STATEMENT ON PROPOSED TERMS OF REFERENCE FOR COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON PROTECTED DISCLOSURES

Issued 9 February 2017

Thank you Ceann Comhairle.

I have sent to the Tánaiste a proposed amendment to the published terms of reference.

I hope that it will be accepted, as I believe it covers concerns that both I and Deputy O’Callaghan have raised.

Specifically, I do not believe it is sufficient to establish whether allegations of criminal misconduct against Sergeant McCabe were circulated to the media.

We must also seek to establish whether such allegations were known to be false prior to such circulation.

That may appear a technical point, but it is one that I hope the Tánaiste will take on board.

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I have served in this House for some time, and it has been my privilege to do so.

I have served on Government and Opposition benches, and I have served as Leas Ceann Comhairle and worked to uphold the rules and norms of this House.

I know, perhaps better than many others, the responsibility that comes with membership of this House.

I do not wear that privilege lightly, and nor do I seek to abuse it.

The contribution I made in this House yesterday was not about party politics.

I did not say anything that sought to undermine another member of this house.

Nor did I apportion responsibility for the matters at hand to any political party.

I could point to examples where serving members of this House have used parliamentary privilege to do exactly that.

What I did yesterday was not in that vein.

The only place in which we as members of this House have absolute privilege in what we say, is this place.

And so we should speak in this place with respect for the responsibility that we bear.

Yesterday morning, I received information that I believed to be of significant public importance.

The word hearsay has been bandied about plenty.

But this was not idle chat or pub gossip.

I received information, which I believe to be credible, and which is absolutely germane to a matter which the Government, in establishing a commission of investigation, has acknowledged is of significant public importance.

I spoke frankly in this chamber yesterday, and I repeated the information which had been disclosed to me.

I will make myself available to Mr. Justice Charleton to do so again, if he feels that I can be of assistance in his work.

I can also confirm to the House that my source for that information has given consent for their name to be provided to Mr. Justice Charleton, and has made clear their willingness to provide him with all of the information at their disposal.

 

More insidious than the allegation that I was involved in circulating gossip, was the notion, tabled by Deputy O’Callaghan and others, that what I said was damaging to Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

I have spoken to Maurice McCabe today.

He confirmed to me that he is of course aware, in specific detail, of the allegations made against him.

He has been aware of them, and he and his family have had to live with them, for a number of years.

And I am glad to be able to inform the House that he has expressed gratitude for my intervention yesterday, and in no way regards it as having been damaging to him.

Because the nature of the allegations, as one journalist made clear on radio this morning, have not been a secret.

Deputy McGuinness has previously referred to them as vile allegations. But today, he thinks I am wrong to have spoken about them.

The allegations have been circulated around the media, around political circles, and around Sergeant McCabe’s colleagues, for quite some time.

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The role of the media, as we are so often told, is to speak truth to power.

It has been alleged that the media allowed themselves to be used by those with power to denigrate those without.

If the commission of investigation makes such a finding, I hope it will give the media cause to reflect upon their own actions as much as they have on mine.

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I said yesterday, that I cannot think of another walk of life where, if allegations of this nature had been made against a person in a position of power, they would not be placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of a full investigation.

Today, we debate the establishment of a commission of investigation.

We are told that it may take nine months to report.

And the media narrative has taken hold that a Commissioner could not step aside for that length of time.

I believe that view is wrong.

Prior to her appointment on a permanent basis, Nóirín O’Sullivan served as Acting Commissioner for eight months.

So the idea that someone else could Act into her role for nine months is not all that far-fetched at all.

The Garda Commissioner heads a policing service charged with protecting the security of the State, preventing crime and vindicating the human rights of each individual.

Yet at the same time, and while still discharging these onerous statutory responsibilities, Commissioner O’Sullivan now faces a statutory investigation.

In the course of this inquiry, the Commissioner’s mobile phones and her phone records for a 2 year period are to be examined, as are all Garda electronic and paper files, to see if she is implicated in this affair.

Nóirín O’Sullivan as Garda Commissioner is the custodian of the very records that Judge Charleton will examine, in order to see if they disclose wrongdoing by the Commissioner herself.

I believe this places her in an untenable position.

I want to reiterate that I have long experience pursuing truth, particularly in the justice sector.

My experience in helping whistle-blowers in this sector dates back as far as the establishment of the Morris Tribunal, and I want to repeat that I do not lightly raise issues of the significance that I raised yesterday.

We must not forget that at the centre of this Commission are two protected disclosures, and questions around what the former and current commissioner knew and did.

The truth of all of these matters will be determined by the commission of investigation. In the interim, all members of the Oireachtas, both Government and Opposition, have responsibility to ensure that the integrity of An Garda Síochána is protected.

It remains my steadfast view that the reputation of the Gardaí would best be protected by Commissioner O’Sullivan standing aside while the commission carries out its’ work.

The allegations which Commissioner O’Sullivan faces are very grave indeed.

She refutes them, as she is entitled to do.

And she may be proven innocent of any wrong-doing.

The opposite is also possible.

While Superintendent Taylor stands under investigation, he is suspended.

I believe it is reasonable to apply the same standard to the Commissioner.