Latest: Divisions between FG and FF widen over Jobstown comments

Update: 8.15pm Divisions between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are widening tonight over the Taoisach's intervention in the Jobstown case.

Last night Leo Varadkar called for an investigation into the Garda handling of the case while Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin today accused the Taoiseach of 'interfering' and setting a dangerous precedent.

Speaking tonight fellow Fianna Fail TD, Jim O'Callaghan, said he agreed.

"His (Leo Varadkar) comments clearly implied that the gardai who gave evidence in that trial ... deliberately gave false evidence. That is why we think it was unwise ... to make those comments.

Update: 1.15pm Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's comments about the Jobstown trial set "a dangerous precedent", writes Daniel McConnell Political Editor.

Speaking in Cork today, Mr Martin has taken issue with Mr Varadkar's pointed criticisms of the Garda handling of the Jobstown protest, which saw six defendants cleared of all charges last week.

In an RTE PrimeTime interview, Mr Varadkar said that both the Gardaí and Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan should now "look into" the evidence given by officers at the marathon trial.

The Taoiseach also said consideration should be given as to why the high-profile and elongated prosecution of former Anglo Irish Bank boss Sean Fitzpatrick was unsuccessful.

However speaking today, Mr Martin said the Taoiseach's public comments were "very serious" and clearly had potential implications for the Gardaí involved in the trial.

"I think it (the comments) were ill-judged," he said.

"The courts process is first of all independent. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is independent. I think politicians need to be extremely careful when wandering into that domain," he said.

"In particular, just taking particular aspects of evidence from what was a very lengthy trial. I was concerned about the Taoiseach's comments - I think they were not fair to the Gardaí who gave evidence during that trial,” Mr Martin added.

Mr Martin said that the Taoiseach “has left an impression - although he heavily caveats what he says, to be fair - but he nonetheless leaves the impression that maybe those Gardaí didn't give the full truth in accordance with the facts."

"That is unfair and, in my view, the jury made a decision. We shouldn't second-guess the jury," the Fianna Fáil leader said.

"Those who were accused were acquitted and I accept the court decision. The judge is in charge of that particular domain and the Taoiseach should not have interfered in my view. There could be other cases coming down (the tracks) in relation to that incident. He may have prejudiced such cases,” he said.

Mr Martin went further saying he felt “it is a very dangerous precedent to set - he has authority as Taoiseach and he was unfair to the Gardaí."

"Those Gardaí have their civil liberties too - they have their rights. There are all kinds of things being said on social media about them and I don't think it is on for somebody with the authority of the Taoiseach to add fuel to that and pander to those who suggested that this was some State conspiracy."

Mr Martin was speaking at University College Cork where he delivered the Jack Lynch lecture.

Update: 12.37pm Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has said that the Gardaí and the DPP have serious questions to answer regarding their handling of the Jobstown prosecution.

Mr Adams welcomed the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's intervention saying the Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan should look into the evidence given by members of the force during the trial.

The Sinn Féin President said: "He (The Taoiseach) has acknowledged the need for an examination of what went on regarding the Jobstown prosecutions. That is very significant. However, it is not appropriate for the Gardaí to be investigated by the Gardaí. I believe the call for a public inquiry is a very reasonable demand.

"The controversy around the Jobstown prosecution and the role of the Gardaí and the DPP is not an isolated incident. The Gardaí and the DPP have serious questions to answer regarding the events leading up to the murder of Garda Tony Golden in Omeath in 2015. There are also grave concerns about the decisions taken by the Gardaí and the DPP surrounding the hit-and-run incident that resulted in the death of Shane O’Farrell outside Carrickmacross in 2011.

"Indeed, in November of last year, the then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny met the family and told them he would ask the Attorney General ‘to request the Law Reform Commission President Mr Justice John Quirke to examine how we can reform the law to provide enhanced public understanding for significant decisions made whilst fully preserving the independence of the Director of Public Prosecutions’. Nothing has materialised since that commitment was made.

Mr Adams welcomed the GSOC investigation into the Jobstown case, but pointed out that it does not have the capacity to bring criminal charges.

Mr Adams said: "Public confidence in the administration of policing and justice in this state is on the floor. Part of the process in repairing that confidence must be to ensure that citizens have the truth.

"The decisions taken by the DPP, in all the cases I have outlined, demand further scrutiny, and answers must be provided to these very important questions."

Earlier: The Garda Representative Association says calls for a public inquiry into the Jobstown case are "farcical".

An internal Garda inquiry is already underway, but those involved in the protests want it to go further.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says he would be worried if Gardaí misled the court during the trial.

John O'Keeffe from the GRA has said he is "flabbergasted" at calls for a public inquiry.

Mr O'Keeffe said: "I just couldn't help wondering how the families of Bloody Sunday, or those across the water in Hillsborough or the Grenfell Tower disaster, how would they feel that their truly tragic causes now seem somehow to get public billing beside ther acquittal of a number of men in Dublin on allegations that were made about false imprisonment?

"I mean it's farcical."

A scene from the protest in Jobstown in November 2017.


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