Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has said he had no knowledge of claims by a Garda whistleblower that the confidential recipient advised her against pursuing a sexual harassment claim.
The issue had been raised in the Dáil yesterday by Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness who said a female member of An Garda had contacted him about the issue. The Carlow-Kilkenny TD said the confidential recipient Oliver Connolly told her "the last man who used the service was now washing cars in Navan".
Mr Shatter said however the only knowledge he had of the issue was what Mr McGuinness said yesterday and on RTÉ radio this morning. "I don't have knowledge of the conversations the confidential recipient has with members of An Garda Síochána, " he told Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins.
“The very essence of the office as it was established during the period of the Deputy’s party in government is that conversations take place between members of An Garda Síochána and the appointed confidential recipient in confidence.”
He added that “my only knowledge of the alleged conversation that the confidential recipient had with Sgt McCabe initially derived from a transcript that was allegedly made. There were reports of the content of that transcript and it was an obvious course of concern.”
He said Mr Collins was aware of why his own party leader Micheal Martin had said that the confidential’s position was untenable.
The confidential recipient’s role is to receive and process Garda complaints about irregularities within the force.
Mr Collins had asked during justice questions in the Dáil about the Minister’s knowledge of the allegation by the Garda and he said he would be asking the justice committee to invite Mr Connolly to appear before it.
In the Dáil yesterday when Mr McGuinness outlined the complainant’s concerns, he said the confidential recipient allegedly told the Garda “not to forget his proximity to the Minister and not to think that he had not had a word in his ear”.
The TD said the confidential recipient suggested “to this person that she should play the political game and then she might get preferential treatment elsewhere”.
Sinn Féin justice spokesman Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said the Minister had testified that the confidential recipient was an “honourable man”. Since he had been relieved of his duties, he was reported as a “respected solicitor. There is no question of this man’s character.”
Mr Mac Lochlainn asked “why did he find himself having that type of conversation with Maurice McCabe”.
He said Mr Connolly talked about the very close relationship between the Minister and the Garda Commissioner. He wanted the Minister’s view as to “what led him to give that advice to Maurice McCabe, to be concerned for Maurice McCabe in the way he was”.
Mr Shatter said he found “the whole thing a complete mystery. I’ve absolutely no idea what Mr Connolly was thinking. I’ve had very limited contact with Mr Connolly in his role as confidential recipient. I recall from memory yesterday evening and I’ve no notes of this that when, following on from my receiving his letter of January 23rd 2012, I do recall there was a brief conversation in which he emphasised to me that these were important issues to be followed up.
“But I didn’t have regular meetings with him. His job was to engage with members of An Garda Síochána. To be quite frank with you I am utterly astonished at some of the commentary that has now come into the public arena.
“I don’t understand why he conducted himself in that way. He has a very, very good reputation as a very sound lawyer, as a very sound mediator. It remains Deputy as much a surprise and a mystery to me as I would expect it should to others.
I cannot explain this. I can only say that this was an approach I regarded as untenable in the context of the important role of confidential recipient.”