High Court judge to examine Garda whistleblower claims

Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill will report findings to Government within six weeks

Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill has been appointed by Government to examine the latest allegations made by Garda whistleblowers and to report his findings within six weeks. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill has been appointed by Government to examine the latest allegations made by Garda whistleblowers and to report his findings within six weeks. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

A former High Court judge has been appointed by Government to examine the latest allegations made by Garda whistleblowers and to report his findings within six weeks.

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has announced the move Friday, saying it was vital the allegations were examined as a first step.

However, because the allegations from two Garda whistleblowers had been made to her under protected disclosure provisions she could not identify the Garda members involved or comment on the specific allegations.

It has been confirmed unofficially that the claims relate to an alleged orchestrated campaign, directed by senior officers, to discredit whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe by spreading rumours about his professional and personal life.

Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill, a former Judge of the High Court, is to review the allegations as the State’s initial step towards investigating their substance.

Ms Fitzgerald has confirmed she received “correspondence under the Protected Disclosures Act” from two Garda members on Monday.

“While there has been much public comment on the nature of these disclosures the law is very clear: a fundamental protection of the Protected Disclosures Act, 2014 means I can say nothing publicly which might identify the persons making the disclosures,” she said in a statement this evening announcing Mr Justice O’Neill’s appointment.

“This means that I cannot comment on the accuracy or otherwise of reports which have appeared about the nature of these disclosures.

“As I have already said publicly, it is vitally important that the claims of people making such disclosures are properly addressed.

“We have to do that in a way that is proper, just and fair to all. The rights of everyone to fairness and proper procedures have to be vindicated.

“Throughout this week I made it clear I would take the appropriate course of action without delay.

“Having consulted with the Attorney General, I am now in a position to announce a first step in the process to ensure that these protected disclosures are addressed properly.”

Mr Justice O’Neill will now review allegations of wrongdoing contained in the disclosures.

Under the Act, he can make any inquiries with persons or bodies that he considers appropriate in relation to the review.

And he will report back to the Tánaiste with six weeks “on the conclusion of the review including any recommendations which he may consider necessary in relation to any further action which may be appropriate and warranted to address the allegations”.

Ms Fitzgerald said: “I am determined that An Garda Síochána operate to the very highest standards and this involves ensuring that allegations of wrongdoing are dealt with properly and the persons making those allegations are fully protected and respected.

“On conclusion of the review I will consider what further steps may be necessary.”