Independent 4 Change TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality last October
Independent 4 Change TD Mick Wallace, in The Irish Times, writes:
Not surprisingly, the weak legislation establishing the Policing Authority has resulted in a weak Policing Authority in practice. The body was supposed to have responsibility for senior appointments from the outset, but this was delayed till January 2017. In the vacuum, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has appointed more than 40 senior officers.
The Garda Commissioner still remains exclusively accountable to the Minister for Justice, and the Police Authority cannot even issue policy directives. Does that sound independent? Shockingly, after 10 days, the authority broke its silence to endorse the Garda Commissioner, which amounts to an effective slap in the face to Sgt McCabe and other whistleblowers.
…O’Sullivan’s statements in public are at complete odds with her actions in private. In October 2016, she told the Oireachtas Justice Committee that “anyone who brings forward issues and concerns will be supported”.
But Garda Nick Keogh made his protected disclosure on May 8th, 2014, to the then confidential recipient, Judge Pat McMahon. Following that, he was subjected to five internal investigations.
Readers will recall how Garda Keogh has been on sick leave since December 2015.
You may recall a post from January 25 last, concerning Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison.
It included excerpts from a letter sent by Mr Harrison’s solicitors to Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan on May 20, 2016, outlining how he had been subjected to harassment and continued attempts to smear his reputation and undermine his credibility.
It was one of 14 such letters sent to Ms O’Sullivan by Garda Harrison’s solicitors.
Readers may also recall how, last October, Mr Harrison’s solicitor Trevor Collins called the review of Sgt Maurice McCabe and Supt Dave Taylor’s allegations – by former High Court judge Justice Iarlaith O’Neill – as “flawed from the very outset” because it didn’t include the complaints of other Garda whistleblowers such as Garda Harrison.
Further to this…
Garda Harrison has released the following statement, on behalf of himself and his partner Marisa Simms.
I am what is commonly known as a Garda whistleblower since May 2014.
Despite our nervousness and worry about doing so and the effect this will have on us and our family into the future, we are forced to make a public statement to bring to the national attention our concerns and suffering, because of a complete failure of a system that should support us and address our very serious issues.
Having read the heartfelt statement of the McCabe family, we share their heartache. We have similarly suffered at the hands of An Garda Siochana, have been reported to TUSLA and have been ignored when we raised the issues with Government. We hope the McCabe family will get the truth and justice they deserve. We too feel that we deserve truth and justice in our case.
We have been writing to the Tánaiste, in her capacity as Minister for Justice, continuously since June 2014 to bring our concerns to her attention, but we never received a response that gave us any hope.
We believed our experience should have been considered by Mr Justice O’Neill in his scoping review. Mr Justice O’Neil came to the conclusion that the circumstances of the treatment of Sergeant McCabe were entirely unique, however we do not know what information, if any Mr Justice O’Neill had regarding our treatment.
We will no longer allow ourselves be ignored as we have endured similar treatment to that suffered by the McCabes, at the hands of An Garda Siochana and TUSLA. This fact has been known to the Tanaiste and the Commissioner of An Garda Siochana for some time and was recently made known to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.
It is clear to us the incidents contained in the disclosures of Superintendent Taylor and Sergeant McCAbe are not isolated but rather, along with our experience, identifies a common approach within the senior management of An Garda Siochana to whistleblowers. This treatment of our family includes:
Unwarranted and prolonged overt and covert surveillance
2. Victimisation and bullying
3. Intimidation and harassment levelled at family and I
4. Unjustified referrals of our family to TUSLA by An Garda Siochana
5. Dissemination of rumour, innuendo and malicious falsehoods to certain members of the media, politicians and my Garda colleagues
6. Deliberate frustration of GSOC’s investigation of my disclosures
7. Disciplinary action and threat of criminal action against me.
The similarities between the experiences we have endured and the McCabes cannot be ignored by this Government or the political establishment. It seems the Department of Justice and Garda management are making every effort to ensure multiple whistleblowers are not considered by any inquiry/commission of investigation because they were, the pattern of behaviour by senior management within An Garda Siochana would become public for all to see.
The Tanaiste repeatedly refused our request to meet and, as a result, our experiences were ignored by her in framing the terms of reference of the O’Neill scoping review and the subsequent Charleton Inquiry.
The Taoiseach and Tanaiste have spoken of due process and the establishment of the truth for all concerned with this sentiment has not been extended to us. It is our belief senior management within An Garda SIochana set out to attack and destroy our family because I sought to speak out about malpractice within the force.
In doing so, they tried to discredit me, and also reported “concerns” regarding the wellbeing of my partner’s children, leading to a TULSA investigation, which investigation revealed no risk whatsoever.
Contrary to public statements by the Tanaiste and in particular the commissioner of An Garda Siochana, my family and I, as a whistleblower, have not received support and encouragement but in fact quite the opposite. We have lost complete confidence in the ability of both to address our concerns and bring our living hell to an end.
I was attested as a fully fledged member of An Garda Siochana in June 2011 and was optimistic that I was joining a voice where I could serve the community wearing a uniform that enjoyed the confidence and respect of the community I served. I was nominated for a Scott Medal for bravery in 2005 and attended a bravery awards ceremony in Aras an Uachtarain in 2007. I was ambitious for my career as a member of An Garda Siochana but given what has happened to me, these ambitions have long passed.
I continue to have respect and admiration for so many of my colleagues, the rank and file members of An Garda Siochana who are some of the best people I have ever met and who work in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. However, I have no confidence in senior management of An Garda Siochana because of their treatment of whistleblowers.
