The dossier was compiled almost three years ago by Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe and related to allegations of Garda malpractice and failures within his own division of Cavan-Monaghan.
What marked them out is that they did not relate to the Pulse system, or traffic offences, or the alleged abuse of the penalty points system by senior gardaí. There were 10 allegations of failed investigations, most relating to assault and public-order offences.
McCabe asserted that these had not been pursued properly by gardaí in the division. Some were comparatively minor, but one allegation at least was of the gravest nature.
McCabe initially went through the internal process set out by the Garda Síochána Act 2005 as amended. It included the dossier being forwarded to the Confidential Recipient (an office set up to accommodate anonymous complaints within the Garda).
The dossier was rejected. The Garda stated it had investigated the complaints and concluded that all investigations had been carried out properly.
Frustrated, McCabe approached Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin last February. Martin held a press conference contending that the allegations were of the most serious nature.
He handed the dossier to Taoiseach Enda Kenny who asked a barrister, Sean Guerin, to examine the allegations.
“I have sent material to the Taoiseach in relation to other issues the whistleblower has raised, pertaining to issues outside of the penalty points dossier, which relate to the failure to fulfil basic functions in terms of a range of cases, very, very serious cases – involving abduction, assault and ultimately murder – which leaves huge questions for response,” said Martin at the time.
The cases ranged from comparatively minor to, as Martin put it, “ultimately murder”.
That latter case will attract most public focus when the commission makes its findings later this year. It relates to the murder of 33-year-old Sylvia Roche Kelly in Limerick in December 2007. The murderer, Jerry McGrath was on bail for other serious crimes at the time – the assault of a taxi driver, and the attempted abduction of a five-year-old girl.
The report by Guerin pointed to serious failures in Garda co-ordination, communication and operational procedures. His criticism of then minister for justice Alan Shatter in the report forced his resignation from the position.
A key part of the new commission’s task will be to get to the bottom of how McGrath remained at large notwithstanding clear grounds for revoking his bail. It will also look at the nature of the investigations into his earlier crimes.
The establishment of the commission vindicates McCabe after a decade of campaigning to publicise alleged malpractice within the Garda .