Still valid on all counts.
(Thanks Angela Reynolds)
Garda Keith Harrison and Marissa Simms
(Continued from this post)
The tribunal is currently hearing of events that unfolded before this meeting.
It is not within the terms of reference of the tribunal to investigate Garda Harrison’s allegations pertaining to Athlone.
Keith Harrison, originally from Galway, and Marissa McDermott, from Raphoe, Co Donegal, went out for about a year while Ms McDermott was a student at NUI Galway in the early 2000s. For a time they were engaged but, after breaking up, they lost contact and both went on to marry other people.
Ms McDermott now goes by her married name, Marissa Simms.
Some years later, after their respective marriages ended, Garda Harrison and Ms Simms rekindled their relationship and Garda Harrison got a transfer to Buncrana in Donegal in March 2011.
Ms Simms has a brother called Martin McDermott who killed 24-year-old Garda Gary McLoughlin, from Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, after he rammed a stolen car into Garda McLoughlin’s patrol car in Burt, Co Donegal in December 2009,
Mr McDermott reportedly had 91 previous convictions when he was convicted of manslaughter in July 2011.
Garda McLoughlin had been stationed at Buncrana at the time of his death and when Garda Harrison was transferred to Buncrana – just a few months before Mr McDermott’s trial – he did not disclose to anyone within the gardai that he was in a relationship with the sister of Mr McDermott.
Over the past three days, the tribunal has heard:
– Evidence related to Garda Harrison’s transfer to Buncrana;
– How it became known he was in a relationship with the sister of Martin McDermott;
– The fall-out of this becoming known;
– An anonymous letter being sent to the HSE, which was subsequently sent to gardai, about concerns for Ms Simms’ children;
– A meeting with social workers which found the allegations raised in the anonymous letter to be unsubstantiated;
– Death threats being made against Garda Harrison;
– Garda Harrison subsequently being put on “indoor duties”;
– Allegations made by members of Ms Simms’ family to gardai about Garda Harrison;
– Domestic disputes between Garda Harrison and Ms Simms;
– A report being sent to GSOC based on allegations made against Garda Harrison;
– And a statement which was made by Ms Simms but was subsequently withdrawn.
The first witness on Monday was retired chief superintendent Jim Sheridan.
Separately, readers will recall that Mr Sheridan previously appeared in the Disclosures Tribunal in relation to matters concerning Sgt Maurice McCabe.
Mr Sheridan forwarded the false rape allegation to the then Assistant Commissioner Kieran Kenny in May 2014 without acknowledging that the allegation was false – despite knowing this. Mr Kenny subsequently forwarded the incorrect referral to the office of the Garda Commissioner.
Mr Sheridan told the tribunal that, in hindsight, he should have disclosed that the allegation was incorrect.
On Monday, Mr Sheridan gave evidence in relation to the transfer of Garda Harrison from Athlone to Buncrana.
The tribunal heard that, in 2011, Mr Sheridan was the chief superintendent for Sligo-Leitrim division.
In addition, from November 2010 to August 2011 and again from February 2012 to November 2012, Mr Sheridan also had responsibility for Donegal division.
Mr Sheridan said he first learned of Garda Harrison in February 2011 when he received a phone call from Assistant Commissioner Fintan Fanning to see if he would be willing to accept Garda Harrison on transfer.
The tribunal also heard that, in the same month, Mr Sheridan received a report from the district officer in Milford that Garda Harrison had been making checks on PULSE in relation to Ms Simms.
Mr Sheridan told the tribunal that, during the phone call with Mr Fanning, he told Mr Fanning that he would take Garda Harrison in Sligo where Garda Harrison would be part of the escort unit.
Asked to explain the difference between an escort unit and ordinary policing duty, Mr Sheridan said:
“There’s a bank holding centre in Sligo where cash is retained, there’s an escort unit there who escort the bank — the movement of cash from, I think, Monday to Friday around the northwest, the west of Ireland into the midlands, and that is the duty involved.”
However, this did not occur as Garda Harrison was instead transferred to Buncrana.
Mark Harty SC, for Garda Harrison, told the tribunal that Garda Harrison had never sought a transfer to Buncrana – but only to the Donegal County division.
Mr Sheridan said he had no dealings with Garda Harrison during this transfer and had no dealings with Garda Harrison until several months later.
During cross-examination, by Mark Harty SC, for Garda Harrison, the tribunal heard that transfer attempts for Garda Harrison to other districts – specifically Limerick and Laois-Offaly divisions – had been rejected. No dates were given for these rejections.
In the case of Limerick, the tribunal heard that the Chief Supt in Limerick, in response to a transfer application, wrote to Assistant Commissioner Fanning saying:
“I am in receipt of the attached file from chief superintendent Mullingar and same is noted. I am aware of this member’s situation and transfer to Limerick would not be in his or the organisation’s best interests. It will not, in my view, alleviate any of the problems he is encountering.”
In a separate letter to Assistant Commissioner Fanning, the chief superintendent in Portlaoise wrote:
“I am unwilling to accommodate Garda Harrison in his application for a transfer to Laois-Offaly division.”
Mr Harty put it to Mr Sheridan:
“The situation then is that at the time at which Garda Harrison was seeking a transfer, he was being met with opposition and, to a certain extent, it would appear, dissent from people below the ranks to the assistant commissioner, whereby they were not willing to accommodate Garda Harrison, isn’t that correct?
Mr Sheridan responded: “Yes, that appears correct, yes.”
Mr Harty added: “And that appears to be directly related to something personal to Garda Harrison, isn’t that correct?”
Mr Sheridan replied: “It would appear so, but I’m not aware of that, to be honest, Judge.”
Mr Harty also asked Mr Sheridan about his conversation with Assistant Commissioner Fanning and asked him what information Assistant Commissioner Fanning gave Mr Sheridan.
Mr Sheridan said:
“My recollection is, there was a very brief conversation, I had a phone call from Assistant Commissioner Fanning. He did advise me that there may have been disciplinary matters. I did not go into them and to this day I do not know what they are. I said, I advised him that I would accept Garda Harrison to the escort unit in Sligo Town, and that ended the conversation, and I expected Garda Harrison to transfer to Sligo-Leitrim, to Sligo Town. I heard no more about it. The bulletin came out on the 15th March 2011, and Garda Harrison was being transferred to Buncrana Garda Station.”
Mr Sheridan said he did not call Assistant Commissoiner Fanning or anyone in Garda Human Resource Management (HRM) when he learned that Garda Harrison had been transferred to Buncrana and that although he was surprised, he accepted it.
The tribunal heard that, on May 23, 2011, an incident – the details of which were not disclosed – arose involving Ms Simms and her ex-husband in Churchill, Co Donegal.
Mr Sheridan accepted that the incident had not been caused by Garda Harrison and that, following that incident, Mr Sheridan first became aware that Ms Simms was a sister of Martin McDermott who was then waiting to be tried for the death of Garda McLoughlin.
This was brought to Mr Sheridan’s attention by Superintendent Kevin English, of Buncrana Garda Station, on May 25, 2011.
Mr Sheridan said Supt English told him that, in his view, it was no longer appropriate for Garda Harrison to serve in Buncrana and that “some of the station party were not happy in relation to it” – ‘it’ being his relationship with Ms Simms.
