Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (top two pics), Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys ahead of a Cabinet meeting.
It’s been reported that the Cabinet were to discuss the process of recruiting a new Garda Commissioner and the housing crisis this morning.
Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan at the Policing Authority last November
You may recall the Disclosures Tribunal, led by Supreme Court judge Peter Charleton, which is investigating allegations of a smear campaign against Sgt Maurice McCabe and claims made by Garda Keith Harrison.
In yesterday’s The Sunday Times. John Mooney reported that a phone used by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan – during 2013/2014, the time of the alleged smear campaign against Sgt Maurice McCabe – has gone missing.
Mr Mooney reported:
It was one of a number of smartphones sought by Peter Charleton, the Supreme Court judge who is investigating whether there was a conspiracy among senior gardai to smear McCabe after he exposed abuse of the penalty-points system and raised concerns about policing in Cavan/Monaghan.
A phone used at the time by Martin Callinan, the former commissioner, has also gone missing as have mobile handsets used by other garda witnesses.
Charleton sought possession of the phones in an order his tribunal served on Garda headquarters. The judge also sought possession of Sim cards, copies of call logs and data, text messages, emails and all documents concerning a number of garda whistleblower controversies.
The missing mobile phones and Sims are unlikely to be found, according to sources in Garda headquarters.
“No one knows what became of them,” one source said. “There is no record or log to clarify if they were destroyed, recycled or fitted with new Sim cards and given to other officers. There is no central log showing what becomes of official phones.”
Emails that O’Sullivan would have sent from her phone using a private Gmail account would have been automatically deleted every 30 days, and so no record of them is likely to be found either….
Readers may recall a report about Garda Keith Harrison by RTÉ’s This Week two weeks ago.
It reported that Garda Harrison only recently became aware that gardaí had created a Garda “profile” report on him – shortly after he raised concerns about Garda management.
This came to light after Garda Harrison’s legal team was sent a large volume of documents, following a data protection request by his team.
The tranche of documents that Garda Harrison’s team received did not include the actual profile but it included a heavily redacted email from September 1, 2014, which was sent to a series of gardaí, up to and including one at the rank of chief superintendent. Their names were all redacted.
The only unredacted line in the email stated: “I refer to meeting on 18 August … I now attach profile concerning Garda Keith Harrison” while at attachmentwas named ‘keith harrison profile.doc’.
Further to this.
Francesca Comyn, in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post, reported that the High Court has ordered Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to release the suspected surveillance profile on Garda Harrison following further discovery sought by Garda Harrison’s solicitor Trevor Collins.
Ms Comyn reported:
The court order is in itself unusual in that it requires an affidavit of compliance to be personally sworn by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, rather than another member of the force. O’Sullivan has been given ten weeks to comply with the ruling, which seeks a number of further records.
Commissioner O’Sullivan and Canadian ambassador to Ireland Kevin Vickers
In yesterday’s IrishMail on Sunday.
Sam Smyth, in his column, hinted that Ms O’Sullivan might be headed for Canada…
The Mounties in the Rockies are calling Nóirín O’Sullivan to Canada, I’m told. Word is the embattled Garda Commissioner may be taking up a position there; both academia and security have been mentioned.
The Canadian ambassador to Ireland, Kevin Vickers, is understood to been helpful through her recent crisis – and other friends think Nóirín would be well advised to quit before a new taoiseach is in place.
From top: Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams
During Leaders’ Questions.
The leader of Sinn Féin Gerry Adams told the Dáil new documentation has been provided to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) by the executive director of human resources and people development at An Garda Síochána John Barrett.
Readers may recall how Mr Barrett last week told PAC, in the presence of Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, that he held a meeting with Ms O’Sullivan for “over two hours” in which he raised issues about the Garda College in Templemore, while Ms O’Sullivan, in contrast, said it was “brief” while she has “having tea”.
Mr Adams said the new documentation provided to PAC shows further contradictions.
During his exchange with Mr Kenny.
Gerry Adams: “Taoiseach, I understand that documentation has been given to the Public Accounts Committee by John Barrett, which completely contradicts and undermines the account given by the [Garda] Commissioner OSullivan last Thursday about her conversations with Mr Barrett over financial irregularities at Templemore. And this latest development today comes after contradictory statements from the Commissioner O’Sullivan and the executive director of human resources, the aforementioned Mr Barrett. So I want to ask you: why you would then end the never-ending crisis and scandal surrounding the senior management of An Garda Siochana.”
