McCabe tribunal to open on Monday in Dublin

Inquiry examining alleged smears against Garda whistleblower will allow TV cameras

The McCabe tribunal chairman, Mr Justice Peter Charleton of the Supreme Court, is to make an opening statement at 9.30am on Monday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The McCabe tribunal chairman, Mr Justice Peter Charleton of the Supreme Court, is to make an opening statement at 9.30am on Monday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

An unexpectedly early session of the tribunal established last week to investigate the alleged smearing of Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe is to be held in Dublin on Monday, with the chairman allowing television cameras into a tribunal for the first time.

The tribunal will be examining whether Garda officers, including Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan or her predecessor Martin Callinan, were involved in attempts to smear Sgt McCabe.

The chairperson of the Policing Authority, Josephine Feehily, yesterday told RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke she had a “degree of confidence” in the commissioner and her senior management team carrying out their duties while the tribunal is sitting.

Ms Feehily said the requirement on the commissioner to provide the tribunal with information raised a question.

“I would say we have a degree of confidence but we are concerned. I’m not saying that that’s a deep concern at this point. The tribunal hasn’t begun.

“We have flagged that concern to the commissioner. We asked her the question in public yesterday and so I think it remains to be seen whether the accelerator can be kept to the floor in policing and in modernising the organisation while servicing the tribunal.

“But we do have confidence in the commissioner and her senior team’s capacity to run the gardaí.”

‘False accusations’

The commissioner is standing by her position that she will not stand down temporarily while the tribunal is sitting.

A spokesman for Ms O’Sullivan said her position has not changed since she released a statement two weeks ago.

In that statement she declared: “A campaign of false accusations, repeated and multiplied, do not make me guilty of anything. I have made it clear that I was not part of any campaign to spread rumours about Sgt McCabe and didn’t know it was happening at the time it was happening. I have repeatedly refuted that claim and do so again.”

Asked specifically about Ms Feehily’s comments, the Garda press office said it did not comment on remarks by “third parties”.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said the views of Ms Feehily “should be listened to”.

The tribunal chairman, Mr Justice Peter Charleton of the Supreme Court, is to make an opening statement at 9.30am on Monday. The public session in Dublin Castle is due to last until 10.30am.

The early sitting was unexpected as the tribunal is only in the process of employing staff and has not as yet collected any evidence.

Television cameras

The decision to allow television and press photographers into the session is an unprecedented one for a tribunal.

It is understood RTÉ and other media outlets are examining whether they can live-stream the session.

One source said that, at this stage, there is no definite plan by the tribunal to allow the broadcasting of witnesses giving evidence, which is unlikely to begin for a number of months.

The statement confirming Monday’s session was issued by the Department of Justice, which said the tribunal was in its initial stages of operation and the notification was being issued by the department’s press office at the request of the judge.

It stressed the department had no role in the operation of the tribunal of inquiry, which is wholly independent.

Monday’s session is open to members of the public. “Mr Justice Charleton will not be taking questions from the media or members of the public. Cameras will be permitted in the room.

“However, filming will be limited to a fixed position at the back of the room. Stills cameras must not use flash and must be of a silent type eg Leica M series, etc.”

The statement added: “Every effort will be made to accommodate people seeking access to the room, however it may not be possible for everyone to be admitted.”