You may recall how, on Wednesday evening, Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison’s solicitor Trevor Collins spoke to Miriam O’Callaghan on RTE’s Prime Time about how Keith was the subject of a referral to Tusla over a false abuse allegation.
Yesterday it was announced that Mr Harrison’s complaints will be included in the tribunal of inquiry that will examine the alleged smear campaign against Sgt Maurice McCabe.
Readers will recall how Garda Harrison’s troubles began after he arrested a member of the drugs quad for drink driving in Athlone in June, 2009.
The arrest came a year after Garda Harrison made a complaint alleging that a member of the Garda drugs unit was involved in the sale and supply of heroin in Athlone.
In 2014, Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty told the Dail that Garda Harrison made serious claims about how the drink driving case was struck out and how evidence related to the case was stolen by a Garda member.
Mr Harrison, who has been on sick leave since 2014, released the following statement last night:
After a long and difficult battle to have all my complaints investigated I would like to acknowledge the publication [yesterday] of the expanded terms of reference of the Tribunal of Inquiry that now includes an investigation of my treatment and that of other whistleblowers within An Garda Siochana. I trust the Inquiry will establish the truth and bring about a change within Senior Management of An Garda Siochana.
My family and I acknowledge and thank the public for the support received since taking the extraordinary step of bringing our case to national attention.
I continue to remain out of work on sick leave without any pay. I ask that my pay be restored so that I may financially support my family. It remains my wish to return to active duty serving my community as a member of An Garda Siochana.
I thank all those who met with us, listened and assisted us in reaching this point, I acknowledge Minister Katherine Zappone TD, Minister Finian McGrath TD and Minister Sean Canney TD, Brendan Howlin TD, Mr Michael Martin TD and Mr Jim O’Callaghan TD, Dr Michael Harty TD, Mr Pearse Doherty TD and Mr Johnathan O’Brien TD who met and listened to us.
Special thanks to Clare Daly TD and Mick Wallace TD for their exhaustive efforts in highlighting the treatment of whistleblowers within An Garda Siochana.
I would like to particularly thank Alan Kelly TD who offered his wholehearted support in bringing these matters to public attention and, on my behalf, championed our case in the Dail to bring about the widening of the Terms of Reference to include my experiences.
I would like to thank the trojan work of each and every member of staff of Kilfeather and Company solicitors, Galway and in particular the tireless efforts of our solicitor, Trevor Collins.
Finally I thank my family for their love and support in particular my partner Marisa, who continues to be my rock throughout this ordeal. No further statements shall be made and I look forward to the convening of the Inquiry.
Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and Minister for Justice and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald
As was confirmed in a statement by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs this afternoon, Minister Zappone became aware in mid-January of an issue affecting Sgt McCabe which related to her Department.
As the statement points out Minister Zappone has taken and is taking a number of steps to deal with this matter.
She informed me in January that she intended to meet with Sgt McCabe. She of course did not inform me about any details in relation to confidential Tusla records.
The Terms of Reference of the proposed Commission put before the Oireachtas by me refer specifically to a complaint of criminal misconduct against Sgt McCabe and whether this allegation was used against him.
I have always been scrupulous to avoid any comment in the Dáil on what was at issue in the criminal complaint against Sgt. McCabe, referred to in the terms of reference.
Had I put into the public domain anything which indicated or implied the nature of the complaint against Sgt McCabe I would be rightly open to criticism.
At the heart of the issues to be examined by the Commission is whether senior Gardaí were involved in a campaign to use information to damage Sgt McCabe.
I agreed to take on board amendments designed to put beyond doubt that the examination of any smear campaign would not be confined.
Just as my colleague Minister Zappone is dealing with the serious matters relating to her area of responsibility, I am proceeding to finalise the terms of reference of the Commission of Investigation arising from Mr Justice O’Neill’s report.
A statement released this evening by Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.
Further to last night’s reports in the Irish Examiner and RTÉ’s Prime Time concerning the circulation of a false allegation of child sex abuse against Sgt Maurice McCabe by Tusla…
Tusla have released the following statement.
Due to Data Protection and Constitutional rights, Tusla is prohibited from commenting on the details of individual cases. We also have a responsibility to protect the privacy and wellbeing of the children and families with whom we work.
Taking an overall view of this situation, however, it is clear to us that mistakes have been made. On this basis, we have commenced an internal review and we will cooperate fully with any commission of inquiry if requested.
