During Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s final Leaders’ Questions.
Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly said the manner in which Mr Kenny has handled the scandals concerning the gardaí, former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan’s departure and matters concerning the current Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan will stain his legacy.
“I’m not privy to, nor did I approve, nor would I condone any campaign of harassment or any campaign to malign any individual employee.”
Ms Daly said she had seen information showing that, in September 2016, written reports were being sought for Ms O’Sullivan about the alleged bullying and harassment Garda whistleblower Nick Kehoe was enduring.
Ms Daly also raised concerns about the liaison group that Ms O’Sullivan uses to communicate with Justice Peter Charleton, who is leading the Disclosures Tribunal.
In March, the Irish Independent reported that Ms O’Sullivan’s liaison group included retired assistant commissioner Mick O’Sullivan, former chief superintendent Brendan Mangan and Detective Superintendent Tony Howard.
Ms Daly claimed Ms O’Sullivan’s liaison group is being used to “filter information going to Charleton”.
From the Dáil exchange…
Clare Daly: “Taoiseach, I’m conscious that this is your last Leaders’ Questions. I’m conscious too that there’s been a bit of a rebirth lately with the prevailing narrative being that history is going to remember you kindly. But, you know what, when the dust settles, your legacy is going to be stained by the manner in which you handled the departure of the last Garda Commissioner. A stain which has obviously cast a shadow over your willingness or your ability to deal with the present one.”
“So I want to genuinely put it to you, Taoiseach, that it’s not too late to change tack, it’s not too late to act in the interests of An Garda Siochana. Now Taoiseach, last week, I received information, under FOI, from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety which shows very clearly that officers in An Garda Siochana were well aware, in 2014, that every breath-test machine had a running total of breath-tests done each time it was calibrated and that each machine was returned to every station with a form outlining those numbers.”
“So, the information which the Garda Commissioner [Noirin O’Sullivan] told us, that they only got in March this year, and responded to promptly, they actually had all along and loads of gardai knew about it.”
“Meanwhile, whistleblower Nick Kehoe also got information under FOI last week that showed, in September 2016, written reports were being sought for the Commissioner about his treatment and bullying and harassment he was receiving. Bullying and harassment which the Commissioner denied to the justice committee.”
“Meanwhile, at the Public Accounts Committee this morning, we’re seeing an insight into the open warfare that’s taken place with the civilian heads and the Garda hierarchy. Taoiseach, this is unsustainable. The gardaí’s auditor being deliberately obstructed in his work and that’s without even mentioning the missing phone.”
“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that to lose one phone is careless, to lose two smacks of perverting the course of justice. And that’s what it is, particularly when you know that the owner of that phone was the very person charged, by the minister, with ensuring the retention of data and new procedures would be put in place when the old commissioner [Martin Callinan] lost his phone. Come on.”
“It’s gone too far, at this stage, no matter what way you look at it, that’s a sackable offence. It’s very clear now: the tactic being used by the Commissioner, in O’Higgins [inquiry] to impugn the motivation of Maurice McCabe to undermine his testimony, is now going to be replicated with [Justice Peter] Charleton, with [Superintendent] Dave Taylor being scapegoated this time.”
“The work of the commission is being deliberately and consciously undermined. We’ve known that for some time, through the existence of the tribunal liaison group inside An Garda Siochana, to filter information that goes to Charleton.”
“What I want to know Taoiseach, the continuance of this group is a threat to the effective operation of the Charleton Inquiry and my question is what are you going to do about it? Do you think it’s acceptable that a commission, set up by this house, is having its work undermined. I don’t think it’s fair that you would leave the decision to remove the commissioner, to either Simon or Leo. A sign of a good leader is someone who says they can change their mind, it’s not too late for you, to ask her to stand down.”
Enda Kenny: “We’ve had a lof of discussion about this here already. The Government made the decision and the house accepted that the Charleton Inquiry should be set up. As I pointed out to Deputy [Mick] Barry yesterday, Mr Justice Charleton is an exceptionally appropriate appointment for this, having dealt with the Morris Tribunal over a decade in Donegal.
“And I prefer really to have, to let him have his, have his commission do its work. I don’t know whether the allegation of this particular phone being missing is true or not. But the justice has already set out the timescale and the hearings that are to take place. And there are public hearings of the Charleton commission in July on this very issue.
“Now the PAC are meeting this morning and I’ve heard some of the comments and the discrepancies that exist, indeed between some of the contributions that are being made there. But, be that as it may, this house has set up a commission of investigation here, a tribunal, to deal with this matter and no better person than Justice Charleton to do that. So, your question about the previous commissioner was the subject of a full-scale tribunal of investigation, or commission of investigation which made a judgement and ruling, in respect of the previous commissioner. Obviously, the current commissioner is one of the people, whom I named yesterday as having legal representation at the Charleton Inquiry and the hearings on that take place in public in July. That’s not too far distant. I expect Justice Charleton will find out the veracity of these allegations, the facts and the truth. That’s why he’s appointed.”
Daly: “You’re not an unintelligent man, Taoiseach, which leads me to believe that you’re actually being deliberately obtuse here, in this scenario. I’ve no problem with Justice Charleton doing his job. What I have a problem with is other people actively and deliberately trying to undermine and frustrate his efforts to do that job. The facts of which, you say, you don’t know. I do know. Let’s even park the phone for now.”
“Let’s look at the existence of the tribunal liaison group. A clearing house of hand-picked loyalists who’ve been employed or seconded inside An Garda Siochana to filter information going to Charleton. You haven’t commented about that. Do you have a problem about the fact that people, civilians, are being employed back into An Garda Siochana to deal with this, outside the protocol which requires the Policing Authority should be, informed. Why were these people being picked? What’s going on there?
“Taoiseach, you can’t dodge this issue. It’s actually going to stain your legacy. I feel bad for you because of that. And, you know, it might make one of lads seem like a hero when, in a couple of times, this, in a couple of weeks’ time, this decision is going to be made by one of them.
“But you know who it’s really not fair for? It’s not really fair to the members – civilian and ordinary gardai – whose force has fallen down around them with every day you sit on this and do nothing.”
Kenny: “I think you underestimate the capacity of Justice Charleton completely here…”
Previously: Controlling The Investigation