Updated 2.50pmSource: TheJournal.ie/YouTube
BRENDAN HOWLIN SAID today he has spoken to Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe over his comments about Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan in the Dáil yesterday.
Yesterday, the Wexford TD and Labour Leader told the chamber that the Commissioner contacted journalists in 2013 and 2014 and made allegations of ‘sexual crimes’ against garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.
In a statement released yesterday afternoon, Nóirín O’Sullivan said she had “no knowledge of the matters referred to by Howlin” and refutes “in the strongest terms the suggestion that she has engaged in the conduct alleged against a serving member of An Garda Síochána”.
This is the first occasion on which the Commissioner has been made aware of the allegations made by Deputy Howlin and to her knowledge no report having been made to An Garda Síochána Ombudsman or elsewhere relating to the specific allegations.
Speaking again under Dáil privilege as the House debates the terms of reference which were published yesterday, Howlin said that McCabe expressed his “gratitude” to the Labour leader for his intervention.
He confirmed to me that he is of course aware, in specific detail, of the allegations made against him. He has been aware of them, and he and his family have had to live with them, for a number of years.
And I am glad to be able to inform the House that he has expressed gratitude for my intervention yesterday, and in no way regards it as having been damaging to him.
Because the nature of the allegations, as one journalist made clear on radio this morning, have not been a secret. The allegations have been circulated around the media, around political circles, and around Sergeant McCabe’s colleagues, for quite some time.
In a heated interview earlier this morning on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Howlin was questioned on whether it was appropriate to make the allegations.
He said he believes it was “absolutely appropriate” to make claims about Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan under Dáil privilege yesterday, and repeated his calls for her to step down pending the outcome of upcoming investigations.
He told Morning Ireland that the person who came forward to him, who had “first-hand knowledge” of the situation, would be willing to make the same statements in public if required.
“The person who contacted me said they had first-hand knowledge of these matters. I believe that person, I believe what was told.”
When asked whether he thought it was a good idea to go public with the information, he said:
I believed the person who contacted me yesterday, and I believe what they told me to be their honest belief and that is the criterion in the legislation.
“It’s always safer to be silent, it’s always safer to be silent.”
Howlin confirmed to the Dáil he will make himself available to Justice Charleton, who is tasked with leading the inquiry. In addition, he confirmed to the House that his “source” has also given consent for their name to be provided to the judge.
Howlin said the journalist has made it clear they are willing to provide him with all of the information at their disposal.
Following on from this morning’s radio interview, in which he was accused of spreading hearsay, Howlin said:
The only place in which we as members of this House have absolute privilege in what we say, is this place. And so we should speak in this place with respect for the responsibility that we bear.
Yesterday morning, I received information that I believed to be of significant public importance. The word hearsay has been bandied about plenty. But this was not idle chat or pub gossip.
Paying particular attention to the issue of the mobile phones of Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and former commissioner Martin Callinan, he said that over the course of this inquiry, the commissioner’s mobile phones and phone records over a two-year period are to be examined, as are all garda electronic and paper files, to see if she is implicated in this affair.
Nóirín O’Sullivan as Garda Commissioner is the custodian of the very records that Judge Charleton will examine, in order to see if they disclose wrongdoing by the Commissioner herself. I believe this places her in an untenable position.
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald told her Dáil deputies today that she would listen to the views of everyone and take on board any suggestions for amendments to the terms of reference.
Earlier, during Leaders’ Questions, both the Social Democrats’ Catherine Murphy and Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald had said the garda commissioner should step aside.
But Fitzgerald said: ”I don’t believe there is any reason for anyone to step aside,”
She is entitled to our full support and confidence.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who is in Poland today, also told reporters he has full confidence in the commissioner.
The Tánaiste also stated during today’s debate:
But we have to remember that the truth or otherwise of allegations is not determined by their seriousness or their frequency, but by the facts. And establishing those facts, without fear or favour, is what I am determined should happen…
It is of the utmost importance that allegations of wrongdoing by members of An Garda Síochána are fully addressed. And there is no doubt that in the past this did not happen as it should. But it is very important that in addressing one injustice that we do not create others.
Reminding TDs about the Guerin report controversy, in which a number of findings were overturned later by the O’Higgins inquiry, Fitzgerald said:
I would remind the House that we have seen in the recent past Commissions of Investigation establishing that people who have made allegations have been found to be correct in the face of denials and obstruction.
And, on the other hand that persons investigated had behaved completely properly. They had to live for a long time under the shadow of allegations that were found not to be well-based and, in some cases, their careers were ruined with great personal cost. That is the reality behind charges which can be made in this House.
A number of amendments have been put forward by the different political parties, who are looking to widen the scope of the investigation.
Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callahan said he was prepared to enter the Dáil chamber and suggest that other whistleblowers, who have also made claims of garda misconduct, be included in the inquiry.
However, he said he was willing to accept Judge O’Neill’s recommendation that the inquiry should solely deal with the allegations included in the terms of reference.
Independent 4 Change Clare Daly said “it is a fact that O’Neill did not get any information from those other whistleblowers” and therefore should not be able to recommend if they should be included in the inquiry or not.
The Taoiseach said in the Dáil yesterday that the allegations made against the commissioner are “vehemently denied”.
“The matter that you have raised is of the most serious import. I know you understand that, Deputy Howlin,” Enda Kenny said:
What you have said here has been commented upon about by the Ceann Comhairle in respect of hearsay and you’ve answered that yourself – but as I said, what is at issue here is a series of allegations, the truth of which have not been tested yet, and which I can tell the House are wholly and vehemently denied by those against whom the allegations are made.
Additional reporting by Christina Finn