'No evidence of wrongdoing against her' - Fitzgerald defends Commissioner ahead of Committee appearance
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has jumped to the defence of Noirín O'Sullivan ahead of the Garda Commissioner's appearance before the Justice Committee.
The top garda will today, for the first time, face questions from TDs over the alleged smear campaign against whistleblowers that has rocked the force.
Central to the controversy is Superintendent David Taylor, who has claimed in a protected disclosure that garda management sought to discredit the character of Sergeant Maurice McCabe.
Supt Taylor, the force's former press officer, has claimed Commissioner O'Sullivan was personally told of efforts to discredit Sgt McCabe.
She has rejected any such assertion.
Minister Fitzgerald appeared on RTÉ Morning Ireland today where she was asked why shouldn't MS O'Sullivan step aside when there are such serious allegations against her?
The Tanaiste responded: "Why should she when there is no evidence of wrongdoing against her?
"I do believe that you need to hear all evidence first in relation to any claims that come in against her. Natural justice demands it. I am a very strong believer, and in my position, that there are fair procedures for everybody. And I believe that by the action we have taken that is fair procedure.
"I am not going to deal with a body of allegations and make judgements in relation to them until the evidence is heard and I have set up a process for that."
Asked if, as of this morning, she had confidence in the Commissioner, Ms Fitzgerald said: "I have made it very clear that I do. There is a huge policing job to be done out there.
"I believe that the gardaí are having a lot of successes in relation to very challenging situations. The gangland situation, which I believe is being dealt with, we have excellent policing going on in this country.
She continued: "I believe there are challenges in relation to whistleblowing. We have to make sure people have that confidence, whether it was RTE or a media organisation or anywhere else you have to have confidence that if you are a whistleblower the procedures are in place that you are protected."
Retired Judge Iarfhlaith O'Neill has been tasked by Minister Fitzgerald with investigating claims of a plot to discredit Sgt McCabe.
The Tanaiste said the review will take six weeks and any further recommendations following his review will be put in place.
In her statement to the Justice Committee, which was circulated to members on Tuesday night, the Commissioner makes no reference to the ongoing controversies that have dogged the force.
Instead, she focuses heavily on the success of Operation Thor and the joint operation with Spanish police to tackle gangland crime.
"In relation to organised crime, An Garda Síochána has made significant progress in disrupting and tackling such gangs over the last number of months," Ms O'Sullivan says.
"We've built on the expertise in our Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau by introducing a Special Crime Task Force to focus on criminals working at lower levels in organised crime gangs.
"You've seen the results. Significant arrests and seizures in the last few weeks that have degraded organised crime gangs by taking guns, drugs and cash from them. Lives have been saved - with 12 assassination attempts foiled."