Sunday 18 March 2018

Taoiseach dragged into new Garda row

Under-fire Shatter sacks whistleblower confidante

Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny

Philip Ryan, Niall O'Connor and Fionnan Sheahan

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has been dragged into a new Garda controversy after being passed a dossier of 10 cases of alleged mismanagement in the force, some involving "abduction, assault and murder".

The ongoing focus on garda accountability took a fresh twist as Justice Minister Alan Shatter sacked the special confidante whose role was to receive allegations of wrongdoing from gardai.

The latest developments fuelled the growing disquiet around the transparency of An Garda Siochana, and the ongoing controversy over the suspected bugging of the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC).

Confidential Recipient Oliver Connolly was sacked after a transcript of a conversation emerged in which he told a garda whistleblower that Mr Shatter will "go after you".

The Taoiseach announced his sacking by Minister Shatter in the Dail – but gave no specific reason for the dismissal.

The Government is immediately moving to amend new legislation on the protection of whistleblowers, to allow gardai to report allegations directly to the Garda Ombudsman.

The Government also last night announced it had appointed retired High Court judge John Cooke to conduct an independent inquiry into the GSOC bugging claims.

Mr Justice Cooke will examine reports, transcripts, and documentation and also consider any relevant oral evidence – before making recommendations on the matter within eight weeks.

But the bugging affair continued to develop, with Mr Shatter questioning GSOC's decision to investigate possible garda involvement in suspected surveillance.

GSOC had launched a "public interest" investigation last year, calling in security experts amid concern that its Dublin offices were being bugged.

But the minister yesterday insisted that GSOC did not believe it was under surveillance when it first called in the experts to do a security sweep.

Mr Shatter said he felt the probe was based on "feelings", not evidence.

And in a separate dramatic development, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin claimed he was in possession of documents that allege a series of murders, abductions and serious assaults were not properly investigated.

Mr Martin received the documentation from garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe, and has since passed it to the Taoiseach after being invited to do so by Mr Kenny.

It was during a conversation with Sgt McCabe that Mr Connolly was heard telling him that the Justice Minister would "go after" him.

Well-placed sources have told the Irish Independent that the cases relate to a high-profile murder, three serious assaults, and the false imprisonment of a woman.

The three assaults include an attack that resulted in a serious head injury for one of the victims, while the other two incidents were recorded as "assaults causing harm".

"There were victims in each incident – and they made statements of complaint to gardai which were never investigated at the time," a source said.

Sgt McCabe is understood to claim none of the assaults were investigated when they first happened, but two of the incidents were subsequently investigated, the Irish Independent has learnt.

Neither investigation resulted in charges.

Another case relates to the false imprisonment of a woman in Cavan which was "never investigated", according to a source.

It is claimed the victim of the abduction reported her ordeal to gardai who opened a file on the incident but never investigated the allegation.

Sgt McCabe also gave Mr Martin evidence of "falsification and erasing official records", according to a source. "He was a bit stunned when he saw those," the source said.

The Fianna Fail leader said the allegations were so serious that an independent investigation was now required.

Mr Martin said the issues "relate to the failure to fulfil basic functions in terms of a range of cases – very, very serious cases – involving abduction, assault and ultimately murder, which leaves huge questions for (a) response".

Mr Martin said Mr Kenny should not simply refer the documentation to the Department of Justice. He also said Mr Shatter should correct the Dail record and acknowledge Sgt McCabe attempted to co-operate with an investigation into the penalty points controversy.

Sgt McCabe was also embroiled in the sacking of Mr Connolly as confidential recipient.

Mr Shatter sacked Mr Connolly, who was at the centre of controversy around a conversation he had with Sgt McCabe.

In the conversation, quoted in the Dail last week, Mr Connolly told Sgt McCabe that Mr Shatter would "go after you".

A transcript says: "If stuff was to get out into the public, the print media, I tell you something Maurice – and this is just personal advice to you – if Shatter thinks you're screwing him, you're finished.

"What I'm saying to you is, if stuff is to get into print (or) broadcasting media, if Shatter thinks it's you, or if he thinks that it is told by the commissioner or the gardai, here's this guy again trying another route to put you under pressure, he'll go after you."

Last week, the Taoiseach sought a report from the Department of Justice about the veracity or otherwise of the transcripts.

A spokesperson for Mr Shatter said no response would be made at this particular time.

Irish Independent

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