Leo Varadkar has made a significant intervention in the fallout from the Jobstown trial and urged Garda management to examine the investigation including any conflicting evidence.
Garda HQ last night said a review into “the policing response and the subsequent investigation into the incident” at Jobstown began last Friday. It is being carried out by Assistant Commissioner Barry O’Brien.
But the Taoiseach’s remarks that the public “need to trust what gardaí say” and that any clashing evidence from the force “is a problem” will fuel claims by the trial defendants that they were stitched up.
Solidarity TD Paul Murphy says Mr Varadkar’s intervention, while important, cannot be answered by gardaí investigating themselves and that a full independent probe is warranted.
Protesters say the uploading of trial material and video evidence online will further add to pressure for an inquiry. This was set to go up overnight.
Mr Varadkar told RTÉ’s Prime Time that, while he did not think a public inquiry was necessary, that consideration should be given as to why the prosecution was unsuccessful.
“People need to trust what the gardaí say on the stand and I can understand a scenario where lots of things are happening quickly and people are caught up in the heat of the moment, they may have a recollection that isn’t exactly as things happened,” he said.
“But I would be very concerned if it is the case that we would ever have gardaí on the stand in the court giving evidence that is not in line with the facts, that is not in line with the video evidence.
“And I think there is something there that needs to be looked at both by the garda commissioner and by senior garda management because we need to be able to trust that when gardaí stand up in court, when they say something happened, that it did happen and it shouldn’t conflict with video evidence and if it does, then that is a problem.”
Mr Murphy and other Jobstown protestors were acquitted of falsely imprisoning former tánaiste Joan Burton and her adviser during a water charges protest in 2014. In the heated demonstration, objects and abuse were hurled at the two while they were also trapped in a car for hours.
Mr Murphy and others claim gardaí perjured themselves and video evidence proves this. The TD says a garda claim that he said he would keep Ms Burton “here all night” was contradicted. One garda did not stand over claims Mr Murphy incited crowds by megaphone, he says.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Murphy said Mr Varadkar’s intervention was “significant” and a first step towards an inquiry.
“From the time we raised a call for a public inquiry over a conspiracy and attempt to stitch us up for false imprisonment, we have been met with refusals,” said Mr Murphy.
“This is the first crack in that wall of resistance. If he [Mr Varadkar] accepts the possibility gardaí might be lying in the trial, gardaí investigating themselves is not an answer.”
Mr Varadkar’s latest remarks will raise questions about government confidence in the force and pile pressure on Garda management to address claims of a conspiracy over the Jobstown trial.
Garda HQ last night told the Irish Examiner the review will be from a “lessons-learnt perspective”, and the following areas will be examined: “Key learning points; Identification of organisational practices/policies which require improvement; Training; Any other issues of note.”
Meanwhile, updating colleagues at Cabinet on the public finances, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe is said to have made it clear spending increases come budget day will be “very modest”.
The meeting was convened ahead of publication of the summer economic statement, expected next week.
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