Whistleblower inquiry: Garda chief will not be asked to stand aside

Government sources say support for Nóirín O’Sullivan reliant on outcome of inquiry

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan:  Has faced renewed calls to stand aside during  inquiry. Photograph: Eric Luke

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan: Has faced renewed calls to stand aside during inquiry. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

The Government will not ask Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to stand aside from her position, despite being the subject of a statutory inquiry.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has confirmed she will launch a commission of investigation into allegations that Ms O’Sullivan and former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan engaged in a campaign of harassment against whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

The allegations were contained in a protected disclosure by Sgt McCabe and former head of the Garda Press Office Supt David Taylor.

Supt Taylor alleged he was instructed by senior Garda management to discredit whistleblower Sgt McCabe by spreading rumours about his professional and personal life.

The commission, which will be chaired by Supreme Court judge Mr Justice Peter Charleton, will assess whether Ms O’Sullivan and Mr Callinan instructed Supt Taylor to spread false allegations about Sgt McCabe.

It will also investigate whether they had any knowledge of the attempt to undermine Sgt McCabe, who had made allegations of Garda mismanagement in the Cavan/Monaghan district.

The commission will investigate the extent to which the media and persons of influence, including elected representatives, were briefed on such claims.

Mr Callinan and Ms O’Sullivan have both strongly rejected the allegations and insist they had no knowledge or involvement in the undermining of Sgt McCabe.

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The commissioner has faced renewed calls to stand aside while the inquiry is under way.

Being removed

A spokesman for the Government confirmed there was no question of Ms O’Sullivan being removed from her position.

However, Government sources said their support was reliant on the outcome of the commission of inquiry.

“If there is a finding of fact made against the commissioner we will have to examine that and decide how to proceed.”

Ms Fitzgerald instructed Mr Justice Iarlaith O’Neill to examine the allegations of Supt Taylor and Sgt McCabe last year and he reported to her on December 7th.

A redacted version of the report will be published today with an outline of the terms of reference for the statutory inquiry.

Ms Fitzgerald briefed her Cabinet colleagues on the matter on Tuesday and urged Ministers not to make any public comment until the report was laid before the House.

‘The way forward’

Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Ms Fitzgerald said she would accept Mr O’Neill’s proposals in their entirety. She said: “There is no prima facie case against anyone. I will be laying before the House a draft order establishing the commission of investigation.

“The judge has recommended that this is the way forward .I will be accepting his recommendations in full and his terms of reference in full.”

In a statement, An Garda Síochána welcomed the commission, which it would “co-operate fully with” so the “truth and facts are established”.

Fianna Fail spokesman on justice Jim O’Callaghan said his party would not support calls for Ms O’Sullivan to stand aside.

Mr O’Callaghan said the commissioner and the whistleblowers were entitled to a thorough investigation.

Independent TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace have said the commissioner must step down while the inquiry is ongoing.

It is understood neither whistleblower was informed of the inquiry until after it was announced by the commissioner.

The investigation will have a nine-month deadline and a budget of €1.2 million.