In the Dáil, TDs made statements on the report of the Justice O’Higgins Commission of Investigation into allegations of malpractice made by Sgt Maurice McCabe.
This is what Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly said…
The real story of the O’Higgins report can be summed up by saying that Sergeant Maurice McCabe was right. This is essentially what Mr. Justice O’Higgins was able to establish although almost a decade of Garda reports have stated the opposite. Even that statement alone says a great deal.
A person would not have gathered that if she had listened to the coverage given by RTE’s Paul Reynolds two weeks ago, following which anyone would have thought the O’Higgins report was entirely different altogether.
We have been visited by the ghost of Ministers past pulling the Taoiseach’s hands. This has happened in the form of the former Minister, Mr. Shatter, bleating that he has been exonerated by these proceedings. That is utterly ludicrous.
The former Commissioner, Mr. Callinan, and the former Minister, Mr. Shatter, were not exonerated by this commission. In fact, they were bit players, nothing more than a sideshow. They are referred to in 30 pages out of 370.
The only matter dealing with the former Garda Commissioner was a complaint which happened to be taken under the Garda Síochána Confidential Reporting of Corruption or Malpractice Regulations.
The complaint was that he misused his position with the inappropriate appointment of an officer. He was exonerated for that. That was the only point under investigation.
The former Minister, Mr. Shatter, seems to be taking great comfort from the O’Higgins report statement that he was within his rights to rely on the reports of the Commissioner and internal Garda investigations.
However, I put it to Mr. Shatter that being within his rights and being right are two very different things. In fact, the former Minister, Mr. Shatter, was wrong. His conclusion that there was nothing to see here was not the right answer. There was plenty to see but he chose not to look at it.
Overwhelmingly, the O’Higgins report is an appalling account of lawlessness, indiscipline, perjury, incompetence and laziness inside An Garda Síochána in Cavan and Monaghan.
Certain behaviour which was never disciplined caused enormous consequences to the victims of crime. Were it not for the timely intervention of Sergeant Maurice McCabe, in many instances that behaviour would have led to cases being statute-barred.
When I read the report I was reminded of the first time I met Sergeant Maurice McCabe over five years ago. The Minister has seen Sergeant McCabe. He is an incredibly mild-mannered gentleman.
He told the stories of being a sergeant in that district and trying to deal with the type of indiscipline that has been revealed so well in the O’Higgins report. He was laughed at, mocked and ridiculed.
There is mention in the O’Higgins report of a campaign on social media about Maurice the rat. I remembered that and I looked up the pictures, some of which I have before me – the Minister may wish to look at them.
The pictures are of gardaí off duty in a pub with pints doing what they would like to do with Maurice the rat, which is a plastic rat. It is quite inappropriate for me even to mention it, but the Minister can imagine what they are doing to the rat.
These are gardaí.
When I read the report I was reminded of these people. How many of the people in these photographs are among the named gardaí in the reports? I do not know but I imagine some of them are. I found the whole thing sickening. More shocking is the fact that ten years down the road these people have learned nothing.
In case after case before Mr. Justice O’Higgins, he repeatedly rejected the evidence of sworn gardaí in the course of the tribunal, while lavishing praise on the victims of crime, including, for example, Majella Cafolla, whose word was taken over the word of Garda Kelly and Garda McCarthy; the word of the victim and her father in the Cootehill assault case taken over the word of Garda Martin; and the rejection of the evidence of Garda O’Sullivan who tried to blame Sergeant Maurice McCabe for Mary Lynch not being told about the court case or Garda Killian who tried to hold him responsible for the taking of the computer. It goes on.
Does it not strike the Minister that these are people who go into courts every day of the week and give evidence before judges about cases, prosecutions and so on on behalf of the State? This is indeed an appalling vista and shame on those individuals.
They absolutely have to take account of their actions but on one level could they be blamed when the attitude that perjury is okay is being set at the very top of An Garda Síochána? Unless that is dealt with, we will never reform the force as we know it.
The corporate cover-up will continue as will the blue wall of silence. The culture has to be changed. The biggest problem with the O’Higgins report is that there is an almighty chasm after his findings, which are very clear, and then nothing. Nobody will be held accountable for any of this and we are left with an incredible feeling of not being satisfied by it.
One of the linchpins is the Byrne-McGinn report. O’Higgins makes many references to it, saying it was a considerable understatement, it was inaccurate, and the gravity of the issues was not addressed in the report. He found it difficult to understand and surprising.
In multiple reports, he found that Byrne and McGinn, at the highest echelons of An Garda Síochána, missed the key point in the complaint. In the one on the Lakeside Hotel assault, they did not deal at all with the unacceptable method of investigation used by the garda who tried to trick the suspect.
He found it strange that they expressed the view that the CCTV was delayed when there was no CCTV involved at all. He found it surprising that they did not question Superintendent Clancy on why there was no ID parade.
In respect of the Crossans pub assault, he says that Byrne and McGinn said the complaints were largely unfounded when in fact they were largely justified, but he leaves it there.
This was a pivotal moment for Sergeant Maurice McCabe, the first time he had taken his complaints to the hierarchy of An Garda Síochána who did not uphold them and tried to blame him. These are complaints that O’Higgins says were largely upheld.
To make matters worse, their report was sent to Deputy Commissioner Rice who said Byrne and McGinn were professional and impartial and carried out their work with propriety. He said Commissioner Callinan agreed with him.
