to issue a "comprehensive statement" on instructions given to her legal team.

Sean Canney. Photo: Tom Burke
Sean Canney. Photo: Tom Burke

The new junior minister for training and skills said the issue has to be settled, and agreed it has overshadowed the first week-and-a-half of the new government.

"I think it's unfortunate for the Government. It probably is in that they wouldn't have expected this," he said.

Two separate ministerial sources accepted they also believe the controversy is distracting from the work of the government.

OPW Minister Seán Canney expressed confidence in Ms O'Sullivan - but said it would be helpful if she made a statement "rather than letting it drag out".

There was no response to a request for comment from the Garda Press Office. On Monday, Ms O'Sullivan said she accepted the O'Higgins Report and had "never regarded Sgt McCabe as malicious". But leaked transcripts suggested her legal team was instructed to attack his credibility and motivation.

Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Tom Burke
Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Tom Burke

Irish Independent

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