Barrister to examine whistleblower’s claims

Seán Guerin to assess allegations of Garda misconduct given to Taoiseach by Fianna Fáil leader

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin has said the Government plans to introduce “world-class” legislation that would provide protection to those who wanted to expose wrong-doing. Video: Éanna Ó Caollaí

Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 17:56

The Government has appointed a senior counsel to examine the dossier from Sgt Maurice McCabe containing allegations of Garda misconduct.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil this afternoon that Seán Guerin will examine the claims and will report back to the Government before Easter.

Mr Guerin will have the power to recommend a Commission of Investigation after he reviews Sgt McCabe’s allegations, if he feels one is needed.

Mr Kenny said he personally recommended the appointment of an SC to Cabinet, and added that Mr Guerin will report back to him. Mr Guerin’s report will be laid before the Oireachtas once it is complete.

There will be a day long debate on the controversy in the Dáil tomorrow, with Minister for Justice Alan Shatter taking questions.

Proposals for an overhaul of the Garda complaints system will also be brought forward by the summer.

In a statement this evening, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said the force would “fully co-operate” with Seán Guerin.

Government sources pointed out a similar process had preceded the establishment of the Morris Tribunal, which investigated Garda misconduct in Co Donegal.

While it is not envisaged that another tribunal will be established, sources said a Commission of Investgation could still be initiated if warranted.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) criticised the decision to appoint a barrister.

ICCL director Mr Mark Kelly said the Department of Justice has had “ample opportunity” to produce a “convincing rebuttal” of the allegations against the Garda Síochána and added that the decision to appoint a barrister to “spend more time looking at internal paperwork is simply not credible.”

“A proper commission of investigation charged with reviewing the full spectrum of Garda accountability concerns that have arisen over the last two weeks is the only way in which the steep decline in public confidence in our Garda accountability mechanisms can be arrested,” Mr Kelly said.

The Cabinet met this moring to discuss the controversy.

It is the first time it has met since a dossier containing further allegations was handed to the Taoiseach by Micheál Martin in the Dáil last week.

Speaking on his way into the Cabinet meeting this morning, Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin said Government wanted to ensure “complete confidence” in the Garda Síochána.

The dossier formed part of the discussion at today’s meeting, he said.

“The dossier that was handed over to the Taoiseach last week obviously has been examined by the Taoiseach and I’m sure that he will want to present a view in relation to that,” Mr Howlin said.

Mr Howlin said the Government planned to introduce “world-class” legislation that would provide protection to those who wanted to expose wrong-doing.

“We have been working since the start of this Government to have robust world-class legislation to protect whistleblowers.”

“I want to ensure whether you work in An Garda Síochána, whether you work in any sphere of the public service or if you work in the private sector, that if you want to talk about wrong-doing, expose wrong-doing, feel that there are things to be investigated that you could do that with absolute impunity.”

Citing his own experience with the McBrearty affair in Donegal, Mr Howlin said “I understand how complex these matters can be. I understand where there (are) rafts of countervailing, often contradictory views expressed - often honestly expressed by people involved and how these matters need to be unravelled calmly and clearly”.

Mr Howlin said the objective is to “to get at the full facts, the full truth, in a calm and considered manner and that will be a whole of Government view today.”

Asked whether the Garda Commissioner has questions to answer, Mr Howlin said “I’m not going to start taking sides one way or the other. If there are accusations and counter accusations these are the matters that need to be fairly and objectively balanced (and) everybody is entitled to a fair hearing.

There have been calls for Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to apologise to Sgt McCabe and fellow whistleblower, retired Garda John Wilson for telling the Dáil last year that when investigations were instigated into their allegations that penalty points were being terminated corruptly by Garda members, they would not cooperate with those inquiries.

Sgt McCabe rejected suggestions last night that he refused a direction from Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to take part in an inquiry.

In a statement issued last night, Sgt McCabe insisted he was never invited to participate in the inquiry, which unfolded under the direction of Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahony from October 2012 to April 2013.