Several days later, a meeting was held between Mr Sheridan, Supt English and Garda Harrison in Letterkenny.
The tribunal heard that it is Garda Harrison’s view that the meeting was “fraught”.
But this account differs to that of Mr Sheridan.
Mr Sheridan told the tribunal:
“The meeting was conducted in a professional and efficient manner. I outlined at the outset the reason for the meeting and we discussed the incident in Churchill. Garda Harrison assured me that there wouldn’t be a repeat of it, that his partner and her former husband had come to an agreement in relation to matters and that there wouldn’t be a repeat of that incident. And then we discussed, obviously, his relationship, the relationship of his partner with Mr. McDermott.
“In fairness to Garda Harrison, he gave me a full rundown of his relationship going back to his college days with his partner, when they had originally met, when they had gone their separate ways and they had met up again in more recent times. He acknowledged that he hadn’t disclosed the relationship of his partner to Martin McDermott. We discussed all of those matters. He advised me that he had, since the incident in Churchill, I think on the night previously, he had informed the unit he worked with of the matter.
“He said that they had accepted it well. But he did — and that he had worked well with the unit there. But he did accept that — he fully accepted that he couldn’t continue to serve in Buncrana station.”
As Mr Sheridan gave evidence, notes of the meeting by Supt English were read out to the tribunal.
The notes said the following:
“Purpose of meeting: Explain to Garda Harrison. Garda Harrison provided personal details in relation to his partner, Marissa Simms, and their reason for moving to Donegal explained by Garda Harrison. Garda Harrison explained what happened on the 23/5/’11 re domestic incident… genuine fears for the safety of partner and two kids.”
“Garda Harrison confirmed that he met with his unit in Buncrana on the 29/5/’11, apologised and told them of his relationship with M. Simms. Garda Harrison believed unit were happy with explanation. Garda Harrison fully accepted that he should have disclosed who his partner was when he transferred to Buncrana Garda Station. Garda Harrison explained that his relationship would not cause any problem in the future and partner had little or no contact with her brother Martin.
“Superintendent English confirmed to chief [Sheridan] “that, since transferred, Garda Harrison to Buncrana there was no work-related issues and he was performing very well. Issue of transfer out of Buncrana was discussed. Garda Harrison accepted that he could not remain in Buncrana and requested to be kept anywhere within the Donegal division.
“Chief mentioned Sligo or Leitrim. Garda Harrison explained impact of not kept in Donegal Division. Garda Harrison gave assurances that there would be no further incidents with him and that he was getting his private issues sorted out. Garda Harrison stated that he would take a transfer to any other station within Donegal division. He wanted to make a new start. Chief confirmed there would be no delay in making his decision.”
Asked if these notes were accurate, Mr Sheridan said: “Absolutely, yes.”
Asked by Diarmuid McGuinness SC, for the tribunal, about Garda Harrison’s statement to the tribunal of this meeting, in which he alleges Mr Sheridan “started the meeting by accusing him of being underhanded and deceitful in keeping the relationship quiet and it showed a lack of respect in relation to his colleagues”, Mr Sheridan said:
“Those are not words that I would use. I certainly was disappointed that somebody — that a member of An Garda Síochána would not disclose that relationship, given the circumstances in which a colleague gave his life in the service of the country, and I certainly was very, very disappointed in relation to that. I was not angry. I had nothing to be angry about. I don’t do anger, to be honest.”
In addition, in relation to Garda Harrison’s statement, Mr Sheridan said:
“I’ve seen Garda Harrison’s statement. I saw it with disbelief, I have to say, Judge. I reject utterly his assertions in relation to the meeting.”
The tribunal heard that Garda Harrison claims, in his statement to the tribunal, that Mr Sheridan said: “I have good mind to send you far down the country and see how you like it then.”
When this was put to Mr Sheridan, he told the tribunal:
“Well, one is, I couldn’t say that because I didn’t have the authority to transfer him way down the country. I had the authority to transfer him back to Sligo if I wished.”
Under cross-examination from Mark Harty, SC, for Garda Harrison, Mr Sheridan said that had Garda Harrison disclosed his relationship with the sister of Martin McDermott, “we could have prevented the transfer to Buncrana” and he could have been facilitated somewhere else in Buncrana.
After the half-hour meeting, the tribunal heard that Mr Sheridan made the immediate decision to transfer Garda Harrison to Donegal Town and emailed Assistant Commissioner Fanning about the same.
During Mr Harty’s cross-examination of Mr Sheridan, Judge Charleton intervened on several occasions.
At one point, Judge Charleton said:
“As I understand from your client’s statement, which of course I have read, he is accusing Chief Superintendent Sheridan of malice, in sending him from Buncrana to Donegal Town and that hasn’t been put, and it ought to be put.”
Later Judge Charleton said:
“I am going to explore the question now, Mr. Harty. Did you maliciously transfer him from Buncrana to Donegal Town?”
Mr Sheridan responded: “Absolutely not, Judge.”
Judge Charleton then added:
“In order to inconvenience him or punish him in some way?”
Mr Sheridan responded: “Absolutely not.”
The tribunal also heard that, after the meeting between Garda Harrison, Mr Sheridan and Supt English, Mr Sheridan also wrote to the superintendent in Milford – the district in which the incident between Ms Simms and her ex-husband occurred on May 23, 2011 – in which Mr Sheridan wrote:
“If there are any further incidents, please advise this office.”
Mr Sheridan said he wrote this in light of the fact Garda Harrison gave him assurances that there would be no more incidents like that of May 23, 2011.
The tribunal heard that Mr Sheridan didn’t meet with Garda Harrison about his checking of Ms Simms on PULSE until April 24, 2012.
He said, as far as he could recall, there had been over 30 PULSE checks and at the meeting of April 24, 2012, Garda Harrison could not give him “any valid reason” for having carried out these checks.
Mr Harty, SC, for Garda Harrison told the tribunal that there had been 22 checks, from 2007.
Asked by Judge Charleton the reason why Garda Harrison had carried out so many checks, Mr Harty said Garda Harrison carried them out to see who was checking on Ms Simms’ car, as “he believed at the time that they were [both] under surveillance” by members of An Garda Siochana.
Judge Charleton asked Mr Sheridan if they were under surveillance and Mr Sheridan said “absolutely not” in respect of both Garda Harrison and Ms Simms.
Under cross-examination from Micheál O’Higgins, SC, for the Commissioner, Mr Sheridan said Garda Harrison “was not a thorn in his side” and he said, contrary to claims by Garda Harrison, Mr Sheridan is not related to Inspector Goretti Sheridan, of Letterkenny Garda Station.
Insp Sheridan was involved in a statement made by Ms Simms on October 6, 2013 which she later withdrew yet said was true. However, according to the tribunal’s opening statement, her statement of withdrawal – in which she said the claims in the original statement were true – was pre-pared by Inspector Sheridan.
In the tribunal’s opening statement, it is acknowledged that an anonymous letter was sent to the HSE in respect of Ms Simms’ children in January 2012.
Gardai in Milford were made aware of this letter on February 9, 2012 when a copy of it was handed over to Sergeant Bridget McGowan by Una Coll, of the HSE.
