Charlie Flanagan accuses Alan Kelly of undermining tribunal
Inquiry into treatment of Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe must be respected, Minister says
Labour TD Alan Kelly has tabled a series of Dáil questions about the tribunal investigating allegations of a smear campaign against Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe (pictured in 2014). Photograph: Cyril Byrne.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has accused Labour TD Alan Kelly of undermining the work of the tribunal investigating allegations of a smear campaign against Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.
Mr Flanagan released a statement on Monday in response to questions raised by Mr Kelly about contacts between former Garda commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan and the Department of Justice around the time Sgt McCabe was challenged during a State inquiry.
Mr Kelly has tabled a series of Dáil questions asking about the circumstances surrounding Sgt McCabe’s evidence to the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation, which examined claims of Garda corruption.
There was controversy last year over the instructions Ms O’Sullivan gave her legal team at the commission of investigation, with leaked transcripts saying her lawyers were instructed to challenge Sgt McCabe’s “motivation and credibility”.
Some of the issues covered by the O’Higgins Commission are now being investigated by the Disclosures Tribunal, led by Mr Justice Peter Charleton, into alleged smears of whistleblowers.
Mr Kelly has asked if there was consultation and contact between Ms O’Sullivan and the Department of Justice around the time of Sgt McCabe’s appearance at the O’Higgins Commission.
In response, Mr Flanagan said the Disclosures Tribunal must be allowed go about its work “without ongoing attempts to undermine it or misrepresent its powers and terms of reference”.
Although Mr Kelly is not named in the Minister’s statement, Mr Flanagan is clearly referencing the Tipperary TD.
Mr Flanagan also repeated his position that “the Department of Justice and Equality would have had no role in determining the approach to be taken by the Garda Commissioner to the Commission in question”.
He continued: “And it should go without saying that it would have been entirely inappropriate for anyone to have sought to interfere in any way with the work of the Commission.”
While the Minister did not say if there had been contacts around the time of Sgt McCabe’s appearance at the O’Higgins Commission, he said this is covered by the terms of reference for the Disclosures Tribunal.
Mr Flanagan said the Tribunal should be allowed to carry out its work without interference.
“The Tribunal’s terms of reference refer to contacts between members of An Garda Síochána and ‘any other State entities’,” he said.
“This clearly includes the Department of Justice and Equality. I am unclear as to why some Members of the Oireachtas are claiming that this is not the case.
“I believe that Members of the Oireachtas should be responsible in their public statements and I believe that as parliamentarians we should respect the operation of tribunals of inquiry. The Disclosures Tribunal was established by the Oireachtas. The tribunal must be allowed to do its work.”
Mr Kelly said Mr Flanagan is still not answering the questions he has asked. He has also tabled a series of supplementary Dáil queries on the issue, and is due to receive responses this week, although Mr Flanagan is unlikely to go any further than what is contained in his public statement released on Monday.
He called on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to ensure his questions are answered, which he said would be a “career defining decision” for the Fine Gael leader.
“Is he going to as Taoiseach uphold the Constitution and respect the democratic institutions of this State by ensuring that the Department of Justice answers all my questions in full? If he doesn’t, this issue will follow him. It will not go away,” he said.
He said Mr Varadkar had previously described McCabe as ‘distinguished’ and that he needed to do the right thing now.