Although we cannot comment on the details of this individual case, we can confirm that we are in the process of apologising fully to the individual involved.
It is important to note that when we receive allegations from a child – or from an adult reflecting on when they were a child – that we are obliged to carry out a complete assessment. We also accept that because of the nature and complexity of these situations, the systems and processes involved in doing this need to be extremely robust.
In this case, it appears there were some failures and these are the subject of our internal review, the conclusions of which will be made public.
Tusla regrets that this situation has arisen and deeply apologises for distress caused. It does not reflect the high standards that we hold ourselves to and we want to assure the public that we will take whatever steps are required to ensure that nothing like this happens again.
Further to yesterday’s PR move against the Rio police.
I have been appointed on behalf of Pat Hickey’s family, to call on the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan TD and the Minister for Sport, Shane Ross TD, to urgently intervene in addressing the extremely worrying issues surrounding his arrest and detention.
This arrest and detention occurred over seven days ago and still no charges have been brought, nor has an appropriate venue for a bail application been made available to Pat Hickey.
The Hickey family are extremely concerned about:
– The manner in which Pat Hickey was arrested
– His detention in a high security prison without charge
– The effects of such detention on Pat Hickey’s health
– The pre-trial disclosure of what is purported to be evidence to the media without any right of a reply (which is leading and imbalanced reporting)
– Pat Hickey’s right to a fair hearing, given the prejudicial way in which he has been treated to date.
The family has requested an urgent meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan TD and the Minister for Sport, Shane Ross TD and they have asked me to request that they would make contact with the Brazilian ambassador, Alfonso José Cardoso to make the family’s concerns known to him.
The Hickey family is gravely concerned about the effect this degrading and humiliating ordeal has had on their Father and Grandfather and how it continues to affect his physical and mental health.
He has a serious heart condition and they are extremely anxious that he would be immediately released on bail and given the opportunity to respond to the accusations.
They also, as a priority, want to get him home to Ireland as they have increasing concerns about his safety.
The family is also calling upon Minister Flanagan to immediately issue a statement setting out the steps the Department of Foreign Affairs is taking to object to the manner in which an elderly Irish citizen was arrested and is still being detained in Brazil.
It was entirely inappropriate and unacceptable for a 71-year-old Irish citizen be taken from his bedroom, arrested and walked in a state of undress before a pre-arranged camera crew, after which film and still shots were released to the global media.
The family hope to meet with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD when he returns from holidays.
Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan
Commissioner O’Sullivan was not aware of any private meeting between former Commissioner Callinan and Deputy McGuinness as outlined by Deputy McGuinness in the Dáil.
In relation to whistleblowers, Commissioner O’Sullivan has consistently stated that dissent is not disloyalty and as a service we are determined to learn from our experiences. An Garda Síochána agrees that whistleblowers are part of the solution to the problems facing the service.
The Commissioner has recently appointed a Protected Disclosures Manager and an appropriately trained dedicated team will be established to oversee all matters related to whistleblowers.
Transparency Ireland has agreed to work with An Garda Síochána to help ensure protected disclosures and people making them are welcomed and protected in An Garda Síochána.
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan in a statement released this evening.
Lorcan Roche Kelly
You may recall the murder of Sylvia Roche Kelly.
The mother of two, from Sixmilebridge, Co Clare, was murdered by Gerry McGrath, from Knockavilla, Co. Tipperary, at The Clarion Hotel in Limerick on December 8, 2007.
McGrath was out on bail – for attempting to abduct a child, on October 9, 2007 – when he killed Sylvia.
He was also out on bail for assaulting taxi driver Mary Lynch in Virginia, Cavan on April 30, 2007.
Further to this…
Sylvia’s husband and journalist Lorcan Roche Kelly spoke to Seán O’Rourke this morning about An Garda Síochána and his trust in the same.
Lorcan Roche Kelly: “I think the problem with Noirin O’Sullivan – this is nothing personal against Noirin at all, I’m sure she’s a perfectly good Garda – is that she is a commissioner that was appointed internally. She came up through the system that exists within the gardaí for the last however many years and it’s that system that has been the problem. So, to get that system reformed, I don’t think Noirin O’Sullivan should have the public’s confidence in being able to reform it because she is of that system. Like I think if you look over the border, what we saw in 2001 with the Royal Ulster Constabulary being completely transformed into the Police Service of Northern Ireland, it’s, I’m not saying we need to change the name of the Gardaí but it’s that level of reform that the Gardaí now need because they have resisted reform for so long that the reform, I suppose, the actions needed have built up to such an extent that we’re nearly at a root and branch level of reform.”
