There is an “immediate crisis of trust and confidence” in the Garda Commissioner, Nóirín O’Sullivan, who has been called to resign her position by Opposition TDs.
Serious questions remain for the commissioner over attempts to undermine Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe at the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation into Garda malpractice, the Dáil heard last night.
Last week, the Irish Examiner revealed that documents to the O’Higgins inquiry showed Ms O’Sullivan’s legal team claimed Sgt McCabe was motivated by “malice” when he high- lighted malpractice in the force — while praising his actions in public.
It was confirmed last night that the barrister representing the commissioner, Colm Smyth, told the head of the Commission of Inquiry, Judge Kevin O’Higgins, that his “instructions at all times were to challenge the motivation and credibility of Sgt McCabe” but said this was “in relation to the corruption and malpractice allegations”.
However, he added “it was an error on my part” when he said earlier he was to challenge Sgt McCabe’s “integrity”.
Last night, Minister for Justice and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald appeared to be under serious pressure on the matter of a disciplinary response to the admissions in the transcripts.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time, she refused to state whether she was surprised by the stance taken by Ms O’Sullivan’s legal team and refused to say whether she had full confidence in the commissioner. Instead, the Tánaiste stated that she had full confidence in her ability to change the culture around whistleblowing in An Garda Siochána.
Today, the Irish Examiner is publishing further extracts from the transcripts to the O’Higgins Commission which show the extent to which attempts were made to attack the integrity and motivation of Sgt McCabe.
Mr Smyth was asked on a number of occasions by Judge O’Higgins to clarify the matter. At one point the judge surmised: “In other words, that he [Sgt McCabe] made these allegations not in good faith but because he was motivated by malice or some such motive and that impinges on his integrity. If those are your instructions from the commissioner, so be it.”
Mr Smyth replied: “So be it, that is the position, judge.”
The lawyer went on to say, “I mean this isn’t something I am pulling out of the sky judge, and I mean I can only act on instructions.”
The transcripts clearly show that a case would be presented that Sgt McCabe was acting in bad faith when he made his complaints of Garda malpractice.
Some days after the exchange in the transcripts published today, Sgt McCabe produced a tape recording of the meeting in question, which when transcribed, showed he made no expression of malice at the meeting in question. The whole matter was not revisited by the commission thereafter and was not included in the final report.
Last night in the Dáil, Independents for Change TD Mick Wallace said that, only for Sgt McCabe recording the meeting, the judge would have had to believe the two officers and Sgt McCabe “would have been destroyed”.
His colleague, Clare Daly, under privilege, called on Ms O’Sullivan to go and warned Ms Fitzgerald to abandon her or risk her own position.
“It is time for this commissioner to go and unless you act, she’s going to take you with her,” said Ms Daly.
“The issue is that the Garda commissioner’s legal team allegedly, on her instruction, attempted to deliberately mislead the commission by entering false information in order to challenge the motivation and credibility of Maurice McCabe.
“There is now an immediate crisis of trust and confidence in the Garda commissioner.”
Ms Fitzgerald said she was precluded from commenting on the media reports, and said partial leaking from the O’Higgins report was “unfortunate” and “illegal”.
The Policing Authority is expected to discuss whether or not to raise the “malice” claims when it meets Ms O’Sullivan next week.
The board of the authority will meet first Thursday week, in the morning, followed by a lengthy meeting with the commissioner and her team later in the day.
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