Ex-judge requests more time for Garda whistleblower case

Recommendations on action due by November 18th but extension was sought

At the core of both disclosures is the assertion that senior gardaí orchestrated what is described as a sustained campaign aimed at destroying the character and reputation of Sgt Maurice McCabe. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

At the core of both disclosures is the assertion that senior gardaí orchestrated what is described as a sustained campaign aimed at destroying the character and reputation of Sgt Maurice McCabe. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The retired judge examining two recent protected disclosures made to the Department of Justice by two serving members of the Garda Síochána has requested more time to assess if their claims merit investigation.

The disclosures were made by Supt David Taylor and Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Supt Taylor was head of the Garda Press Office during the commissionership of Martin Callanan, when his successor, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, was deputy commissioner in charge of operations.

Supt Taylor was suspended from duty in May 2015 while being investigated for allegedly leaking information to the media, a charge he denies.

Sgt McCabe, a veteran whistleblower who, since 2008, has been questioning why some gardaí were quashing penalty points without proper justification, is on sick leave.

In early October, both men communicated with the department under provisions of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 which is intended to facilitate whistleblowers while affording them a level of protection from retribution by those against whom they make allegations of misconduct.

Review allegations

Although prohibited from confirming the identity of the two gardaí, on October 7th, the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald announced she had asked retired High Court judge Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill to review allegations of wrongdoing contained in the disclosures, and make any inquiries with persons or bodies he considered appropriate in relation to the review.

Mr Justice O’Neill was asked to report within six weeks and to indicate what actions, if any, he thought were appropriate and warranted to address the allegations.

The six-week deadline elapsed on November 18th.

In response to questions yesterday, a department spokesman said the judge had requested additional time – until Friday, December 2nd – to complete his review as he was still waiting to hear from a number of people he contacted.

These are believed to include people named in the disclosures.

The department spokesman said Ms Fitzgerald was content to wait until December 2nd.

Sustained campaign

At the core of both disclosures is the assertion that senior gardaí orchestrated what is described as a sustained campaign aimed at destroying the character and reputation of Sgt McCabe by spreading false, scurrilous and damaging allegations about him to journalists.

The disclosures claim that efforts to blacken Sgt McCabe’s name are confirmed by the contents of “hundreds of text messages” that allegedly were channelled through phones used by Supt Taylor, in some instances between officers senior in rank to him.

The aim of the campaign was to “bury McCabe” it is alleged. Central to the alleged campaign were three mobile phones used by Supt Taylor and which were seized by gardaí at the time of his arrest for allegedly leaking information to the media.

At least six senior officers are named in the disclosures.

The disclosures challenge the official Garda narrative as to how Sgt McCabe was treated within the force and, if the assertion of an orchestrated campaign against him was to be substantiated, they could prove fatal to the careers of several serving officers.