Seán O’Rourke: “Yeah but again that is very central to her whole approach and that’s what’s being seen now by the new Policing Authority. Was it not a good starting point in itself? I suppose it’s precious little consolation to people like yourself and the [Shane] O’Farrell family, for instance. The Commissioner did say, ‘we are sorry the victims did not get the service they were entitled to’.”
Roche Kelly: “Isn’t that the most mealy-mouthed apology. It’s like: I’m sorry your coffee wasn’t as hot as you wanted it to be. Like this is much more serious..”
O’Rourke: “Ah is it not a bit, and I accept now that nobody knows apart from you and your family the grief that you’ve had to endure but would you not give her a bit more credit it than that?”
Roche Kelly: “To be honest, after nine years and after the, I suppose, the stonewalling we’ve received over the years, it’s very hard for me to look at a guard and say, ‘ok, I trust your bona fides in this’. Like this apology came after the O’Higgins Commission, the apology, when the writing was so clearly on the wall that then, ok, now, an apology was necessary. So rather than making a fulsome apology, the apology was made as a press release, that I didn’t receive, I’d to go on Twitter and ask, ‘does any journalist have this press release so at least I can see it’.”
O’Rourke: “Have you had any direct personal apology yourself, from the gardaí?”
Roche Kelly: “Last week I had a meeting with some gardaí in Dublin with the idea of them outlining the reforms they’re bringing in. So it was, the idea of the meeting was to show what reforms they’re bringing in to show this won’t happen again, I think is where we are.”
O’Rourke:“And they clearly would have been senior. How senior gardaí were they? Was there an assistant commissioner or deputy commissioner among them?”
Roche Kelly: “No.”
O’Rourke: “And were you persuaded by what you heard?”
Roche Kelly: “Again, I’m probably the least persuadable person when it comes to Gardaií reform but no it was..no, I think it’s as simple as that, to be fair.”
O’Rourke: “And what would persuade you, Lorcan?”
Roche Kelly: “I think, in order for a reformed process to have credibility, the first thing you need to say is, ‘ok, the people that need to be reformed shouldn’t be the people that do the reforming’. Like, again, nothing personal against Noirin O’Sullivan, I’m sure she’s a fantastic person and she’s a very good guard, but in order to reform an organisation, you need to bring in an outsider. Like, say, in the corporate world, if you want to change a company, you appoint a new CEO from outside because you can’t appoint an internal appointment because, you’ll say, well that’s just going to be more of the same in the Gardaí. So the Gardaí, as an organisation, have to be beyond reproach and we have spent, I have spent nine years, the Irish media have spent the last month and a half reproaching the Gardaí, saying, ‘look this is where the problems are, what are you going to do to address these problems?’, ‘how are you going to address these problems?’. It’s a constant drumbeat of a question that is landing at the Gardaí’s desk and, in order to address those problems, they need to have an outsider come in. And again, to look at what we saw what was done over the border 15 years ago, so it is not an impossible task but there has to be willingness to do it.”
O’Rourke: “To what extant, Lorcan, are your views informed by that experience, that nine years as you say, in the course of which you took a legal action which, I think, you knew would fail, seeking to get fuller information. And then you had the dealings with GSOC and you’re still not satisfied that there is sufficient accountability there clearly.”
Roche Kelly: “When I was doing the research, one of the interesting statistics from GSOC that I found out and you mentioned this yourself with the exoneration of the gardaí in Cavan-Monaghan at a previous report in 2011 was that the way GSOC works is that they can make recommendations for disciplinary action against a guard but they have no power themselves to implement disciplinary commission, that goes to a senior guard. And in 2012, the year my complaint came up, there was 5,600 complaints against gardaí. Over 1,000, I think it was 1,017 of them were put forward for disciplinary action. Of those 1,017, 69 resulted in some disciplinary action. So, if you’re a garda and a complaint is made against you there is a less than 1% chance of you facing any disciplinary action at all. Which, some people could say a lot of the complaints against gardaí may be spurious but I doubt 99% of them are. It’s the culture, and that needs to be highlighted, because it’s a cultural problem, rather than admit there are problems, let’s ignore the problem and move on as an organisation and to move on within the gardaí seems to me to mean, ‘let’s pretend none of this happened’.”