According to the opening statement, the anonymous letter said:
“It has come to my attention that the wellbeing of [the two children] is questionable. Their mother, Marisa Simms (nee McDermott) is having an extra-marital affair with a Garda Keith Harrison, who has a barring order against him from his estranged wife.
“She leaves and returns to the family home … on a regular basis, causing great upset to her two children, and husband, Andrew Simms obviously. Their father, Andrew Simms’ prime concern is to get his wife back, and is at breaking point. My gut feeling is that while Andrew is caring for the children physically, and working full time, he needs help. Thankfully he has the help of his mother.
“I would call you but I am aware that all calls are recorded. I have been advised not to leave myself open to Garda Harrison on any level, as I believe him to be a dangerous individual. I would fear, in his post, that he might obtain a recording of the call, and so therefore, I do not wish to put myself or my own family in danger. [One of the children] has become very withdrawn and [mentions various health issues] … I believe the stress of everything is far too much for [the child] to handle, without proper help.
“I feel it my duty to inform you of this situation, and so let you decide on what action might be taken, whether it be to inform the school, provide counselling etc. I feel that the children have suffered so much already and that maybe you are the people to help.”
The opening statement also details how, on February 10, 2012, Sgt McGowan forwarded a report to Supt Eugene McGovern, with the anonymous letter attached.
In her report, Sgt McGowan wrote:
“The matter was discussed and based on the contents, the member informed Ms. Coll that in their view there were specific concerns raised in the letter pertaining to the health and welfare of the children, in particular [one of the children], which would need to be addressed. The HSE informed me that they would call and speak to both parents of the children to ensure that the children were being adequately cared for and that they would inform me of the outcome of their enquiries.”
According to the opening statement, a meeting took place between gardai and Nora Roarty, a Social Work Team Leader, and Una Coll in which they informed Sgt McGowan that they had met with Marisa and Andrew Simms regarding the letter and discussed the welfare of the children.
After this the matter was closed as there were no further child protection concerns. According to Bridgeen Smith, social worker, there was “no information to substantiate the referral allegations”.
This meeting took place on March 14, 2012.
During Mr Sheridan’s evidence, the tribunal heard that, eight days after this meeting, on March 22, 2012, Mr Sheridan forwarded the anonymous letter to the superintendent in Letterkenny, a Superintendent O’Brien with the following note:
“The above is forwarded for your information and attention in the event of any incident being reported by Ms. Simms or Garda Harrison. The report and anonymous letter to the HSE are for your information only and not general circulation.”
The tribunal also heard of a report in relation to the inquiry into the anonymous letter sent by Sgt McGowan to Mr Sheridan on April 3, 2012.
Mr Sheridan said he couldn’t recall it but “if it’s there, I accept that it’s there, yes”.
He added: “It obviously was forwarded for my attention, or for my information, but I did not have any involvement in this or any contact with the HSE in relation to it, or anybody else.”
The tribunal has heard of instances in which members of Ms Simms family have made allegations about Garda Harrison to An Garda Siochana in relation to his treatment of her.
On Tuesday, the tribunal heard that, on the night of March 30, 2013, Ms Simms’ uncle William Bogle was at home in Raphoe, Co Donegal with his daughter Kerry Bogle and son Lee Bogle when Mr Bogle’s sister Rita McDermott – Ms Simms’ mother – telephoned saying she was concerned for Ms Simms.
The tribunal heard that on the night Ms McDermott made contact, Mr Bogle had been drinking.
It also heard that Mr Bogle’s memory is somewhat impaired as a result of a medical condition that he has suffered since 2013.
It’s unclear whether Ms McDermott called William’s phone or Kerry’s phone but she informed them that Ms Simms was “walking the roads” after an argument with Garda Harrison.
Ms McDermott was in Mayo on the night this phonecall was made.
Attempts to contact Ms Simms via phonecalls and texts were unsuccessful and so Mr Bogle – who said he knew nothing of Ms Simms and Garda Harrison’s relationship and didn’t know where they lived – telephoned Letterkenny Garda Sation.
The tribunal heard a recording of this telephone call in which Mr Bogle spoke to Garda Ian Oates telling him that “this garda is giving her grief”, “there’s kids in the house as well”, “he’s giving her awful abuse”, “he’s been very aggressive and chasing after her” and “we’re just very concerned for her”.
The telephone conversation wasn’t very clear and, in it, Garda Oates attempted to decipher who he was concerned about, where she lived and who was chasing her.
Mr Bogle also appeared to claim “he’s knocking her about”.
Kerry Bogle and Lee Bogle also spoke briefly during the telephone call.
Any difficulty in understanding what was said during the call was later made clear in the tribunal when a note of the call, made by Garda Oates, was read out.
“The caller was making allegations that Keith Harrison had kicked his sister, Rita, from out of the house and was following her in a car and flashing lights, later claimed she was assaulted also.”
Under questioning from Patrick Marrinan, SC, for the tribunal, Mr Bogle admitted that he merely concluded that Ms Simms’ children were in the house during the argument because: “I only assumed that the kids were there because I mean they would be with their mother, wouldn’t they?”
He said Ms McDermott told him that Garda Harrison was “racing after her through Letterkenny” and that he was “giving her a lot of abuse”.
After the phone call with Garda Oates, the tribunal heard that Kerry Bogle drove her father and brother in the direction of Churchill – where Garda Harrison and Ms Simms lived – in an attempt to find Ms Simms.
Unsuccessful, they then drove to Letterkenny Garda Station where William Bogle spoke to Garda Tina Fowley who was on duty that night.
The tribunal heard Mr Bogle couldn’t recall speaking to a male or female guard.
It also heard of a statement made by Garda Fowley in which she noted Mr Bogle was intoxicated.
The statement said:
“I recall two males and a female calling to the public office counter at Letterkenny Garda station during the early hours of the morning. One of the males, a Mr. William Bogle, stated he had rung earlier and expressed concerns for the safety of his niece, Marisa Simms.”
“He stated that they had been driving around Letterkenny looking for her as she was in a car being pursued by her partner.”
“He was unable to provide me with details of the vehicles involved. I asked for his niece’s address and the name of her partner. William Bogle did not know the address.”
“However, Kerry Bogle, his daughter, stated it was in the Churchill area. William Bogle was also accompanied by his son…I then explained to William Bogle that Garda Harrison was not stationed in Letterkenny but was attached to Donegal town Garda station
“William Bogle had drink consumed and was intoxicated.”
“I advised him he should speak to Marisa on the following day to establish what has occurred.”
“I also informed him that Marisa, as the injured party, would be the person who would have to make her statement of complaint in relation to the incident.”
The tribunal heard Mr Bogle’s brother died the following day and so he never asked Ms Simms about the evening.
Under cross-examination from Mark Harty, SC, for Garda Harrison, the tribunal heard that there were no children in the house that night and that Ms Simms “left of her own will in the company of a friend Mr Jim Quinn” and that there was “no incident that night which led to any act of violence on the part of Garda Harrison”.
Following questions from Judge Charleton about events of that night, Mr Harty told the tribunal that following a disagreement between Ms Simms and Garda Harrison:
“The situation is that at approximately 1:00 in the morning, Ms. Simms indicated that she wished to go back and stay in her mother’s and Garda Harrison rang Mr. Quinn because both Ms. Simms had been — had drink taken and couldn’t drive and Garda Harrison had also had some drinks at home that evening, and also couldn’t drive. So he rang Mr. Quinn and Mr. Quinn came and collected Ms. Simms and brought her, I think, to her mother’s house to stay.”
