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Calls for Noirín O'Sullivan to resign as Garda Commissioner

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald tonight stopped shy of completely endorsing the Commissioner.

27/11/2014. RSA Christmas Campaigns Source: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

Updated 23.17 

THERE HAVE BEEN calls this evening for Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan to resign her position.

Speaking in Dáil Éireann, independent TD Clare Daly told justice minister Frances Fitzgerald that if the Commissioner didn’t resign “she’s going to take you with her”.

Daly further asked Fitzgerald whether she was going to call for an investigation into the Commissioner on the part of GSOC.

TD Mick Wallace added to Daly’s remarks saying “you’re not going to change how you do policing until you change the hierarchy”.

On RTÉ’s Prime Time this evening a number of submissions made to the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation from May 2015, which had not been previously published, were read out.

Speaking on the programme subsequent to this, Fitzgerald said that she thought the reading of those transcripts was illegal, and that she was unsure of whether or not she could legally comment upon them.

“It’s illegal to publish these transcripts, I don’t know whether they’re partial or full,” she said in a tense interview.

These transcripts are here illegally, and I don’t know how comprehensive they are.
I have to accept the findings in Justice O’Higgins’ report. I can’t comment in detail on that because it’s illegal.

“Instead of focusing on the evidence that was given to the Commission, we should focus on the new safeguards that are put in place for whistleblowers,” she said.

Whether or not the reading of the tonight’s transcripts is in fact illegal appears to be covered by Section 11 of the Commissions of Investigation act 2004, which can be read here.

The minister was then asked repeatedly whether she had confidence in the Garda Commissioner, and stopped short of doing so:

All of the evidence in relation to the job the Commissioner is doing as regards modernising and reforming, in terms of dealing with the changes that are made necessary in this report, in taking those recommendations forward, in dealing with the issues of supervision, yes in terms of her role as Garda Commissioner, obviously you don’t change a culture overnight, and there are changes in culture necessary in terms of this report.

When pressed on the issue for a yes or no answer, Fitzgerald replied:

“We don’t know if these transcripts are accurate, or if they’re taken out of context. We don’t know the full context. When the full report was written they didn’t feature.”

When asked a final time if she had confidence in the Commissioner Fitzgerald replied that she “couldn’t possibly answer a question put like that”.

It would be completely wrong of me to comment on evidence that didn’t feature in the final edition of the report.

When contacted for comment this evening on the legality or otherwise of the reading of the transcripts on tonight’s programme, an RTÉ spokesperson told TheJournal.ie:

We’ve nothing to add this evening.

Earlier

france s

Earlier Fitzgerald said she believes the Garda Commissioner has put as much information as is allowable into the public domain in relation to the O’Higgins report.

The minister faced questions in the Dáil today in relation to a report in the Irish Examiner, which alleged that garda lawyers in the O’Higgins inquiry said evidence would show McCabe had indicated he was making complaints because of malice towards a senior officer.

This evidence was never produced and the claim was rejected by the judge.

Nóirín O’Sullivan has come out to say that she has never regarded garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe as malicious.

Fitzgerald referred to the commissioner’s statement which said she was precluded from commenting further on the media reports.

The minister said there were also “severe constraints” on what she could say on the matter.

“I have a duty to respect the law,” she said. “That is what I have been doing in my responses today.”

Fitzgerald said it is highly unusual for an individual to disclose their private dealings with their legal teams. She said that everyone who gave evidence to the O’Higgins commission did so in private and going down the road of ordering disclosure was very “dangerous”.

She said it was important people have confidence in the commission structure.

Fitzgerald said the central focus following the report’s publication should be the victims. 

“I believe we can do the best service to the victims… by dealing with the recommendations in the report. That is what the House should be doing.”

Legal constraints 

Earlier today, Labour’s Joan Burton said the Garda Commissioner is wrong in her assertion that she’s legally blocked from speaking about some of the issues surrounding the O’Higgins Report.

Over the last few days there have been calls for the commissioner to address the issue, with Joan Burton today urging O’Sullivan to clarify the instructions she gave to her legal team at the commission of investigation.

“The official stance of the garda legal team towards Sergeant McCabe, on foot of the instructions given to them by Garda management, has now become a matter of serious and legitimate public concern. Commissioner O’Sullivan owes it to the public to clarify this issue,” Burton said.

‘We must listen to our people’

In a statement yesterday evening, the commissioner said she is “legally precluded” from clarifying certain matters as it is “a criminal offence to disclose or publish any evidence given or the contents of any document produced by a witness”.

But intervening in the dispute again on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, former Tánaiste Joan Burton said that the commissioner is wrong because legal advice is not evidence.

“Lawyers are not witnesses and their statements to a commission are not evidence,” Burton said.

So the prohibition does not apply in relation to the reported statements of the garda lawyers of the legal team.

Fianna Fáil’s Thomas Byrne said the party accepts what the commissioner said in her statement issued last night. He said the party accepts what O’Sullivan said “at her word”.

Micheál Martin said it was a “very serious issue” and said the allegations were “disturbing”.

In her statement last night, O’Sullivan said that she has consistently stated that dissent in the force is not disloyalty and “we must listen to our people at every level with respect and with trust”.

The organisation stands to gain, rather than lose, when members bring attention to practices they believe to be unacceptable, she said.

“Like every member of An Garda Síochána, Sergeant Maurice McCabe’s contribution is valued and the service has changed for the better in response to the issues about which he complained. I want to make it clear that I do not – and have never, regarded Sergeant McCabe as malicious,” O’Sullivan added.

In addressing this, Burton says that this statement ‘directly contradicts’ the comments attributed to the garda lawyers giving an extra impetus for the commissioner to ‘clarify’ discussions with her legal team.

Today, Minister Fitzgerald acknowledged the contribution Sergeant McCabe has made to the police force.

She said the protected disclosure legislation was instrumental in allowing McCabe come forward with information. Fitzgerald acknowledged that garda compliance with the legislation is something that “needs ongoing monitoring”.

30/1/2014 Garda Whistleblowers at Committees Garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe. Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Initiatives to ensure McCabe felt supported were put in place, she said. However, the minister said:

It takes a while to change culture, I don’t think it will change overnight.

Labour’s Brendan Howlin asked the minister about those in the report whose careers were adversely affected, namely, the former Justice Minister Alan Shatter and former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

Fitzgerald said she was pleased the report found her predecessor and her department acted properly. She said the Guerin report was merely a “scoping exercise” and “not findings of fact”.

She told the Dáil that Shatter had written to the Taoiseach and said there will be a “detailed reply” to his letter. The minister said the report would be debated in the Dáil at a later date.

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy, Christina Finn, and Cianan Brennan

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