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Maurice McCabe. Laura Hutton/

Charleton Tribunal will examine allegations of 'inappropriate contacts' between gardaí and Tusla

Keith Harrison, as well as David Taylor and Maurice McCabe, is mentioned explicitly in the just-published terms of reference.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS agreed the terms of reference for a tribunal into the Maurice McCabe scandal.

The resolution will have to pass the Dáil and Seanad before the tribunal is established under the chairmanship of Supreme Court Justice Peter Charleton.

The Dáil resolution (which can be read here) says that the tribunal will investigate:

“Allegations that senior members of An Garda Síochána sought to discredit Sergeant Maurice McCabe because of complaints he made about the performance of An Garda Síochána.”

It goes on to say the tribunal will investigate the protected disclosure by former head of the Garda Press Office David Taylor. Taylor alleged he was told to discredit McCabe by “spreading rumours about his professional and personal life”.

The tribunal will look at the creation of a Tusla file which contained false allegations of sexual abuse against McCabe and whether the allegation or file was created by members of the force. It will investigate whether the allegations were used by Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan to discredit McCabe and whether gardaí tried to entrap the whistleblower.

In total, 16 things will be investigated.

Another whistleblower, Keith Harrison, who demanded his case also be included in any Tribunal is named explicitly twice within the terms of reference. Justice Charleton has tasked with investigating contacts between members of An Garda Síochána and Tusla in relation to him, as well as:

…bearing in mind allegations that there may have been inappropriate contacts between An Garda Síochána and TUSLA in relation to Sgt McCabe, Garda Keith Harrison and concerns that such contacts may have also taken place in relation to other members of An Garda Síochána who had made allegations of wrongdoing within An Garda Síochána

He will investigate whether there is any pattern of Tusla files being created in relation to whistleblowers, and them subsequently being used to discredit those members.

As well as Tusla, garda contacts with the HSE, media, members of the government and state bodies will be looked at, as will telephone and text message contacts between David Taylor and former Commissioner Martin Callinan and his successor, O’Sullivan.

All electronic and paper files held by gardaí on McCabe will be investigated, as will whether O’Sullivan:

“Using briefing material prepared in Garda Headquarters, influenced or attempted to influence broadcasts on RTE on the 9th of May 2016, purporting to be a leaked account of the unpublished O’Higgins Commission Report, in which Sergeant McCabe was branded a liar and irresponsible.”

Charleton has also been asked to investigate whether a meeting took place between Callinan and former Fianna Fáil’s John McGuinness, on 24 January 2014 in a hotel carpark in Dublin. The Deputy claims this happened ahead of a mooted appearance by McCabe at the Public Accounts Committee of which he was chair. The judge will probe the “purpose of such meeting and matters discussed”.

The tribunal is due to issue an interim report to the Justice Minister three months after it is established. Twenty days into witness testimony, Charleton will also inform the minister on its progress, its likely duration, the number of parties represented so far and any other matters that the Houses of the Oireachtas should be aware.

Speaking at a Finance Committee in Leinster House today, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the chair believes the Tribunal could wrap up within nine months.

He told the committee that Judge Charleton believes he can meet this timeframe barring any legal issues arising.

However, he added that such challenges could not be ruled out.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald told the Dáil this afternoon that on the advice of the Attorney General, the secretary general of her department has written to Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan seeking information regarding six questions put forward by Maurice McCabe in a statement at the beginning of this week.

She said may need to consult further with the Attorney General on the issue, depending on the reply she receives from O’Sullivan.

Fitzgerald said Judge Charleton will be able to consult with her if another judge is needed to deal with the second module, dealing with other whistleblower complaints.

A government statement says:

“The Terms of Reference for the Tribunal of Inquiry are comprehensive and clear in their focus. The Tánaiste believes that what is now proposed reflects the will of the Oireachtas. Mr Justice Charleton will chair the Tribunal and is available to begin work this week. The Tánaiste has thanked him for agreeing to take on this role.”

With reporting by Sinéad O’Carroll and Christina Finn 

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