Kerry Bogle also gave evidence and said she can’t recall if the call came through to her phone, or her father’s phone, but that she spoke with Rita McDermott.
Ms Bogle said she couldn’t recall 100 per cent if Ms McDermott said Ms Simms and Garda Harrison had had an argument but that Ms Simms was “walking the streets” in her night clothes or pyjamas and that she asked if they could go and see if she was OK.
Jim Quinn, a Padre Pio faith healer, suicide counsellor and pioneer, also gave evidence about that night.
Mr Quinn, who said he knows Rita McDermott for about ten years and knows Ms Simms well, told the tribunal that he got a call from Garda Harrison, whom he didn’t know very well, on the night, and that Garda Harrison asked him if he could collect Ms Simms and give her a lift to her mother’s house as they had had a tiff.
Mr Quinn said he did drive from Letterkenny to Garda Harrison and Ms Simms’ home in Churchill about a 35-minute drive – to bring Ms Simms to Raphoe.
Recalling the night, Mr Quinn said:
“I stepped inside the door, I spoke to them as usual and I asked ‘Any chance of a cup of tea?’ and Keith said ‘Marisa will make a cup’. Marisa got up to make a cup and she kind of sat back down the seat, as if she had a couple of drinks too much. And I said to Keith ‘Maybe you should go and make the tea’ and he said ‘No, Marisa is all right’ and she got up and she did make a cup of tea, and I had a cup of tea.
“And that was that. I drunk the tea. Chatted. They said they had a wee tiff, words were exchanged. And Keith said he had drink on him, he couldn’t drive. She couldn’t definitely drive. So then I proceeded to take her home to Raphoe, to her mother’s house. Now, she was up and down the stairs, she did go up and down the stairs a few times with the phone, she was talking to somebody up at the top of the stairs, and when she got into the car to go home to Raphoe I said ‘Marisa, who were you on the phone to?’ and she says ‘Mum’. And I says ‘Why are you leaving the house? Do you think I am a taxi service?’ And she sort of, she kind of laughed, but she said ‘No, mum more or less told me to leave the house’.
“So more or less it was the mother’s instructions that she left the house. It was just a tiff. And I asked Marisa she did want to stay on. Marisa was quite willing to stay on that night, but she was under instructions, that she told me on the way up the road, that she wanted to go home, the mother told her to go home to the house.”
Mr Quinn also told the tribunal that Ms Simms told him that her mother told her that she had rung the guards.
The tribunal heard that Mr Quinn and Ms Simms spoke to Garda Oates on the phone that night – they couldn’t recall who called whom – and Garda Oates told the tribunal: “she didn’t seem distressed or anything, she seemed calm enough”.
Judge Charleton asked Hugh Hartnett, SC, for Ms Simms, about Ms Simms’ view of the evening.
Mr Hartnett said he was of the view that this matter was outside the terms of reference as it didn’t pertain to Ms Simms’ children or Tusla.
But Judge Charleton said he was not of that view and said he wished to know:
“Was there a row? How bad was the row? Does she accept what she says in the garda statement or is she giving a different narrative and if so what is that narrative?”
In addition, he asked:
“Is Marisa Simms saying that what she said to the Gardaí in October 2013 is incorrect? I suppose in what respect will become clear, if she is saying that. And, how does she explain withdrawing her statement, which is — well, it can happen in domestic violence situations, and it can be because nothing ever happened and the statement was made untruthfully, or it can be because it is simply being withdrawn because the relationship is back on an even keel. What are the circumstances under which she withdrew the statement but apparently told the Gardaí that it was true? So those are the things I need to know.”
Mr Hartnett later told the tribunal that it’s Ms Simms’ evidence that she called Mr Quinn on the night.
He also told Judge Charleton:
“There was certainly a row in the sense that there was an argument between these two people. There were –you asked the question, was Keith Harrison out of control, that is a very general term, but certainly voices were raised by both parties, and there is no doubt about that.
“You asked the question, sir, was she pulled out of bed, and my client will say that the duvet was pulled from the bed but that she wasn’t pulled out of bed. And as to whether she was pushed out in her pyjamas, she went out onto the street in her pyjamas, and a coat over them, as she awaited the arrival of Mr. Quinn, the previous witness.
“And then in relation to the question of the withdrawal of her statement, sir, you will notice that some couple of days after making that statement she was contacted by GSOC and that was her immediate reaction, to withdraw the statement, and soon after that she indicated that she wished to withdraw her statement.
“So in relation to this particular module, if I can put it that way – and the issues, the evidence that was given today, where the statement says that there was a pulling out of the bed, we say that that is incorrect.”
Mr Harty added:
“She signed that statement. But issues will arise in relation to that which, in my submission, are best dealt with by cross-examination during the hearing of viva voce evidence.”
The tribunal also heard of two further occasions where members of Ms Simms’ family contacted gardai about Garda Harrision in August 2013 and September 2013.
Detective Sergeant David Durkin told the tribunal yesterday that he got a call from Rita McDermott whom he had gotten to know when he had worked in Raphoe because of dealings with Martin McDermott when he was a minor as he sometimes had to serve summonses on Rita McDermott in respect of Mr McDermott.
Det Sgt Durkin also said he knew William Bogle as he sometimes did taxi runs for prisoners.
Det Sgt Durkin told the tribunal yesterday that, on the evening of Saturday, August 24, 2013, at around 9.40pm, he got a call from Mrs McDermott in which she alleged that on the Tuesday night prior to that, she got a call from Ms Simms at around 3am; that Garda Harrison had thrown Ms Simms out of the home and locked her out; that Mrs McDermott had to go and collect Ms Simms from the house; and that when she got to the house, Ms Simms was outside in her pyjamas.
He also said Mrs McDermott said that this was the third similar incident in three months.
Det Sgt Durkin said Mrs McDermott said there were no children present on the evening and that this allayed his fears and caused him not to contact TUSLA about the matter.
He said he advised Mrs McDermott what avenues were open to Ms Simms, under the Domestic Violence Act, if she deemed them appropriate.
He said he prepared a report for his superintendent and that he felt it was a matter for them if they wished to take if further.
Det Sgt Durkin also told the tribunal how Mrs McDermott told Set Sgt Durkin that Ms Simms didn’t know she was making this known to him and she didn’t wish Ms Simms to this find out.
Det Sgt Durkin gave further evidence about a second phone call with Mrs McDermott – specifically on September 24, 2013 – in which she again relayed her concerns about Garda Harrison.
Mrs McDermott told Det Sgt Durkin that Ms Simms had asked Garda Harrison to move out but he refused and that Ms Simms planned to remove all of Garda Harrison’s belongings from their house when he returned to work on October 2, 2013 – he had been on leave due to a road accident unrelated to work and was due back on October 2, 2013.
Mrs McDermott also informed Det Sgt Durkin that Ms Simms’ sister Paula McDermott was to get married on October 4, 2013 and that, as Garda Harrison wasn’t invited, there was some tension building up to the wedding and that Paula got correspondence that Keith was going to cause some disturbance at the wedding.