I am coming forward publicly in order to ensure that the saga of a culture of management failure within An Garda Siochana with regards to their attitude to whistleblowers comes to an end. I did not become a whistleblower lightly, given the devastating effect it has had on our family.
Whistleblowers are a fundamental part of any organisation and should be encouraged and supported to do the right thing without fear or favour, otherwise they will not come forward into the future.
The efforts of this Government to restrict the inquiry/commission of investigation to the very traumatic story of Sergeant McCabe absolutely ensures we will not get to the bottom of the culture of management failures and ill treatment of whistleblowers within An Garda Siochana. I will not be doing myself or Marisa or our family justice if I were to let that happen, without speaking out.
The treatment of Sergeant McCabe and myself bear similarities. By restricting the inquiry to only one story, a situation will be allowed to develop whereby the treatment of Sergeant McCabe will be found to have been a one-off when, in fact, our story and its striking similarities to that of the McCabes, show that this formed part of an orchestrated system and culture within senior management of An Garda Siochana. Unless and until this approach to whistleblowers itself is exposed, An Garda Siochana will forever be tainted.
I demand that my case be included in any inquiry/commission of investigation by the Government and political establishment. We will not rest until this happens.
Readers may recall how the terms of reference of Justice Peter Charleton’s commission of investigation into allegations of a smear campaign against Sgt Maurice McCabe were published earlier this week.
And that one of the terms of reference calls for the investigation to find out if “Commissioner [Noirin] O’Sullivan, using briefing material prepared in Garda headquarters, planned and orchestrated broadcasts on RTE on the 9th of May, 2016, purporting to be a leaked account of the unpublished O’Higgins Commission Report, in which Sgt McCabe was branded a liar and irresponsible”.
This was in reference to an interview between RTE journalist Fran McNulty and RTE’s Crime Correspondent Paul Reynolds on Morning Ireland on the morning of Monday, May 9, 2016 – about the then as yet unpublished O’Higgins report.
The O’Higgins report wasn’t published until Tuesday, May 11, 2016.
Mr Reade also asked Ms Daly about what she said in the Dáil yesterday, concerning the inclusion of this report in the terms of reference.
Ms Daly told the Dáil yesterday:
I welcome some of the other terms of reference. I am delighted to see RTE included, because I actually made a complaint about that broadcast. RTE wrote back to me and gave out about the personal nature of my complaints and their hostile tone. It claimed they were without foundation and would be defamatory if I repeated them to a third party.
During the LMFM interview…
Michael Reade: “You told the Dáil yesterday that you made a complaint about the broadcast to RTE. RTE wrote back to you and gave out about the personal nature of your complaints and the hostile tone and I know that because I saw you saying that on RTE News last night. But that’s where the report stopped. And what I didn’t see on the news was what you went on to say, which was that, RTE claimed, that what you were saying was without foundation and would be defamatory if you repeated it to a third party. Was RTE threatening to sue you?”
Clare Daly: “No, I don’t think so. I think they were objecting strongly or the person from RTE who wrote it, like, was saying that, you know, if I was to repeat what I said in the complaint to a third party, it might be construed as defamatory which was just utterly ridiculous, as far as I was concerned. It was in the context of the news report and coverage and the complaint had been about the coverage by Paul Reynolds and, basically, the person who wrote back from RTE was making that remark to me, in the context of defending Paul Reynolds, telling me what a wonderful journalist he was and how he knew him well and…”
Reade: “But to say it’s defamatory,..”
Daly: “Yeah, I know.”
Reade: “…is that not suggesting you were making libellous statements which means they could choose to sue you?”
Daly: “Yeah, I mean, look it, I thought the choice of words was incredible and, as I was saying in the Dail, I was really glad that Justice O’Neill had included that coverage because a lot of people took exception to it, it was incredibly one-sided and it gave a very inaccurate account of what was actually in the O’Higgins’ report which is why we put in the complaint at the time…”
You may recall a post from last week concerning Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison.
It included excerpts from a letter sent by Mr Harrison’s solicitors to Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan on May 20, 2016, outlining how he had been subjected to harassment and continued attempts to smear his reputation and undermine his credibility.
It was one of 14 such letters sent to Ms O’Sullivan by Garda Harrison’s solicitors.
Last October, during a meeting of the committee on justice and equality, Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly repeatedly asked Ms O’Sullivan if she was privy to any information about allegations of mistreatment of Garda whistleblowers and Ms O’Sullivan repeatedly replied:
“I’m not privy to, nor did I approve, nor would I condone any campaign of harassment…”
Further to this…
Last night, Ms Daly returned to the matter of Garda whistleblowers and what Ms O’Sullivan knew, and when, in the Dáil. She told how she’s been in contact with 10 Garda whistleblowers – all of whom, bar one, are currently out sick.
Ms Daly was speaking during a debate on a report on Garda oversight and accountability compiled by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality.
“This report is not just aspirational, containing ideas we have circulated for the craic; these are serious observations, made in part on the basis of the engagement we had with the oversight bodies and the Commissioner and her team and in part from our experience over recent times. In that context, I welcome the fact that the Minister will take on board some of the committee’s recommendations.
“That is a very welcome development. Without in any way being churlish, I believe it is an awful pity some of the recommendations were not taken on board previously.
