From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar; Sgt Maurice McCabe
On January 8, 2018, the Disclosures Tribunal, overseen by Supreme Court judge Peter Charleton, will resume.
The tribunal is mainly investigating allegations of a smear campaign against Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.
It had been expected to hear allegations of former head of the Garda Press Office Dave Taylor – who has claimed that he was instructed to negatively brief journalists about Sgt McCabe.
But Justice Charleton released a statement last Friday to say the tribunal’s next module will focus on the former Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan’s legal strategy at the O’Higgins Commission.
Broadsheet has learned Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will appear as a witness and give evidence.
As Minister for Transport, Mr Varadkar defended Sgt McCabe’s actions as ‘distinguished’.
He told a road safety conference in March, 2014:
“I think it is very important to bear in mind that the Garda whistleblowers only released information about people after they tried to use the correct procedures and those procedures failed them and when they did release the information, they did it through Oireachtas members which is provided for under the Garda Act of 2005.”
Mr Vardkar thanked Sgt McCabe and fellow Garda whistleblower, John Wilson:
“…on my own behalf and on behalf of the thousands of families who have had to endure the pain and loss that flows from the death of a loved one on the road.”
A Government press officer said he could not confirm if Mr Varadkar would appear as a witness. He said: “This is a matter for the tribunal.”
A spokesman for the Disclosures Tribunal said:
“I can’t confirm one way or the other whether Mr Varadkar or anybody else is going to be a witness at the tribunal in the next module. So you will have to wait for a witness list to go up [on the tribunal’s website].
“The work, as such, of the tribunal would be confidential. So until the witness list goes up, you wouldn’t be able to say whether anybody is going to be a witness at the next module or who would be a witness at the next module.”
Readers may recall how in May 2016, it emerged that, at the privately held O’Higgins Commission of Investigation, held during 2015, the then Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan employed a legal strategy which attacked the credibility and motivation of Sgt McCabe.
In February 2017, just prior to the establishment of the Disclosures Tribunal and when there was talk of setting up a second commission of inquiry involving Sgt McCabe, he and his wife Lorraine McCabe made a statement.
“Today, we have heard one Minister, Simon Harris, state that we are entitled to “truth and justice”.
“We wish to make it clear that we are definitely not agreeable to that entitlement being wholly postponed so that another Commission of Inquiry can conduct a secret investigation behind closed doors and make a report, into which we have no input as of right, in nine or eighteen months’ time.
“We are entitled to the truth today – justice can follow in its wake.
“… the public has little or no appreciation of what was done, and attempted to be done, to Maurice in the course of its hearings.”
Last week it emerged that an email of May 15, 2015 circulated to the former Minister for Justice and other justice officials which should have been sent to the Disclosures Tribunal wasn’t sent.
Sgt McCabe told Mr Varadkar in a phonecall that evening that the sequence of events alleged in the email did not happen and that the transcripts of the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation will prove this.
Following a call by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, for the Department of Justice to do another search for documents relevant to the tribunal, further emails were found and subsequently sent to the Disclosures Tribunal.
The email thread showed, among other things, how, on Saturday, July 4, 2015, the former Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan phoned the Department of Justice Secretary General Office Assistant Secretary Ken O’Leary to tell him a press query about the stance taken by An Garda Siochana against Sgt McCabe at the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation had been sent to the Garda Press Office.
The garda weren’t commenting on the matter.
Mr O’Leary subsequently advised the then Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald on what to say, if she was asked about the matter during a scheduled interview on RTE’s This Week on Sunday, July 5.
In the end, Ms Fitzgerald wasn’t asked about it.
Amid these revelations, the Tanaiste and former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has resigned.
Of her resignation, Mr Varadkar told the Dail he accepted her resignation with regret and that “It is my strong view that a good woman is leaving office without getting a full and fair hearing”.
The Secretary General of the Department of Justice Noel Waters yesterday announced that he’s resigning with immediate effect as opposed to next February – which he announced last week on the same day the May 15, 2015 email surfaced.
Meanwhile, questions remain over the current Minster for Justice Charlie Flanagan’s handling of related matters.
Readers will also recall how, on March 20, 2014, when Mr Varadkar called Sgt McCabe and Garda Wilson “distinguished”, he also called on the then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to withdraw his “disgusting” remark in relation to the two men.
Mr Callinan made that remark at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee in January 2014.
Previously: Disclosures, Discrepancies And Paul Williams