Back at the base in Cavan-Monaghan, where the boys went out drinking and put up a picture of Maurice the rat, Chief Superintendent Rooney put a notice on the notice board about the confidential revelations of Sergeant McCabe, saying that it was found that there were no systemic failures identified in the management and there was no evidence to substantiate alleged breaches of procedure, that the findings of Assistant Commissioner Byrne vindicated the high standards and professionalism in the district.
Then he thanked them all and their families for the very difficult time they had been put through over these terrible revelations. All of these people were wrong and many of them are still serving officers.
What they did to Maurice McCabe would have floored a weaker man. I do not accept that no one should be called to account for that. It is not good enough for Mr. Justice O’Higgins to say it was okay for the Minister for Justice and Equality to rely on what he clearly says are flawed reports.
That is not good enough because in that type of approach nobody is held accountable and if nobody is accountable, bad practice continues. That is precisely why we are in the mess we are in today because, correctly, pressure over policing issues led to the departure of the Minister’s predecessor and the former Commissioner.
Now the dogs on the street know what we have been telling her for two years: nothing has changed. It has just been an illusion.
As Deputy Wallace said, we have come in here 18 times over the past two years and given the Minister detailed specific information about the horror being endured by current Garda whistleblowers, not to mind the written questions we have tabled to her, and she has done nothing.
She said in her speech that she never again wants to see the situation that Maurice McCabe was in, but that situation is here now. It has been here for the other people and she knows it. She referred to a sea change. There is no sea change.
Deputy Boyd Barrett referred to Garda Keith Harrison. We are being told there is a new dawn here, that everything will be great for these whistleblowers. It is not great for them and the legislation the Minister lauds is not fit for purpose. GSOC is incapable of playing the role of Garda confidential recipient.
Garda Harrison went to GSOC first on 13 September 2014. He met Simon O’Brien, who was still around at that time and who took the complaints very seriously. He came back in November and said that if a scintilla of what Garda Keith Harrison said was true, it was a very serious complaint. He put two officers in charge of it, but Garda Harrison heard nothing until April 2015 after Deputy Wallace raised the issues in here – I know Simon O’Brien departed but it is a big organisation.
That man has been through hell, even to the point of taking a legal action to stop the Garda invoking a disciplinary procedure taken 14 months after an alleged complaint against him was closed.
The State defended that action for almost a year before the courts, at what cost, until Christmas. Now Garda Harrison is off the payroll.
The Bill is not fit for purpose. Garda Nicky Keogh made allegations of gardaí being involved in the drugs trade. His papers have been with GSOC and the time for the protocols for that information being handed over by the Garda expired approximately three months ago.
The Garda has not furnished the papers to GSOC. It is an organisation that cannot deal with this area.
The Taoiseach talked about the independent review mechanism as a barometer of change, that it made recommendations in 300 cases. Apart from 20, the recommendation was that no action be taken.
That is not a great harbinger of things changing. To pretend that the new Policing Authority is dealing with all of this is a sleight of hand because the new authority was deliberately constituted and watered down to prevent the type of independent oversight that is necessary.
The Minister is legally the only person who can sort this out. The power rests with her and it will be her legacy if she does not take up what is in front of her on this. It is way past the time for the Commissioner to go. Her statement today was an utter insult.
It was very cleverly worded, stating counsel was not “instructed to impugn the integrity of Sergeant Maurice McCabe”. Funnily enough, they were the words used by Mr. Colm Smyth. The Chinese wall between his credibility and his motivation is utter rubbish, as other Deputies have said.
The testimony of other people at the commission is that it was quite adversarial and that Sergeant Maurice McCabe was being put on trial. Does the Commissioner really expect us to believe that putting out a statement saying that GSOC will look into the conduct of these two senior officers will kill this story?
These two serving officers were prepared to give false testimony on the record to discredit Maurice McCabe and the idea that Commissioner O’Sullivan, who was aware of this fact on day three of the commission, almost a year ago, did nothing about it until it became a major story is reason enough for her to go.
She is trying to tell us that the two officers were flying solo and she did not know anything about it. If she did not know about it at the start of the commission, she did know about it on days three and four.
If she did not know about it and these are solo runs, has she initiated a complaint to the Law Society about the conduct of Mr. Colm Smyth because he was quite clear that he was instructed to undermine the credibility and motivation of Maurice McCabe?
Of course she has not done that because the strategy could not have happened without her involvement, and the Minister legally is the only person who can deal with this.
Public trust is and has been broken for many around the country and this report has reopened many wounds. A retired garda in my constituency has been in contact with the Minister.
He was one of the investigating officers in the Baiba Saulite case involving a young woman who was murdered and he alleges, very much like Maurice McCabe, that if police work had been done properly previously, that young woman would not have died.
Many have been the victims of crime in the same situation. There are enormous systemic problems in An Garda Síochána and those in the last Government did not address them.
It now has a very limited window in terms of how it can respond. Deputy O’Brien said the Minister should have a stark conversation with the Commissioner. It is well past time for that.
I strongly recommend that the Minister initiate the legislative powers she has to investigate the behaviour of the Commissioner and that she releases the transcripts, which she has now that the commission has been dissolved, in order to clarify this matter which is the subject of significant public debate. There can be no reform or moving on without it.
The victims in Cavan and Monaghan for whom she has expressed her sympathy and the heroic efforts of Maurice McCabe and John Wilson, who has been in the Gallery for the entire debate, will not be remembered or properly recognised unless we take the necessary steps forward.
The Minister has been warned about this for the past two years, but the clock is ticking and there is very little time left.
Transcript via Oireachtas.ie
Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan leaves government buildings after meeting the Taoiseach over the recent spate of Dublin gangland killings.