Garda Commissioner apologises to Maurice McCabe
Garda chief tells committee Charleton remarks were ‘clarion call’ for action
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris at the committee hearing on Wednesday
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris arriving to address the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality on the future direction of an Garda Síochána at the Dáil. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has apologised to whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe on behalf of the force in the wake of the findings of the Disclosures Tribunal.
Mr Harris met Sgt McCabe on Wednesday afternoon at an undisclosed location for a private meeting.
It was the first meeting between the men since Mr Harris became commissioner two months ago.
In reply to queries from The Irish Times, Garda Headquarters confirmed an apology had been made.
“The Commissioner had a productive meeting with Sgt McCabe this afternoon,” the reply said.
“At the meeting he gave an apology on behalf of An Garda Síochána to Sgt McCabe and sympathised with Sgt McCabe and his family over what they had been through.
“Commissioner Harris also thanked Sgt McCabe for his public service in bringing forward concerns that have helped improve policing.”
The Disclosures Tribunal found former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan and Supt David Taylor had engaged in a “campaign of calumny” against Sgt McCabe. This, the tribunal found, was done by the two men to denigrate Sgt McCabe in response to his whistleblowing.
However, former commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan was exonerated. Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton also examined allegations that efforts were made to attack Sgt McCabe at the O’Higgins Commission but found no such attack had taken place.
Call for action
Earlier, Mr Harris had said he felt hard-hitting remarks of the chairman of the Disclosures Tribunal were almost directed at him as commissioner and were a “clarion call” for action.
Mr Harris told the joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice that Mr Justice Charleton’s report would be followed by action.
The tribunal chairman said in his report that the Garda was invisible on the streets and described a force “isolated” in Garda stations.
The comments also encouraged the Garda to take to its core the fact they were public servants and encouraged all members to interact with the public every day and to do so politely in a spirit of public service, he said.
Mr Harris said a change in culture in the Garda would be led by changes in behaviour.He was committed to completing training in the Garda code of ethics by the end of the year; a code the Policing Authority believes can result in a change in culture in the force if members truly take it on board.
Mr Harris said he could not see any logic to arguments put forward by a small number of commentators questioning his suitability to be in charge of State security because he had come from the PSNI.
He is a former deputy chief constable of the PSNI, departing that role in August and becoming Garda Commissioner in September. While in the PSNI he dealt closely with the MI5, the British security service.
He is the first person to serve as a police officer outside the jurisdiction to be appointed as Garda Commissioner. However, he is not the first external candidate, as civil servants were previously appointed commissioner.
“Some of that commentary has been ill-founded,” he said of those who questioned his suitability for the role. “I swore an oath and that oath is important to me. I am here to serve and protect the people of Ireland. ”
The welcome from the public and from within the Garda organisation has been “full and wholesome” so much so he had found it “moving”.
In reply to questions from Sinn Féin’s Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Mr Harris confirmed his obligations under the Official Secrets Act in Britain were lifelong. But he did not feel this was in any way incompatible with his obligations as Garda Commissioner.
Fianna Fail’s Jack Chambers asked Mr Harris if he felt the questions were coming from “sectarian prejudice”.
Committee chairman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, of Sinn Féin, interjected and said nothing about Mr Ó Laoghaire’s line of questioning had been “sectarian”, either “overt or suggested”.
Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile (SF) later insisted the questions were “fair and legitimate”. They had initially been raised by victims of atrocities and their families as well as victims groups.