THE MINISTER FOR Justice, Alan Shatter, had outlined the reasons why he sacked the Garda Confidential Recipient – and said that the system is to be replaced soon.
It emerged yesterday that Oliver Connolly, the confidential recipient, had been been relieved of his duties.
This followed controversy surrounding comments Connolly was alleged to have made to a garda whistleblower, comments which Shatter was subsequently asked about in the Dáil.
Parts of an alleged conversation Connolly had with Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe were read into the Dáil record last week.
Connolly is alleged to have told McCabe: “I’ll tell you something, Maurice, and this is just personal advice to you, if Shatter thinks you’re screwing him, you’re finished.”
This evening, Minister Shatter gave more information on the sacking, saying that he had “found it necessary” to relieve Connelly of his position.
While rumours were circulating for some time regarding the existence of an alleged tape and transcript of a confidential conversation between Mr Connolly and Sergeant Maurice McCabe, given the importance of the office’s confidentiality, no justice minister could properly seek out such a transcript or tape.However, following an alleged extract from the alleged tape being placed on the Dáil record, I asked my Department two weeks ago to contact Mr Connolly outlining my concerns that, if the conversation as reported had taken place, then his actions had undermined the office of the Confidential Recipient.
However, Shatter said that contacts with Connolly over the following two weeks “did not satisfy me as to his response to the controversy”.
I informed him that in the context of his failure to unequivocally repudiate the content of the alleged conversation or take the necessary action to restore public confidence in the office of Confidential Recipient, I believed his position was untenable and I had no alternative but to relieve him of the position.
Prior to this controversy, the Minister had announced that he “did not believe” the office of Confidential Recipient and the legislation applicable to it “was fulfilling the objective for which it was established”.
He said that he wanted to abolish the office and have the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission address complaints from members of An Garda Síochána who allege misconduct within the force.
He confirmed tonight that he is now working with Minister Brendan Howlin to make an amendment to the Protected Disclosures Bill which would bring in this replacement system.
The bill is currently before the Dáil and will be enacted in the coming weeks.
The post of confidential recipient will be filled in the interim by a retired judge, who has not yet been appointed.
In his statement tonight, Minister Shatter said he believed the confidential recipient “must adopt an approach that creates confidence for any member of An Garda Síochána communicating an issue of concern”.
He added that communications must remain confidential between the member of An Garda Síochána and the confidential recipient.