Frances Fitzgerald warns of individuals’ rights in tribunal

Tánaiste awaiting details from Attorney General on implications for those involved

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has warned that the rights of some people could be damaged by a tribunal of inquiry into the Garda controversy.

The Cabinet agreed in principle on Tuesday to establish a public investigation into the alleged smear campaign against Sgt Maurice McCabe under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts, 1921- 2004.

However Ms Fitzgerald said she has yet to receive legal advice from the Attorney General Máire Whelan on the implications for the people involved. She said there are clear difficulties for the rights of those who have to participate.

The Tánaiste said: “Whatever anger people might feel, in this country we do not set up tribunals of inquiry simply to confirm what people already believe. We set them up to look at all the evidence, hear all sides and establish what the truth is.”

The Government has asked Mr Justice Peter Charleton to conduct the commission of inquiry into the alleged smear campaign against Mr McCabe.

However, Sgt McCabe and his wife Lorraine confirmed they would not participate in a private investigation.

Mr Justice Charleton will now not conduct the public inquiry due to the likely prolonged length of the investigation. A judge has yet to be asked to chair the tribunal.

The Government has asked Opposition TDs to submit proposed terms of reference for the public inquiry.

Request

Fianna Fáil has requested all relations with Government Ministers and the previous and current Garda Commissioner to be examined and for the Health Service Executive and Tusla to be included in the inquiry.

Its party leader Micheál Martin met the Taoiseach ahead of the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning insisting Mr McCabe’s recommendations were upheld.

He also expressed his concerns over the Government’s handling of the controversy.

However, Mr Martin committed to abiding by the confidence and supply agreement reached between the two parties and will abstain in the motion of confidence to be debated in the Dáil this evening.

The Garda whistleblower Supt David Taylor has written to the Tánaiste confirming he will participate in the public inquiry.

Mr Taylor, who returned to work after 22 months, said he hoped the investigation would be held in an open manner.

The former head of the Garda press office has alleged he was asked by senior gardaí including Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan to actively discredit Mr McCabe, something the Garda Commissioner has denied.

Meanwhile, a second Garda whistleblower has made further calls for his case to be included in the tribunal of inquiry.

Keith Harrison claims he and his girlfriend endured covert and overt surveillance, referrals to Tusla – the Child and Family Agency, and that they were the victim of rumour, innuendo and malicious falsehoods.

Confirmation

Garda Harrison issued a lengthy statement through his solicitor after Mr Kenny confirmed a tribunal was being set up into the scandal of unfounded and false sex abuse claims being peddled against Sgt McCabe.

Mr Harrison claimed there is an “orchestrated system and culture” among senior management of the force that dictates the treatment of whistleblowers.

He said: "The efforts of this Government to restrict the inquiry/commission of investigation to the very traumatic story of Sgt McCabe absolutely ensures we will not get to the bottom of the culture of management failures and ill-treatment of whistleblowers within An Garda Síochána. "

In the statement issued on behalf of Mr Harrison and his partner Marisa Simms, their solicitor claimed that since then both he and his family suffered victimisation, bullying, and intimidation.

Another former Garda whistleblower John Wilson called on the Government to consider the position of the Garda Commissioner.

“This is the biggest scandal in the history of our Republic,” he said. “I don’t believe the Government need to wait for the outcome of the inquiry or commission of investigation to determine the future of Noirín O’Sullivan.”