From top: Paul Reynolds, of RTÉ; Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan speaking to journalists at Phoenix Park this morning
Paul Reynolds interviewed Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.
It’s the first time Ms O’Sullivan has spoken publicly about the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation.
Mr Reynolds reported on RTÉ’s News At One’s news headlines:
“The Garda Commissioner was anxious today to reassure the public that changes that are badly needed in An Garda Siochana will be implemented including changes in training, supervision, incident management and how victims of crime are dealt with.”
“She says it took some time to make the case for investment so that the gardaí could receive the resources necessary to make these changes happen.”
“In relation to allegations that some officers may have been preparing to give testimony against Sgt Maurice McCabe, at the O’Higgins Commission, which contradicted his, at a meeting in Mullingar, the Commissioner said she took action as soon as she became aware of the public commentary that gave this impression.”
“She said that she cannot comment further because the matter is being investigated by GSOC. She also said that the Garda needs to change its approach to whistleblowers but it’s already taken steps in that regard.”
Listen to Mr Reynolds’ interview with Ms O’Sullivan in full here (go to 10.20)
Paul Reynolds: “Commissioner, you mentioned there were recurring faults. What do you say to criticism from people like Mick Wallace and Clare Daly, elected representatives, who say that you were a part of the senior management who didn’t implement those changes when they should have been implemented because the faults kept occurring?”
Noirin O’Sullivan: “Well I don’t think that there’s either time or space to go into it here but that’s something we can explore further with the authority and that’s why we were very anxious that the authority would bring forward a public session because I think it’s very important that the public are reassured that there are lessons have been learned and I think also that…”
Reynolds: “But why were they recurring?”
O’Sullivan: “That the public can be reassured that there is now adequate levels of investment, to allow us to start implementing some of those changes that are very badly needed. So for example, if you look at some of the criticisms, quite right criticisms, in the O’Higgins Commission particularly, we had incident management and supervisory management about insuring that Gardaí are properly trained. That there are supervisory management practices in place to ensure that people are actually being supervised properly and they have been supported in doing the job that they have to do and providing the appropriate level of service. Particularly to victims in crime, we now have the opportunity to put those measures in place because we now do have the investment.”
Reynolds: “You’ve been criticised in relation to, following the publication of the report, in relation to the actions of some senior officers. Now, I know that allegations were made, they’re unfounded, and this has been sent to GSOC for investigation, but the questions in relation to you have been: what did you know about this? When did you know it? And why didn’t you act before the GSOC investigation was set up?”
O’Sullivan: “Well I think there are a couple of very important points that need to be made. Firstly, Mr Justice O’Higgins conducted a Commission of Investigation, of which we was the sole member. He had the opportunity to hear all of the evidence, from all of the parties and all of the submissions on behalf of all of the legal parties. And Mr O’Higgins’ report speaks for itself, having weighed up all of those submissions, all of the evidence given by all parties. When we received the O’Higgins Commission report, and some of the public commentary attributing, misplaced or otherwise, belief that senior officers had done something which was improper and inappropriate to do, then it was immediately required to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission and that investigation, I’m not allowed, I can’t comment any further but it is being investigated by the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission.”
Reynolds: “But can you not say why you didn’t take action when you became aware of it?”
O’Sullivan: “Well you know, I’m sure Justice O’Higgins would have a view, if I were to go into the middle of his commission. But, as soon as I became aware of the public commentary which gave this impression, it was required to the Ombudsman.”
Reynolds: “You gave evidence to the Commission, didn’t you?”
O’Sullivan: “Well I think anybody that looks at the report, there’s an appendice of witnesses to the report. Obviously, the Commission was a private sitting and it was a matter for anybody that was before the Commission to request it to be in public but it is a matter of record, in the report, that I appeared as a witness.”
Reynolds: “But what about your handling of Sgt Maurice McCabe? The criticisms in relation to instructions to your lawyers, in relation to testing his credibility, his motivation and his integrity?”
O’Sullivan: “Well, you know, again, I’m on record as saying that An Garda Siochana have lots of things to change. One of them is our approach to people who want to have a different voice and who have a different voice and want to bring things to our attention. And very, very clearly, from day one, I’ve said that dissent is not disloyalty, we have taken a number of steps to ensuring that people can bring forward issues of which they want to raise. Some of those people just want to raise their issues and they want to have them dealt with and they have that right. In order for people to be able to come forward and people that want to, under the Protective Disclosures Act, bring forward disclosures. We have put systems into place to ensure that people can do that, that there will be a safe environment in which they can do it. And we are working with bodies, such as Transparency Ireland, to ensure that the proper environment is there so that people can do that. We’ve also appointed a Protective Disclosures Manager and we will have appropriately trained staff to deal with that.”