Roche Kelly: “When my wife was murdered, our daughter was in junior infants in primary school, she’s now in first year in secondary school. So her entire primary school life has been based on: where is the answer to these questions? And I haven’t found them. And the only reason that I haven’t found the answers to these questions is because I have been stonewalled by the gardaí. This entire, my entire thing could have been sorted out with two phone calls and a letter eight years ago.”
O’Rourke: “Did you get the answers in the O’Higgins report?”
Roche Kelly: “I got the answers, the factual play that I had known all along. It was, why had the gardaí not admitted that they had made a mistake here; why have they not come out and said, ‘ok, if we had done our job right, Sylvia would still be alive’ and here’s what we’ve done to address it. And like the O’Higgins report, again, ended with a kind of a thing that happens a lot in Ireland where there are systematic problems where many things failed, therefore no one should be individually held responsible. And if that’s the response of the O’Higgins commission, then the book for that has to go to the top of the organisation. And again, I’m not saying Noirin O’Sullivan is anyway incompetent or had any hand, act or part in this but if the organisation is fundamentally rotten or, I won’t say corrupt, but is damaged then it needs to be changed from the top down.”
O’Rourke: “And what about the fact that there was an open, international competition for the Commissioner appointment, after Martin Callinan resigned or was retired, whatever way you want to phrase it, and she came through that competition?”
Roche Kelly: “Again, I don’t think it’s the fact that the competition existed, I would understand that wanted a challenging position would look at the garda, the job of the head of the garda, and say that might be a bridge too far for me, to reform an organisation like that. But if there is an open competition then have an external candidate so internal candidates cannot apply for it because it is a situation where you need an external candidate.”
From top: Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald at the launch of ‘joint agency response to crime’ strategy last November; Clare Daly
Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly spoke to Audrey Carville on RTÉ’s News At One this lunchtime.
The interview came after Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan released a statement at midday, saying, “I can confirm that An Garda Síochána’s legal team was not at any stage instructed to impugn the integrity of Sergeant Maurice McCabe or to make a case that he was acting maliciously.”
Grab a tay…
Audrey Carville: “Just to repeat, Nóirín O’Sullivan states, ‘I can confirm that An Garda Siochana’s legal team was not, at any stage, instructed to impugn the integrity of Sergeant Maurice McCabe or to make a case that he was acting maliciously. We’re joined now by Independent socialist TD Clare Daly. Clare Daly, thanks for joining us, do you believe the Commissioner when she says that?”
Clare Daly: “I think she’s saying very little. I think, if you read it carefully, her statement is very well put together. She’s selecting the word, ‘integrity’ which of course, we know from the leaked transcript, was exactly the expression used by her senior counsel Colm Smyth in November  when he said the integrity bit was his words but she’s very silent on the allegations which were upheld that they were instructed to question the credibility and motivation of Maurice McCabe. And I think while she says and we can take it maybe, in some sense, they had to cross examine the evidence of everybody including Maurice McCabe, and I think everybody would accept that but this wasn’t about cross examining the evidence, this was about questioning his motivation, his credibility and having two senior officers prepared to give false testimony to back that up. And those allegations are still unanswered.”
Carville: “But isn’t she right though? In relation to the documents that have been leaked, she calls it the selected information purporting to relate to these proceedings out into the public domain, the transcripts of no more than three minutes of what happened at a Commission which ran for 34 10-hour days.”
Daly: “I think it’s interesting that she did choose to focus on that and says they’re selective but she doesn’t say they’re not true and they’re very comprehensive in their entirety of what they’re claiming and the claim hasn’t been denied anywhere – that Garda authorities instructed their legal team to basically go in and give false testimony to mislead the Commission as regards the credibility and motivation of Maurice McCabe…”
Carville: “How do you know that though? You can’t say that for certain.”
Daly: “I can say that for certain. And nobody disputed it any where, including the Garda Commissioner. To say that the evidence that was leaked is not valid or that it’s only part of the story – that’s not the case. It’s a very comprehensive transcript which stands up in its own ground and that added to other testimony that I’m absolutely aware of that the Garda legal team adopted an incredibly adversarial approach to Maurice McCabe where it was repeatedly stated at the Commission that he was, in effect, being put on trial – that treatment was not given to anybody else. I think it’s interesting that the Commissioner says she’s now asked the minister to investigate the matter of the two senior officers but the reality is is that this claim, with these two officers, was made over a year ago and it was only withdrawn last November – just before, on the eve if you like, of Noirin O’Sullivan herself giving evidence to the Commission. But if that information was out there, which it was, why hasn’t she, as the Garda Commissioner, already investigated that matter and why is she doing it now that it’s in the public domain because she’s aware of it.”
