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Friday 29 August 2014

Road safety pair quizzed by gardai over McCabe meetings

Philip Ryan

Published 14/03/2014 | 02:30

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Whistleblower Garda Sgt.Maurice McCabe.Picture: Tom Burke
Whistleblower Garda Sgt.Maurice McCabe.Picture: Tom Burke

TWO high-profile road safety advocates were questioned by gardai about their dealings with garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

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Former chief executive of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) Noel Brett and AA Roadwatch director of consumer affairs Conor Faughnan gave statements to gardai last year.

An investigation was launched after the former head of the Garda Traffic Corps, Eddie Rock – who is also a member of the RSA board – claimed that his data protection rights had been breached.

ALLEGATIONS

It is understood that gardai approached Mr Brett and Mr Faughnan last summer after it was reported that they met with a garda whistleblower who had made allegations about terminated penalty points.

The identity of the whistleblower was not known at the time but it has since emerged that it was Garda Sergeant McCabe.

The two well-known public figures were not questioned as suspects but rather to establish if they had been given confidential private information from the whistleblower.

Mr Brett confirmed he was interviewed by gardai but said he had not heard anything further since. Mr Faughnan also confirmed that he was interviewed but said he did not wish to comment. Mr Rock could not be reached for comment last night.

A garda spokesman said it was the force's policy not to comment on individuals who may have been questioned as part of investigations.

A source said both men were questioned last year but the status of the investigation is unclear.

The Irish Independent understands that gardai arranged to meet Mr Faughnan in his office, where he made a full statement on his involvement with Sgt McCabe.

Gardai asked Mr Faughnan if private data had been "disseminated illegally" by a member of the force.

He told gardai he met Sgt McCabe but insisted that he was not given or shown any personal information which could be perceived to be a breach of data-protection rules, according to a source.

It is understood that Sgt McCabe's name was not mentioned during the interview because his identity was unknown at the time.

He waived his right to anonymity in January when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee to give evidence. It has been reported Sgt McCabe contacted Mr Faughnan to raise concerns about the penalty points system.

The AA spokesman put the garda sergeant in contact with the then head of the Road Safety Authority, Mr Brett, who is now the chief executive of the Irish Banking Federation.

Mr Brett forwarded a dossier of Sgt McCabe's complaints to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commissioner and the Comptroller and Auditor General. He also contacted the Department of Transport, which oversees the RSA.

CONTACT

Sgt McCabe made contact separately with the Department of Transport around the same time and met with a senior official in order to detail his complaints.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar then sent his dossier of allegations to Justice Minister Alan Shatter, who ordered a garda internal inquiry.

Three investigations have since been completed, including one by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, which found that the State was losing millions of euro through flaws in the penalty points system,

Earlier this week, the Garda Inspectorate's report on the issue found "inconsistent and widespread breaches" of the system by gardai.

Chief Inspector Bob Olson commended Sgt McCabe for his assistance and concluded that without the public scrutiny the deficiencies within the system "would not have been detected".

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Alan Shatter has been accused by Fianna Fail's Dara Calleary of abusing his position to "sully the reputation" of garda whistleblowers as he again faced calls for his resignation in the Dail.

Mr Calleary said Mr Shatter "abused the privileges" of the Dail in comments about the whistleblowers.

"Minister Shatter clearly abused the privileges of his office to try to sully the reputation of a garda," he said.

Mr Calleary said Taoiseach Enda Kenny was being depicted as "Mighty Mouse" by his spindoctors in his dealings with Frank Flannery.

"When it comes to Minister Shatter, the Taoiseach is a church mouse," he said.

Mr Calleary went on to call for Mr Shatter to apologise to the garda whistleblowers, while Sinn Fein's Aengus O Snodaigh called on Mr Shatter to resign.

Irish Independent

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