Saturday 23 September 2017

Tribunal will probe McCabe case and other whistleblowers

Supreme Court judge to provide interim report to the Tánaiste in three months

Probe: Supreme Court judge Peter Charleton. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Probe: Supreme Court judge Peter Charleton. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The tribunal established to investigate the alleged smear campaign against Sergeant Maurice McCabe can be extended to examine the complaints of other garda whistleblowers.

The terms of reference of the Tribunal of Inquiry, to be chaired by Supreme Court judge Peter Charleton, was passed through both Houses of the Oireachtas last night. Mr Justice Charleton will report on an interim basis to Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald within three months.

Speaking in the Dáil, Ms Fitzgerald vowed the tribunal "will ensure justice for Sergeant McCabe, his family and all parties involved".

The investigation will initially focus on allegations of an orchestrated campaign by senior gardaí to smear Sgt McCabe. The claim was made in a protected disclosure by Superintendent David Taylor, a former Garda press officer, last year. The tribunal will also investigate Tusla, the child and family agency, over its file containing false sex abuse allegations against Sgt McCabe.

Allegations of contacts between gardaí and: the media; government members; Tusla; the HSE; and any other State agencies will be probed.

The tribunal will also look into alleged contacts between gardaí and Tusla in relation to another Garda whistleblower, Keith Harrison.

Mr Harrison, who is on extended sick leave from the force, claims to be the victim of a five-year intimidation campaign after arresting a fellow officer for drink driving in 2009. He claims he and his girlfriend have been the subject of Garda surveillance and referral to Tusla over false allegations of "emotional abuse".

"Any pattern of the creation, distribution and use by Tusla of files containing allegations of criminal misconduct" against Garda members making claims of wrongdoing within the force will be investigated.

Mr Justice Charleton's probe will also consider if such files were knowingly used by senior Garda members to "discredit" whistleblowers. The cases of Sgt McCabe and Garda Harrison will form the initial work of the tribunal.

In a statement released by his solicitors, Garda Harrison said: "After a long and difficult battle to have all my complaints investigated I would like to acknowledge the publication today of the expanded terms of reference of the Tribunal of Inquiry that finally includes an investigation of the ill treatment of my family and I.

"I trust the inquiry will establish the truth and bring about a change within senior management of An Garda Síochána.

"It remains my wish to return to active duty serving my community as a member of An Garda Síochána."

Truth

Any other complaints made by whistleblowers claiming to have been targeted with the knowledge or acquiescence of senior officers will be examined in a second module by another judge, if Mr Justice Charleton requests it.

Ms Fitzgerald told the Dáil: "I look forward to the recommendations Mr Justice Charleton will make. I look forward to the truth."

Fianna Fáil's Jim O'Callaghan said he believed the terms of reference of the tribunal were "very appropriate" but warned there was a need to ensure costs did not run "inordinately high".

He said Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan did not need to step aside from her job during the tribunal, adding she had denied any wrongdoing.

Mr O'Callaghan said he believed Mr Justice Charleton's report would ultimately be of benefit to Irish society.

Irish Independent

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