“It is a matter of record that many of the recommendations contained in the report and the Minister’s Bill were made by us a number of years ago during the debate on the first GSOC and Policing Authority Bills. I am not saying this to score points, but people have suffered as a result of some of these provisions not being available during the two years since the most recent GSOC Bill was implemented…
“…We must be realistic about why the concept of oversight has gained popular currency and is being talked about by the dogs on the street. There is just one reason, that being, the heroic stance of a number of Garda whistleblowers who shed a light on an insular blue wall of silence, an organisation in which, contrary to what the Commissioner says, dissent was deemed to be disloyalty and punished accordingly. The order of the day was rats, death threats and serious intimidation of people who tried to do the right thing.
“The public perception of what a whistleblower is has been stood on its head. Now, being a whistleblower is identified as a position to be lauded, and one that makes a valuable contribution to improving the situation for all gardaí and members of society. There are many good gardaí and, for some time, they have believed that the situation will change. They stepped forward accordingly to join the ranks of the whistleblowers and improve matters.
“We have engaged with ten serving members of An Garda Síochána who have made protected disclosures of one sort or another. Under a change in the previous legislation, GSOC is now the confidential recipient and the vehicle through which gardaí make complaints. That service needs to be beefed up radically because GSOC does not have the time or resources to provide it adequately. It does not have the legislative power to compel Garda co-operation that it needs.
“Many cases have stalled because of delays in the Garda handing over material that GSOC needs to conduct its investigations. This non-co-operation continues today. It can be covered up as administrative delays and so on, but it impacts on the work being done.
“A number of the whistleblower cases in question are in the public domain, but others whose cases are with GSOC – in the instance of Keith Harrison, for more than two years – have had relatively limited meaningful engagement with GSOC because of delays with documentation and so on. In Nicky Keogh’s case, the GSOC investigation has practically concluded and disciplinary recommendations have been made, but the Garda has not agreed to GSOC’s involvement.
“These serious matters are ongoing. One must ask, if the situation is improving, why all these gardaí bar one are out sick. All have made allegations about bullying and harassment since coming forward, which is in direct contrast with the public statements of the Commissioner that she does not know of any harassment.
“We know that she has been directly informed of that harassment, as has the Minister. Most recently, serious allegations were made, and were widely covered in the provincial media, during an assault case after Christmas. In open court, evidence was produced of doctored witness statements. The people involved in the assault were also involved in a case in which a garda had been accused of involvement in the drug trade and so on. Criminal prosecutions are being impacted.
“The situation cannot be right if so many people are out sick. The case of the only garda who made a protected disclosure but who is not out sick is appalling. It involves a family law case. He received information to the effect that the judge, who was a family friend of his former wife, had held a meeting before the court case and then granted a protection order against him. He then made a complaint to the Garda. Not only was his complaint not investigated, but the senior garda involved initiated criminal proceedings against him for interfering with the judicial process when the circumstances clearly did not meet the criteria.
“That person, albeit a member of the Garda, was a victim, only to be revictimised by what the senior garda did. To add insult to injury for him and a number of other Garda whistleblowers, the very man who did that was brought by the Commissioner to attend our committee’s hearings into oversight as a witness for An Garda Síochána. Confidence among serving members is not developed if this type of behaviour is happening.
“The Minister will see from the committee’s recommendations that we want the Policing Authority to have more control over the Commissioner. This is not a new idea.”
Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace raised the Garda whistleblower controversy again with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
It follows a report in The Irish Times this morning which says the Government will launch a Commission of Investigation into claims made by former head of the Garda Press Office Supt Dave Taylor following a review of his claims by retired high court judge Iarlaith O’Neill.
Supt Taylor has claimed there was an alleged campaign within the gardai to ruin the reputation of Sgt Maurice McCabe.
Readers will recall how, last October, Trevor Collins, the solicitor of fellow Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison, raised concerns about Mr Justice O’Neill’s remit.
Mr Wallace raised the cases of Garda Harrison and Garda Keogh and the conflicts of interest that have emerged in relation to the investigations of their claims…
And he told how, just last week, the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald received a letter from a whistleblower about a witness statement being doctored by gardai in an assault case. Mr Wallace said the background to the case involved the planting of drugs by a garda.
From Leaders’ Questions…
Mick Wallace: “We read today that you’re about to commence a Commission of Investigation into certain Garda matters, following the O’Neill report. Yesterday, the Garda Commissioner [Noirin O’Sullivan] was on the airways, telling us how wonderful everything is and how wonderful she is herself – bombing us with doublespeak.”
“Meanwhile, Taoiseach, the harassment of whistleblowers continues. The Tánaiste last December said to me, in reply to a question, the Garda Commissioner is entitled to her good name, as indeed are people making allegations entitled to theirs, unless facts properly established prove otherwise.”
“Well, Taoiseach, David Taylor, who was interviewed for 21 hours, a file sent to the DPP in September 2015, 2015 – and there’s no decision yet. Nothing has been proven against him. Is the Garda Commissioner allowed to ride rough shod over fair procedure in this area? The commissioner said yesterday: ‘I have absolutely no knowledge nor was I privy to any campaign to undermine any individual in An Garda Siochana’.”
“Taoiseach, 14 times, Keith Harrison wrote to her, detailing his harassment and bullying. He’s out sick since May 2010. He’s on €188 a week and there’s three kids at home. Nick Keogh has got nothing but grief since he reported malpractice.
