Every lie that is told to the Disclosure Tribunal will be a “drain” on taxpayers’ money, Justice Peter Charleton has warned.
In his opening remarks, Mr Justice Charleton, who has been charged with investigating allegations of an orchestrated smear campaign against Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe, said there will be “no preconceived notions” as to who is “the villain and who is a victim”.
The judge has now asked for all witnesses to write to the tribunal before March 13 and said that if people have any information, the inquiry “needs your help and needs it urgently”.
Speaking in Dublin Castle, where the inquiry will be held, Mr Justice Charleton said: “This tribunal is a drain on the resources of the Irish people, and is paid for by their submission to the democratic structures of which taxation has been a central part in our tradition.
“Every lie told before this tribunal will be a waste of what ordinary men and women have paid for through their unremitting efforts.”
He said that, for this reason, “every action of obfuscation, of diversion of focus and of non-cooperation” would be unwelcome.
He added that the inquiry will get on with its work and reach conclusions “rapidly”.
However, it is likely that the tribunal will not begin calling witnesses — which are expected to include high-profile journalists and senior members of the gardaí — for a number of months as all volunteered statements will first have to be examined.
“There will then be a short pause, following which the tribunal will begin public hearing,” he said yesterday.
Mr Justice Charleton said he did not see any reason why parallel legal proceedings should be taken which could slow down the work of the tribunal, adding: “If a person has a problem, that person should first of all apply to the tribunal in a genuine manner.”
Outlining the body of work he has been tasked with — including investigating claims by Superintendent David Taylor that he was directed to encourage the media to write negatively about Sgt McCabe — Mr Justice Charleton said the “truth is bitter but not shameful”.
He warned that he would not be leaping to any conclusions: “We live in a country as the descendants of a people who value education as almost as high a virtue as the truth. But the truth is supreme.
“This tribunal is here to establish the truth: Ní féidir an dubh a chur ina gheal, ach seal; black can be made white but not convincingly.”
The tribunal will be broken into two modules. The first concerns the response of Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan and former Commissioner Martin Callinan and others at the highest level to disclosures made by Sgt McCabe.
He said this first module would hinge on the “manner in which the character of a person may possibly have been undermined by calumny or detraction”.
Among the items the tribunal will investigate is an allegation that Ms O’Sullivan influenced, or attempted to influence, RTÉ broadcasts on May 9, 2016, with what was purported to be a leaked account of the O’Higgins Commission Report, in which Sgt McCabe was branded a liar and irresponsible.
The judge asked anyone with information to write to the solicitor to the tribunal, Elizabeth Mullan, at Dublin Castle.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved