Sunday 25 September 2016

Tánaiste: Garda Commissioner should clarify her position on O'Higgins Report controversy

Published 18/05/2016 | 13:10

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins

TÁNAISTE Frances Fitzgerald has said it would be “helpful” if Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan would make further remarks clarifying her position amid the controversy surrounding the O’Higgins Report.

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The justice minister, Ms Fitzgerald, came under renewed pressure in the Dáil this morning as more leaks surfaced on how lawyers for Ms O’Sullivan questioned whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe’s credibility during Judge Kevin O’Higgin’s investigation into allegations of Garda malpractice.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin referred to the leaks as “all fairly damaging” and said the controversy “has escalated”.

He said: “The bottom line is the transcripts are there now for all to see Tánaiste and we can’t live in some sort of make believe world that they’re not there because they’re not officially there.”

He quoted from one of the transcripts published in the Irish Examiner today where Judge O’Higgins asks the barrister representing the Commissioner if the lawyer was saying that Mr McCabe was “motivated by malice”.

“If these are instructions from the Commissioner so be it,” Mr Martin quoted Mr O’Higgins as saying.

Noirin O'Sullivan
Noirin O'Sullivan

“To which the senior counsel replies ‘so be it’,” Mr Martin said adding that the lawyer continued: “’That is the position judge. This isn’t something I’ll pulling out of the sky judge and I mean I can only act on instructions.’”

Mr Martin told Ms Fitzgerald: “This needs be comprehensively and transparently addressed Tánaiste.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Frank Mc Grath

“It can’t be left as it is. I accept it’s entirely unsatisfactory where we are now.

“But we are where we are.

“And it may be uncomfortable for people but there are some really stark realities emanating from this because as I said yesterday it goes to the core of how whistleblowers are treated, how people have made assertions and allegations in good faith are treated.”

Ms O’Sullivan released a statement on Monday night where she said the Gardaí fully accepts the findings and recommendations of the O’Higgins report.

She said while there are legal restrictions on her clarifying certain matters in relation to the proceedings before the O'Higgins Commission,  that she wanted to make clear that she does not and “never regarded Sgt McCabe as malicious”

Ms Fitzgerald said she wanted to put on the Dáil record that the O’Higgins report found that Sgt. McCabe raised “genuine and legitimate” concerns and that he showed “courage” in performing “a genuine public service at considerable personal cost”.

The Tánaiste responded to Mr Martin's remarks saying that Ms O’Sullivan has accepted the report and that the Commissioner has said that she never suggested that malice was the motivation.

“I will obviously have ongoing discussions with her and I’ve no doubt that she will seek to clarify as much as possible the points that you raise in her own interventions,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

Ms Fitzgerald later added: “clearly if the Commissioner saw fit to make further comment and if she was in a legal position to do that, that would be helpful in terms of answering some of the points that you [Mr Martin] make and I have no doubt that within the legal constraints that she will say as much as possible when she’s questioned in the future in relation to these issues.”

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