Caroline O'Doherty answers the questions you may be asking about recent revelations in the Maurice McCabe affair.
Q. Why is the Garda whistleblower saga the subject of yet another investigation?
A. Because the first one, the Fennelly Commission, only examined the circumstances leading to the resignation of former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan over his handling of the whistleblowers, while the second one, the O’Higgins Commission, only examined whistleblower claims of Garda malpractice in the Cavan-Monaghan district.
Q. Only two? It seems like there were more than that.
A. That’s because there have also been three different inquiries and reports into penalty points fixing as revealed by whistleblowers plus the Guerin Inquiry which led to the O’Higgins Commission, and then the O’Neill Inquiry which has led to the newly announced Charleton Commission.
Q. So what’s left for Judge Charleton to examine?
A. The treatment of whistleblower Maurice McCabe by senior members of the gardaí who, it is alleged, ran a deliberate smear campaign against him to try to undermine his credibility.
Q. Who has made these allegations?
A. The former Garda press officer, Superintendent David Taylor, who says he was instructed by his superiors to brief media that Sgt McCabe was unreliable, was motivated by malice, and was facing investigation on a serious criminal issue.
Q. Which superiors are we talking about?
A. Former commissioner Martin Callinan “and/or” current commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan is how the proposed terms of reference put it.
Q. Presumably neither will be thrilled about a probe?
A. That would be a safe assumption. Callinan has been down this road before and it’s unlikely he wanted to spend any more of his enforced retirement revisiting the scene, and O’Sullivan has been issuing strenuous denials of any wrongdoing and fending off opposition calls to stand aside until the investigation is complete.
Q. When is the inquiry likely to be complete?
A. The smart answer is: In time for the next commission to be established. In reality, nine months has been mentioned but the proposed terms of reference seek a trawl of all telecommunications records of both Callinan and O’Sullivan over a two-year period.
Depending on what that throws up, there could be many — or few — witnesses to call.
In addition, there are already calls to widen the terms of reference to include a number of other events, including a meeting back in 2008 following which it was claimed Sgt McCabe said he was making his whistleblower disclosures because of a grudge against the force.
By chance, he had recorded the meeting and proved he made no such remarks.
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