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Government 'nervous' about extending Tribunal to other whistleblowers

Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison demanded his case be included in the Tribunal.

Image: RollingNews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT IS nervous about extending the Tribunal to include other whistleblowers.

Yesterday, garda whistleblower Keith Harrison demanded his case be included in the  Tribunal to be held into allegations that a smear campaign was waged against Maurice McCabe.

He also alleged that Tusla opened up an investigation into the wellbeing of his family after he raised issues within the police force.

In a statement issued through his solicitors yesterday, Harrison – whose story has been raised numerous times in the Dáil – called for “truth and justice”.

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone last night agreed to Labour’s Alan Kelly’s request to meet with Harrison before the terms of reference are agreed.

Extending terms of reference 

Calls to extend the terms of reference to include other whistleblowers – of which there are believed to be up to 10 at this stage – has been made by Labour and Independent 4 Change TDs, among others.

However, there were no discussions in yesterday’s tense Cabinet meeting about including this group.

It is understood that the feeling within government is that any broadening of the terms of reference of the Tribunal would lead to a significant lengthening of its timeline. Government sources say they are anxious to expedite outcomes in relation to McCabe’s case.

There are fears that including other cases in the Tribunal’s work would slow down the process and, ultimately, prove more costly.

While there was speculation that the Charlton Commission of Investigation (which will now not go ahead) would take up to nine months, there is no timeline for the suggested Tribunal.

There are also questions over who will chair the inquiry as Supreme Court justice Peter Charlton may not be able to commit to a longer time-frame which may be needed for a Tribunal (which are held in public, with powers to compel witnesses who have a right to legal representation).

While serious questions were asked of the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste yesterday about what they knew and when, the tenability of the Garda Commissioner Nóirin O’Sullivan’s position was also raised a number of times in the Dáil.

TD Mick Wallace, during his debate contribution, said:

Everyone says the Garda Commissioner is innocent until proven guilty. That is grand. We are not saying lock her up and throw away the key, but for God’s sake take her out of the police job because she is not fit for it.

Questions were also raised as to whether O’Sullivan will be able to discharge her functions at the top of the force while a possibly lengthy Tribunal takes place. Despite calls for her to step aside, without prejudice, while the investigation is ongoing, it is understood her job was also not discussed at Cabinet yesterday.

The Commissioner has refuted the claims made against her on numerous occasions. She maintains she was not privy nor would have condoned any smear campaign against any whistleblower.

With reporting by Sinéad O’Carroll

As it happened: There will be a Tribunal into alleged smear campaign against Maurice McCabe>

Read: Enda Kenny takes a number of different positions on Zappone conversation>

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