Clare Daly tells Garda Commissioner her authority was 'undermined' by whistleblower allegations

Crisis-hit Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan has insisted she is "not privy to, nor would I approve, nor would I condone" any targeted campaign by officers to silence whistleblowers in the force, write Fiachra Ó Cionnaith of the Irish Examiner.

Clare Daly tells Garda Commissioner her authority was 'undermined' by whistleblower allegations

Crisis-hit Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan has insisted she is "not privy to, nor would I approve, nor would I condone" any targeted campaign by officers to silence whistleblowers in the force, write Fiachra Ó Cionnaith of the Irish Examiner.

Ireland's most senior garda made the comment at the start of a high-profile Dáil meeting this morning in which Ms O'Sullivan was told if she did not know about the scandal her authority has been completely "undermined" as the incidents were "going on behind your back".

The Garda Commissioner has also rejected claims of nepotism under her leadership of the force.

She denied suggestions about the roles of her husband and her bridesmaid.

"It isn’t the case I promoted my bridesmaid. I didn’t have a bridesmaid," she told the Oireachtas Committee on Justice today.

Speaking at the start of a meeting with the Oireachtas justice committee, whose members include outspoken whistleblower advocates Mick Wallace and Clare Daly, Ms O'Sullivan was repeatedly asked about her knowledge of the crisis at the heart of the gardaí.

The questions came after superintendent and former garda press officer David Taylor alleged he was part of a campaign against whistleblower sergeant Maurice McCabe which he claims was orchestrated by the highest levels of the force.

Maurice McCabe.
Maurice McCabe.

Separate allegations have also been made that a handful of whistleblowers have been subjected to abuse within the force and targeted due to speaking out over what they say are serous issues within the gardaí.

However, faced with controversy - which is now the subject of a six-week independent review by retired former High Court judge Iarflhaith O Neill - during early questioning, Ms O'Sullivan repeatedly said she is "not privy to, nor would I approve, nor would I condone" any attacks on whistleblowers.

Asked directly by Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan if she was "aware of any effort by An Garda Síochana to subject whistleblowers" to ill-treatment, Ms O'Sullivan said she had no first-hand knowledge of such alleged attacks.

The garda commissioner refused on seven separate occasions to clarify how she responded to separate whistleblower concerns from garda Kevin Harrison, whose issues are not currently the subject of the independent review by Judge O'Neill.

When asked about the matter and to clarify how many whistleblowers have contacted her, she said she was "not in a position" to address the issue and repeated she is "not privy to, nor would I approve, nor would I condone" any campaign against them.

Ms Daly said if this is true the garda commissioner did not know about the scandal then her authority has been "undermined" because the incidents of targets those who speak out have been "going on behind your back".

Fellow Independents4Change TD Mick Wallace subsequently asked if the garda commissioner is aware of any whistleblowers or TDs being put under surveillance or phone-tapped because of the controversy, to which Ms O'Sullivan said there are strict rules in terms of surveillance matters.

Despite Mr Wallace heavily criticising Ms O'Sullivan as "things are much as they were" since she took over from Martin Callinan two years ago, the garda commissioner said there were "factual inaccuracies" in the claims and that "if I painted a pretty picture it's not all pretty in the garden yet".

Sinn Féin justice spokesperson Jonathan O'Brien also grilled Ireland's most senior garda on the whistleblower controversy, asking bluntly if she has "considered stepping aside temporarily" while the issue is investigated.

However, Ms O'Sullivan said her only focus is on where the force is going and that she has no intention of stepping aside, adding all whistleblower claims will be "fully and appropriately investigated".

The Commissioner also told the Oireachtas justice committee she believes how protected disclosures are dealt with needs to change.

Ms O'Sullivan said: "The professional expert can help us to review our internal structures, our internal policies and our approach to things.

"If there are areas that we can strengthen, we are very open to strengthening those.

"But perhaps it is time for a consideration to be given to some type of an independent entity where all of these issues go to, and that people can have some reassurance that there is somebody independently looking into all of these matters."

The meeting continues.

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