“The commissioner yesterday was boasting yesterday about taking part in the fight against heroin. But she’s protecting the Chief Superintendent who’s been involved in the heroin case in Athlone. And last year, she placed a superintendent on the promotion list who has been accused on numerous occasions of harassing a whistleblower. ”
“In June 2015, the Garda Commissioner appointed an assistant commissioner to carry out an investigation into the allegation surrounding the chief superintendent and the garda for the drugs squad in Athlone. But it was the same assistant commissioner accused of earlier leaking information back to the super who was the subject of the complaint.
“In October 2015,the commissioner stated that she had commenced an investigation into this alleged conflict of interest. October 2015. Not a word of it since. I wonder where is it, Taoiseach?”
“Following the investigation into the matter, GSOC have asked for disciplinary procedures to be taken against them. Who does Noirin appoint to look after it? Yes, the very same assistant commissioner. Who also happens to be retiring in April so he probably won’t even get to the end of it and delay it all even further.”
“This month, GSOC asked to oversee the disciplinary procedure. GSOC’s request was refused. Taoiseach, when are you going to publish the report? Are you going to include the protective disclosures of all whistleblowers in the investigation, because if you don’t, it’s only a case of kicking the can down the road because we’ll eventually have to do it. And Taoiseach, do you intend to leave the commissioner in place while the investigation goes on because it will make a mockery of it if you do.”
Enda Kenny: “Mr Justice O’Neill was asked to review the allegations of wrongdoing. He was also asked to include any recommendations which he considered appropriate. The report, I understand, sets out in detail the allegations contained in the protected disclosures. I’m sure that the House will appreciate that in the view of the nature of the allegations, and the fact that third parties are mentioned, the Tánaiste referred this to the Attorney General for advice on how to proceed, including the question of what material might properly be put into the public domain, having regard for the rights of all concerned.”
“I understand that the Attorney General has given some response to that but has some further matters to conclude on. And I also understand that the specific proposals will come to Government shortly, including putting the conclusions and recommendations of Mr Justice O’Neill to the public domain, Deputy Wallace.”
Wallace: “Taoiseach, you haven’t answered any of my questions. Now while the Government sat on the O’Neill report, which you still haven’t told me when you’re going to publish, GSOC had to go to the High Court to force the Commissioner to hand over the transcripts of the O’Higgins Report – almost eight months since the Tánaiste requested GSOC to investigate the same.”
“Only last week Taoiseach, the minister got a letter from a whistleblower regarding a witness statement being doctored by garda, the gardaí, in an assault case. The background to the assault case related to the planting of drugs by a garda.”
“Taoiseach, I’ll ask you again: when are you going to publish the report? Do you intend to lead the commissioner in place? Because it will be laughable if you do. And, Taoiseach, if all is so well as the commissioner likes to tell us. Can you explain to me, or can the commissioner explain to me: why are so many whistleblowers out sick? Why aren’t they at work?”
“Why doesn’t Noirin O’Sullivan ring the whistleblowers? How come she’s never even rang… she’s rang none of them. Taoiseach, would you consider asking the commissioner to ring the whistleblowers that she says she cares so much about? Because, Taoiseach, it’s a bit scary. What she says in public is one thing. The reality, on the ground, couldn’t be much different.”
Kenny: “The [protected disclosures] act protects gardai, if they make a report – either to GSOC or the commissioner – for having their identity revealed, protection from dismissal and protection from being penalised in their employment as a result of having made a protected disclosure. That’s the law of the land. That’s what the act says protects whistleblowers for. You mentioned, of course, that the minister did receive the report from judge O’Neill. There are third parties mentioned in this report and it’s only right and proper that we return to the Attorney General for advice as to in what form and what element it should be published. And, in the ministers engaging with the Attorney General on that matter, my understanding Deputy Wallace is that this will come back to Government very shortly including proposals to implement the findings that Justice O’Neill has, has recommended, following his report being sent to the minister.”
Independents4Change TD Clare Daly, Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
During Leaders’ Questions which were held by Minister for Justice and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.
Independents4Change TD Clare Daly raised the matter of Judge Iarfhlaith O’Neill’s investigation into allegations made by Garda whistleblowers – which is due to be given to Ms Fitzgerald next week – and informed the Dáil that she and fellow TD Mick Wallace have met with six new gardaí who have, or are about to, make further protected disclosures.
During their exchanges, Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Feargháil interrupted to warn Ms Daly not to make allegations about Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan in the Dáil, as to do so would be “inappropriate”.
Readers may recall how Judge O’Neill is investigating protected disclosures which allege that, within the gardai, there was an orchestrated campaign to destroy the reputation of whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.
Former head of the Garda press office Superintendent David Taylor was one of the people who made such a disclosure and has claimed that he was following orders from senior gardaí.
Readers may also recall how it has been reported that, in February 2015, phones and a laptop belong to Supt Taylor were seized by Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan’s husband Det Supt James McGowan – two months before Supt Taylor was arrested for allegedly leaking information to a journalist in relation to a Roma child being taken into custody.
In addition, readers may note that, last Sunday, in the Sunday Business Post,Francesa Comyn reported:
Taylor’s solicitors recently wrote to Fitzgerald and Enda Kenny highlighting the “fundamental” need for Taylor’s mobile devices to be handed over to the inquiry for an independent forensic investigation. The court heard that the government has not responded to the letter.
Further to this…
Clare Daly: “Tánaiste, five weeks ago, you referred to very serious protected disclosures from two senior gardai to a retired judge Iarlaith O’Neill for urgent inquiry. Now, the disclosures which allege that the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan was directly involved in a systematic and organised campaign to discredit the whistleblower Maurice McCabe, with colleagues, politicians, journalist, were due to be investigated by the former judge who’s due to conclude and report back next week.”
