Garda Commissioner Drew Harris is seeking to reverse a decision to fund the legal defence of his predecessor Martin Callinan.
Dónall Ó Cualáin, who held the post of acting commissioner before Mr Harris’s appointment in September, recommended to Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan that the State provide and fund lawyers to defend Mr Callinan in a case being taken by Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.
Mr Ó Cualáin had received legal advice that Mr Callinan was entitled to have his defence paid for under the Garda Síochána Act 2001. Mr Flanagan accepted his recommendation.
Mr McCabe’s case against the former commissioner was first lodged in July last year but is expected to make progress in the near future following the finding of the Disclosures Tribunal that Mr Callinan had engaged in a “campaign of calumny” against him.
Last month, the tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton found Mr Callinan tried to link Mr McCabe to false allegations of sexual assault after he went public with allegations of Garda corruption.
The Garda, the Minister for Justice, the State and the Attorney General are also listed as co-defendants in the High Court case.
According to senior sources, Mr Harris is seeking his own legal advice on the matter of Mr Callinan’s legal costs in light of the tribunal’s damning findings against the former commissioner.
Mr Harris is seeking advice on whether to he is bound by the decision of Mr Ó Cualáin to recommend that the State fund Mr Callinan’s defence. Depending on the advice, it may be open to him to ask the Minister to reverse his decision.
A Garda spokesman said yesterday that “Commissioner Harris is reviewing all matters relating to this litigation”.
In most cases, the State is obliged to provide legal representation to gardaí and former gardaí who face legal action as a result of their actions in the course of duty.
However, the finding of Mr Justice Charleton that Mr Callinan engaged in a smear campaign against Mr McCabe muddies the waters.
According to legal sources, any change to the agreement could result in a separate case against the State by Mr Callinan, who could argue it is in breach of fair procedure.
Separately, a senior garda is to sue a Sunday newspaper for defamation in relation to the whistleblower controversy.
Supt Noel Cunningham has already lodged legal proceedings against RTÉ, TV3, the Sunday Times and the Irish Examiner over their reporting of his interactions with Mr McCabe.
Last week he added the Sunday Business Post to that list when he lodged papers in the High Court indicating he plans to sue the newspaper for defamation.