There was a campaign to undermine Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe which made its way to the O’Higgins commission, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has claimed in the Dáil.
- Additional reporting by Elaine Loughlin
Whistleblowers John Wilson and Maurice McCabe were “smeared and bullied” when they raised their concerns, the Dáil also heard.
Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald yesterday faced prolonged questioning by Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin on details surrounding the O’Higgins report into garda malpractice.
During leaders’ questions, Mr Martin and Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams referred to the Irish Examiner story which revealed counsel acting for the commissioner claimed Sgt McCabe was driven by malice.
Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Martin demanded clarity from the Tánaiste as to whether Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan sought to claim Sgt McCabe was motivated by malice.
Mr Martin’s tough stance in the Dáil was in contrast to the stance taken by several of his party’s leading TDs, who earlier in the day said they now considered the matter closed, given Ms O’Sullivan’s statement on Monday night.
Mr Adams pressed the Tánaiste to state if she had spoken to the commissioner about allegations that she directed her legal team to argue that Sgt McCabe had acted out of malice.
Mr Adams said: “John Wilson and Maurice McCabe raised concerns regarding practices within the upper echelons of an Garda Síochána. It is now a matter of fact that they were smeared and bullied.”
Mr Martin said the O’Higgins commission, which examined the allegations raised by McCabe and also the manner in which they were handled, vindicated the Cavan-based garda’s decision to speak out. He asked Ms Fitzgerald to find a forum within which Ms O’Sullivan can further clarify whether counsel in their dealings with the commission were acting on her instruction.
Responding to both opposition party leaders, the Tánaiste said she was precluded under law from answering in detail to the questions asked.
“In this era of new politics, it is important that I respect the law and the duty that I have to it,” said Ms Fitzgerald. “That is what I have been doing in my responses to the Deputy on this question. The commission and Mr Justice O’Higgins were in the best position to hear all of the facts and to reach conclusions on the very serious incidents that were investigated by the commission. In that regard, the commission’s report is the best description that we could possibly have got of the various incidents.”
She added that the Taoiseach will make a statement when the issue comes up for debate in the House. She said she was duty-bound to respect the law and said the privilege that exists between clients and their lawyers must be respected.
“We must take all steps necessary to ensure these mistakes are not made again,” she said. “I am constrained in what I can say. All 97 witnesses to the O’Higgins Commission have rights and I must respect those.”
She said she found the selective leaking of the report ahead of its publication as “unfortunate” and “illegal”.
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