Judge to run rule over Garda whistleblower claims

Government sources indicate inquiry to be independent of Department of Justice

Tanaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald TD has again expressed confidence in Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan with regard to recent Garda whistleblower allegations, while replying to questions in the Dáil.

 

The Government has appointed a retired High Court judge to review four reports from within the Garda on the treatment of whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald announced the appointment of Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill to examine recent claims by two Garda whistleblowers and said he will also review two reports drawn up by the Garda’s civilian head of human resources, John Barrett.

Government sources said the move would show Ms Fitzgerald is not “personally involved” in assessing the whistleblowers’ allegations and she was treating them seriously. It was also stressed the inquiry will be independent from the Department of Justice.

Mr Barrett’s reports were presented to Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, who lodged them with the Minister in line with legal obligations.

The references in the reports to Sgt McCabe’s treatment cover the period when Martin Callinan was Garda commissioner up to March 2014, and afterwards when Ms O’Sullivan was leading the force.

The claims made in protected disclosures to the Minister by two Garda whistleblowers in the past week relate to an alleged smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.

One of the disclosures was made by Supt Dave Taylor, the former head of the Garda press office. He has said he was part of the campaign, but has insisted he was acting on orders.

Fifth submission

Another document will soon be added to the four submissions to be reviewed by Mr Justice O’Neill, according to informed sources. It is being prepared by a high-ranking officer in the Garda and is expected to be lodged with the Tánaiste under section 42 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005. It allows the Minister for Justice to appoint a person to inquire into any matter the Minister considers of public concern relating to the gardaí.

The reports received by Ms Fitzgerald in August and September, written by Mr Barrett, were lodged under the same provision.

Ms Fitzgerald last night said that when Mr Justice O’Neill concludes his six-week process, his findings will be examined with a view to taking any further action required.

The Garda Commissioner said she welcomed the decision to appoint Mr Justice O’Neill to review recent disclosures and said the force would co-operate fully with the process.