“Now, he was given no powers of compellability, no terms of reference. Attempts made by other whistleblowers to have their cases also heard, as they too are the victims of bullying and harassment since making protected disclosures, were ignored. Despite the fact that their testimony and their experiences are current,they get to the very heart of the systemic problems inside An Garda Siochana, that what’s said in public and done privately are two entirely different things.”
“Now it was hardly an auspicious start to the inquiry, given that was its foundation and you’d be forgiven for thinking actually that it was put together as a fig leaf, maybe for you to take cover behind, for your lack of action in this regard. Now that view has been strengthened but we now we find out that, with a week to go, to the issuing of his report, the former judge has not requested any material from either of the two whistleblowers, he hasn’t met either man. He hasn’t even spoken to either man. In fact, the only interaction, about two weeks ago was a request to their legal teams to pass on the protected disclosure to the Garda Commissioner. You couldn’t make this up.”
“What sort of an inquiry do you honestly expect us to believe that this is because while this has been going on, we’ve had the Garda Commissioner appear at the justice committee, with senior officers who are at the heart of many of the protected disclosure complaints. At the same meeting, the Garda Commissioner misled the committee by stating that she wasn’t privy to information about a campaign of harassment against any member of the force when she was actually in direct receipt of 14 occurrences and letters outlining precisely that situation. She’s been the subject of a detailed section 41 complaint which she’d been briefed on. We’re awaiting the GSOC finding and she’s lost the support of the ranks of that force, by intervening in a partisan way in their legitimate pay claim with her threats of martial law.”
“So, my question to you, Tanaiste, is why have you allowed this situation to continue to the crisis point that it’s at? On what basis do you believe that you have the right to delegate, to retired judges, GSOC and to the courts, functions that are your responsibility in law, namely to hold the Commissioner to account?”
Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl: “Tánaiste.”
Frances Fitzgerald: “Well I, I would have thought, deputy, that the court of appeal ruling today would have been a solid, a very intense reminder to members of this house that we should take stock and reflect before making allegations here. The good name and reputation, I would say, of all individuals deserves respect and fair procedures. You’re putting on the record various points about a report a judge is currently conducting and is due to report on, next week. You’re saying you have access to details about that. I don’t.”
“This is an independent report by a judge. And as the House is aware, I appointed Judge Iarfhlaith O’Neill to review allegations of wrongdoing set out in some protected disclosures made to me. In addition to reviewing the allegations, Justice O’Neill has been asked to report on his conclusions, it’s a preliminary report and to make any recommendations that he considers necessary in relation to any further action deemed appropriate or warranted. The report, the review has been commenced and he asked, he has been asked to report within six weeks – which will be next week – and I’ve no reason to believe that deadline will not be met. So that’s the situation we’re in. As soon as I receive that report I will consider it very carefully, examine the recommendations that have been made and the Government will decide on future action in relation to the points that you’ve made.”
“I asked Judge O’Neill to do this review because I was very concerned, as I have stated in this house previously, at the content on the material, in the material that I have received and that’s why I decided that should be done. The Garda Commissioner, for her part, has indicated publicly that An Garda Siochana will co-operate fully with any examination of these matters and, you know, how the judge conducts his business during this six weeks, is a matter for him. I would get the report, I will examine the report and will decide on action, I can assure you in relation to the issues that he’s examined. But I’d like to see his recommendations first.”
“This was a first , if you like, a first assessment that it would be extremely useful to ask a judge to examine the first instance, the material that had been, that had been given to me. Now if for any reason, he has concerns about the level of co-operation, during the six weeks, I’ve no doubt that he will make that very clear and I will certainly be reading his report with great interest when I receive it next week.”
Ceann Comhairle: “Deputy Daly, can I say that, generally speaking, it would be my desire to ensure that every leader here had an opportunity, during Leaders’ Questions, to raise matter of important public concern. And you’re doing that. We have absolute privilege here but we should be very, very careful how we use that absolute privilege. And it has been a longstanding precedent that we would not make allegations against people outside the House. You’ve referred to the protected disclosures – that certainly is a matter that is in the public media. But you have made specific allegations about a committee being misled by the Garda Commissioner – I think that’s inappropriate, I don’t think it’s something you should do – it certainly is not something you should now repeat.”
Daly: “I take my responsibility very seriously in that regard, Ceann Comhairle, I can state again very firmly that anything I said was not an allegation at all. It was not a use of privilege, it was details of facts which can be supported by evidence and I’ve no problem in standing over any of those points.”
“The Tánaiste makes the point that it’s up to the judge to carry out the inquiry, as he sees fit. He can only do that within the confines of the powers that he has. Can the Tánaiste confirm to the house that the judge has been given the authority to request the electronic information that supports the allegations at the heart of these matters? Because people’s good names are very important and at the heart of this matter is the muddying and the tarnishing of the good name of Sgt Maurice McCabe and of the horrendous nightmare that is being experiences by members of An Garda Siochana currently, who have made protected disclosures and not just the ones whose names are in the public domain but, subsequent to a lot of this happening, myself and Deputy Wallace have met with a further six serving members of An Garda Siochana who have all either made protected disclosures or are on the verge of doing so.”
“So, what I’m trying to get my head around is: what part of this do you think is normal? And is ok? We have an enormous crisis of confidence inside An Garda Siochana, primarily and largely centred in the role of the Garda Commissioner. The civilian head of An Garda Siochana, GSOC, the courts are investigating these matters – you seem to be okay with delegating your legal responsibility for doing precisely that to other and you won’t get away with it.”