Adams: “Taoiseach, the Commissioner’s position is untenable but it’s not easy to understand why you will not remove her from office. There’s no rational explanation. The majority of parties here in Leinster House now want the Commissioner to go and you need to act in the best interests of An Garda Siochana, for the sake of the people of this state, the Commissioner needs to go and go now. So, will you finally accept this reality and relieve Noirin O’Sullivan from her duties as Commissioner, if she refuses to resign.”
Kenny: “The Public Accounts Committee and this house, as deputy Adams well knows, is removed from influence of the Oireachtas. And I’m not aware of the papers you refer to being given to the Public Accounts Committee. They have certainly not come into my possession nor should they if they’re given to the chairman or a member of the Public Accounts Committee. I have confidence in the Garda Commissioner to do her job.”
“This morning, the Cabinet approved the nomination of Kathleen O’Toole, who is the chief of police in Seattle, to chair the review body dealing with the, with An Garda Síochána. She is an outstanding person of very great experience, both in the legal terms, in policing terms, with a deep understanding of the position that applies here in Ireland. I would expect that nomination to be ratified by Cabinet next week.”
“In addition, the Cabinet also approved this morning the terms of reference for Project Eagle which was a matter that was raised by people here on a number of occasions and, following receipt of further observations, from the Fianna Fail party, and Deputy Wallace, I took those account and had approval given for the terms of reference for that. These are actions that are being taken by Government in respect of matters of public concern.”
A letter signed by several Labour TDs and Senators appeared in last Saturday’s Irish Times calling for a greater debate on Garda accountability and oversight, claiming the current system is not working.
It also expressed the politicians’ concerns about how Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan is only held to account by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter in ‘private’.
The letter was signed by Labour’s Robert Dowds TD, Anne Ferris TD, Sean Kenny TD, Gerald Nash TD, Derek Nolan TD, Senator Ivana Bacik, and Senator Susan O’Keeffe.
Further to the publication of the letter, Senator O’Keeffe spoke to Colm Ó Mongáin on RTÉ Radio One’s This Week yesterday afternoon
During their conversation Mr Ó Mongáin reminded Ms O’Keeffe that several weeks ago, before the Government announced Sean Guerin, SC, would be carrying out an investigation into the allegations made by Garda whistleblowers Sgt Maurice McCabe and John Wilson, she told RTÉ News at One that she didn’t believe there was a need for a public inquiry.
Colm Ó Mongáin: “What has happened over the recent past that has made you now very concerned about this level of privacy that exists in the interaction between the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice that you weren’t concerned about prior to the blow-up of recent issues over the whistleblowers and GSOC?”
Susan O’Keeffe: “Well, certainly, for myself, as part of, one of the signatories of this letter, I didn’t suddenly get out of bed last Thursday and say, you know, this has really exploded. It has really been a cumulative effect of watching and seeing all manner of events occurring and I think I’ve been saying from the start that oversight needed to be stronger, in particular in relation to the Garda Commissioner’s office and I accept that, and I’ve always believed that. I didn’t have, certainly, a blow-up moment, and I’m not aware that my colleagues did either when we talked about putting this letter in or talked about bringing our, you know, the members of the Justice Committee and the Oversight Committee together to do this. We did not come in and have a blow-up moment. I think it is, for me certainly, watching the debate going on now over a number of weeks about accountability and about the Garda Commissioner, about the Minister for Justice, about the closeness between all of these, yes I do believe that we do need to give greater independence to the oversight commission.”
Ó Mongáin: “OK, well what do you want to know specifically. What has gone on between the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice in that case that you want to know about? Why is this scrutiny specifically needed that you have said: this is too private? What is it that you want to know? What questions do you have specifically for the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice?”
O’Keeffe: “Well I don’t have, well I mean I have any number of questions, if you like, through the Oversight Committee relating to GSOC and the whole bugging affair but that’s a different matter. What we’re talking here about, is saying that the Garda Commissioner’s office needs to be under the, if you like, the scrutiny of an Ombudsman Commission or, you know, in the future. As it stands at the moment, any Garda Commissioner is exempt from that and that strikes me as allowing, therefore, a relationship between any Minister for Justice and any Ombudsman Commission to be too close. If they are the only way in which they can, the Garda Commissioner can report is back to the Minister for Justice that then allows it to be too close. And I, personally, don’t think that’s healthy for any situation and I think that in the future, in terms of strengthening the Garda Ombudsman’s office and looking really at better oversight across the police, that’s what I’m interested in, that’s why I signed this letter cause that’s what I want to see.”