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Tuesday 20 March 2018

Tribunal hears senior garda's decision to refer domestic disturbance complaint to GSOC questioned

Garda Keith Harrison and his partner Marisa Simms Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Garda Keith Harrison and his partner Marisa Simms Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Gerard Cunningham

The chairman of the Charleton tribunal has asked for new statements from four senior gardai by tomorrow morning about a meeting which led to referrals about garda whistleblower Garda Keith Harrison to the HSE and GSOC.

Supreme court justice Peter Charleton said that the tribunal was only now learning for the first time that there was a reference to retired Northern region assistant commissioner Kieran Kenny being consulted in relation to the garda conference, which was held on 8 October 2013 in Letterkenny, Co Donegal.

Notes from the meeting also referred to Chief Superintendent Tony McLoughlin in the B Branch (Internal Affairs) in Garda HQ.

The chairman said that when he began the tribunal, he "asked for people who knew things to tell us what they knew."

The October 2013 meeting was "an important pivot", the chairman said, as this meeting led to a referral to the HSE (now Tusla). The tribunal in its current module is examining contacts between An Garda Síochána and Tusla relating to Garda Harrison.

Handwritten notes taken by Chief Superintendent Terry McGinn were handed in to the tribunal in June, the tribunal heard, but the chairman said that these were not searchable on the tribunal's computer system until they were typed up.

The chairman said that he should have received statements about assistant commissioner Kenny and Superintendent McLoughlin's knowledge of the October 2013 conference meeting, possibly from Superintendent Eugene McGovern, who gave evidence today, and probably from Chief Superintendent McGinn.

"I'm absolutely certain the garda commissioner should have caused a statement to be taken in relation to this from assistant commissioner Kenny and Superintendent McLoughlin," the chairman added.

Mr Justice Charleton said he had no idea if there was a conspiracy against Garda Harrison, and he wanted to emphasise that he tended to "go for the conspiracy theory only when the chaos theory has been out-ruled."

"This is not a case of the tribunal ascribing blame to anyone," the chairman said. "It is a case of the tribunal blowing a bugle and saying wake up and help us.

"What I'm saying is things could have been done a lot better."

The chairman said he was requiring statements to be made available to the tribunal by 10am tomorrow/this (Thursday) morning from Mr Kenny, Chief Supt McLoughlin, Chief Supt McGinn and Supt McGovern.

Garda Harrison's barrister Mark Harty SC complained that he had only just received the notes made by Chief Superintendent McGinn as he was going through his cross examination of Superintendent McGovern.

Mr Harty said the notes were critical to him as they made reference to the retired assistant commissioner for the Northern Region, Kieran Kenny, and his client had earlier this week been asked when giving evidence if he has any evidence of a conspiracy against him outside the Donegal division.

"This isn't a document which was somehow marginal to what was going on," Mr Harty said.

"This is Chief Supt McGinn's own notes of the meeting which is precisely the meeting which directed contact with the HSE."

Mr Harty said this was the first time anybody had been told Mr Kenny was directly involved in the decision making process on 8 October 2013.

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