From top: the panel on Wednesday’s night’s Late Debate and the presenter Cormac Ó hEadhra
On Wednesday night.
On RTÉ Radio One’s Late Debate.
The panel discussed the Garda whistleblowers, following Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan’s appearance before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality earlier that day.
Readers will recall how, during that meeting, Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly repeatedly asked Ms O’Sullivan if she would confirm legal counsel for one of the Garda whistleblowers wrote directly to her 14 times over a two-year period, outlining the whistleblower’s experience of surveillance and intimidation.
Ms Daly asked this based on Ms O’Sullivan saying she wasn’t privy to any information about allegations of mistreatment of whistleblowers.
Ms O’Sullivan repeatedly said she would not answer any specific questions in relation to any specific individual or any specific correspondence received.
The Late Debate panel included Fine Gael TD Colm Brophy; Independent TD Stephen Donnelly; Independent TD Catherine Connolly; Sinead Ryan, of the Irish Independent; Sean Healy, director of Social Justice Ireland; and Noel Whelan, barrister and Irish Times columnist.
From the panel discussion with presenter Cormac Ó hEadhra…
Cormac Ó hEadhra: “Let’s turn to the Budget in just a moment but we’ll start with the embattled Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan who came before the justice committee today, she had some serious questions to answer from the committee. Tonight the Tanaiste has staunchly defended the Commissioner. The Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald – Colm Brophy, your colleague in Fine Gael – has said there is no evidence of wrongdoing against Noirin O’Sullivan, is that correct though?”
Colm Brophy: “Well, I think so, and I was at the justice committee today. I was one of a number of TDs who had the opportunity to question and talk to the Garda Commissioner and I mean there’s no question. There are a swirl of allegations and comments and various other things but I thought the Commissioner dealt very fairly and squarely with them all. I think she answered every question she was asked and made it very clear that there were one or two areas that she can’t answer because she is prohibited from answering because she, because of her role and she but that I mean…”
Ó hEadhra: “But saying there’s no evidence at all, surely that’s not correct? Surely there’s a prima facie case to answer?”
Noel Whelan: “There…”
Ó hEadhra: “You’re saying there’s not, Noel?”
Whelan:“I’m sorry, I, I, I have to say I was appalled by the clips and I’ve only seen and heard the clips on the radio and on the television today that I saw. I said to myself is it any wonder that the public rejected the notion of giving Oireachtas committees powers when some members – and I emphasise some members – take a view that they can come into a committee and say, ‘somebody has told me this thing, this allegation’ and even though there’s an inquiry, has been appointed, to establish the evidence. I mean Clare Daly just said ‘I have evidence that’. She has evidence of nothing. She has hearsay of an allegation.”
Ó hEadhra: “She has…”
Whelan: “It’s hearsay…No…no it’s not evidence, it’s not evidence.”
Ó hEadhra: “She has evidence that needs to be tested.”
Whelan: “It’s not evidence.”
Ó hEadhra: “You’re saying there’s no prima facie case to answer.”
Whelan: “No, I’m, no, I’m not, that’s not what I’m saying.”
Ó hEadhra: “You did say.”
Whelan: “No, I didn’t, no…”
Ó hEadhra: “Yes you did, two seconds ago…”
Whelan: “No, you said…”
Ó hEadhra: “Two seconds ago…”
Whelan: “I said there is not evidence… no, my issue is her use and your word, your use of the word, your use of the word ‘evidence’. What seems to have happened here is somebody decided to use the confidential disclosure mechanism, which has recently been established pursuant to the whistelblowers’ acts which by it’s very nature means those about whom allegations are being made, the information is not shared with them. So if, in passing it seems, or in part of the context of allegations which seem to be directly related to the previous commissioner, it’s suggested that the current commissioner did something wrong, she would not be aware of who made those allegations or what precisely those allegations mean. Simultaneously with making those allegations to the Confidential Recipient – for confidential purposes – the people, or people close to the people who made the complaint talk to a range of journalists and politicians and give them the details…”
Ó hEadhra: “But why though?”
Ó hEadhra: “Why do they do that?”
Whelan: “Even before the minister got a chance, even before the minister gets a chance to sit at her desk..”
Ó hEadhra: “Why would they do that I wonder?”
Whelan: “Exactly, exactly…”
Ó hEadhra: “You answer that question.”
Whelan: “Why wouldn’t they wait for the minister first to make a decision as to what to do next? What does the minister decide to do? The minister decides to go and get a high court judge to inquire into the precise allegations that are made because that person can then see what the allegations are and then test…”
Ó hEadhra: “Why would they go to journalists? Is it, I wonder, and this is just a question, I don’t know, is it I wonder because there’s a lack of trust in the chain of command within An Garda Siochana?”
Whelan: “Or because..”
Ó hEadhra: “Could it be that?”
Whelan: “It could of course…Of course it could be that…no, no, let me finish…let me answer…it could be that, or it could be because they want to undermine the Commissioner.”
Talk over each other
Whelan: “Irrespective of whether the allegations stand up or not…”
Ó hEadhra: “But given the fact, given the fact that a solicitor of one of the people who made the allegations…”
Ó hEadhra: “Hang on, hang on..”
Whelan: “You have to distinguish here…he is not…that solicitor does not represent one of the complainants to the confidential recipient…”
Ó hEadhra: “I accept that…”
Whelan: “And this is the confusion…”
Ó hEadhra: “Listen to my question though….”
