Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s comments about the Jobstown trial set “a dangerous precedent”.
He took issue with Mr Varadkar’s pointed criticisms of the Garda handling of the Jobstown protest which saw six defendants cleared of all charges last week.
Mr Varadkar, in an RTÉ Prime Time interview, said the gardaí and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan should “look into” the evidence given by officers at the trial.
He said consideration should also be given as to why the high-profile and elongated prosecution of former Anglo Irish Bank boss Seán FitzPatrick was unsuccessful.
Yesterday, Mr Martin said Mr Varadkar’s public comments were “very serious” and clearly had potential implications for the gardaí involved in the trial.
“I think they (comments) were ill-judged,” he said.
“The court process is, first of all, independent. The Director of Public Prosecutions is independent. I think politicians need to be extremely careful when wandering into that domain. In particular, just taking particular aspects of evidence from what was a very lengthy trial — I was concerned about the Taoiseach’s comments. I think they were not fair to the gardaí who gave evidence during that trial.”
Mr Varadkar, he said, “has left an impression — although he heavily caveats what he says, to be fair — but, nonetheless leaves the impression that maybe those gardaí didn’t give the full truth in accordance with the facts”.
“That is unfair and, in my view, the jury made a decision. We shouldn’t second-guess the jury.”
Mr Martin went further, saying he felt “it is a very dangerous precedent to set — he has authority as Taoiseach and he was unfair to the gardaí”.
“Those gardaí have their civil liberties too — they have their rights. There are all kinds of things being said on social media about them and I don’t think it is on for somebody with the authority of the Taoiseach to add fuel to that and pander to those who suggested that this was some State conspiracy.”
Mr Martin was speaking at UCC where he delivered the Jack Lynch lecture.
Solidarity TD Paul Murphy said Mr Varadkar’s intervention, while important, cannot be answered by gardaí investigating themselves and insisted a full independent probe is needed.
Mr Murphy said in light of the Taoiseach’s comments, #JobstownNotGuilty has published all of the court transcripts along with an article highlighting garda evidence given in the trial.
“We are encouraging journalists and independent researchers to seriously engage with this material to investigate the evidence of a conspiracy within the gardaí to pervert the course of justice,” he said.
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