Sunday 23 October 2016

Lawyers urgently seek way for Garda chief to issue clarification without breaking law

Published 20/05/2016 | 02:30

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Lawyers are urgently trying to find a way to allow Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan to further clarify her instructions to her legal team at the O'Higgins Commission - without breaking the law.

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Legal advisers to Ms O'Sullivan and to Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald are studying the legislation that prohibits the release of information from the commission of inquiry by parties other than Mr Justice Kevin O'Higgins. Ongoing contacts have also been made over the past couple of days between Garda HQ and the Department of Justice as they attempt to find a mechanism to allow further comment by Ms O'Sullivan, which would allay any public concern over her instructions.

The controversy stems from revelations about counsel for the Commissioner telling Judge O'Higgins they had been instructed to challenge the credibility and motivation of Sgt Maurice McCabe, in relation to his allegations of corruption and malpractice against five senior officers. All of the allegations were subsequently either withdrawn or deemed unfounded by Judge O'Higgins.

Government and Opposition politicians have called on Ms O'Sullivan to make another statement to clear confusion over whether her instructions to her legal team contradicted her public comments at the time.

She was publicly supporting Sgt McCabe's position in making his complaints about policing issues in the Cavan-Monaghan garda division and Bailieboro district.

Senior counsel for the Garda Commissioner, Colm Smyth, told Judge O'Higgins they had never suggested Sgt McCabe could have been acting out of malice in relation to the corruption allegations, but that word had been introduced into the discussion by Mr Michael McDowell SC, who represented Sgt McCabe, and by the judge.

Irish Independent

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