Partner of garda whistleblower accepts gardaí did not manipulate Tusla into investigating her family

Partner of garda whistleblower accepts gardaí did not manipulate Tusla into investigating her family
Keith Harrison and Marisa Simms. Pic: Rollingnews.ie

The partner of a garda whistleblower says she accepts there is no basis for believing gardaí manipulated Tusla into investigating her family and children, the Charleton Tribunal has heard.

Marisa Simms told the tribunal today she had previously believed there was an abuse of authority based on the fact that there was a "coincidence" in which she was contacted by Tusla shortly after she withdrew a statement making complaints against her partner, Garda Keith Harrison, in January 2014.

The tribunal is currently looking at contacts between gardaí and Tusla (formerly part of the HSE) in relation to Garda Harrison.

"I have no issue with Tusla or the HSE," Ms Simms said.

"I suppose I was suspicious. I had retracted my statement, and a week and a half later I get a letter."

"I have absolutely no issue with Tusla, they had received a referral. The people we were dealing with were professional, they were courteous."

Barrister Paul Anthony McDermott SC, representing Tusla, said it was his understanding that the reason for the current module was to examine allegations against his client, "and it appears it is no longer being pursued."

Ms Simms said that when she was withdrawing her complaint, Inspector Goretti Sheridan told her a story about a couple in Letterkenny who had a row, and as a result social services were involved in their lives, and their children were "taken away".

"As a mother I will never forget what she said to me. I felt sick to my stomach," Ms Simms said.

Ms Simms also said that Sergeant Brigid McGowan told her to "think of her children".

Ms Simms said that when withdrawing her statement on January 11, 2014, she affirmed that everything in it was true because Inspector Goretti "was after making a threat to me about social services" and she wanted to protect her children.

Barrister Desmond Dockery BL, representing the AGSI, Inspector Sheridan and Sergeant McGowan, said it was Sergeant McGowan's position that she never told Ms Simms to "think of her children", and that Inspector Sheridan never told a story about a local couple and social services. Ms Simms maintained she had been told these things.

Mr Dockery said his clients had to put up with very damaging allegations and a GSOC inquiry following a 2016 complaint by Ms Simms.

Cathal Ó Braonáin BL, representing Chief Superintendent Terry McGinn, said his client had never instructed officers that she wanted Ms Simms interviewed at a particular time or a statement taken from her.

Ms Simms said she accepted this, and "was only relaying what I was told."

Ms Simms was asked by Mícheál P O'Higgins SC, on behalf of the garda commissioner, if it was "entirely reasonable for the guards to notify the HSE and to take seriously what you had told them in your statement".

"If you were just reading all the information, without the context around it, they had to take it seriously, yes," Ms Simms said.

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