Saturday 16 December 2017

O'Sullivan 'on business' at time of whistleblower's letter request

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan. Photo: Tom Burke
Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan. Photo: Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan was "on business" when Garda HR boss John Barrett sought a copy of a controversial letter questioning if he broke the law during his probe of an alleged 'slush fund' at Templemore Training College.

The controversial letter, sent to Garda Commissioner Ms O'Sullivan by the force's head of finance Michael Culhane, referred to Mr Barrett's use of registered post to send himself documents relating to Templemore.

"Is JB (John Barrett) unwittingly guilty of a criminal offence under the Official Secrets Act?" Mr Culhane asked.

Mr Barrett only saw a full copy of the letter in recent weeks when it was provided to the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which is now looking into Templemore's finances.

He also complained that a version of the letter he received after a Freedom of Information request was redacted.

Now Ms O'Sullivan is said to have been "on business" at the time of Mr Barrett's attempt to seek the letter.

A note sent to the PAC states: "The Commissioner was on business in Ireland at the time of John Barrett's request for a copy of Michael Culhane's letter referencing Mr Barrett."

Ms O'Sullivan last month told the PAC that Mr Barrett was never investigated under the Official Secrets Act.

Mr Barrett and Mr Culhane both appeared at an earlier meeting of the committee.

Mr Culhane said he had concerns at the time of his letter about how Mr Barrett was treating confidential documents and that they might be leaked to the press. Mr Barrett said he didn't go to the press and he never intended to do so.

Mr Culhane was asked by TDs if he regretted his remarks in the letter about the Official Secrets Act. He said in hindsight "it probably was not wise to make that statement". The PAC is in the process of finalising its Templemore report.

Irish Independent

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