Friday 19 January 2018

Former garda chief's legal strategy to be revealed

Former commissioner to be questioned over attempt to undermine McCabe's allegations

Former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: PA
Former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: PA
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Former Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan's knowledge of the legal strategy aimed at undermining whistleblower Maurice McCabe will come under intense scrutiny this week.

The Disclosure Tribunal will hear from a number of senior gardai and civil servants who worked directly with O'Sullivan at the time it was decided to question Sgt McCabe's motives for highlighting garda misconduct.

O'Sullivan's legal team shocked McCabe by telling the O'Higgins Commission it would argue the whistleblower's campaign to raise awareness of Garda issues stemmed from a grudge against some of his colleagues.

Tomorrow Mr Justice Peter Charleton will hear from Chief Superintendent Fergus Healy, who is believed to have detailed notes of meetings at which the legal strategy was discussed.

Supt Healy's testimony is much anticipated, as it is believed he can give fresh clarity on who was aware of the legal strategy and who signed off on the attack on Sgt McCabe.

The superintendent is also understood to have notes and insider knowledge on the decision to tell the Department of Justice about the tactics the Garda's legal team was instructed to follow during the Commission of Investigation hearings.

During the inquiry, Supt Healy worked closely with Annmarie Ryan from the Chief State Solicitors Office who is also scheduled to take the stand tomorrow.

Questioning will focus on the instructions Supt Healy was asked to forward to Ms Ryan, who in turned passed the information to the State's barrister, Colm Smyth.

During the tribunal hearings, Mr Smyth revealed to Mr Justice Kevin O'Higgins that he was instructed to question Sgt McCabe's integrity and pursue a line of questioning that suggested the allegations he made against colleagues were driven by malice.

Former Garda chief administrative officer Cyril Dunne, who is currently CIE's chief operating officer, will also appear at the tribunal tomorrow, along with Ken Ruane, the force's head of legal affairs.

On Tuesday, O'Sullivan will have an opportunity to address the controversy for the first time in a public forum. Her questioning is expected to continue into Wednesday.

Garda executive director of human resources John Barrett will face a full day of questioning on Thursday, when he is expected to reveal when he was first made aware of the legal strategy. Sources familiar with the case said Mr Barrett was told about plans to attack Sgt McCabe's credibility in April, 2015. This was a month before O'Sullivan contacted the Department of Justice to tell them about the Force's legal strategy.

Details of the phone call and subsequent email exchanges led to the resignation of former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald after Fianna Fail threatened to put down a motion of no confidence in the then tanaiste.

Ms Fitzgerald, along with former staff members and senior civil servants, will appear before the tribunal next week.

Sunday Independent

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