Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan will not be forced to stand aside while a commission of investigation into an alleged smear campaign against Garda whistleblowers proceeds.
Today, the Government will publish the terms of reference for the inquiry into allegations that senior management in the gardaí campaigned to discredit sergeant Maurice McCabe.
Asked yesterday whether she would be recommending that Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan step aside for the duration of any inquiry, Justice Minister and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said that what was being dealt with were protected disclosures.
“These are allegations, there is no prima facia case against anyone,” said Ms Fitzgerald. “I will be laying before the House the draft order establishing a commission of investigation, which the judge recommended as the way forward. I will be accepting his recommendation and terms of reference in full.”
Following reports in the Irish Examiner last year, based on two disclosures from whistleblowers Superintendent Dave Taylor and Sgt Maurice McCabe, Ms Fitzgerald won Cabinet approval to set up the State inquiry.
Ministers yesterday approved recommendations from Ms Fitzgerald to set up a commission, which will be chaired by Supreme Court judge, Peter Charlton.
The commission follows a “scoping” report by retired judge Iarfhlaith O’Neill, who examined two protected disclosures alleging a campaign against Sgt McCabe.
The disclosures were made last September by Sergeant McCabe and Superintendent Dave Taylor, a former head of the garda press office, who admitted his role in spreading black propaganda about Segeant McCabe.
Among the allegations made in the protected disclosures is that media were briefed about Sergeant McCabe in a manner designed to discredit him, and that an intelligence file was created in Garda headquarters. The latter measure is usually reserved for serious criminals.
The disclosures came about after the two men met for the first time and Superintendent Taylor confessed to Sergeant McCabe what he says he had been involved in.
There was controversy last night as the Government revealed it would not be publishing the O’Neill report in its entirety.
“On legal advice, it is not possible to put the entire report in the public domain at this time in view of the nature of the allegations contained in the two protected disclosures,” a Government spokesperson said. “The full report will be provided to the commission of investigation.”
A draft order and statement of reasons for setting up the commission of investigation, including Judge O’Neill’s recommendations, will be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas.
In response to the announcement, An Garda Síochána said it “welcomed and will co-operate fully with the commission of investigation chaired by Mr Justice Peter Charlton so that the truth and facts are established”.
Fianna Fáil spokesman on justice Jim O’Callaghan said last night: “Fianna Fáil has been clear in saying that such an investigation is needed. We now look forward to Judge Peter Charleton working towards a speedy conclusion to his investigation so that we can get to the truth of these matters as soon as possible.”
Both Sgt McCabe and Superintendent Taylor, who has been suspended for 21 months, made statements under whistleblower legislation alleging that senior garda management conducted a major campaign to “destroy” McCabe.
Supt Taylor, who was previously the force’s designated press spokesman, in his disclosure is admitting his role in the campaign to discredit Sergeant McCabe, but claims that he was following orders.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved