Saturday 29 October 2016

Commissioner's claim on McCabe may start new maelstrom in force

Paul Williams

Published 14/05/2016 | 00:00

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan: conflicting positions. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan: conflicting positions. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

The revelation that Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan incorrectly claimed Maurice McCabe had admitted his complaints about garda malpractice were based on malice is embarrassing at best.

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It has been reported that counsel for the commissioner told the initial stages of the sworn enquiry into allegations of wrong-doing in the Cavan/Monaghan division that evidence would be presented showing McCabe had been motivated by spite.

It was suggested the sergeant, some of whose complaints were upheld by the enquiry while others were dismissed as unfounded, made the admission at a meeting with two senior officers. According to the commissioner, they had taken a note of the confession of malice.

However, McCabe had recorded the meeting and gave it to Mr Justice Kevin O'Higgins, who found that the sergeant had made no such admission.

The position taken by the commissioner conflicts with what she told a joint Oireachtas committee in May 2014 - that McCabe had the full support of garda management.

Then four months later Ms O'Sullivan appointed him to the Professional Standards Unit to work on the penalty points system.

While Ms O'Sullivan clearly has questions to answer, there is also a major question for the Commission of Investigation: why was the matter not considered germane to the enquiry and included in the final report?

The report which was finally published this week is puzzling in that everyone - with the marked exception of a handful of young, inexperienced and inadequately supervised officers - came away exonerated.

The report found Maurice McCabe to be a man of integrity and honesty who had acted out of "genuine and legitimate concerns" although he could be prone to exaggeration.

And while it upheld some of his complaints, others were found to have been "overstated", "exaggerated", "unfounded" and "withdrawn".

The victims of the various crimes under investigation were badly served - but there was no evidence of corruption and much of the failings were at "a human level and caused by poorly supervised individuals".

It also completely exonerated former commissioner Martin Callinan, of "unfounded and deeply hurtful" allegations of corruption which McCabe had levelled at him.

There was "not a scintilla of evidence" to support the claims, but that vindication has come too late.

Since Callinan's forced retirement from his job in 2014, the upper echelons of An Garda Síochána have been wracked by uncertainty.

In the rush to clean up the corporate image, a surgical purge was carried out.

One senior officer, who has an exemplary record of service and is due to retire in two years, was banished to a corner of a building without explanation. This particular garda has been involved in serious crime investigation for over three decades and was one of the lead detectives in the Veronica Guerin murder probe.

Senior officers are now openly talking about a sense of disharmony and division that has engulfed the organisation, while the front-line supervisors freely accuse their top management of being disconnected.

There is also deep disquiet over the treatment of Callinan's former press officer, Superintendent Dave Taylor, suspended from duty for the past year pending an investigation over media leaks. The commissioner has defended her decision to appoint her husband, Det Supt Jim McGowan, as one of two senior officers in charge of the case.

Just when it should be settling down for a period of calm after the storm, An Garda Síochána may now be facing into another maelstrom.

Irish Independent

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