Inquiry decision needed quickly on whistleblower affair

Coalition TDs frustrated that controversy is distracting from the work of the Government

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte said this morning that the Minister for Justice would brief  Cabinet tomorrow on the ongoing Garda controversy.  Niall Carson/PA

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte said this morning that the Minister for Justice would brief Cabinet tomorrow on the ongoing Garda controversy. Niall Carson/PA

Mon, Feb 24, 2014, 13:51

“If there is to be a decision, then make it and make it quickly,” said one Labour backbencher this morning on whether there should be an independent investigation into the ongoing Garda controversy.

There is some frustration now that what has unfurled in recent weeks surrounding Minister for Justice Alan Shatter is distracting the work of Government.

The same TD, not a fan of Shatter by any means, added: “We have the construction Cabinet meeting this week, it’ll be completely overshadowed.”

Good news provided by the Government is in short enough supply, so the Coalition is sure to milk anything it can offer.

Its plans to kickstart the construction industry will be aimed at Dublin in particular and a special Cabinet meeting will discuss these matters on Thursday.

TDs want the decks cleared quickly, so all eyes will be on the regular Cabinet meeting tomorrow to see what solution emerges on the Garda controversy.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte this morning said Shatter would brief Cabinet tomorrow, and expressed confidence in the beleaguered minister.

Labour, it seems, is in no mood to push one of its liberal allies in Fine Gael from the Cabinet table.

And despite Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore’s insistence yesterday that it is too early to say if an independent investigation is needed, there is a growing expectation that is precisely where we will end up.

The Mail on Sunday put it best at the weekend when its front page headline screamed of an “Avalanche of Allegations” and its lead story predicted Taoiseach Enda Kenny is to be presented with a further 200 alleged incidents of Garda malpractice.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Fein claim more whistleblowers are coming forward, and the avalanche shows no signs of stopping.

Retired High Court judge John Cooke has already been tasked with investigating the alleged bugging of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) but, given how many whistleblower allegations there now are, Mr Cooke is unlikely to asked to take on that extra burden.

One way of stopping the “avalanche”, or at least steering it in a controllable direction, is to set up another judge-led inquiry.

Allow a period of two months for any further whistleblowers to come forward to the judge, after which he or she can assess their allegations and report back to the Oireachtas after another set period.

That way, the controversy is moved off the political agenda for a few months at least, satisfying Government TDs and neutralising it as an issue for the Opposition.

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