Reynolds: “Ok but why did you, why did you test his credibility and motivation… no, sorry, why did you test his credibility and motivation?”
O’Sullivan: “Well, I think, refer it back to the statement, you know, I’m very restricted in what I can say in relation to what happened at the Commission but I think a previous statement makes it clear what the approach was.”
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.
RTÉ crime correspondent Paul Reynolds on RTÉ’s Six One earlier this evening
Earlier this evening.
RTÉ crime correspondent Paul Reynolds reported that he obtained new documents in relation to the exchanges between Garda Commissioner’s senior counsel Colm Smyth and Judge Kevin O’Higgins during the Commission of Investigation into Sgt Maurice McCabe’s complaints.
Mr Reynolds reported that the documents show Mr Smyth told the judge he was instructed, by the Commissioner, to challenge the ‘motivation and credibility’ of Sgt Maurice McCabe.
This, Mr Reynolds reported, was because Ms O’Sullivan had to consider the welfare of all of the gardai not just Sgt McCabe.
Grab a tay.
Mary Wilson: “Paul Reynolds, what’s going on?”
Paul Reynolds: “Well. OK. This controversy began last week when it was reported that the Garda Commissioner’s legal team was going to claim that Sgt Maurice McCabe was motivated by malice. This was in marked contrast to the Commissioner’s public statements in support of the Garda whistleblower.”
“Now we have seen documents today which show that, early in the Commission’s hearings, the Commissioner’s senior counsel said that, quote, his instructions from the Commissioner were to challenge the integrity of Sgt Maurice McCabe. Now the judge put that issue to one side, so if you can think of that as an earlier hearing.”
Reynolds: “And that was brought up later in the proceedings in the hearings of the Commission. In fact, just before the Garda Commissioner was due to give evidence. Now. The Garda Commissioner came in to give evidence and the judge sought clarification on this issue.”
“Now the Commissioner’s senior counsel then told Mr Justice Kevin O’Higgins that, quote, my instructions at all times were to challenge the motivation and credibility of Sgt Maurice McCabe.”
“Senior counsel Colm Smyth also said that it was on an error on my part when he said, earlier, that his instructions had been to challenge the integrity of Sgt McCabe.
“So he said that he made a mistake at the earlier hearing when he said he was challenging his integrity. But he said they were going to challenge Sgt McCabe’s motivation and credibility.”
“But, specifically, they were going to challenge his motivation and credibility in relation to his allegations of corruption and malpractice. Now you know that, sorry, we know that Sgt McCabe made serious allegations of corruption against five senior officers including the former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.”
“So, the Garda Commissioner’s legal team was going to challenge his motivation and credibility in relation to this. Senior counsel for the Garda Commissioner told the judge that Sgt McCabe had, quote, alleged corruption on the grand scale against the five senior officers and that he had been invited to withdraw the allegations of corruption against Martin Callinan but he had refused to do so.”
“Now, as we know, the commission’s report came out last week and found there was no evidence to substantiate any of the allegations of corruption against any of the gardaí and not a scintilla of evidence to support Sgt McCabe’s allegations of corruption against the Commissioner.”
“So the Garda Commissioner’s senior counsel also pointed out the reason why he was challenging the motivation and credibility of Sgt McCabe on these points, he said he was doing this on behalf of Nóirín O’Sullivan because she had to consider the welfare of all of the gardai not just Sgt McCabe. She had a concern for his welfare and his concerns, but she also had a concern for the other officers, the other officers against whom the allegations were made. They were also under her control and, quote, that she had to hold the balance.”
Wilson: “Ok, a lot of detail there, Paul, if we pick our way through it, I take it you’ve had sight of certain material. We know that other material that other reporters had sight of has made its way into the newspapers.”
“At this stage, without challenging the rights and wrongs of either sets of documents that you’ve all seen and what they say or don’t say, how is this going to be all cleared up, once and for all? Does it require the commission chairman to come out and make a clear statement?”
“Because we’re talking here, not about the evidence, if I’m correct, but about the case that’s being set out by the lawyers. A lawyer would come into a courtroom or before a commission and say, the case I’m going to make is this, they set out their stall.”
“So does it require the commission chairman to make a statement, to clarify it for once and for all, or does it require the lawyers to come out and clarify for once and for all about what went on?”
