Sunday 19 November 2017

Ahern 'knew nothing about allegations'

Former Justice Minister Dermot Ahern.
Former Justice Minister Dermot Ahern.

Shane Phelan and John Downing

FORMER Justice Minister Dermot Ahern has insisted he knew nothing about concerns raised by garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe back in 2008.

As expectations grew that an official inquiry will be announced soon, Mr Ahern rejected suggestions that the concerns raised by Sgt McCabe had been known to Fianna Fail a long time ago.

The Government has maintained its united front in the face of the garda controversy, with several ministers from both coalition parties expressing confidence in Justice Minister Alan Shatter, who is expected to address the Dail on the issue today.

Mr Shatter will come under intense pressure to answer two key allegations. Firstly, did he receive information in January 2012 and fail to act upon it? Secondly, was he right to say in the Dail that Sgt McCabe did not co-operate with an internal penalty points inquiry?

The catalogue of complaints against gardai for their alleged mishandling of investigations, including kidnap, murder and rape, grew over the weekend with at least four whistleblowers now appearing to be involved.

The original pair of retired garda John Wilson and Sgt McCabe were joined by another unnamed man and woman.

It has emerged that Sgt McCabe went to the then confidential recipient, Brian McCarthy, back in 2008 with catalogue of around 20 complaints, most of which related to alleged neglect of duty by fellow officers. There was also an allegation that an attempted rape was not properly investigated.

But Mr Ahern, who succeeded the late Brian Lenihan as Justice Minister in May 2008, told the Irish Independent he was never told about any of these allegations.

"To the best of my knowledge, no official, either in the guards or in the department or in the confidential recipient's office, briefed me about any of these allegations," he said.

A number of the claims made by Sgt McCabe in 2008 were also included in dossier given by him to Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin in recent weeks. The Opposition has been calling for a special inquiry into the latest allegations, with Mr Martin saying Mr Shatter knew about them since January 2012.

This call was rejected last Friday by Finance Minister Michael Noonan, who said the allegations related to the years 2007-2009, a period when an FF-led government was in power.

But Mr Ahern said: "The first I heard of these allegations was in the newspaper."

The former justice minister said the then confidential recipient would not have been obliged to inform him about Sgt McCabe's allegations.

"My understanding is that the only way these confidential reports would be brought to the minister's attention is if there is a complaint made against the Garda Commissioner," he said.

Irish Independent

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