Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty
The Dáil debated Sinn Féin’s motion of no confidence in Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.
During the debate, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty spoke about another Donegal Garda whistleblower Kieran Jackson, who is now retired.
Mr Doherty said:
“There are many reasons why Nóirín O’Sullivan should leave her position as Garda Commissioner and there are many Members in the House who have outlined those reasons. I support the motion, obviously, that Sinn Féin has tabled.
I will recall for the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, the case of a former garda in the Donegal division, with whom I have engaged over the past number of years and who has engaged with the Garda Commissioner over that period. In May 2001, a former garda in the Donegal division met two detective inspectors from the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation in a hotel in County Monaghan. Accompanied by a witness, the detectives had invited the officer to meet them. During this exchange, the now retired garda disclosed to the interviewing detectives a number of very serious allegations against a former Garda superintendent, since retired, who was also stationed in Donegal. These allegations related to suspected tax evasion, social welfare fraud and persons being in possession of a fraudulent bank account into which thousands of pounds were being lodged regularly. This meeting in Monaghan lasted for over five and a half hours. As the meeting drew to a close, the detectives stated that they would be in contact again with the whistleblower shortly in order to take a written statement. However, this did not happen.
In September 2014, a solicitor acting on behalf of the whistleblower wrote to then acting Garda Commissioner, Noirín O’Sullivan, in which he divulged all of the allegations of criminal wrongdoing suspected of having been committed by the whistleblower’s former colleague. The letter also expressed his client’s alarm at the apparent lack of any follow-up having been carried out on the part of the investigating gardaí. A similar letter, dated 24 September 2014, was subsequently sent to the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, around which time the whistleblower himself contacted me to request that I bring the case to the Minister’s attention, which I did.
On 16 December 2015, the Minister replied to me in a letter in which she stated that inquiries were being made with the Garda Commissioner regarding the whistleblower’s complaint. A further letter, issued in May 2016, declared that inquiries into the claims were ongoing. Then, last September, the whistleblower finally received the news that he had long suspected. The Garda advised him that, following an extensive search of files and records held locally and at Monaghan Garda station, no record of his complaint or of any subsequent investigation could be found. The correspondence went on to say that inquiries made with the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation revealed that no investigation was ever carried out by personnel in respect of the whistleblower’s allegations.
The whistleblower to whom I refer is former Garda Kieran Jackson. His story leads us to one of two conclusions. First, either Kieran Jackson is lying – I have no reason to believe that he is and there are other former gardaí who will corroborate his story – and no meeting between him and the detectives ever took place. The other conclusion is that somebody in An Garda Síochána has gone out of his or her way to cover it up and to ensure that his claims never saw the light of day.
If the latter conclusion is the case, then questions need to be asked as to who took the decision? Kieran Jackson informs me that a failure to follow up or investigate a criminal incident is, in itself, a crime. Questions must be asked about who took the decision to not pursue his complaint. Why has Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan – who has known about this for over two and a half years – done nothing about it?
The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, and her Government say that they have full confidence in the Garda Commissioner. Try telling that to Garda whistleblowers across the State. Try telling that to Kieran Jackson who has had no response from the Commissioner in respect of the allegations he brought forward many years ago, and again in 2014, to the Garda Commissioner and to the Minister, with absolutely no action whatsoever taken.
We hear time and again, however, that the Tánaiste and the Commissioner embrace whistleblowers. The results are clear. There is only one course of action left for the Government, namely, to express no confidence in the Commissioner.”
During the same debate.
Labour TD Alan Kelly, above, raised the case of Garda Keith Harrison.
Readers will recall how Garda Harrison returned to work on Monday after having been on sick leave since May 2014. He was on partial pay (33%) from May 2014 until September 2015 but has not received any sick pay from An Garda Siochana since September 2015.
This is despite a series of Garda-commissioned medical assessments finding that his reasons for being out sick were work-related.
Mr Kelly also raised concerns about the Garda College in Templemore, in light of the recent report on the same.
