Garda review of Jobstown trial to exclude evidence by gardaí
Leo Varadkar does not think Public Accounts Committee is appropriate forum to discuss case
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan: said Garda members were trained to expect different versions of the same events being relayed as evidence. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill
The conduct of Garda witnesses in the Jobstown trial will not form part of a review ordered after the acquittal of TD Paul Murphy and five other anti-water charges protesters, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has said.
Instead, Assistant Commissioner Barry O’Brien will review the policing of the 2014 protest and the subsequent Garda investigation “from a lessons learned perspective”, Ms O’Sullivan has said.
She was speaking yesterday before the Public Accounts Committee.
Solidarity TD Mr Murphy and five other men were recently acquitted of falsely imprisoning then tánaiste Joan Burton and her adviser in their car for several hours during the Dublin protest .
Last week, under Dáil privilege, Mr Murphy alleged that a large number of Garda witnesses had lied while giving evidence during the trial. He suggested an orchestrated effort on the part of the Garda to mislead the trial.
He is demanding a public inquiry. However, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told Mr Murphy in the Dáil he had behaved like a “thug” towards Ms Burton and that he was not the victim and had got a fair trial. On Thursday, Ms O’Sullivan said the internal review being carried out into the case could not investigate the conduct of Garda witnesses in court. She told the Public Accounts Committee the courts were an independent institution and, as such, complaints about the conduct of gardaí in court should be directed to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc).
A spokesman for the commission last night said no complaints about the Jobstown controversy had been received.
Efforts to contact Mr Murphy for comment on whether he planned to lodge a complaint about the conduct of gardaí during his trial were not successful on Thursday evening.
At the Public Accounts Committee earlier, there were very robust exchanges between Ms O’Sullivan and Sinn Féin TDs David Cullinane and Mary Lou McDonald.
Those exchanges began when Ms O’Sullivan did not state clearly whether the review by Mr O’Brien would include the conduct of the Garda witnesses in court during the trial.
Sinn Féin deputy leader Ms McDonald told Ms O’Sullivan her initial answers on what the Garda review entailed were “unacceptable”.
“It’s disrespectful to me and this committee to deliberately not answer the question,” Ms McDonald told Ms O’Sullivan.
The nature of her responses were “exactly the kind of answers that damage public confidence” in the Garda.
“It’s the kind of filibustering and evasion that damages the Garda,” she told Ms O’Sullivan. PAC chair Sean Fleming then intervened to calm the situation and try to get clarity.
Asked by Mr Fleming to clarify the nature of the review being carried out by Mr O’Brien, Ms O’Sullivan then confirmed it would not include the conduct of the Garda witnesses.
“No, not the court process because he would have no authority on which to examine the courts; they are an independent institution,” she said.
“If any person has a concern in relation to any activity on the part of a member of An Garda Síochána, the Ombudsman Commission is the independent body which can receive complaints about any member of An Garda Síochána.”
Ms O’Sullivan also said Garda members were trained to expect different versions of the same events being relayed as evidence.
“Obviously there are witnesses who appear before, for example, committees or courts. And different witnesses have different accounts of matters,” she said.
“Some people have a direct evidence account of matters and some people have hearsay accounts of matters. It is important that the court or committee hears all of the evidence in a fair and balanced way . . . different witnesses will have different accounts.
“And that doesn’t mean one witness is right and one witness is wrong. So that’s why we are always taught to hear things in a fair and balanced manner.”
She added when all the Jobstown court cases were completed, they would “feed into” the review being carried out by Mr O’Brien.
Meanwhike Mr Varadkar has said he does not think the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee is the appropriate forum to discuss the Jobstowncase.
“ I totally respect the independence of the PAC, and the rights of the members of the PAC to ask questions that may be topical,”he said, speaking at the Galway Film Fleadh.
“But the Public Accounts Committee - that’s what the PAC stands for - their role is to follow public money, public accounts, and their key role at the moment is to carry out an investigation into the financial transactions at Templemore,”he said.
“ I’d be much more interested in their findings on that than in the drama of events we see sometimes where you’ve TDs questioning other people,”he said.