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Tuesday 21 November 2017

Garda chief offers new inquiry in bid for PAC compromise

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan
Martin Callinan

GARDA Commissioner Martin Callinan is to propose a new investigation into certain allegations of garda corruption as a compromise with the high-powered Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Mr Callinan is due to make contact with the committee this week to express serious concern about the prospect of garda whistleblowers airing their allegations in public.

The Irish Independent has learned that senior garda management will pledge to investigate allegations made by a serving garda sergeant before preparing a report for the PAC.

Mr Callinan is hopeful PAC will, in return, ensure that hearings involving whistleblowers are conducted in private. Sources have confirmed that Mr Callinan is willing to seek a legal injunction in order to prevent a scenario where the hearings are heard in public.

Senior government figures are becoming increasingly concerned about the prospect of whistleblowers making seriously allegations against the force in a public forum. One of the whistleblowers, Sgt Maurice McCabe, is taking legal advice and may appear in front on PAC on Thursday.

But garda management are due to press the committee to ensure his appearance is held in private. Ministers Joan Burton and Frances Fitzgerald yesterday heaped pressure on the committee and said the hearing should be conducted behind closed doors. But PAC chairman John McGuinness said the decison would be taken by the members. During a five-hour sitting of PAC last week, Mr Callinan accused Sgt McCabe and retired garda John Wilson of spending countless hours searching through Pulse without specific reasons and said this was patently wrong.

He described the behaviour of the two whistleblowers as "disgusting" in opting to make unsubstantiated allegations of corruption and criminality against senior colleagues in a public forum. Meanwhile, a former garda ombudsman commission member has called on the authorities to listen "very seriously" to the whistleblowers' allegations. Conor Brady said he believed there was deep hostility held by high-ranking garda officials towards the actions of the two men, adding that stronger legislation was required to protect them.


Describing Sgt McCabe as a man of integrity, Mr Brady said he personally would be influenced by what the serving garda had to say. Mr Brady, who served with the ombudsman body between 2005-2011, was also critical of current legislation surrounding whistleblowers. He highlighted the Confidential Recipient system, which is due to deal with complaints, as being flawed.

"The whistleblowing legislation is flawed because the first thing the Confidential Recipient has to do is go back to the Garda Commissioner and say I have a complaint from a named garda. There is no confidentiality," he said.

By Niall O'Connor and Caroline Crawford

Irish Independent

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