Sunday 22 September 2019

State may sue to recover legal costs from former garda commissioner and garda press officer

Martin Callinan (Niall Carson/PA)
Martin Callinan (Niall Carson/PA)
John Downing

John Downing

The Taoiseach has asked the Attorney General to study whether the State can take a case to recover legal costs from former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and his former press officer, Superintendent Dave Taylor.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil that he hopes a legal case currently being taken by garda whistleblower, Sergeant Maurice McCabe, “can be settled sooner rather than later.”  But the Government may also move to recover costs from the two other senior gardaí.

The Taoiseach also said that the decision to provide taxpayer-funded legal advice for former Commissioner Callinan was taken last July before Mr Justice Peter Charleton published his report in October. He said this decision was now being reviewed in the light of the Tribunal findings.

Mr Varadkar also noted that Mr Justice Charleton could disallow tribunal legal expenses for any witness who he deemed to have failed to cooperate with the process.

Maurice McCabe (Niall Carson/PA)
Maurice McCabe (Niall Carson/PA)

In his report on October 11 the Supreme Court Judge exonerated Sgt McCabe whom he hailed as an exemplary officer who acted in the best interests of the Irish citizens. The Judge also found that Commissioner Callinan and Supt Taylor engaged in “a campaign of calumny” against  Sgt McCabe.

The Taoiseach was replying to Dáil questions by Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald, who said former Commissioner Callinan was not entitled “to one red cent” in taxpayers’ money to help fund his defence of a case now being brought by Sgt McCabe.  She understood that in the normal course of events a garda such as Commissioner Callinan would be indemnified by the State in legal cases.

“I must put it to you that this is not a normal case,” Ms McDonald angrily declared.  She argued that since Commissioner Callinan undertook a campaign of vilification against Maurice McCabe he was not entitled to get State legal assistance.

“He should face the consequences of his actions,” Ms McDonald said.

The Taoiseach rejected Ms McDonald’s call for an immediate end to legal advice for Mr Callinan saying he was awaiting legal advice on the issue. He also said that legal advice for Mr Callinan did not mean he would be entering a legal defence in the case, or that he would be automatically indemnified in the case.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith called for a special Dáil debate later this week on the whole question of Commissioner Callinan and State legal assistance.  The Leas Cheann Comhairle, Pat The Cope Gallagher, said this would be looked at by the committee which manages the Dáil agenda.

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