The Public Accounts Committee, examining a series of financial scandals at the Templemore Garda College, are to grill eight civilian members of the force next week — without Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan being present.
The cross-party committee confirmed the move after deciding that splitting civilian and Garda witnesses was the only likely way to ensure transparency in the evidence being provided.
At a three-hour private meeting of PAC yesterday, which also heard concerns that gardaí are still failing to provide all documents relating to the scandal, the committee agreed that while it may ultimately not be able to uncover what happened it must meet with those involved in the coming weeks.
In order not to interfere with the existing work schedule of the PAC, it was agreed to hold a series of “special meetings” on Wednesdays only, with the first of these scheduled for next week, and to focus solely on civilian officials.
The PAC said next week’s witnesses will include whistleblower John Barrett, internal Garda auditor Niall Kelly, head of Garda finance Michael Culhane, chief administrative officer Joseph Nugent, and Mr Nugent’s predecessor Cyril Dunne.
Among others who will also attend are former audit committee member Michael Howard — who like Mr Dunne has since left the force and, as such, can turn down an appearance request — and the gardaí’s head of legal affairs, Ken Ruane.
At a meeting next Thursday morning, the PAC will decide in private session when to bring in senior gardaí to respond to the issues expected to be raised by the civilian officers.
However, it is widely expected among PAC members that this Garda management meeting will take place within a fortnight of next week’s Wednesday meeting, with Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, and potentially former commissioner Martin Callinan due to be told to attend.
A small number of PAC members, including Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell, told the private meeting yesterday they remain unconvinced a PAC investigation will uncover the exact circumstances of what happened at the Garda college.
However, the majority of the PAC continue to be of the view that it is not plausible to delay any investigation.
Meanwhile, PAC members have raised concerns Garda management have yet to provide them with the full amount of documents relating to the college scandal, and are due to formally request full transparency from the force over the coming days. The concern was highlighted by Labour TD Alan Kelly, Fine Gael’s Alan Farrell and others.
PAC members including unaligned Independent Catherine Connolly, Mr Kelly, Fine Gael’s Josepha Madigan and Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane and Mary Lou McDonald have also criticised alleged leaking of PAC files to the media after garda college records were released on Wednesday night.
PAC chair and Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming is to urge all committee members, individually, to stop releasing sensitive records.
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