Fitzgerald won't say whether Garda Commissioner will step aside during whistleblower inquiry

Update: 7.45pm.: An Garda Síochána has said it welcomes and will co-operate fully with the Commission chaired by Mr Justice Peter Charlton so that the truth and facts are established.

Update: 3pm.: The Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has confirmed that a commission of investigation into the Garda whistleblower claims will be led by Supreme Court judge Peter Charlton.

Minister Fitzgerald confirmed she has accepted the recommendations and terms of reference for the inquiry in full as suggested by retired judge Iarfhlaith O'Neill, who carried out a scoping inquiry.

She has refused to say whether Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan or any other senior officer will be asked to step aside while the inquiry takes place.

The Tánaiste said she is restricted on what she can say by the whistleblowers legislation.

“These are allegations, there is no prima facie case against anyone,” she said today. “What I will be doing is 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. I will be publishing the parts of the report that I'm in a position to publish tomorrow.”

Earlier: A full commission of investigation is to be set up into allegations of a smear campaign against two Garda whistleblowers.

The inquiry has been agreed following a report by a retired High Court judge Iarfhlaith O'Neill (pictured) which was presented at Cabinet today.

It is understood that the report - which hasn't been published - recommends further examination of the claims.

Last October, the retired High Court judge was asked to investigate claims from Superintendent David Taylor that he and others had been told by senior Garda management to orchestrate a campaign to undermine whistleblower Superintendent Maurice McCabe and others.

The claims, which Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan and other senior managers have rejected, relate to repeated leaks of rumours surrounding Sgt McCabe’s personal and professional life, an issue Sgt Taylor said he was asked to organise as then-head of the garda press office.

In early December, Mr Justice O Neill provided a report on the controversy to Ms Fitzgerald which is understood to have recommended a commission of investigation be set up to examine the matter further.

Fianna Fail justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan said: "Fianna Fail has been clear in saying that such an investigation is needed.

"We now look forward to Judge Peter Charleton working towards a speedy conclusion to his investigation so that we can get to the truth of these matters as soon as possible."

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan has insisted she knew nothing about the alleged smear campaign.

Jonathan O'Brien, Sinn Fein justice spokesman, said Judge O'Neill's report is of "enormous public interest" and called for a timeline for the inquiry.

"Given the very serious allegations made against Garda management by the whistleblowers and alleged attempts to denigrate the name and reputation of Maurice McCabe, there is a very serious sense of urgency," he said.

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