Carville: “Do you welcome though that it has gone to GSOC to investigate?”
Daly: “I think sadly GSOC are not equipped to deal with these matters adequately, it’s interesting that she talks again about dissent not being disloyalty for the current Garda whistleblowers whose cases are before GSOC. They haven’t been able to get a proper hearing and dissent is very much disloyalty under Noirin O’Sullivan’s watch as far as they’re concerned. So I don’t think GSOC are adequately equipped to deal with this. I’m glad somebody is investigating but to be honest with you, the real answers have to come from the Minister for Justice [Frances Fitzgerald] who, in legislation, ultimately is accountable for the behaviour of the Commissioner and I don’t think she’s accounted for her actions adequately. I think this is a longer statement basically saying what she did the last time and hiding behind confidentiality and legal points which have not been validated by any independent source again talking about Section 11 of the Commission of Investigation which is factually incorrect because that simply deals with evidence and the information here is not evidence, it’s a legal position being put forward.”
Carville: “But if there was a position, if there is an implicit admission in this statement that perhaps Sgt McCabe’s motivation and credibility were to be challenged, before the Commission, isn’t that fair enough because, as she says, the Gardai were being subjected to the most serious of allegations, from Maurice McCabe. So, in any court, isn’t the person making the allegations cross examined to the fullest?”
Daly: “I’d be fully in favour of evidence being cross examined and indeed motivation can be but that’s entirely different to senior garda officers, in order to substantiate that, being prepared to give false evidence to the Commission. And that big, giant elephant is still in the room because that is a fact that has been undisputed and we need answers on that because that evidence was apparent to the Commissioner as late as a year ago and nothing has been done on it. Now we’re being told she is going to do something on it, or asked the minister, that’s not good enough for the head of An Garda Siochana. We’re talking about, in essence, perjury to a sworn commission. It’s highly serious.”
Carville: “But we don’t know exactly what those two senior Garda were prepared to do because it hasn’t made it in to the final report. And it’s not really dealt with in any of the leaked documents either.”
Daly: “And it is very much out there in the public domain, that the Garda Commissioner’s statement hasn’t answered it, and we need very clear answers on it, I mean I’d like to know, for example, why is Noirin O’Sullivan only acting on it now?”
Carville: “But it’s only a suspicion, Clare Daly, about what the two senior officers did. And she is now referring it to GSOC to be investigated.”
Daly: “The people who were at the Commission are very clear on what the two officers said, very, very clear and there were quite a number of people at that Commission and I honestly believe the truth will out and I’m perfectly satisfied and safe, if you like, in saying that they were prepared to give evidence to mislead and only withdrew that when taped evidence was produced by Maurice McCabe to say what they had said was not true. That was the trigger that led to it being withdrawn. This man could have been ruined had be not had that tape recording.”
Carville: “Yeah, well, the matter is gone now to GSOC to investigate that and, as I say, it’s not fully clear from Mr O’Higgins’ commission that was indeed the case. Some people have said that it is time to draw a line under this. That nothing good can come from repeatedly going over this same situation in relation to Maurice McCabe, what do you say to that?”
Daly: “I think we can’t move forward until we honestly deal with what has happened. And I think we have repeatedly made the point that since the exit of Commissioner [Martin] Callinan and Minister [for Justice, Alan] Shatter, unfortunately, under the watch of Noirin O’Sullivan, and Frances Fitzgerald, the same very bad practice regarding the vilification of whistleblowers has continued and there’s nothing new in that and we know that from the treatment of Keith Harrison and Nick Keogh, current Garda whistleblowers, whose dissent has been very much treated as disloyalty. These people are out of work sick, they’ve been vilified, demonised, their life has been made an absolute hell – all on Noirin O’Sullivan’s watch…”
Carville: “Thank you very much indeed, Independent socialist TD Clare Daly. And just to reiterate that no allegations have been proven against two senior gardai, that they deliberately misled the O’Higgins commission.”