Whelan: “No, but you said one of the allegators [sic], he’s not one of the persons making the allegations…”
Ó hEadhra: “One of the previous whistleblowers…”
Ó hEadhra: “Right…. Has made an allegation that GSOC investigations, for example, a previous investigation set up, have been frustrated by the force. Now, when you call for due diligence and due process I mean and that due process is frustrated well what would you, as a barrister, do? If you’re involved…hang on now… this is the question, if you’re involved in an investigation, as a barrister, right? And you find that your investigations are being frustrated, for example, there isn’t a disclosure or a discovery, what do you do in that instance?”
Whelan: “Hold on, the whistleblower isn’t conducting this investigation. That investigation is being conducted by Justice Mary Ellen Ring and GSOC. She has complained about the fact that she doesn’t have power to compel a timely disclosure of information from the gardai so you address it that way or she goes in, she has done more publicly, called on a more speedy addressing of the information. Now, you don’t go and piggyback, you don’t go and seek to piggyback on an investigation that everybody says has to be conducted quickly, that everybody says is significant, in my view, it’s not significant, it’s potentially significant – if the evidence stands up. And everybody says, you appoint a high court judge to investigate two other complaints made on the confidential system by two other complainants, you don’t piggyback on that because all that will do is confuse, as has already happened here in the presentation of it and secondly, delay the outcome.”
Ó hEadhra: “But hold on, you’re after telling us that an investigation that is under way, the judge is in charge of it, and the judge has said, look this investigation is being delayed…”
Whelan: “She said she wants to move quicker…”
Ó hEadhra: “Yeah and…”
Talk over each other
Ó hEadhra: “In the meantime, more whistleblowers come forward, make an allegation and that is fished out to another investigation…”
Whelan: “No a whistleblower hasn’t come forward. What’s come forward is someone making a complaint to the confidential recipient that he himself was involved in a campaign to do in a whistleblower...”
Ó hEadhra: “Who is, in effect, another whistleblower...”
Whelan: “So then he becomes himself…”
Ó hEadhra: “Yes…”
Whelan: “A whistleblower..”
Ó hEadhra: “Yeah, so what? That’s what I said..”
Whelan: “But either because of remorse, as is suggested, or because it’s the best way to protect his own position...”
Ó hEadhra: “But the key question, Noel, is, the key question…”
Whelan: “And that’s why, we don’t have to decide this Cormac, that’s why you appoint a High Court judge do decide these things and what you don’t do: here’s the real unfairness and injustice, you don’t allow politicians then to go into committee and just lob those allegations or any other colourful allegations they want across the table and require a witness to respond. I mean that’s, that’s Trump-like politics…”
Talk over each other
Ó hEadhra: “Hang on…But there’s another parallel question…”
Whelan: “People are saying that, insert the most colourful thing that will get me most headlines...”
Ó hEadhra:“That is incorrect and unfair, Noel.”
Whelan: “I’m sorry, it’s not unfair. And the media have fallen for it.”
Further to Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly’s interview on Morning Ireland this morning in relation to the treatment of Garda whistleblowers and, during which, she called for the resignation of Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan.
The matter was raised with Taoiseach Enda Kenny during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today.
Mr Kenny had the following exchanges with Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald and MS Daly.
Mary Lou McDonald: “You say the minister [for justice Frances Fitzgerald] will reflect on these matters and decide what to do. I understand that the minister has in fact been in possession of correspondence for some months. I understand that the minister actually failed to respond to a number of Garda whistleblowers. Can I ask you Taoiseach, who’s in charge here? Is the minister in charge? Is the commissioner in charge? Who is accountable for these practices? Who is accountable for the smearing and targeting of Garda whistleblowers. Do you have confidence Taoiseach in the commissioner? Do you have confidence that she is discharging her duties fully and faithfully. Do you have confidence in her capacity to protect whistleblowers? And I would ask you the same question of your minister, Minister Frances Fitzgerald.”
Enda Kenny: “I haven’t seen the correspondence that the minister received, nor should I because it was sent to her [France Fitzgerald] under that [the Protected Disclosures] act.I assume that the information, contained therein, needs to be examined and needs to be reflected upon very carefully becaue it is very serious.”
“Otherwise, it wouldn’t be received under that section of the act. Somebody’s got to do that Deputy [Mary Lou] McDonald and I would expect that that would be, or certainly that that could be a member of the judiciary who will examine the contents of the document received and see whether they stand up or whether they don’t.”
“Obviously, out of that, out of that comes a decision about what action might or might not be taken. I’ve already said I’ve absolute confidence in the Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner, I don’t have any reason not to.”
Clare Daly: “Taoiseach, you might have got away with that response to deputy McDonald, if you could call it a response, if this was an isolated incident of mistreatment of whistleblowers and I note that you’re confidence in this minister and the commissioner are a bit like the time you gave 100% confidence to the last two before it went to zero overnight.”
“Now, exactly two years ago this week, I put it to you that a Garda whistleblower in the Midlands region had come forward with serious information regarding Garda involvement in the drugs trade. Information which was indisputable.”
“Now that individual Nick Keogh has subsequently been vindicated by an internal Garda inquiry which supported his allegations in that regard. And yet, two and half years on, this whistleblower has been out sick for almost a year, he’s surviving on just over €200 a week. He’s had five internal investigations drummed up against him. Medical certificates admitted saying he was out with work-related stress were changed to absence from flu, while the Superintendent who stood over all of that is on the promotions list.”
