Update: Sinn Féin and Brendan Howlin urge Garda Commissioner to step aside

Update 8pm: Sinn Féin's Jonathan O’Brien has also called for Garda Commissioner, Noirín O'Sullivan, to step aside.

The party's Justice Spokesperson has urged the Garda Commissioner to step aside "without prejudice" during the course of the Commission of Investigation into whistleblower allegations.

Mr O’Brien said: “This is no reflection on Commissioner O’Sullivan or a comment on the validity of the allegations, but rather a statement on the need for there to be continued public confidence in the operation of An Garda Síochana.

“Morale has been at a low ebb in recent times in the service, and the public are entitled to see the Gardaí acting in a transparent and accountable manner.

“For that reason, we are calling for the Garda Commissioner to step aside, without prejudice to its outcome, for the duration of the Commission of Investigation."

Update 6.30pm: Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin has said that the Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan "must now stand aside" while the Commission of Investigation carries out its work.

In a statement, he said: "The Garda Commissioner heads a policing service charged with protecting the security of the State, preventing crime and vindicating the human rights of each individual.

"Yet at the same time, and while still discharging these onerous statutory responsibilities, Commissioner O’Sullivan now faces a statutory investigation.

"In the course of this inquiry, the Commissioner’s mobile phones and her phone records for a two-year period are to be examined, as are all Garda electronic and paper files, to see if she is implicated in this affair.

"Nóirín O’Sullivan as Garda Commissioner is the custodian of the very records that Judge Charleton will be demanding to examine, in order to see if they disclose wrongdoing by the Commissioner herself.

"I believe this places her in an untenable position."

He added: "The matters brought to my attention this morning, from a source that I believe, required me to take action.

"I have long experience pursuing truth, particularly in the justice sector. My experience in helping whistleblowers in this sector dates back as far as the establishment of the Morris Tribunal, and I do not lightly raise issues of the significance that I raised today.

"I also crafted the whistleblowing legislation now in place, and understand that it can be hard for whistleblowers to come forward, especially when powerful institutions are involved.

"The truth of all of these matters will be determined by the commission of investigation to be established. In the interim, all members of the Oireachtas, both Government and Opposition, have responsibility to ensure that the integrity of an Garda Síochána is protected.

"As I have repeatedly said today, it is my view that the reputation of the Gardaí would best be protected by Commissioner O’Sullivan standing aside while the commission carries out its’ work.”

Update 6pm: The Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan has refuted claims by Labour leader Brendan Howlin in the Dáil that he had been told that Ms O'Sullivan directly phoned journalists in 2013 to make allegations of sexual crimes against Sergeant McCabe.

Commissioner O'Sullivan has said that this is the first time she has heard of Mr Howlin's allegations which she noted "with surprise".

Ms O'Sullivan's statement said: "The Commissioner notes with surprise the comments made by Deputy Brendan Howlin in Dáil Eireann on this date. The comments made under Dáil privilege relate to allegations of the most serious nature against the Commissioner and other members of An Garda Síochána. The Commissioner has no knowledge of the matters referred to by Deputy Howlin and refutes in the strongest terms the suggestion that she has engaged in the conduct alleged against a serving member of An Garda Síochána.

"This is the first occasion on which the Commissioner has been made aware of the allegations made by Deputy Howlin and to her knowledge no report having been made to the Garda Siochána Ombudsman or elsewhere relating to the specific allegations."

The Commissioner said she also noted that a Commission of Investigation has been established.

Her statement said: "In view of the seriousness of the allegations made by Deputy Howlin and that they refer to conduct of the most damaging nature against a serving member of An Garda Síochána the Commissioner is obliged to take the unprecedented step of commenting publicly in circumstances where the Terms of Reference of the Commission have now been published.

"As previously stated, the Commission of Investigation will receive the full cooperation of An Garda Síochána and will in due course establish the truth of the matters together with all relevant facts. In the interim the members of An Garda Síochána affected by the remarks published today will receive all necessary supports and assistance having regard to the potential impact for the members concerned and their families."

Earlier: The phone records of Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan are to be examined as part of an investigation into an alleged smear campaign against Garda whistleblower, sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Phone records of former commissioner Martin Callinan and those of Superintendent David Taylor, a former garda press officer, will also be examined.

The full terms of reference for the Commission of Investigation can be seen in a document at the bottom of this article.

Earlier Labour leader Brendan Howlin used Dáil privilege to say he had been told the current Commissioner, Noirín O'Sullivan, directly phoned journalists in 2013 to make allegations of sexual crimes against Sergeant McCabe.

The Charleton Commission is being established by the Government to investigate the protected disclosure of Superintendent David Taylor.

He claims he was instructed or directed by former commissioner Martin Callinan and then deputy commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan to brief the media negatively about Sergeant McCabe.

Noirín O'Sullivan.

The O'Neill scoping inquiry, which recommends the Commission of Investigation, says the allegations are wholly denied, but are so serious that their truth or falsity must be established.

The Commission of Investigation has now been tasking with checking phone records of Martin Callinan, Noirin O'Sullivan and Dave Taylor from July 2012 to the end of May 2014 as well as all electronic and paper records held by Gardaí on Sgt McCabe

It will also examine specifically whether Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan planned and orchestrated RTE news bulletins last May which suggested a leaked commission report was branding Sgt McCabe a "liar" and "irresponsible".

No timeline has been laid out for the Commission of Investigation and it has discretion in relation to the scope of investigation of the matters it considers necessary.

Earlier, the Irish Examiner's Mick Clifford explained the background behind the current situation.

He explained: "Superintendent Dave Taylor was previously the head of the Garda Press Office. He was suspended 21 months ago on the basis of an allegation of having passed names to the media.

"He met Maurice McCabe for the first time last [year]. He effectively confessed to Maurice McCabe that he had been involved in a concerted effort to smear McCabe."

The two officers then made protected disclosures over the claims.

Mr Clifford added: "I have to stress this is an allegation that has not been proved yet... But the allegation that senior management set about destroying the character of an officer who was coming forward to highlight malpractice within the force... I think it's about as serious as you can get."

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