Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has restated her belief that Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan will clarify her instructions to her legal team as how to deal with whistleblower Maurice McCabe at the O’Higgins Commission.
While essentially repeating her position, speaking to the Irish Examiner last night, Ms Fitzgerald said Ms O’Sullivan would make public whatever is legal and feasible as soon as possible.
“It is a matter for the Commissioner, I have no doubt she will seek to clarify as much as possible the points raised. The Policing Authority has indicated publicly that it will be addressing and discussing the O’Higgins report with the Garda Commissioner. I think that is a very appropriate forum,” she said.
There were calls from across the political spectrum yesterday for the commissioner to clarify her position, given the inconsistencies with her public statements about whistleblowers including Sgt McCabe.
Revelations in the Irish Examiner have detailed how counsel for Ms O’Sullivan sought to at first challenge Sgt McCabe’s integrity and later his credibility and motivations in his dealings with the Commission. The new Labour leader Brendan Howlin yesterday said he has no confidence in the Department of Justice, which he said sometimes operates like the “downtown office of An Garda Síochána”.
“There were two reports in the last year from the Garda Inspectorate relating to very broad ranging reforms that are necessary. I am not convinced yet that they have been embraced,” Mr Howlin told RTÉ’s This Week programme.
“Bluntly, I have no confidence in the Department of Justice to drive that change because I think there is too close of a relationship between the Department of Justice and An Garda Síochána; who sometimes see themselves as the downtown office of An Garda Síochána, as opposed to the people who are managing policing in Ireland, as well as a number of other things,” he said.
There was continued radio silence from Garda Headquarters yesterday.
There was intense activity between Garda HQ and the Department of Justice, and within the wider Government, at the end of last week to try to craft a statement. Legal concerns around any lifting of client-lawyer privilege and commenting on evidence from a commission of inquiry, as interpreted by Garda legal chiefs and the Attorney General, are thought to explain the delay.
The matter is understood to be largely a “political” one, with senior officials in the Department of Justice, along with Ms Fitzgerald, as well as the Taoiseach and Attorney General, having to sign off on any proposed statement from the commissioner.
The statement, while aiming to be sufficient to quell concerns within Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, is unlikely to answer all questions.
It is also conceivable no statement will be issued and that the commissioner will only provide information to the Policing Authority at a private meeting on Thursday. Unless chairwoman Josephine Feehily gives an interview after that, the public will not know anything about what was said, at least until the minutes are published the month after.
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