Mr Kelly said:
“We all know what has happened to any gardaí who have spoken out. They have been isolated and targeted. This seems to be a common theme under Garda management. Examples of gardaí who have spoken out are Sergeant Maurice McCabe and Garda Keith Harrison. I am glad that Garda Harrison is back to work since Monday of this week. Will the Tánaiste now pay him and every other whistleblower the back pay they are due?
I welcome the terms of reference that have been published recently by the Tánaiste but they need to be considered.
The audit of the Garda College in Templemore has not received as much attention as the matters I have spoken of thus far. Templemore is a great town with great people and the Garda College has done great service for this country. The Garda College has been very positive in how it has interacted with people in the town. There has been a huge amount of commentary on the results of the audit. We all know what the results have shown in regard to bank accounts, how the restaurant was run and a range of other issues. There must be a gain for the people of Templemore in regard to what will happen to the Garda College, which should be very positive. It needs investment. There are huge needs for the community in regard to legacy issues in Templemore and the land owned there.
There are some very interesting details yet to come out in regard to the mess of how the Garda accounts for its training college. Recently, I asked the Office of Public Works, OPW, what it owns in Templemore. As we all now know, it owns an estate there which it bought for future development. Interestingly, it received no rent from 2009 to 2013 from the lands it owns in Dromard and Clonmore. Guess what? The OPW is looking into it, believes that it will be collated by the Garda and that it will get the funds back appropriately. How in the name of God did the OPW not know that no rent that was being paid into its account for the lands it owned in Templemore? It is unbelievable.
The Magee and Nolan reports on practices in the Garda College in Templemore were produced in 2008 and 2010. Why were these reports not given to the Department? Why did these reports not get to an internal audit and get reported? When did the Commissioner know about these reports and why did he or she not report them to the Department of Justice and Equality? Who was on the audit committees during the years of these audit reports and have those people subsequently been promoted within An Garda Síochána on numerous occasions?
On 6 July 2015, a report on financial procedures and accounts was prepared by the Garda head of human resources for the Garda head of administration in regard to the accounts in Templemore. It was prepared in order to brief the audit committee. The head of administration never briefed the audit committee. Why was that?
On 24 July 2015, the head of legal affairs in An Garda Síochána contacted the Garda Commissioner to say that the issues in the report that had been prepared by the head of human resources were so serious that the Minister should be made aware of them under section 41 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which provides that anything of significant relevance should be brought to the Minister’s attention. Why did this not happen?
Why did the Garda Commissioner, having received legal advice from her head of legal affairs, not bring this to the Minister’s attention? There was a subsequent meeting of the Garda Commissioner, two acting commissioners, the head of administration and the head of human resources on 27 July 2015 to discuss this issue. The head of human resources and the head of legal affairs may have felt isolated subsequent to this because suddenly they were not required to do very much.
The issue of isolation seems to be a common trend in An Garda Síochána.
On 18 September 2015, the head of human resources, HR, met with the head of administration in the context of this legal advice following the interim report of the Fennelly commission again asking why the Minister had not been told about the report into financial affairs in Templemore Garda college.
On 2 June 2016, the head of the audit committee met again with the head of human resources and people in An Garda Síochána and he was shocked at what he heard about the audit report. Again, nothing happened. What is the reason for that and what is the relationship between the head of the audit committee and the Garda Síochána?
I have a number of other questions I want to put to the Minister. Why was the head of the internal audit committee in An Garda Síochána kept in the dark about these financial reports relating to Templemore until May 2016 or thereafter? Was there a campaign within An Garda Síochána to do so? Does e-mail traffic show that?
We know from the Minister that on 16 September, her Department received its first copy of this report. Was that the first ever correspondence relating to a report on Templemore considering that the first report was done in 2008? When did Commissioner Callinan know? Did he ever inform the Department? It is ironic if he did not considering there were numerous discussions about Templemore relating to the restaurant and other issues because over a period the gardaí asked that the members who were working there be made civil servants. It would be very strange during that conversation and correspondence if the Garda Commissioner did not raise these issues.
Were the head of human resources and the head of legal affairs marginalised over the last two years? Who in An Garda Síochána was told about the requirements under ethics legislation by the Minister’s Department, and did this happen?
Previously: Facing Down