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PAC will keep audio of garda whistleblower hearing - but no transcript

Member of the Public Accounts Committee queried what record will be kept of their private meeting with a serving Garda sergeant later today.

PAC chair John McGuinness and the committee clerk Ted McEnery this morning/
PAC chair John McGuinness and the committee clerk Ted McEnery this morning/
Image: Screengrab via Oireachtas TV

THE PUBLIC ACCOUNTS Committee (PAC) will keep an audio recording, but no transcript, of its private hearing with a garda whistleblower, it has been confirmed this morning.

Maurice McCabe, a serving garda sergeant, is due to appear before members of the Dáil committee at 2pm this afternoon to discuss the alleged malpractice in the cancellation of penalty points, but TDs have queried what records will be kept of that meeting.

TDs were told that though an audio recording of the private hearing will be retained it will not be made available to them or other Oireachtas members, and there will be no transcript of the meeting.

The matter was raised by independent deputy Shane Ross during the business of the committee this morning, saying he understood that the precedent is that no record is kept and asked for guidance on the matter.

But Fine Gael TD John Deasy said “we’ve finally entered the twilight zone” and claimed that “within half an hour” the proceedings of the private session will be with journalists. He described that situation as “absurd, absolutely absurd”.

PAC chairman John McGuinness joked that Deasy was “wrong” adding: “I’d say [it will be] 15 minutes”.

Committee clerk Ted McEnery told members that because it is a private meeting no transcript will be available, saying it is “well established parliamentary practice to protect the witness in terms of transcripts being available”.

“We do need to protect the witness as much as possible,” McEnery said.

Ross said that he is not sure what the witness’s view of that procedure will be, adding that he would have thought it would be protecting the witness by “actually having a transcript” and asked if the PAC could consult with the witness on this.

McEnery stressed that the legal advice taken was to protect the whistleblower and said that making a transcript available would potentially “blur the lines between private and public if transcript is made available”.

Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald queried whether it would make sense to keep an audio recording, but not a transcript. “I don’t think it would be any harm to get view of witness presenting,” she said.

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McEnery said the recording would be kept by the Oireachtas and would be used by him to prepare minutes of the meeting, he said that “other than going to the courts” no one else could access the recording.

Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming said that on other committees he was able to hear audio recordings of meetings held in private session.

PAC chair John McGuinness suggested that whatever observations members had could be put to the committee’s legal advisor prior to this afternoon’s meeting.

Shane Ross: ‘We’ll see what the whistleblower says and if there’s any reason to keep it private’

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Hugh O'Connell

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