Wednesday 21 February 2018

Gardaí didn't set Tusla on us, Simms tells tribunal

Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison and his partner Marisa Simms at the Disclosures
Tribunal in Dublin Castle. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison and his partner Marisa Simms at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Gerard Cunningham

The partner of a Garda whistleblower says she accepts there is no basis for believing gardaí manipulated Tusla into investigating her family and children, the Charleton tribunal has heard.

Marisa Simms told the tribunal yesterday she had previously believed there was an abuse of authority based on a "coincidence" in which she was contacted by Tusla shortly after she withdrew a statement making complaints against her partner, Garda Keith Harrison, in January 2014.

The tribunal is currently looking at contacts between gardaí and Tusla (formerly part of the HSE) in relation to Gda Harrison.

"I suppose I was suspicious. I had retracted my statement, and a week and a half later I get a letter," she said.

"I have absolutely no issue with Tusla, they had received a referral. The people we were dealing with were professional, they were courteous."

Ms Simms said when she was withdrawing her complaint, Inspector Goretti Sheridan told her a story about a couple in Letterkenny who had a row, and as a result social services were involved, and their children were "taken away". Ms Simms also said Sergeant Brigid McGowan told her to "think of her children".

Barrister Desmond Dockery BL, representing the AGSI, Insp Sheridan and Sergeant McGowan, said it was Sergeant McGowan's position she never told Ms Simms to "think of her children", and Insp Sheridan never told a story about a local couple and social services.

Ms Simms was asked by Mícheál O'Higgins SC, on behalf of the Garda Commissioner, if it was "entirely reasonable for the guards to notify the HSE and to take seriously what you had told them in your statement?"

"If you were just reading all the information, without the context around it, they had to take it seriously, yes," Ms Simms said.

Earlier, Ms Simms told the tribunal she felt she had no choice but to go to Letterkenny garda station when contacted by a Garda inspector. Ms Simms said many of the things in the Garda statement were not her words. She said she was tired, and might have nodded in agreement to questions put to her.

She said she had not called Gda Harrison "obsessive", and the statement was not read over to her. Ms Simms told the tribunal it was "absolutely ludicrous" to say she was "put out of our home", but had left voluntarily.

She said it was not her words that Gda Harrison "became abusive and aggressive" during an argument because he was not invited to Ms Simms's sister Paula's wedding.

"Gda Harrison did say in relation to my sister, 'I am going to bury her', but it was in relation to the wedding, that he was going to get her back. It was never a physical threat that he was going to bury her," Ms Simms said. "He did say I was going to get burnt, but he meant by my family. I was going to get burnt if I was trying to please everyone, getting pulled in every direction." Ms Simms said she thought the statement would go only to Chief Superintendent Terry McGinn.

Internet searches on her phone showed Ms Simms had looked up citizens' information in relation to barring safety and protection orders, and three stories about men accused of harassing women.

Tribunal barrister Kathleen Leader BL went through texts on the phone from September 29, 2013, a week before Ms Simms made her Garda statement, in which she texted Gda Harrison saying: "U r so full of s***, u make me sick. Love, you don't know the meaning of the word. You have threatened me for the last time."

Ms Simms said that around Halloween in 2013, Gda Harrison began counselling, and she saw a change in his behaviour.

Ms Leader said that a cynical person might say that because her relationship with Gda Harrison stabilised, she wouldn't want him to have difficulty in his job and had withdrawn her complaints.

Irish Independent

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