Sunday 22 October 2017

Varadkar may have prejudiced future trials, says Martin

Taoiseach's Jobstown remarks represent a 'dangerous precedent'

Leo Varadkar has come under fire for his comments. Photo: Doug.ie
Leo Varadkar has come under fire for his comments. Photo: Doug.ie
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's extraordinary intervention over the Jobstown trial may have prejudiced a number of other criminal cases due to be heard in the coming weeks, Fianna Fáil has alleged.

Party leader Micheál Martin yesterday accused Mr Varadkar of setting a "dangerous precedent" by his outspoken criticisms of the Garda handling of the Jobstown protest.

In a move that caused shock within political and Garda circles, the Fine Gael leader called on Garda management to "look into" the evidence given by officers at the marathon trial which involved Solidarity TD Paul Murphy.

Specifically, Mr Varadkar wants the review into the case to examine the testimony given by gardaí who appeared on the witness stand.

A number of Fine Gael TDs have privately queried whether the intervention, made on RTÉ's 'Prime Time', is the first step in Mr Varadkar removing Nóirín O'Sullivan as Commissioner.

But a senior Government source told the Irish Independent Mr Varadkar still had full confidence in Ms O'Sullivan, despite holding serious concerns about aspects of the trial and the controversies that have engulfed the force.

Sources within the body representing rank-and-file gardaí also told the Irish Independent that the remarks had gone down badly with members.

Mr Varadkar's decision to cast doubt over the evidence given by gardaí has been strongly criticised by Fianna Fáil.

Speaking in Cork yesterday, Mr Martin said the comments were concerning and ill-judged.

Read more: Varadkar wants Jobstown trial review to look at garda evidence

"The courts process is first of all independent. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is independent. I think politicians need to be extremely careful when wandering into that domain," Mr Martin said.

"He has left an impression - although he heavily caveats what he says, to be fair - but he nonetheless leaves the impression that maybe those gardaí didn't give the full truth in accordance with the facts. That is unfair and, in my view, the jury made a decision. We shouldn't second-guess the jury."

Protesters

Mr Martin also accused Mr Varadkar of making comments that could potentially prejudice trials involving Jobstown protesters.

"There could be other cases coming down (the tracks) in relation to that incident," he added.

"He may have prejudiced such cases."

Gardaí said they had started a review into the policing response and subsequent investigation of the Jobstown protest, which would be conducted by assistant commissioner Barry O'Brien, as a "lesson-learnt" exercise.

Mr Martin's party colleague Niall Collins claimed that the result in the trial raised questions about the role of the DPP.

Also speaking yesterday, Paul Murphy reiterated his call for an independent public inquiry to be held into the case.

But this claim was described as "farcical" by the Garda Representative Association (GRA).

Irish Independent

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