'Leaving O'Sullivan in charge is neither fair, nor appropriate nor defensible', says McDowell
Former attorney general Michael McDowell has joined the growing calls for Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan to stand aside while the tribunal into an alleged Garda smear campaign takes place.
Mr McDowell, who has been providing legal advice to whistleblower Maurice McCabe, said it was "neither fair, nor appropriate, nor defensible" to allow Ms O'Sullivan remain in-situ.
He told the Seanad that the commissioner "must step aside" in order to allow fairness to come first.
The senator said: "As a former tánaiste, minister for justice and attorney general, I believe I am in a good position to form an opinion as to whether it is appropriate or inappropriate for the commissioner, against whom the gravest allegations of misconduct have been made, [to remain in-situ]; and she will not be able to exercise that authority and to exercise those functions while the tribunal is being organised and while it is investigated over a period of three months."
Ms O'Sullivan has been engulfed in the whistleblower controversy amid claims she was aware of a smear campaign targeting Sgt McCabe.
The Government has continued to back her despite some Fine Gael TDs and senators expressing doubts about her position.
She has insisted that she will not step aside while a tribunal investigates the claims.
"The easiest option for me would be to step aside until the commission finishes its work.
"I'm not taking that option because I am innocent," Ms O'Sullivan said in a statement on Monday.
But speaking in the Seanad, Mr McDowell said: "The relationship between the Government and the Commissioner of an Garda Síochána must be based on confidence.
"Confidence in anyone's language includes a solid belief that the person in question is truthful and reliable in every respect.
"Confidence cannot be said to exist if sufficient doubt exists in the mind of the Government in respect of the gravest allegations to warrant the establishment of a tribunal of enquiry."
He added: "Moreover, it is totally inconceivable that officers including senior officers of a disciplined force should be asked in public to accuse the person in charge of them of grave misbehaviour in evidence, and furthermore to instruct counsel to cross examine that person as to her honesty, reliability and suitability for office."
However, Ms O'Sullivan's position did get a boost yesterday when the Policing Authority issued a statement expressing confidence in her and senior Garda management.
The authority said it was satisfied with Garda management's ability to do its important, challenging, and difficult job.