Ministers leaning towards ‘scoping’ inquiry into Sgt McCabe allegations

Senior Government sources rule out a Commission of Investigation into claims

 Sgt Maurice McCabe: Allegations of Garda misconduct to be investigated. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Sgt Maurice McCabe: Allegations of Garda misconduct to be investigated. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 


Government Ministers were last night leaning towards some form of a “scoping” inquiry into very serious allegations of misconduct and negligence by gardaí made by a Garda whistleblower.

Ahead of this morning’s Cabinet meeting at which there will be extensive discussions on the matter, senior Government sources ruled out a commission of investigation, at least in the short term. Though there is no certainty of any form of inquiry, the most likely course of action is to ask an independent figure to review all the available evidence.

The issue is expected to dominate Dáil proceedings today after another day of dispute between Government and Opposition on the issue.

Fianna Fáil accused the Government of trying to muddy the waters by implying that because some of the incidents disclosed by whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe occurred in 2007 and 2008, there were failures of action on the part of the previous government. Minister for Finance Michael Noonan was very deliberate in making comments pointing in that direction last Friday.

Yesterday Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins described these contentions by Mr Noonan as “depressing”.

Sinn Féin’s Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has also written to the Oireachtas justice committee requesting it to call Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to its meeting tomorrow to discuss his sacking of the confidential recipient Oliver Connolly and to outline his department’s contacts with Sgt McCabe.


Two reviews
Two separate reviews have been ongoing since late last week. The first is the review by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his officials of the dossier given to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, which details 10 grave allegations of Garda misbehaviour and negligence in serious cases. The second is a review being conducted by Mr Shatter into his department’s dealings with Sgt McCabe.

Mr Shatter alleged in the Dáil last October that Sgt McCabe refused to co-operate with an internal Garda investigation into penalty points. Sgt McCabe has disputed this assertion. The Minister for Justice is expected to make a statement on that matter today.

It was becoming apparent yesterday that the views of the Coalition parties have diverged somewhat on this issue. Fine Gael sources suggested yesterday that some of the allegations had already been investigated. Fine Gael also strongly defended Mr Shatter.

But Labour Ministers, pointedly, did not rule out a full independent inquiry. In addition, Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte also repeated his view that Mr Shatter may have been “misadvised” in saying Sgt McCabe did not co-operate.

Mr Rabbitte would not rule out an inquiry: “On the facts, the matters contained in that file are matters of the utmost gravity. We don’t know if they have been investigated already. We don’t know what the paper trail within the Department of Justice is. In that regard we have to hear from the Minister for Justice and I’m sure he will report as normal to the Government meeting tomorrow and we will take it from there.”

Mr Rabbitte said: “We don’t need a speedy outcome. We need the right outcome to establish the truth, restore confidence in the administration of justice in this country and restore confidence in the overseeing body of the Garda Síochána.”


Treated seriously
Separately, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore gave no firm indication as to what course would be pursued. “I think that the important thing is that we deal with the substance of the material that was supplied last week,” the Tánaiste told reporters. “We’re taking it very seriously, we are looking at it very seriously, and we’ll deal with it at Cabinet tomorrow.”

Separately, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said yesterday the Minister for Justice should resign because of his handling of the Garda controversies.

He said Mr Shatter had intimidated whistleblowers who were brave enough to raise concerns about some issues within the Garda Síochána.