Det Sgt Durkin told the tribunal that he advised Mrs McDermott, that if Ms Simms or Paula McDermott had concerns, they should come into the station and make complaints.
Det Sgt Durkin said towards the end of this call, he believes Mrs McDermott ran out of credit and his attempts to call her back were unsuccessful as he didn’t have her correct phone number.
The tribunal heard that, on October 1, 2013, Det Sgt Durkin spoke to Mrs McDermott again and she told him that Garda Harrison’s behaviour was causing concern, that Paula McDermott had had her hen night in a hotel in Westport that that the hotel had been contacted by Garda Harrison and that he had looked for footage of the hen party in the nightclub.
Det Sgt Durkin said Mrs McDermott made it clear to him that he had made this request as a garda.
A subsequent visit to the hotel by Det Sgt Durkin found that this wasn’t true and that Garda Harrison requested the footage as it was going to be used as a gift at the wedding – on October 4 2013 – and that he didn’t make the request as a garda.
While Sgt Durkin gave evidence, the tribunal also heard that in October 2013, at around the time of the wedding of Marissa Simms’ sister Paula McDermott’s wedding, gardai received death threats concerning Garda Harrison and that, because of these threats, Garda Harrison was put on “indoor duty” under instructions from the divisional office until the threat was over.
The tribunal heard that the following May, in 2014, Garda Harrison complained that the investigation into these threats was protracted and he wanted it to cease so he could return to normal duty; and he alleged to Sgt Durkin that he felt he was subjected to harassment and bullying but that he had no issues with members in Donegal Town.
The tribunal also heard how Ms Simms’ sister Paula McDermott visited Letterkenny Garda Station, on the afternoon of September 30, 2013, and spoke with Garda Brendan Mahon, in private, telling him on the night of Saturday, September 28, 2013, Garda Harrison had threatened Ms Simms in front of one of her children and said he was going to burn her in the house with her children and bury her.
Garda Mahon told the tribunal that Paula McDermott appeared upset and had a genuine concern for her sister.
The tribunal heard that it Garda Harrison will give evidence saying that during the argument he told Ms Simms that because of the actions of her family, she would be the person getting burnt, meaning that she would suffer the consequences of these actions.
Mark Harty, SC, for Garda Harrison, said:
“So the Tribunal is aware, my client’s recollection of the night was that he advised — during the course of the row he told Ms. Simms that because of the actions of her family she was the one who was going to end up getting burnt by all of this…She is the one who would be injured by the actions of her family, etcetera.”
The tribunal also heard that later that afternoon on September 28, 2013, Garda Mahon spoke to Paula McDermott again and that she said Ms Simms would make a statement.
It also heard that Garda Mahon subsequently drew up a report on the matter for Sgt Jim Collins, of Letterkenny Garda Station.
The tribunal heard Sgt Collins, in turned, sent this report to his superiors in the district office.
He also went on to have a meeting about with Sgt Brigid McGowan on October 1, 2013, and later that evening Sgt Collins spoke to Paula McDermott on the phone.
In a report following this conversation with Ms McDermott to his superiors – Sgt Brigid McGowan, Inspector Goretti Sheridan, Inspector David Kelly and Supt Eugene McGovern – Sgt Collins noted:
“During the conversation [with Paula McDermott] it was also established that Marisa Simms called to the house at Churchill earlier today where she met with Keith Harrison. She went there to collect clothes. He asked her if she reported the alleged threats and she said no. He said he asked her that because he saw patrol cars up around the house driving slowly. He was crying and begging her not to report it.”
“Paula McDaid [sic] was asked by me if her sister Marisa was going to make a statement as was intimated by Paula yesterday. During her conversation with Garda Mahon she said that she had spoken with Marisa earlier today and Marisa indicated she still wished to make the statement but outlined how she, Paula, is getting married on Friday and that Marisa would probably make it after that. It was suggested by me that when she was in Letterkenny attending the hospital tomorrow, she could call down, and I offered a number of time options and made myself available to take any statements. But Paula was adamant that this would not be made until after Friday. She again emphasised that it would be after the wedding.”
The tribunal heard that Sgt Collins’ report also stated:
“If I were a sceptical person, I may be tempted to suggest that the Gardaí are being used as a pawn in this case, as I believe that there is a fear that Keith Harrison may turn up at the wedding on Friday and cause a scene.”
Asked about this latter comment, Sgt Collins told the tribunal:
“…in my opinion, Paula McDermott was more concerned with pointing out the fact that the wedding was on the on the weekend and that she was more concerned with Garda Harrison may turn up and cause an issue. So that’s — that was basically how I formed my opinion.”
The tribunal heard Sgt Collins also wrote in his report:
“I have no doubt the threats were made but I believe that Marisa Simms is not intending to make a complaint about same and her sister is using the situation to her advantage with regard to preventing any scene/situation at her wedding.”
Sgt Collins told the tribunal that the following day, October 2, 2012, Chief Superintendent Terry McGinn gave directions to Inspector Goretti Sheridan to speak with Rita McDermott to see if she was interested in making a statement and that Sgt Collins should accompany her.
Sgt Collins told the tribunal that he wasn’t aware that Mrs McDermott had previously made representations to the gardai but, according to the his statement, he was.
Mr Marrinan, SC, for the tribunal, reminded Sgt Collins that, in his statement, he said:
“We informed her as to the purpose of our visit, which was to speak to her about her daughter, Marisa, and concerns which she had highlighted previously to Sergeant Durkin.”
Sgt Collins conceded that he must have been aware of it but can’t recall being aware of it.
Sgt Collins and Insp Sheridan spoke to Rita McDermott in her home and Insp Sheridan took a formal statement from Mrs McDermott while Sgt Collins took notes.
Sgt Collins later left a voicemail on Ms Simms’ phone explaining that he had been speaking to Mrs McDermott and that if she wished to make a statement too, she could contact him.
Mr Marrinan then read out a statement Mrs McDermott made to the tribunal in respect of this meeting, saying:
“I wish to state I felt under pressure providing that statement. The sergeant and inspector came looking for me. I did not even know Sergeant Collins. They stopped their car in front of my mum’s house.”
“And Sergeant Collins stuck his head in my car window. I had to ask him to introduce himself. I did not know who he was. He called me by my first name, but I did not know him.
Upon hearing this, Sgt Collins told Judge Charleton:
“She knew me. Do you wish me to comment on how long I know Ms. McDermott?… It may be slightly embarrassing, Judge. I’ve known her since I came there in 2005/2006…. If you wish I can certainly elaborate on how I came to know her, but that’s up to yourself.”
Judge Charleton said there was no need for him to elaborate and acknowledged there was a matter concerning her son, Martin McDermott.
But Sgt Collins said:
“This matter would have been before that, Judge, and it would have been a different matter.”
“I was involved in a lot of the community activities, including the 50th anniversary of St. Eunan’s Terrace, which is why I knew her mother lived there. Her mother is one of the longest living people there, so that is one of the places she would have known me from. Her son, I would have had reason to call a number of times, but I would have known her prior to that for another reason, Judge, that I don’t think is appropriate to address here.“
The tribunal also heard that, in her statement to the tribunal, Mrs McDermott said:
“I just felt under pressure from the pair of them because I never had Garda involvement in my life.”