Reynolds: “Well, these documents are essentially clarification documents and they do tend to clarify it because if you look, just to go further, in relation to that allegation of malice – and that’s the one that’s been subsuming people and politicians over the last week – Colm Smyth, the senior counsel for the Garda Commissioner told the judge that the Commissioner never claimed that Sgt McCabe was motivated by malice and he said, ‘I never used the words mala fides’. He said, ‘those were the words that in the first instance came from Mr McDowell’, that’s Michael McDowell, senior counsel who was representing Maurice McCabe, his legal representative.”
“He also said that the word ‘malice’ was introduced, or the words mala fides were introduced by yourself, the judge, in interpreting what my instructions were. So he said that the Garda, that he never used the word malice or mala fides and neither did…he never used them on behalf of the Commissioner, the words were used by the judge and by Michael McDowell, who was representing Maurice McCabe.”
Wilson: “But then, sorry, Paul, just to be clear. Colm Smyth we’re talking about here, the senior counsel, what was he going in to clarify when he went back before the commission then?”
Reynolds: “You see what happened was, at this later hearing, the judge read a transcript to Colm Smyth from the earlier hearing. And at the earlier hearing the word ‘malice’ was used twice by the judge when he put the transcript, the earlier transcript to the senior counsel, and the senior counsel.”
“And the senior counsel in the transcript of the earlier hearing replied, ‘so be it, that is the position judge’. However the issue had been left to one side so this later hearing clarifies that when the judge reads the transcript back to Colm Smyth and he says, the senior counsel on behalf of the Garda Commissioner, he clarifies this by saying, ‘I never used the words mala fides’ and after he clarifies it, the senior counsel for the Commission, Sean Gillane stands up and says, ‘let me clarify this’ and he says, quote, “no case was being made that Sgt McCabe either lacks integrity or acted mala fides in bringing his complaints”.”
Reynolds: “So he clarifies it and the judge accepts this and he says, oh, this clarifies the position, and the judge’s final word in the exchange is, ‘good, well that is clarified’ so the judge accepts the bona fides of Colm Smyth acting on behalf of the Garda Commissioner and accepts the clarification and Noirin O’Sullivan then gives her evidence.”
Katie Hannon and David McCullagh on RTÉ’s Prime Time tonight
Meanwhile, also earlier tonight, journalist Katie Hannon revealed sections of transcripts from the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation in May and November, on RTÉ’s Prime Time.
The following are the sections reported by Ms Hannon:
Colm Smyth SC: “I have instructions from the Commissioner, Judge. This is an inquiry dealing with allegations of malpractice and corruption on a grand scale by members of An Garda Siochana.”
Judge Kevin O’Higgins: “No. This part of the inquiry…”
Smyth: “I appreciate that but my instructions are to challenge the integrity of Sgt McCabe and his motivation.”
O’Higgins: “The integrity?”
Smyth: “His motivation and his credibility in mounting these allegations of corruption and malpractice.”
O’Higgins: “…An attack on somebody’s credibility and his motivation or integrity is something that really doesn’t form part of this inquiry. It would be necessary for you to go further and say that the complaints and the actions of Sgt McCabe were motivated by… that is motivation was dishonest or wrong.”
O’Higgins: “…In other words that he made these allegations not in good faith but because he was motivated by malice, by some such motive and that impinges on his integrity. If those are your instructions from the Commissioner, so be it.”
Smyth: “So be it. That is the position judge.”
O’Higgins: “Those are your…”
Smyth: “Yes. As the evidence will demonstrate judge…[later] this isn’t something I’m pulling out of the sky, judge, I mean I can only acting on instructions.
O’Higgins: “But you are attacking his motivation and you are attacking his integrity?”
Smyth: “Right the way through.”
O’Higgins: “Full stop.”
Smyth: “Yes. Full stop.”
Smyth: “My instructions are reconfirmed.”
O’Higgins: “Very good. Your instructions as I understand them are that Sgt McCabe acted as he did for improper motives.”
O’Higgins: “Okay and that his integrity is being challenged in that respect.”
Smyth: “In that respect.”
O’Higgins: “Okay, fine. So be it.”
Later in November, on the day Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan is due to give evidence – by which time Sgt McCabe had produced a transcript of his meeting in Mullingar with two gardaí
Smyth: “As far as the Commissioner was concerned at all stages I had instructions to challenge Sgt McCabe in relation to motivation and credibility.”
O’Higgins: “And integrity?”
Smyth: “No. There was no mention of integrity.”
Smyth: “…that is an error on my part.”
O’Higgins: “Well that is the clarification I sought. So the position now is that his motive is under attack, credibility is under attack from the Commissioner. But not his integrity.”