“Now you were twice approached by a Garda in that division and warned about a senior officer who failed to deal with complaints in that area and twice, since you were approached, that senior officer has been promoted. Including, being handpicked by the Commissioner for a high-profile job in the Phoenix Park, despite three complaints against Garda whistleblowers against him.”
“Four times, one of the Garda whistleblowers wrote directly to your Minster for Justice and told her of the treatment he was experiencing. He made the point that, as his colleague in a different region was getting exactly the same treatment that it couldn’t be a coincidence and it was inconceivable that senior management and the Garda Commissioner would not be aware of it.”
“Nineteen times myself and Deputy Wallace have raised what has been happening to whistleblowers Nick Keogh and Keith Harrison, who’s out two years surviving on a pittance with a young family. He’s post has been opened. Garda patrol cars cruising down a lane where he lived 25 kilometres from the nearest Garda station. The HSE called to his kids – all on Commissioner O’Sullivan’s watch.”
“So, really, how many examples do you need to be presented to you in terms of the gulf between the public statements of the Commissioner and her private actions in relation to dealing with whistleblowers before you’re going to act. Your minister has had [inaudible] from the O’Higgins commission. She’s had the Section 41 complaint from the civilian head of An Garda Siochana and, most shockingly, she has had a protected disclosure of two senior gardai outlining systematic, organised, orchestrated campaign to not just discredit a whistleblower but to annihilate him with the full involvement of the present and former commissioner. So I want to ask you, Taoiseach, is very simple. What in God’s name do you need another investigation for? Is it not patently obvious that it’s beyond time for the commissioner to go?”
Kenny: “Well, the question here is in respect of the, of the information received under the Protected Disclosure Act and that has been received by the Minister for Justice. She has to assess that and appoint a person of competence to deal with it. As I say, whatever is in that documentation, either stands up or it doesn’t. And in that regard it is a very serious matter. The powers of GSOC are there for all to see, the justice has requested that those powers be extended and the minister is considering that. The Independent Police Authority itself has been asked for its views on, on the treatment of whistleblowers and those in the gardai who made disclosures known about wrongdoing or alleged wrongdoing. From that point of view, as I said, whistleblowers should not be in the position that you outline here for two members of the gardai and, obviously, if these investigations have been taking place, whether by GSOC or internally, this matter has to be concluded. Whistleblowers have always provided a valuable service in the public interest and I respect that completely and will defend it. In the case of the most recent documents received by the Minister for Justice , we’ve got to deal with that by appointing a person of ability to go through that documentation and assess whether or not the contents of it stand up or whether they don’t. And I expect that the minister will make an announcement about that very soon, Deputy Daly.”
Daly: “You tell us that whistleblowers shouldn’t be treated poorly and you’ll respect and defend that but you must have a different interpretation of her respect and defence than I have. Because you have been presented with evidence, and your minister has, over a period of two and a half years, that that has not been the case.”
“You tell us that GSOC has the powers that the powers are there for all to see. The powers are not there for all to see, even GSOC have said they don’t have the powers to deal with this situation. Does it not seem odd to you, minister, or Taoiseach, when you listen to the commissioner this morning, when she says that the gardai is an area where she wants to encourage whistleblowers to come forward despite all of the evidence that these people have been mistreated.”
“So, could you maybe tell me this? If the commissioner herself is not directly involved in that harassment, do you not have a problem that her authority is so discredited that instructions she has allegedly given – for whistleblowers to be protected – are being wholesale ignored across the ranks of An Garda Siochana, because that is the evidence that is being presented to your minister over a whole period of time.”
“So if you mean what you say, and you really do really respect and defend whistleblowers, you’d be answering very differently because you’d actually be doing something rather than just talking about it.”
Garda Commissioner Noirin O Sullivan and Superintendant Noel Cunningham at the Association of Garda Superintendents conference last month
Justine McCarthy, in The Sunday Times, writes
If the sergeant [Maurice McCabe] had been made wary by selective media leaks in advance of its publication, McCabe is also likely to have noted photographs of O’Sullivan attending the annual conference of the Association of Garda Superintendents on April 20 – because standing beside her was Noel Cunningham, the superintendent who, along with a sergeant, met McCabe in 2008.
Last May, the commission was told that a written record of that meeting would provide evidence that McCabe admitted acting on a grudge when he made allegations against senior officers.
But when McCabe produced a secretly taped recording of the meeting, O’Higgins accepted he did not, as alleged by the commissioner’s side, confess he was motivated by malice in pursuing complaints.
…Cunningham was represented at the commission by the same team of lawyers as O’Sullivan.
Some of McCabe’s allegations were against him. The report dismissed those allegations and stated they had caused Cunningham “worry and stress”.
In her statement last week, O’Sullivan said:
“I have consistently and without exception, within An Garda Siochana and in public, stated clearly that dissent is not disloyalty, that we must listen to our people at every level with respect and with trust, and that we stand to gain, rather than lose, when members bring to our attention practices they believe to be unacceptable.”
…Her assurances failed to convince everyone, including five gardai who have turned whistleblowers. They include Keith Harrison, based in Donegal, and Nick Keogh, based in Athlone, who have made complaints about alleged misconduct. Both are currently on sick leave.
….In a recent email to a friend, Harrison wrote: “I’m seen as a traitor and a troublemaker. Nothing has changed and it won’t change. Maybe I would have been better off if I heard no evil and saw no evil. Many of my colleagues don’t speak out because of the fear of what might happen.”