Judge Charleton commented to Sgt Collins that he was raising an eyebrow to that, to which Sgt Collins said:
“It depends what you mean by “Garda involvement”, Judge….I don’t want to comment further, Judge, obviously.”
The tribunal also heard Mrs McDermott told the tribunal:
“I have been asked whether it is possible that I did state what is recorded in my statement.”
“I did not say that. I have a good memory. I know for definite that Marisa never told me anything about threatening the children.”
Mrs McDermott is giving evidence today.
Transcripts of the past three days’ proceedings can be read here
“But, obviously, now he sees the future of Europe as an open, blank canvas, post-Brexit, and this really is Jean-Claude Juncker looking at his legacy, if you like, and looking at an opportunity to really stake his vision for the future.”
The following are excerpts from the speech, as released by the European Commission:
As we look to the future, we cannot let ourselves be blown off course.
We set out to complete an Energy Union, a Security Union, a Capital Markets Union, a Banking Union and a Digital Single Market. Together, we have already come a long way.
As the Parliament testified, 80% of the proposals promised at the start of the mandate have already been put forward by the Commission. We must now work together to turn proposals into law, and law into practice.
As ever, there will be a degree of give and take. The Commission’s proposals to reform our Common Asylum System and strengthen rules on the Posting of Workers have caused controversy. Achieving a good result will need all sides to move towards each other.
I want to say today: as long as the outcome is the right one for our Union and is fair to all Member States, the Commission will be open to compromise.
We are now ready to put the remaining 20% of initiatives on the table by May 2018.
This morning, I sent a Letter of Intent to European Parliament President Antonio Tajani and Prime Minister Jüri Ratas outlining the priorities for the year ahead.
I will not list all our proposals here, but let me mention five which are particularly important.
Firstly, I want us to strengthen our European trade agenda.
Yes, Europe is open for business. But there must be reciprocity. We have to get what we give.
Trade is not something abstract. Trade is about jobs, creating new opportunities for Europe’s businesses big and small. Every additional €1 billion in exports supports 14,000 extra jobs in Europe.
Trade is about exporting our standards, be they social or environmental standards, data protection or food safety requirements.
Europe has always been an attractive place to do business. But over the last year, partners across the globe are lining up at our door to conclude trade agreements with us.
With the help of the European Parliament, we have just secured a trade agreement with Canada that will provisionally apply as of next week. We have a political agreement with Japan on a new economic partnership.
By the end of the year, we have a good chance of doing the same with Mexico and South American countries. And today, we are proposing to open trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand.
I want all of these agreements to be finalised by the end of this mandate. And I want them negotiated in the fullest transparency.
Open trade must go hand in hand with open policy-making.
The European Parliament will have the final say on all trade agreements. So its Members, like members of national and regional parliaments, must be kept fully informed from day one of the negotiations. The Commission will make sure of this.
From now on, the Commission will publish in full all draft negotiating mandates we propose to the Council.
Citizens have the right to know what the Commission is proposing. Gone are the days of no transparency. Gone are the days of rumours, of incessantly questioning the Commission’s motives.
I call on the Council to do the same when it adopts the final negotiating mandates.
Let me say once and for all: we are not naïve free traders.
Europe must always defend its strategic interests.
This is why today we are proposing a new EU framework for investment screening. If a foreign, state-owned, company wants to purchase a European harbour, part of our energy infrastructure or a defence technology firm, this should only happen in transparency, with scrutiny and debate.
It is a political responsibility to know what is going on in our own backyard so that we can protect our collective security if needed.
Secondly, I want to make our industry stronger and more competitive.
This is particularly true for our manufacturing base and the 32 million workers that form its backbone. They make the world-class products that give us our edge, like our cars.
I am proud of our car industry. But I am shocked when consumers are knowingly and deliberately misled. I call on the car industry to come clean and make it right. Instead of looking for loopholes, they should be investing in the clean cars of the future.
The new Industrial Policy Strategy we are presenting today will help our industries stay or become the world leader in innovation, digitisation and decarbonisation.
Third: I want Europe to be the leader when it comes to the fight against climate change.
Last year, we set the global rules of the game with the Paris Agreement ratified here, in this very House.
Set against the collapse of ambition in the United States, Europe will ensure we make our planet great again. It is the shared heritage of all of humanity.
The Commission will shortly present proposals to reduce the carbon emissions of our transport sector.
Fourth priority for the year ahead: we need to better protect Europeans in the digital age.
In the past three years, we have made progress in keeping Europeans safe online. New rules, put forward by the Commission, will protect our intellectual property, our cultural diversity and our personal data.
We have stepped up the fight against terrorist propaganda and radicalisation online.
But Europe is still not well equipped when it comes to cyber-attacks.
Cyber-attacks can be more dangerous to the stability of democracies and economies than guns and tanks. Last year alone there were more than 4,000 ransomware attacks per day and 80% of European companies experienced at least one cyber-security incident.
Cyber-attacks know no borders and no one is immune. This is why, today, the Commission is proposing new tools, including a European Cybersecurity Agency, to help defend us against such attacks.
Fifth: migration will stay on our radar.
In spite of the debate and controversy around this topic, we have managed to make solid progress – though admittedly insufficient in many areas.
We are now protecting Europe’s external borders more effectively. Over 1,700 officers from the new European Border and Coast Guard are now helping Member States’ 100,000 national border guards patrol in places like Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and Spain.
We have common borders but Member States that by geography are the first in line cannot be left alone to protect them. Common borders and common protection must go hand in hand.
We have managed to stem irregular flows of migrants, which were a cause of great anxiety for many. We have reduced irregular arrivals in the Eastern Mediterranean by 97% thanks our agreement with Turkey. And this summer, we managed to get more control over the Central Mediterranean route with arrivals in August down by 81% compared to the same month last year.
In doing so, we have drastically reduced the loss of life in the Mediterranean.
Tragically, nearly 2,500 died this year. I will never accept that people are left to die at sea.
I cannot talk about migration without paying strong tribute to Italy for their tireless and noble work. This summer, the Commission again worked closely together with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and his government to improve the situation, notably by training the Libyan Coast Guard.
We will continue to offer strong operational and financial support to Italy. Because Italy is saving Europe’s honour in the Mediterranean.
We must also urgently improve migrants’ living conditions in Libya. I am appalled by the inhumane conditions in detention or reception centres. Europe has a collective responsibility, and the Commission will work in concert with the United Nations to put an end to this scandalous situation that cannot be made to last.
Even if it saddens me to see that solidarity is not yet equally shared across all our Member States, Europe as a whole has continued to show solidarity. Last year alone, our Member States resettled or granted asylum to over 720,000 refugees – three times as much as the United States, Canada and Australia combined.
Europe, contrary to what some say, is not a fortress and must never become one. Europe is and must remain the continent of solidarity where those fleeing persecution can find refuge.
I am particularly proud of the young Europeans volunteering to give language courses to Syrian refugees or the thousands more young people who are serving in our new European Solidarity Corps.
They are bringing European solidarity to life.
We now need to redouble our efforts. Before the end of the month, the Commission will present a new set of proposals with an emphasis on returns, solidarity with Africa and opening legal pathways.
When it comes to returns: people who have no right to stay in Europe must be returned to their countries of origin. When only 36% of irregular migrants are returned, it is clear we need to significantly step up our work. This is the only way Europe will be able to show solidarity with refugees in real need of protection.
