From top: Maurice McCabe; Keith Harrison; Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and her husband Chief Superintendent James McGowan
Yo may recall the two recent protected disclosures sent to the Tanaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.
They were reportedly sent by Sgt Maurice McCabe and Supt Dave Taylor, former head of the Garda Press Office – with Supt Taylor stating he was instrumental in the campaign to discredit Sgt McCabe.
Yesterday, Philip Ryan, on Independent.ie, reported on a meeting that took place between the two gardai in which Supt Taylor told Sgt McCabe about the campaign.
Mr Ryan reported:
Taylor said three phones, which are currently in garda custody as part of the investigation into leaks, held the evidence to back up his claims.
He said the phones contained chains of text messages outlining the plot to target McCabe by spreading vicious lies about the whistleblower and his family.
The texts were sent to senior gardai, members of the media, and prominent politicians.
The allegations could never be printed due to the defamatory nature of the claims, but they spread like wildfire in political and garda circles.
No matter how many times independent investigations proved McCabe’s claims were correct, there was always a cloud over his reputation.
Taylor told McCabe he regretted the role he played in spreading the rumours but insisted he was acting under instruction.
He claimed former garda commissioner Martin Callinan knew what was going on, as did his successor Noirin O’Sullivan, who was then a deputy commissioner.
It was further reported that, in February 2015, Ms O’Sullivan’s husband Det Supt James McGowan seized Supt Taylor’s phone and laptop two months before Supt Taylor was arrested for allegedly leaking information to a journalist in relation to a Roma child being taken into custody over fears she had been kidnapped.
On Friday, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald appointed former High Court judge Justice Iarlaith O’Neill to review Sgt McCabe and Supt Taylor’s claims.
Further to this, the solicitor of fellow Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison, Trevor Collins spoke to Cathal MacCoille on RTE’s Morning Ireland this morning.
It came after Colm Burke, on yesterday’s This Week, reported on a letter Mr Collins sent to Ms Fitzgerald, on behalf of Mr Harrison, following the appointment of Justice O’Neill.
During the Morning Ireland interview, Mr Collins raised concerns about the scope of the new inquiry.
Cathal MacCoille: “I asked him [Trevor Collins] to outline what his client Keith Harrison’s objections to the review as proposed.”
Trevor Collins: “Well my client, two and a half years ago, Cathal, made a disclosure, a protected disclosure to, at that time, the Confidential Recipient which was later referred to GSOC and, following on from that, my client has had to endure a campaign that has been orchestrated, we believe, senior members of An Garda Siochana – the sole purpose of which has been to undermine his credibility and effectively destroy his reputation and this campaign has been endured by my client. We have made known to the minister and Tanaiste that this has been ongoing and that we’ve called upon her to take action.
“My client was astounded to learn, on Friday evening, the terms of references as they have been established in circumstances where, if you take it that, all week, the allegations that were before the Dail and that are on the Dail record that there appears to be a deliberate and high-level smear campaign against whistleblowers within An Garda Siochana, we took it that the Tanaiste would take the necessary steps to inquire into these very serious issues of public concern and it is disappointing to learn that she has chosen to, effectively, cherrypick and base any inquiry solely upon the disclosures of Sgt McCabe and Superintendent [Dave] Taylor rather than the other whistleblowers who have suffered similar treatment at the hands of An Garda Siochana.”
MacCoille: “And I know that you’ve put that view in a letter to the Minister on the 8th of October, seeking a wider review than that established – have you got any response?”
Collins: “As yet, no.”
MacCoille: “What do you make of the limitation of this inquiry, as set up by the Minister to the two protected disclosures made to her as Minister for Justice? That’s not including, obviously a disclosure from your client, Keith Harrison. Is that not a… why is that not a fair enough thing to do. If it’s on her desk, formally, a protected disclosure, why is it not reasonable for her to limit the inquiry purely to those two disclosures?”
Collins: “Well, the issue here is that, as An Tanaiste’s press release states, in her own words, she states it is vitally important that the claims that people make in disclosures are properly addressed and she states that they should be proper, just and fair to all and the rights of everyone, to fair and proper procedures have to be vindicated – these are her words. And my submission is that while we are a whistleblower and my client had made known to the Minister the serious issues that are, that he has suffered and the victimisation, the intimidation, the ostracization that is ongoing. I have outlined to her, in no uncertain terms the issues that I believe are of public concern and they have been on her desk since May, at the very least. This is the fourth or fifth time that I’ve written to the minister on this matter and to simply ignore these issues and leave my client in limbo does not vindicate his rights.”
MacCoille: “Can you give us some more detail on, without naming people obviously, on the kind of pressure you say Keith Harrison, your client, has undergone because of being a whistleblower?”
Collins: “Well what I can say, without going into detail, is he has been the subject of surveillance, he has suffered victimisation, bullying harassment, as has his family. There has been a dissemination of rumour and innuendo which has been solely designed to undermine his credibility and that has been circulated within certain members of the media, certain politicians and his Garda colleagues. And, furthermore, there’s been a deliberate frustration of GSOC’s investigations of his disclosures. The whole campaign and operation here is designed to frustrate any investigation into my client’s disclosures, to discredit him and to destroy his reputation. So that if any findings are made, that his credibility and integrity is in his question.”
MacCoille: “And it’s his belief, is it, that all of this dates back, or starts with the time in 2009 when he stopped a Garda colleague for drink driving – a charge which was subsequently dismissed in the court?”
Collins: “There was particular issues that relate from 2009 to 2014. But they are being dealt with in a separate forum. The issues that we have put before the Minister relate to the period after his disclosure, his protected disclosure became known and, following on from that, the treatment he has suffered is what has caused us serious concern. And this treatment has been dished out effectively by An Garda Siochana.”
MacCoille: “How sure can he be, given what we’ve heard several times from the Garda Commissioner [Noirin O’Sullivan] that she supports whistleblowers and would not support any campaign against him and how sure can Keith Harrison be that this was organised at a senior level, as he alleges?”
Collins: “Recently, we’ve learned of an instance where certain issues were disseminated from Garda Headquarters to members of the media. This has confirmed what…this is one of the issues, this is one of the facts that have been confirmed to our client and this is confirmed to him that what he believed to be the case is in fact true.”
MacCoille: “Confirmed by a journalist?”
Collins: “I cannot go into it any further than that, Cathal, but what I can say is that the similarities as between the whistleblowers and so far as what has been reported and the treatment, it’s, you’re talking about whistleblowers from different divisions but they’re suffering the same type of treatment.”
Collins: “This appears to be a flawed inquiry from the very outset. If Mr Justice O’Neill is unable to deal with and look into whistleblowers and their treatment, from the outset, rather than having it done in a piecemeal fashion where you’re dealing with Sgt McCabe and Supt Taylor, and their disclosures, and effectively leaving aside and not vindicating the rights of the other whistleblowers, in so far as the complaints and issues they brought to the attention of the minister.”
Listen back in full here