Charleton tribunal to resume with evidence about O’Higgins inquiry

Tribunal to also hear evidence about allegation by former head of Garda press office

The Charleton tribunal is to resume public hearings on January 8th next, when it will hear evidence about the O’Higgins commission, which investigated certain complaints made by Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Frances Fitzgerald resigned as tánaiste this week during a controversy about whether she knew about the legal strategy being pursued by the then Garda commissioner, Nóirín O'Sullivan, at the commission hearings.

The tribunal is investigating if unjustified grounds were used to discredit Sgt McCabe at the commission hearings.

It is expected that after this the tribunal will immediately begin hearing evidence about the disputed allegation made by former head of the Garda press office, Supt David Taylor, that he was directed by Ms O'Sullivan and/or her predecessor, Martin Callinan, to brief the media that Sgt McCabe was motivated by "malice and revenge" in relation to his whistleblowing.


This aspect of the tribunal’s work may see some reporters asserting journalistic privilege in response to questions as to what they were or were not told by Supt Taylor or other Garda officers.

The tribunal will also hear evidence about whether Ms O’Sullivan used briefing material from Garda headquarters in trying to influence an RTÉ report in May 2016, purporting to be about a leaked account of the then unpublished O’Higgins commission report.

There is speculation among those watching the tribunal that an important aspect of the public hearings due to commence will be the extent or otherwise of the material that has been recovered from the phones of former senior Garda officers, including in cases where those phones were mislaid or given away.

Mr Justice Peter Charleton has said he hopes the tribunal will conclude hearings by Easter 2018, "provided it is not diverted".

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent