Tuesday 23 January 2018

PAC members clash on what to do with garda whistleblower evidence

Independent TD Shane Ross
Independent TD Shane Ross

MEMBERS of the Dail's spending watchdog clashed this morning over how they will handle an "in camera" meeting this afternoon with a garda penalty points whistleblower.

There were sharp exchanges between members after Independent TD Shane Ross asked the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, John McGuinness, whether or not information from the meeting could be disclosed publicly afterwards.

He also enquired whether a transcript would be kept of the meeting with the whistleblower, Sgt Maurice McCabe.

The questions were branded "ridiculous" by Fine Gael TD and committee member John Deasy.

Mr Ross said as far as he knew there were "no rules" surrounding the private session, but the precedent in the past had been for no transcript to be kept.

Mr McGuinness asked the clerk of the committee, Ted McEnery, to clarify the issue.

Mr McEnery said that because it was a private session, there would no transcript made available afterwards. There would be a recording, but this would be kept private.

"The strong [legal] advice given to me is we need to protect the witness as much as possible and as they have asked that the meeting be held in private, the evidence remain confidential," said Mr McEnery.

"The danger of a transcript being out there is that be could be exposed," he added, referring to fears Sgt McCabe could be subject to internal garda disciplinary measures.

Mr Ross inquired whether Sgt McCabe could be asked if he wanted a transcript kept.

At this point, Mr Deasy interjected: "This is ridiculous. It is absolutely ridiculous."

Mr McGuinness sought to calm the discussion, saying the questions raised would be put to the parliamentary legal advisor before the meeting at 2pm "so we will all understand the rules of engagement".

Committee vice-chairman, Fine Gael TD Kieran O'Donnell, asked that "due process" be allowed.

But Mr Deasy said: "I think we have finally entered the twilight zone of this committee. Everyone knows that within half an hour the information will be in the hands of journalists."

By Shane Phelan, Public Affairs Editor

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