Smyth: “Just to be clear about it. The credibility in so far as he made these allegations of corruption and malpractice. There is no question about that.”
Smyth: “Judge, the Commissioner has a duty of care to all members. She wasn’t acquiescing. She has to hold the balance between, on the one part she has Sgt McCabe who she has a concern for and his welfare and on the other hand she has a concern for the Superintendents who are under her control. She has to hold the balance. She cannot come down on the side of Sgt McCabe and say I agree with everything he says without challenge.”
Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter, right, and former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan
Further to the lunchtime publication of the O’Higgins report into allegations made by Sgt Maurice McCabe – which was prompted by the Guerin report.
Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter responds…
I want to thank Mr Justice Kevin O’Higgins and his team for the manner in which the Commission’s investigation was conducted, their careful and thorough approach to establish the truth and to ensure the application of fair procedures.
I welcome that the O’Higgins Commission, having conducted an independent sworn statutory Commission of Investigation, has concluded that, when Minister for Justice, I took “very seriously” the complaints and allegations of 23rd January 2012, made by Sgt Maurice McCabe through the Confidential Recipient and that there were “compelling considerations” which justified my response to them. (These are detailed in Para 13.123 & 124 of the Commission’s Report).
Contrary to the Guerin Report’s assertion that I failed “to heed the voice” of Sgt McCabe, I also welcome that the O’Higgins Commission found that I had “very substantial concerns” about Sgt McCabes’ complaints and that at all times I dealt “professionally”, “promptly”, “reasonably” and “appropriately” with them.
Moreover, contrary to the Guerin Report, the O’Higgins Commission also found that I was “intimately” aware of the relevant applicable legislation, as were officials in the Department of Justice.
The O’Higgins Commission also rejects the contention of Sgt McCabe, given credence in the Guerin Report, that in my initially seeking a report from the Garda Commissioner on the serious allegations made by Sgt McCabe I was asking the Commissioner to “investigate himself”.
The Commission concludes that my doing so was “an obvious, prudent and sensible thing to do” and had I “acted otherwise” I would have been “open to justified criticism”.
I further welcome the conclusion that I “cannot be faulted” for “not taking further action” concerning a request for an inquiry, made in September 2012 by Sgt McCabe’s solicitors, “in circumstances where Sgt McCabe continued to assert a claim of confidentiality over relevant correspondence and enclosures”.
The Commission acknowledges this prevented the obtaining of “observations” from the then Garda Commissioner “as a preliminary step before deciding whether to establish such an inquiry”.
In fact, the Commission finds that my “personal input” in seeking to resolve this difficulty “displayed personal and active concern” on my part.
I am relieved that the truth has been established and that the O’Higgins Commission “unreservedly” accepted my evidence that I never held views, opinions or attitudes “wrongly attributed” to me by Mr Oliver Connolly, the former Confidential Recipient and recorded and transcribed by Sgt McCabe.
These got widespread currency and resulted in substantial controversy. The Report states that my evidence on this matter was “unchallenged and uncontradicted” in the hearing before the Commission. Both Sgt McCabe and Mr Connolly were present and legally represented at the relevant hearing.
One of the matters of major concern was the alleged Garda failings preceding the appalling murder of the late Sylvia Roche Kelly in 2007.
Charges made against me of ignoring the concerns of Sgt McCabe connected to this tragic event have now been independently established to be unfounded.
The O’Higgins Commission acknowledges that I was aware that a complaint had been made by Mr Lorcan Roche Kelly to GSOC which was engaged in an independent investigation into what occurred.
The Commission describes GSOC’s investigation as “thorough and necessarily lengthy” with certain aspects ongoing.
It is very regrettable that Mr Roche Kelly, prior to my appointment as Minister for Justice, as the Commission finds, was “not well served by the fact that a considerable period of time elapsed” in GSOC deciding whether it or An Garda Siochana on its behalf should conduct the required investigation and due to some confusion within GSOC as to the relevant statutory provisions.
In short, the findings of the O’Higgins Report, like the earlier Cooke and Fennelly Reports, have unequivocally established that, when Minister for Justice, I dealt properly and truthfully with Garda related matters that gave rise to substantial controversy in the Spring of 2014 and many false allegations by opposition politicians, including Micheal Martin, the Fianna Fail leader of the opposition.
The conclusions of the O’Higgins Commission totally contradict and are incompatible with the adverse findings made against me in the Guerin Report.
The O’Higgins Commission rightly praises Sgt McCabe for highlighting deficiencies in investigations, failures in procedures and practices, and poor conditions in Bailiboro Garda station.
