Friday 15 November 2019

Whistleblowing facilitator sacked by Shatter backs justice minister

Oliver Connolly was sacked by Mr Shatter last month

Justice Minister Alan Shatter. Inset: Oliver Connolly
Justice Minister Alan Shatter. Inset: Oliver Connolly

Shane Phelan, Public Affair Editor

THE former confidential recipient, the official who was tasked with receiving whistleblower complaints from gardai, is standing by Justice Minister Alan Shatter despite being sacked by him.

In his first comments since he was relieved of his duties last month, Mr Connolly said he remained a supporter of Mr Shatter.

Mr Connolly’s position was thrown into doubt following the emergence of a transcript of an alleged conversation between him and garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe in which he is alleged to have said: “I’ll tell you something, Maurice, and this is just personal advice to you, if Shatter thinks you’re screwing him, you’re finished.”

Mr Shatter sacked Mr Connolly after the confidential recipient refused to confirm or deny whether he had such a conversation with Sgt McCabe.

“The minister is often misunderstood and strange as it may seem to some, despite recent events, I remain an enthusiastic supporter of the minister in his programme of reform,” said Mr Connolly.

“However, I would remind the minister and, indeed, An Taoiseach, as I am bound to do, I shall continue to preserve the confidentiality of the outgoing Office of Confidential Recipient even if, as it now appears, I am the only one to do so.”

Mr Connolly went on to accuse Sgt McCabe of a “serious breach of confidence” for allegedly taping their conversation.

“For the principal whistleblower to come to what was a statutorily confidential meeting for both parties and proceed to allegedly record our meeting without my notice and then actively seek to publish, in and/or outside Dail Eireann, an alleged transcription of that recording of our discussion I consider as a very serious breach of confidence.

“There is also a personal sense of betrayal in that the principal whistleblower felt it necessary to vindicate his rights by infringing my rights and, by extension, the privacy of my family.

“The ends do not always justify any means. One must not become so focused on a goal that it is pursued at all costs. We might accomplish our goal, but in doing so cause unnecessary and regrettable damage to the constitutional rights of others and to the rule of law itself; ironically, the very thing the principal whistleblower seeks to uphold.”

Mr Connolly’s job was to receive complaints from gardai and pass them on to the relevant authority while safeguarding the identity of the complainant.

After a transcript of the conversation with Sgt McCabe was read into the Dail record by Independent TD Mick Wallace, he was asked by the Department of Justice if such a conversation had taken place.

Mr Connolly said he was legally prohibited from speaking publicly on any confidential report he had received from a garda.

He described what had emerged in the Dail as “selectively extracted lines from an unverified transcript of a confidential conversation between a serving member of An Garda Siochana and myself.”

He said he had “explained repeatedly” to the secretary general of the Department of Justice Brian Purcell that he “should not have been required to validate and I shall not validate, either by way of confirmation or repudiation, the contents of an alleged transcript unlawfully procured.”

He added: “I am precluded from commenting on the contents of the alleged transcript because to so comment would require me to violate the confidentiality of the reporting process and of the office itself.”

Mr Connolly also said he had been the subject of a concentrated attack by certain TDs and accused them of “a naked political attempt to embarrass a Minister for Justice whom they oppose”.

Mr Connolly said his honour, good name and professional competence and integrity had been called into question.

He also alleged his privacy had been impugned.

The barrister, who was selected for the role by Mr Shatter in June 2011, said he was satisfied he had discharged his duties properly.

He said that in each instance where an allegation was made to him, he had passed these on “to the correct person”.

In particular, without naming him, he referenced Sgt McCabe’s complaint.

He also made reference to reports about a female garda who made a complaint to him.

“I am satisfied that I did as much as my former office enabled me to do to pursue properly their concerns,” he said.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny today said he expects Mr Connolly will be in a position to cooperate with the inquiry led by barrister Sean Guerin into allegations made by Sgt McCabe.

“I note the statement of the former Confidential Recipient. I note his comments in regard to the work rate and the authority of the Minister for Justice. I also note his comment in respect of retaining the confidentiality of his office,” Mr Kenny said at a press conference outside government buildings.

“I assume that that should mean that if senior counsel Guerin, who is now commissioned by government to carry out a wholly independent analysis of all of this, that if he is looking for information that he doesn’t have at his disposal, that former confidential recipient Oliver Connolly would be able to cooperate with him. And I expect he would be able to do that respecting the confidentiality of his office,” he added.

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