Garda chief faces renewed pressure over whistleblower row
Fitzgerald faces calls to dismiss O’Sullivan after revelations from O’Higgins hearings
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and Sgt Maurice McCabe. The Minister stressed she and her department had no involvement in the Garda Commissioner’s approach to the commission of inquiry. Photograph: Composite: Collins/The Irish Times
The political pressure on Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald over the fallout from the O’Higgins report intensified last night
following further revelations about the commission’s hearings.
RTÉ reported details of an exchange between Ms O’Sullivan’s senior counsel Colm Smyth and Mr Justice O’Higgins. It reported that early in the hearings Mr Smyth had said his “instructions from the commissioner” were “to challenge the integrity . . . of Sgt McCabe”.
However, on the morning Ms O’Sullivan was to give her evidence, Mr Justice O’Higgins sought further clarification and Mr Smyth informed him his “instructions at all times were to challenge the motivation and credibility of Sgt McCabe”. He said it was an error on his part when he had earlier stated he was instructed to challenge Sgt McCabe’s “integrity”.
Ms Daly asked Ms Fitzgerald whether she would open a full investigation into Ms O’Sullivan’s actions in accordance with the Garda Síochána Policing Authority Miscellaneous Act “where you can remove the commissioner for actions which discredit her office”.
Political sources predicted that tensions will resurface when the Dáil debates the report of the commission. Sources also said the Garda Commissioner is certain to be asked before the Oireachtas Justice committee in the coming weeks.
In the Dáil yesterday Ms Fitzgerald was guarded when asked about the controversy. She stressed she and her department had no involvement in the Garda Commissioner’s approach to the commission of inquiry.
On RTÉ’s Prime Time last night, Ms Fitzgerald was repeatedly pressed if she had confidence in the commissioner if the reported transcripts are all fully accurate.
She said she “had to go back to the point that these are transcripts that are taken out of context.”
“You’re quoting from the transcripts. It would be illegal for me actually to go into that kind of detail.”
Asked what if the context proves to be right, she answered: “I couldn’t possibly answer a question that is put like that.”