Friday 26 May 2017

Taoiseach: The Garda Commissioner has the full backing of the Government

Taoiseach Enda Kenny Picture: Gerry Mooney
Taoiseach Enda Kenny Picture: Gerry Mooney
Labour leader Brendan Howlin Picture: Frank McGrath
Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan

Sean Duffy and Laura Larkin

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has given his full backing to the Garda Commissioner, saying: “You cannot have a country if everybody against whom allegations are made has to step aside.”

Mr Kenny said the call for Noirin O’Sullivan to step aside while a Commission of Investigation probes whether she had knowledge of a campaign to smear whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Speaking in Poland, the Taoiseach said Ms O’Sullivan has “the full confidence of Government”.

Asked if it was credible for her to remain as garda chief during the inquiry, which will last at least nine months, Mr Kenny said: “There is no prima facie evidence. There is no indication of any wrongdoing of any kind on behalf of the Garda Commissioner.

“For that reason she is fully entitled to the support of government.”

Mr Kenny also denied that he is concerned losing a second garda commissioner under his watch could shorten the lifetime of the Government.

He said the suggestion was “utterly irrelevant”.

Earlier, Labour leader Brendan Howlin defended using Daíl privilege to make explosive claims about alleged misconduct on behalf of the current Garda Commissioner.

Under privilege Mr Howlin said in the Daíl on Wednesday that a journalist had contacted him and alleged that the Commissioner had, back in 2013 and 2014, made very serious allegations to a number of journalists about "sexual crimes" by the Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland Mr Howlin said today that the move was “absolutely appropriate”.

“Daíl  privilege I take very seriously. I have been the leas Ceann Comhairle of Daíl Eireann, I’ve been a member of Daíl Eireann for 30 years but Daíl privilege is there for a purpose,” he said.

“Not to be abused certainly but not to be not used. The easiest thing, the safest thing always is to say nothing and be silent. For too long that has been the default position.

“I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t believe it to be appropriate, I wouldn’t have used the privilege of the Daíl to say these things,” he added.

Mr Howlin said he has long had an interest in An Garda Siochana.

“I have an interest in An Garda Siochana going back 15 years. I fought for the establishment of the garda ombudsman, for the garda authority after the Morris tribunal that involved years of my life I believe the thousands of men and women in An Garda Siochana who work night and day in the interests of the public, put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf deserve the best,” he said.

When asked if he regretted the statements made in the Dail he said “I don’t know”.

“Obviously you have to think and it’s a judgement call… these matters were put to me in those circumstances and I put them as they were put to me,” he said.

He said while he only had contact with the journalist in question he believed that their account was their honestly held belief and that was the requirement under legislation.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O' Connor, has insisted that the Government has full confidence in Garda Commissioner Noirín O' Sullivan.

The Minister told the Independent.ie that " everyone in the country is entitled to their good name".

She said that the Government would be standing by the commissioner pending the outcome of a judicial inquiry into allegations that whistleblower Maurice McCabe was the victim of a smear campaign by senior members of An Garda Síochána.

"I have every confidence in the Garda Commissioner. There is no prima facie case against the Garda commissioner. What I would say is that everyone-everyone- in this country is entitled to a good name. She is entitled to defend that good name," the Minister said.

Asked whether the Government would continue to support the commissioner until the completion of the inquiry, the minister said:

"Absolutely. We have accepted judge O'Neil's pronouncements and we have set up a Commission of inquiry".

Under the inquiry, Ms O Sullivan's mobile phone and phone records over the past two years will be examined.

Former Garda press officer Superintendent David Taylor has said in a protected disclosure that he was directed to brief the media against Mr McCabe by senior members of the force.

Ms O'Sullivan has denied any wrongdoing.

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