Solidarity cannot be exclusively intra-European. We must also show solidarity with Africa. Africa is a noble and young continent, the cradle of humanity.
Our €2.7 billion EU-Africa Trust Fund is creating employment opportunities across the continent. The EU budget fronted the bulk of the money, but all our Member States combined have still only contributed €150 million. The Fund is currently reaching its limits.
We know the dangers of a lack of funding – in 2015 many migrants headed towards Europe when the UN’s World Food Programme ran out of funds. I call on all Member States to now match their actions with their words and ensure the Africa Trust Fund does not meet the same fate.
We will also work on opening up legal pathways. Irregular migration will only stop if there is a real alternative to perilous journeys. We are close to having resettled 22,000 refugees from Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon and I support UN High Commissioner Grandi’s call to resettle a further 40,000 refugees from Libya and the surrounding countries.
At the same time, legal migration is a necessity for Europe as an ageing continent. This is why the Commission made proposals to make it easier for skilled migrants to reach Europe with a Blue Card. I would like to thank the Parliament for your support and I call for an ambitious and swift agreement on this important issue.
I have mentioned just a few of the initiatives we should deliver over the next 16 months. But this alone will not be enough to regain the hearts and minds of Europeans. Now is the time to chart the direction for the future.
In March, the Commission presented our White Paper on the future of Europe, with five scenarios for what Europe could look like by 2025. These scenarios have been discussed, scrutinised and partly ripped apart.
That is good – they were conceived for exactly this purpose. I wanted to launch a process in which Europeans determined their own path and their own future.
The future of Europe cannot be decided by decree. It has to be the result of democratic debate and, ultimately, broad consensus. This House contributed actively, through the three ambitious resolutions on Europe’s future and your participation in many of the more than 2,000 public events that the Commission organised since March.
Now is the time to draw first conclusions from this debate. Time to move from reflection to action. From debate to decision.
Today I would like to present you my view: my own ‘scenario six’, if you will.
This scenario is rooted in decades of first-hand experience. I have lived and worked for the European project my entire life. I have seen good times and bad.
I have sat on many different sides of the table: as a Minister, as Prime Minister, as President of the Eurogroup, and now as President of the Commission. I was there in Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon as our Union evolved and enlarged.
I have always fought for Europe. At times I have suffered with and because of Europe and even despaired for it.
Through thick and thin, I have never lost my love of Europe. But there is rarely love without pain.
Love for Europe because Europe and the European Union have achieved something unique in this fraying world: peace within and outside of Europe. Prosperity for many if not yet for all.
This is something we have to remember during the European Year of Cultural Heritage. 2018 must be a celebration of cultural diversity.
Our values are our compass.
For me, Europe is more than just a single market. More than money, more than the euro. It was always about values.
In my scenario six, there are three principles that must always anchor our Union: freedom, equality and the rule of law.
Europe is first of all a Union of freedom. Freedom from the kind of oppression and dictatorship our continent knows all too well – sadly none more than central and Eastern Europe. Freedom to voice your opinion, as a citizen and as a journalist – a freedom we too often take for granted.
It was on these freedoms that our Union was built. But freedom does not fall from the sky. It must be fought for. In Europe and throughout world.
Second, Europe must be a Union of equality.
Equality between its Members, big and small, East and West, North and South. Make no mistake, Europe extends from Vigo to Varna. From Spain to Bulgaria.
East to West: Europe must breathe with both lungs. Otherwise our continent will struggle for air.
In a Union of equals, there can be no second-class citizens. It is unacceptable that in 2017 there are still children dying of diseases that should long have been eradicated in Europe.
Children in Romania or Italy must have the same access to measles vaccines as other children right across Europe. No ifs, no buts. This is why we are working with all Member States to support national vaccination efforts. Avoidable deaths must not occur in Europe.
In a Union of equals, there can be no second-class workers. Workers should earn the same pay for the same work in the same place. This is why the Commission proposed new rules on posting of workers.
We should make sure that all EU rules on labour mobility are enforced in a fair, simple and effective way by a new European inspection and enforcement body. It seems absurd to have a Banking Authority to police banking standards, but no common Labour Authority for ensuring fairness in our single market. We will create one.
… Third, in Europe the strength of the law replaced the law of the strong.
The rule of law means that law and justice are upheld by an independent judiciary. Accepting and respecting a final judgement is what it means to be part of a Union based on the rule of law. Member States gave final jurisdiction to the European Court of Justice. The judgements of the Court have to be respected by all.
To undermine them, or to undermine the independence of national courts, is to strip citizens of their fundamental rights. The rule of law is not optional in the European Union. It is a must.
Our Union is not a State but it is a community of law.
These three principles must be the foundations on which we build a more united, stronger and more democratic Union.
When we talk about our future, experience tells me new Treaties and new institutions are not the answer people are looking for. They are merely a means to an end, nothing more, nothing less. They might mean something to us here in Strasbourg and in Brussels. But they do not mean a lot to anyone else.
I am only interested in institutional reforms if they lead to more efficiency in our Union.
Instead of hiding behind calls for Treaty change – which is in any case inevitable – we must first change the mind-set that for some to win others must lose.
Democracy is about compromise. And the right compromise makes winners out of everyone. A more united Union should see compromise, not as something negative, but as the art of bridging differences.
Democracy cannot function without compromise. Europe cannot function without compromise. This is what the work between Parliament, Council and Commission should always be about.
A more united Union also needs to become more inclusive.
If we want to strengthen the protection of our external borders, then we need to open the Schengen area of free movement to Bulgaria and Romania immediately. We should also allow Croatia to become a full Schengen member once it meets all the criteria.
If we want the euro to unite rather than divide our continent, then it should be more than the currency of a select group of countries. The euro is meant to be the single currency of the European Union as a whole. All but two of our Member States are required and entitled to join the euro once they fulfil all conditions.
Member States that want to join the euro must be able to do so. This is why I am proposing to create a Euro-accession Instrument, offering technical and even financial assistance.
If we want banks to operate under the same rules and under the same supervision across our continent, then we should encourage all Member States to join the Banking Union. Completing the Banking Union is a matter of urgency. We need to reduce the remaining risks in the banking systems of some of our Member States. Banking Union can only function if risk-reduction and risk-sharing go hand in hand.
As everyone well knows, this can only be achieved if the conditions, as proposed by the Commission in November 2015, are met. To get access to a common deposit insurance scheme you first need to do your homework.
If we want to avoid social fragmentation and social dumping in Europe, then Member States should agree on the European Pillar of Social Rights as soon as possible and at the latest at the Gothenburg summit in November.
National social systems will still remain diverse and separate for a long time. But at the very least, we should work for a European Social Standards Union in which we have a common understanding of what is socially fair.
Europe cannot work if it shuns workers.
If we want more stability in our neighbourhood, then we must maintain a credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans.
It is clear that there will be no further enlargement during the mandate of this Commission and this Parliament. No candidate is ready yet. But thereafter the European Union will be greater than 27 in number. Accession candidates must give the rule of law, justice and fundamental rights utmost priority.
This rules out EU membership for Turkey for the foreseeable future.
