The Garda Ombudsman is to investigate claims two senior officers misrepresented a 2008 meeting with whistle-blower Maurice McCabe to the O’Higgins commission by alleging he was motivated by malice.
- Additional reporting by Elaine Loughlin
This article was subject to the publication of the following apology ...
APOLOGY - SUPERINTENDENT NOEL CUNNINGHAM
In the Irish Examiner on 13, 17, 18 and 26 May 2016 we carried a number of articles referring to the O’Higgins commission and the actions or intended evidence of certain Garda Officers. In the course of these articles a reference was made to two Garda officers who attended a meeting in Mullingar with Sergeant Maurice McCabe.
One of the Garda officers who attended that meeting was superintendent Noel Cunningham. Insofar as there was any suggestion that, had it not been for Sergeant McCabe’s recording of the meeting in question, the two Garda Officers intended to give a false account of the said meeting, we unreservedly withdraw any such suggestion and accept that the report prepared by Superintendent Noel Cunningham of the meeting, was in accordance with the recording which subsequently came to light.
We acknowledge that Superintendent Cunningham is a person of the highest personal and professional integrity. We unreservedly apologise for the damage, hurt and distress which the articles in question caused to Superintendent Cunningham.
The decision was made by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald yesterday, as the fallout from the inquiry continued with Taoiseach Enda Kenny forced to correct the record of the Dáil over the resignation of ex-justice minister Alan Shatter.
Ahead of her private meeting with the Policing Authority today to address the O’Higgins report, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan denied ordering her legal team to impugn the integrity of Mr McCabe or make the case he was “acting maliciously”.
Transcripts from the inquiry published by the Irish Examiner show at the outset of the inquiry, senior counsel for Commissioner O’Sullivan claimed evidence would be produced to show Sgt McCabe had told two officers he was only making the complaints out of malice.
The inquiry was told the two officers — named in the Dáil last night by Independents4Change TD Mick Wallace as Superintendent Noel Cunningham and Sgt Yvonne Martin — had taken notes of that meeting.
However, Sgt McCabe produced a tape recording of the same meeting showing the claims not to be true.
In a statement yesterday, the commissioner said the leaked documents outlining the instructions to her lawyers were “selective” and threatened public confidence in her force being damaged in “a very unfair way”.
The senior garda said she was legally restrained from dealing fully with the accusations because evidence to the O’Higgins Commission was confidential, as are instructions between lawyers and their clients.
However, while defending her own actions in the case, she said the Garda Ombudsman (GSOC) should now open an investigation into the 2008 allegations.
In a lengthy Dáil debate on the O’ Higgins report yesterday, the justice minister ratified the request, creating another investigation into the Garda whistleblower scandal.
However, despite the move the Government continued to be heavily criticised over the controversy, with the opposition rounding on Fine Gael for the ongoing failure to fully clarify the issue.
In a strongly worded response to the commissioner’s statement, Independents4Change TD Clare Daly said the country’s most senior garda still has questions to answer, noting while Commissioner O’Sullivan labelled the references to her legal team’s tactics as “selective” leaks “she doesn’t say they were not true”.
While welcoming the GSOC investigation, Ms Daly said thecommissioner has been aware of the issue for more than a year and failed to act and questioned its timing. She told the Dáil a number of gardaí have been pictured holding images of Maurice McCabe as “a rat”, claiming the “vilification” of whistleblowers continues.
AAA-PBP TD Mick Barry said under Dáil privilege if Commissioner O’Sullivan is found to have been “culpable in the framing” of Sgt McCabe “she should resign, in fact, she should be sacked”.
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