Maurice McCabe calls for Nóirín O’Sullivan to stand aside during tribunal

Lawyers acting for Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe have written to the minister for justice demanding that Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan be removed from her post for the duration of the Disclosure Tribunal.

The letter is understood to lay out a strong case for Ms O’Sullivan to step aside as her continued presence as commissioner would undermine the tribunal.

The move is likely to pile further pressure on her following calls from a number of politicians for her to step aside and the failure of the chairwoman of the policing authority Josephine Feehily to express full confidence in the commissioner continuing in her role.

Meanwhile, Sgt McCabe’s legal team has been furnished with further files from the HSE which suggest that the executive was aware in 2014 that a false allegation of child sexual abuse had been made against him. An investigation was launched at the time to probe how this could have happened.

Sgt McCabe was not told of the false allegation until January 2016 in what appears to have been a mistaken notification to him from a social worker who was unaware the allegation had been discovered as false.

The Disclosure Tribunal was set up to examine if there was a smear campaign against Sgt McCabe from within the ranks of the force.

Former head of the garda press office, Supt David Taylor, has alleged that a campaign to smear Sgt McCabe was conducted with the knowledge of Ms O’Sullivan.

It will also examine how a false allegation came to be made against Sgt McCabe, whether members of the force were aware of it, and what was done to rectify it once discovered. Ms O’Sullivan has denied any knowledge of a smear campaign.

Nóirín O’Sullivan

Another term of reference for the tribunal involves alleged attempts by counsel for Ms O’Sullivan to attack Sgt McCabe’s motives for making claims of malpractice. The matter ended when Sgt McCabe produced a recording of a disputed meeting he had with a senior officer.

The letter from lawyers acting for Sgt McCabe sets out a range of reasons as to why Ms O’Sullivan’s continuance in her role in untenable. Among these are:

  • Her access to full Garda resources in preparation for what is a personal case;
  • The setting up of a hand-picked liason group in Garda HQ to deal with all tribunal related issues;
  • Her role as serving commissioner would discourage any garda from giving any evidence that could be even perceived to be anyway
  • damaging to her reputation, if such evidence did exist;
  • The experience at the O’Higgins Commission where the commissioner and senior gardaí were represented by the same counsel and a high-ranking officer had a watching role for the commissioner, which gave her unique access to all the evidence tendered.

The letter is also understood to refer to reports about text messages being exchanged between senior officers which expressed bitterness at Ms O’Sullivan’s promotion to commissioner.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said Ms O’Sullivan should “assess where she stands” in relation to continuing in her role during the tribunal, while Labour leader Brendan Howlin has called for her to step aside.Sinn Fein and a number of independents, including Mick Wallace and Clare Daly, have also called on the commissioner to step aside, as well as Fine Gael TD Michael Darcy.

Ms O’Sullivan has repeatedly stated that she didn’t know of any smear campaign against Sergeant McCabe. “I have repeatedly refuted that claim and do so again,” she stated last month.

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