Monday 20 November 2017

Varadkar wants Jobstown trial review to look at garda evidence

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Picture: Gerry Mooney
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Picture: Gerry Mooney

Ryan Nugent, Kevin Doyle and Robin Schiller

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar wants the review into the Jobstown trial to examine the testimony given by gardaí who appeared on the witness stand.

In an usual move, Mr Varadkar has intervened in a row involving one of the most significant trials in years.

The Fine Gael leader has heaped pressure on Nóirín O'Sullivan, saying the Garda Commissioner and senior officers should consider carefully the evidence.

Mr Varadkar said that garda testimony should not differ from the video evidence presented in cases and gardaí who stand in court need to be trusted.

The Taoiseach, however, reiterated his view that there is no need for a public inquiry following the Jobstown trial.

Senior government sources said while the Taoiseach has full confidence in the Garda Commissioner, the upcoming review must examine the testimonies given by individual officers.

Last night, gardaí said they have commenced a review into the policing response and subsequent investigation of the Jobstown protest, which will be conducted by assistant commissioner Barry O'Brien, as a "lesson-learnt" exercise.

In an interview on RTÉ 'Primetime', Mr Varadkar said: "People need to trust what gardaí say on the stand and I can understand that perhaps in a scenario whereby lots of things are happening quickly and people are caught up in the heat of the moment, they may have a recollection that isn't exactly as things happened.

"But I would be very concerned if it's the case that we would ever have gardaí on the stand in the court giving evidence that is not in line with the facts, that is not in line, for example, with the video evidence.

"I think there is, you know, something there that needs to be looked at both by the Garda Commissioner and senior Garda management because we need to be able to trust that when gardaí stand up in court and they say something happened that that did happen.

"And it shouldn't conflict with the video evidence and if it does then that is a problem," he added.

In a sign that Mr Varadkar's comments are set to ignite a significant political debate, Fianna Fáil's Micheál Martin last night said the Taoiseach was "being unfair to the Gardaí" in his interview.

The interview was pre-recorded shortly before yesterday's special Cabinet meeting on the economy, but while Mr Varadkar told ministers he had done the interview, no detail was provided.

"I'm not sure what the logic for this is," one senior Fine Gael politician said.

"He's playing into their hands," he added.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Garda Ombudsman (GSOC) said it is not examining evidence given by gardaí as it has "not received any complaints into the members behaviour".

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy, who was acquitted in the Jobstown case, said an internal probe would be "clearly inadequate".

He described the Taoiseach's comments as the "first crack in the wall of opposition to a public inquiry".

A spokesman for the Garda Representative Association (GRA) said an examination into evidence may prove "challenging".

Irish Independent

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