It records that eleven, but not all of his complaints had previously been upheld by the internal Garda Byrne/McGinn Investigation concluded in 2010.
Some of the complexity of dealing with issues raised by Sgt McCabe is derived from the fact, as found by the O’Higgins Commission, that he is “prone to exaggeration at times”.
In this context, the Commission records that some of his complaints have been upheld by it whilst “others have proven to be overstated or exaggerated”.
Some of a very serious nature were determined to be “without foundation” or “any evidence” or “unreasonable”. A number of complaints of long duration were withdrawn during the course of the Commissions’ hearings.
The Commission found “there was not a scintilla of evidence” for his “hurtful” allegations that former Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, was guilty of corruption and arranged to have a Superintendent placed on a promotion list, this being the primary complaint received by me as Minister on 23rd January 2012 which was at the foundation of allegations made by Michael Martin on the Dail plinth and later in the Dail Chamber in February 2014.
What the Commission also described as “hurtful” allegations of corruption made against Asst Commissioner Byrne, Chief Superintendent Rooney and Superintendent Clancy and an implied allegation against Superintendant Cunningham were all also determined to be “unfounded”.
Of course, these allegations of corruption should never have been made.
Garda related events in which I was engaged, when Minister for Justice, which gave rise to substantial public controversy have now been examined by three different independent retired judges of our Superior Courts.
They have irrefutably established that serious charges and accusations made against me, both inside and outside the Dail, were entirely untrue.
For over two years, I have had to live with the public opprobrium, criticism and abuse they generated. I hope that with the publication of the O’Higgins Report, I can now move on to a new chapter.
It is clear from the O’Higgins Report that the Garda failings indentified in it occurred well before my appointment as Minister for Justice, at a time when Micheal Martin was in Government.
It is now for Micheal Martin to explain why, in February 2014, he chose to ignore that all of the matters detailed in Sgt McCabe’s letter of 23rd January 2012, save for the allegations of corruption against the Garda Commissioner, related to events that occurred in 2007/2008 when Fianna Fail was in Government, and why he chose, together with his Fianna Fail colleagues, to accuse me of “undermining the administration of Justice in the State” and to target me with a torrent of false allegations about my conduct as Minister for Justice.
The truth has now been irrefutably established. Now that we are in the era of “new politics”, I hope that Michael Martin and all of my accusers, then in opposition, will now reflect on how they dealt with these matters and withdraw on the Dail record the false allegations they made.
Before my resignation and in my resignation letter and also following publication of the Guerin Report in engagements with the Taoiseach and, later, on 19th June 2014, in the Dail Chamber, I disputed the approach of Mr Sean Guerin SC in the conduct of his Inquiry.
Both in my engagements with the Taoiseach and in the Dail Chamber, I disputed his findings against me.
My concerns were entirely ignored by the Taoiseach and my Dail contribution was not only ignored by all sides in the Dail Chamber, including the Minister for Justice, but also ridiculed and criticised by some commentators.
The Guerin Report was laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas, its flawed conclusions and opinions were accepted in full by the Government and the Taoiseach put on the Dail record its adverse conclusions concerning my conduct as Minister for Justice.
If the Government, as it must, accepts the O’Higgins Commission findings in full, the Taoiseach now has a duty to correct the Dail record.
The Government also has a duty to ensure the now discredited adverse conclusions and opinions contained in the Guerin Report are acknowledged to be in error and corrected and that the Report is withdrawn from circulation in its present form.
These are important issues of relevance to standards in public life, fair procedures and the importance of truth in politics. I will be writing to the Taoiseach on issues of relevance and importance following on from publication of the O’Higgins Report and seeking a substantive response.
Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and former Justice Minister Alan Shatter
Further to the O’Higgins Commission’s report being handed to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald yesterday, which hasn’t been published yet…
The O’Higgins Commission of Inquiry has found that former minister for justice Alan Shatter took allegations of garda whistleblowers very seriously.
The unpublished report said he had very substantial concerns and had displayed active and personal concern.
Given that most of the allegations had been examined or were previously reviewed, the actions of the then minister were amply justified, it believes.
In relation to the former garda commissioner, Martin Callinan, the report states that clearly and unambiguously there was not a scintilla of evidence to support any allegation of any type of corruption.
The commission found that any aspersions on his integrity were unfounded and deeply hurtful.
It also said that exchanges between the garda commissioner, the justice minister and the Department of Justice were at all times professional and appropriate.
The O’Higgins Commission of Inquiry also found that garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe acted out of genuine and legitimate concerns.
It concluded the garda sergeant showed courage and performed a public service at considerable personal cost.