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Nóirín O'Sullivan refutes Dáil claims about her treatment of Maurice McCabe

O’Sullivan strongly refutes the claims made by Labour leader Brendan Howlin under Dáil privilege today.

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan
Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan
Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

LABOUR LEADER BRENDAN Howlin has said he has been told that Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan contacted journalists in 2013 and 2014 to make serious allegations about garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Howlin, speaking under Dáil privilege, told the chamber that the Commissioner had made allegations of ‘sexual crimes’ against McCabe.

In a statement released this 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”.

Addressing the Taoiseach during Leaders’ Questions, Howlin said that a journalist had contacted him this morning to tell him about the phone calls made by the Commissioner to journalists.

Speaking in the Dáil, Howlin said:

Taoiseach, this morning I was contacted by a journalist. The journalist told me that they have direct knowledge of calls made by the Garda Commissioner to journalists during 2013 and 2014 in the course of which the Commissioner made very serious allegations of sexual crimes having being committed by Garda Maurice McCabe.The Commissioner in 2015 oversaw the investigation which examined the call logs of a garda officer who was under suspicion of leaking material to the media. If it was a fact that the Garda Commissioner was in direct contact with the media making allegations against one of her own officers at around the same time, it would be quite extraordinary.
I don’t know whether the charges being made against the Commissioner are true or not.

The Labour leader was then interrupted by the Ceann Comhairle, who said that what the TD was saying in the chamber was “extremely dangerous”.

Commission of Inquiry Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Source: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

There was then a discussion about whether it was appropriate for Howlin to continue.

“You’re taking us into territory that I think we should not be venturing into,” Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl said. “I’m concerned at what you’re raising and I don’t think it’s an appropriate matter to raise in the House.”

Brendan Howlin said that the Commission of Inquiry was announced yesterday into allegations of smears against whistleblowers. “We haven’t seen the terms of reference from that… what I’m saying now, I’m making no allegation.”

Seán Ó Fearghaíl said that it was not appropriate to say what Howlin was saying:

“To raise the question of the commission is perfectly legitimate, absolutely so, but you had just recounted a story, a dúirt bean liom go ndúirt bean léi story [a woman told me that a woman told her] relating to a journalist contacting you and referencing clearly the Garda Commissioner. I do not think such a statement is appropriate.”

O’Sullivan’s statement

This afternoon, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said she was “obliged to take the unprecedented step of commenting publicly” in circumstances where the Terms of Reference of the Commission have now been published on Howlin’s Dáil comments.

“The Commissioner notes with surprise the comments made by Deputy Brendan Howlin in Dáil Eireann on this date. The Commissioner has no knowledge of the matters referred to by Deputy 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.
As previously stated, the Commission of Investigation will receive the full cooperation of An Garda Síochána and will in due course establish the truth of the matters together with all relevant facts.

“In the interim the members of An Garda Síochána affected by the remarks published today will receive all necessary supports and assistance having regard to the potential impact for the members concerned and their families.”

An Taoiseach’s response

Howlin said the charges that have been laid at the door of the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan are serious.

I can’t think of another walk of life where allegations of this nature made against a person in a position of power they would not be placed under administrative leave until  the outcome of the inquiry is known.

He told the Dáil the fact the Garda Commissioner remains in her position is “troubling”.

Howlin told the Taoiseach that he would be happy to make a submission to the upcoming inquiry on foot of today’s allegations.

The Taoiseach said 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.

“There are set procedures that have to be followed.”

“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,” Kenny said.

“These are not circumstances, Deputy Howlin, where a prima facie case of wrongdoing has been established, and Mr Justice O’Neill makes no findings in relation to anyone in the case of the Garda Commissioner as I’ve said on many occasions, have consistently stated that there has been no finding of any wrongdoing, of any kind, against her, and in those circumstances she is entitled to our full support and that remains the position.”

Updated at 7pm to include Commissioner O’Sullivan’s statement.

Read: You’re hearing a lot about garda whistleblowers today – here’s why

Read: Guerin, Fennelly, O’Higgins and O’Neill: A quick guide to garda whistleblowing

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