Turkey has been taking giant strides away from the European Union for some time. Journalists belong in newsrooms not in prisons. They belong where freedom of expression reigns.
The call I make to those in power in Turkey is this: Let our journalists go. And not just them either. Stop insulting our Member States by comparing their leaders to fascists and Nazis. Europe is a continent of mature democracies. Insults create roadblocks.
Sometimes I get the feeling Turkey is intentionally placing these roadblocks so that it can blame Europe for any breakdown in accession talks.
As for us, we will always keep our hands stretched out towards the great Turkish people and those who are ready to work with us on the basis of our values.
Our Union must also grow stronger. I want a stronger single market.
When it comes to important single market questions, I want decisions in the Council to be taken more often and more easily by qualified majority – with the equal involvement of the European Parliament. We do not need to change the Treaties for this.
There are so-called “passerelle clauses” in the current Treaties which allow us to move from unanimity to qualified majority voting in certain areas – if all Heads of State or Government agree to do so.
I am also strongly in favour of moving to qualified majority voting for decisions on the common consolidated corporate tax base, on VAT, on fair taxes for the digital industry and on the financial transaction tax. Europe has to be able to act quicker and more decisively.
I want a stronger Economic and Monetary Union.
The euro area is more resilient now than in years past. We now have the European Stabilisation Mechanism (ESM). I believe the ESM should now progressively graduate into a European Monetary Fund and be firmly anchored in our Union. The Commission will make concrete proposals for this in December.
We need a European Minister of Economy and Finance: a European Minister that promotes and supports structural reforms in our Member States. He or she can build on the work the Commission has been doing since 2015 with our Structural Reform Support Service.
The new Minister should coordinate all EU financial instruments that can be deployed when a Member State is in a recession or hit by a fundamental crisis.
I am not calling for a new position just for the sake of it. I am calling for efficiency. The Commissioner for economic and financial affairs – ideally also a Vice-President – should assume the role of Economy and Finance Minister. He or she should also preside the Eurogroup.
…The European Union must also be stronger in fighting terrorism.
In the past three years, we have made real progress. But we still lack the means to act quickly in case of cross-border terrorist threats.
This is why I call for a European intelligence unit that ensures data concerning terrorists and foreign fighters are automatically shared among intelligence services and with the police.
I also see a strong case for tasking the new European Public Prosecutor with prosecuting cross-border terrorist crimes.
I want our Union to become a stronger global actor.
In order to have more weight in the world, we must be able to take foreign policy decisions quicker. This is why I want Member States to look at which foreign policy decisions could be moved from unanimity to qualified majority voting. The Treaty already provides for this, if all Member States agree to do it.
And I want us to dedicate further efforts to defence matters. A new European Defence Fund is in the offing. As is a Permanent Structured Cooperation in the area of defence. By 2025 we need a fully-fledged European Defence Union. We need it. And NATO wants it.
Last but not least, I want our Union to have a stronger focus on things that matter, building on the work this Commission has already undertaken. We should not meddle in the everyday lives of European citizens by regulating every aspect.
…To finish the work we started, I am setting up a Subsidiarity and Proportionality Task Force as of this month to take a very critical look at all policy areas to make sure we are only acting where the EU adds value.
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, who has a proven track record on better regulation, will head this Task Force. The Timmermans Task Force, which should include Members of this Parliament as well as Members of national Parliaments, should report back in a year’s time.
Our Union needs to take a democratic leap forward.
I would like to see European political parties start campaigning for the next elections much earlier than in the past. Too often Europe-wide elections have been reduced to nothing more than the sum of national campaigns. European democracy deserves better.
Today, the Commission is proposing new rules on the financing of political parties and foundations. We should not be filling the coffers of anti-European extremists. We should be giving European parties the means to better organise themselves.
I also have sympathy for the idea of having transnational lists – though I am aware this is an idea more than a few of you disagree with. Such lists would help make European Parliament elections more European and more democratic.
I also believe that, over the months to come, we should involve national Parliaments and civil society at national, regional and local level more in the work on the future of Europe.
…Today, I am sending the European Parliament a new Code of Conduct for Commissioners. The new Code first of all makes clear that Commissioners can be candidates in European Parliament elections under the same conditions as everyone else.
The new Code will of course strengthen the integrity requirements for Commissioners both during and after their mandate.
If you want to strengthen European democracy, then you cannot reverse the democratic progress seen with the creation of lead candidates – ‘Spitzenkandidaten’.
I am convinced that any future President will benefit greatly from the unique experience of having campaigned in all quarters of our beautiful continent. To understand the challenges of his or her job and the diversity of our Member States, a future President should have met citizens in the townhalls of Helsinki as well as in the squares of Athens.
In my personal experience of such a campaign, it makes you more humble, but also strengthens you during your mandate. And you can face the other leaders in the European Council with the confidence that you have been elected, just as they have. This is good for the balance of our Union.
More democracy means more efficiency. Europe would function better if we were to merge the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council.
This is nothing against my good friend Donald, with whom I have worked seamlessly together for the past three years. This is nothing against Donald or against me.
Europe would be easier to understand if one captain was steering the ship. Having a single President would better reflect the true nature of our European Union as both a Union of States and a Union of citizens.
…On 29 March 2019, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. This will be a very sad and tragic moment. We will always regret it. But we have to respect the will of the British people.
On 30 March 2019, we will be a Union of 27. I suggest that we prepare for this moment well, amongst the 27 and within the EU institutions.
European Parliament elections will take place just a few weeks later, in May 2019. Europeans have a date with democracy. They need to go to the polls with a clear understanding of how the European Union will develop over the years to come.
This is why I call on President Tusk and Romania, the country holding the Presidency in the first half of 2019, to organise a Special Summit in Romania on 30 March 2019. My wish is that this summit be held in the beautiful ancient city of Sibiu, or Hermannstadt as I know it. It should be the moment we come together to take the decisions needed for a more united, stronger and democratic Europe.
My hope is that on 30 March 2019, Europeans will wake up to a Union where we all stand by our values. Where all Member States firmly respect the rule of law. Where being a full member of the euro area, the Banking Union and the Schengen area has become the norm for all EU Member States.
Where we have shored up the foundations of our Economic and Monetary Union so that we can defend our single currency in good times and bad, without having to call on external help.
Where our single market will be fairer towards workers from the East and from the West.
Where we managed to agree on a strong pillar of social standards. Where profits will be taxed where they were made. Where terrorists have no loopholes to exploit. Where we have agreed on a proper European Defence Union.
Where a single President leads the work of the Commission and the European Council, having been elected after a democratic Europe-wide election campaign.
If our citizens wake up to this Union on 30 March 2019, then they should be able vote in the European Parliament elections a few weeks later with the firm conviction that our Union is a place that works for them.
Europe was not made to stand still. It must never do so.
Helmut Kohl and Jacques Delors taught me that Europe only moves forward when it is bold. The single market, Schengen and the single currency were all written off as pipe dreams before they happened. And yet these three ambitious projects are now a reality.
I hear those who say we should not rock the boat now that things have started to get better.
But now is not the time to err on the side of caution.
We started to fix the roof. But we must complete the job now that the sun is shining and whilst it still is.
Because when the next clouds appear on the horizon – and they will – it will be too late.
So let’s throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the harbour.
And catch the trade winds in our sails.