Kelly on a quest: Four questions may lift the lid on alleged attempts to smear Garda whistleblower

Tuesday, November 07, 2017


Questions by Labour TD Alan Kelly could shed light on who exactly was in on alleged attempts to smear Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe, writes Michael Clifford

Who exactly was in on alleged attempts to smear or even destroy the character of garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe?

The Disclosures Tribunal is currently examining whether there was such a campaign and who was involved. It is scheduled to reconvene hearings later this month.

While the tribunal is doing its business in Dublin Castle, a little development across the Liffey in Leinster House may spill over into the inquiry’s proceedings.

Last week, Labour party TD Alan Kelly submitted four parliamentary questions to the minister for justice relating to the approach of the then garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to the O’Higgins commission of investigation.
The questions were:

To ask the minister for justice to outline fully the extent of consultation that the former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan had with the Department of Justice prior to Commissioner O’Sullivan giving instructions to her legal team representing her at the O’Higgins Commission? To ask the minister for justice to outline fully the extent of meetings and communications in any way that the former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan had with the Department of Justice prior to Commissioner O’Sullivan giving instructions to her legal team representing her at the O’Higgins Commission? Please provide dates and times of meetings, communications type, attendance and agendas? To ask the minister for justice if anyone in An Garda Síochána has made a complaint to his department regarding the manner in which the former Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan gave instructions to her legal team representing her at the O’Higgins Commission and if so how this is being dealt with by his department? To ask the minister for justice what contact, meetings, correspondence the secretary-general of the department Noel Waters or any of his senior officials had with the former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan or any of her senior staff or advisers prior to Commissioner O’Sullivan giving instructions to her legal team representing her at the O’Higgins Commission? Please provide dates and times of meetings, communications type, attendance and agendas? That commission was set up to examine claims of malpractice made by Sergeant McCabe and began hearings in May 2015.

It later emerged that behind the closed doors of the inquiry, the commissioner’s lawyer said that he would be making the case that McCabe had a grudge against the force, and that this motivated his complaints of malpractice.

If such a scenario were proved, it would have dealt a devastating blow to McCabe’s credibility.

The case against McCabe was laid out in a document prepared by the chief state solicitor’s office, which stated that the sergeant had expressed this grudge at a meeting in 2008.

McCabe produced a recording of the meeting which showed he never expressed any such grudge. Thereafter the matter was dropped. The Disclosures Tribunal is now examining whether this episode constituted an attempt to smear McCabe’s character.

The extent of the knowledge or involvement of others in formulating a strategy to attack McCabe at a time when he was being praised publicly by the garda commissioner and the minister for justice is unknown.

This newspaper reported in June that the head of human resources in An Garda Síochána, John Barrett, has informed the Disclosures Tribunal that he was told by a colleague just before O’Higgins commenced: “We’re going after Maurice at the commission.”

Now, by dint of his questions, Mr Kelly appears to be exploring whether any figures in the department were in on the strategy.

The department has previously denied that any such meetings occurred. Nóirín O’Sullivan couldn’t be contacted for a response.

Mr Kelly declined to discuss the basis for his current inquiries. He does, however, serve as vice chair of the Public Accounts Committee and in that capacity he has been to the fore in examining the garda accounts scandal in Templemore.

Through that work he would have built up some serious contacts with figures in and around An Garda Síochána. In any event, it is reasonable to assume that he is acting on solid information.

The response to the parliamentary questions will be issued next week. What will be of particular interest will be whether those responses correlate with forthcoming testimony from senior serving and former members of the management in the force at the tribunal.

Only then will it become clear as to the extent of knowledge both inside and outside An Garda Síochána of the plan to attack the garda whistleblower behind the closed doors of the commission.

The proposed attack may have been formulated in good faith, in the belief that McCabe had questions to answer. However, what subsequently emerged was that nobody really tested the basis for the attack.

Nobody paused to reflect that what was being planned was at complete variance to the confidence then being expressed publicly in the garda whistleblower.

And presumably, nobody for one minute thought that Sergeant McCabe had at hand the proof to blow the attack out of the water.