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Wednesday 22 January 2020

Garda Commissioner was 'not privy to or approved of' alleged campaign to discredit garda whistleblower

Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan
Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan Newsdesk Newsdesk

Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan has responded to recent media reports and said she would like to clarify she was "not privy to or approved of" any action to target any Garda employee.

The Garda Commissioner's statement today follows allegations of a campaign within An Garda Siochana to discredit a whistleblower.

She said it would be inappropriate to comment on the specifics and also said the "full content" of the allegations will be examined "at the earliest opportunity".

The statement, released by An Garda Síochana on behalf of Ms O'Sullivan, reads: "I would like to make it clear that she was not privy to nor approved of any action designed to target any Garda employee who may have made a protected disclosure and would condemn any such action."

She continued: "It would be inappropriate for An Garda Síochána to comment on the specifics of any protected disclosure.

"In order to maintain public confidence in An Garda Síochána, we are anxious that the full content of the disclosures giving rise to the commentary be comprehensively examined at the earliest opportunity.

"The Commissioner wishes to reiterate that any employees in An Garda Síochána who bring forward any concerns or issues they might have will be taken seriously and the matters examined."

She added: "For the record, the Executive Director, Human Resources and People Development, An Garda Síochána is responsible amongst other matters for managing the welfare of all employees.

"The Executive Director reports any such issues and concerns in this regard to his line manager. As necessary, such matters are then brought to the attention of the Commissioner.

"At no stage did the Executive Director, Human Resources and People Development, report to the Minister for Justice.

"To state or infer otherwise is incorrect.

"The preparation of reports for the Minister for Justice under section 41 of the Garda Síochána Act is a matter for the Garda Commissioner only."

The allegations were made by two other members of the force.

The story, in the Irish Examiner, reported that "whistleblowers [are] being strategically undermined and under attack, both their personal reputations and their professional reputations, at the instigation of senior garda management".

It was a topic of discussion in the Dáil today; Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said disclosures had now reportedly been made by a senior garda that "essentially, this campaign involved dissemination of texts across a range of gardaí, and the opening of an intelligence file on the whistleblowers, undermining the whistleblowers in relation to their character, in essence a character assassination attack, and that this was organised and that people who engaged in it were engaging in it under instruction".

Mr Martin said that if the allegations are true they should be investigated at high level.

The Taoiseach said he was aware of media reports on the allegations.

Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald accused Ms O'Sullivan of running for cover on the allegations.

"She has talked the talk when it comes to disclosure, transparency and openness, but when it comes to walking the walk, it's business as usual," she said.

"What of suggestions that minister Frances Fitzgerald has received other complaints? Complaints that she has failed to respond to over a period of months."

Several whistleblowers in the Garda have been identified in recent years, some of whom have spoken out about their treatment after raising concerns about corruption or bad policing.

Among them are Sergeant Maurice McCabe who was vindicated over the vast majority of his concerns about policing standards in parts of the Cavan-Monaghan division and abuse of the penalty point system.

Others are Nick Keogh and Keith Harrison both of whom have been named in the Dail as being victims of harassment after raising concerns about policing.

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