Garda Commissioner takes legal advice on garda speaking to PAC
Callinan consults AG as he seeks to prevent whistleblower testifying on alleged wrongdoing
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan leaving Leinster House yesterday after attending the sitting of the Public Accounts Committee. Photograph: David Sleator
The Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has consulted with the Attorney General’s office about the options open to him in seeking to prevent a garda sergeant testifying before the Public Accounts Committee on alleged wrongdoing in the force.
Mr Callinan has been told the courts would be open to him as early as today to apply for an injunction in an ex-parte High Court hearing, meaning the committee would not be represented.
If an injunction was granted it would be an interim one and would effectively prevent the committee from going ahead with next Thursday’s hearing at which it intends to call a garda sergeant to give evidence of alleged irregularities in the cancellation of penalty points.
The chairman of the committee John McGuinness said last night that it still intended to meet Sgt Maurice McCabe next week despite Mr Callinan’s statement before the committee yesterday that he was considering taking legal action.
“We are going ahead. We have made our decision. The committee members believe that the whistleblower should get an opportunity to appear before the committee,” said the Fianna Fáil TD.
“He is only interested in identifying the failures in the system and the costs to the State. He is looking for a right of reply.”
The committee said it would decide first whether to take the evidence in private from Sgt McCabe whose identity was made public for the first time yesterday when the chairman mentioned his surname in the public hearing.
The other whistleblower, retired garda John Wilson, who attended yesterday’s hearing, has also offered to appear before the committee. He said last night he was taking time to “digest” the commissioner’s evidence but “we will be standing over fully the allegations of corruption and malpractice”.
Mr Callinan revealed yesterday that he had made a complaint this week to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission regarding the retired garda’s public comments about alleged corruption.
Of Sgt McCabe, Mr Callinan said as a serving member of the force he could be subject to discipline. While he didn’t want the message going out that he was considering such action, “it’s something I must reserve my position on”, he said. “How can I manage the force unless I have access to that kind of control?”
As a rule, he said, serving gardaí should not use an Oireachtas committee as a “platform” to air grievances or raise concerns about the force. The Commissioner should not be “usurped by subordinates”.
There were very clear avenues for reporting complaints against gardaí through internal confidential procedures but “they chose not to use that vehicle”, he continued.
He stressed the allegations had been made by just two individuals from a force of over 13,000, adding there was not a “whisper” from any other garda that they were true.
At the same time, the commissioner said he would “welcome” an opportunity to examine the documents provided to the committee by the whistleblowers following an offer of such access by Mr McGuinness.
Transparency International Ireland called on Mr Callinan to withdraw any threat of disciplinary action against the garda.