Labour leader defends Garda Commissioner allegations

The Labour Party leader said the allegations were "important enough" to put in the public domain and renewed his appeal for the commissioner to stand aside during the investigation

The leader of the Labour Party has defended his decision to publicly air allegations that the Garda Commissioner was directly involved in a smear campaign against a Garda whistleblower.

Yesterday Brendan Howlin told the Dáil that a journalist had informed him that Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan directly phoned journalists on a number of occasions to make serious allegations of sexual crimes against whistleblower, Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Mr Howlin said the journalist who contacted him had first-hand knowledge of the phone calls and was willing to testify before the newly set-up Commission of Investigation into the alleged smear campaign.

He said he felt the allegations against the commissioner were "important enough" to put in the public domain and said he decided to speak out because it is “inappropriate” for the commissioner to stay in her role while the inquiry is ongoing.

Commission of Investigation

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald announced the new Commission of Investigation yesterday and confirmed it will be led by Supreme Court judge, Peter Charlton.

The inquiry will examine whether or not Sergeant McCabe was the victim of a smear campaign, involving senior members of the force, following his attempts to bring information regarding alleged penalty points malpractice within the force into the public domain.

Investigators will be asked to examine the phone records of Commissioner O’Sullivan, former commissioner Martin Callinan and former garda press officer, Superintendent David Taylor.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Mr Howlin said he felt it was "absolutely explicit in what I said" that any allegation of sexual crime against Sergeant McCabe were “malicious rumours” with no basis in fact.

Malicious rumours

“Anybody who - if it is true - spread malicious rumours about him or worked against him in the way that is alleged by some of the whistleblowers, then that matter needs to be fully vindicated and I think at the end of the day, it will be in the Charlton investigation,” he said.

He said Sergeant McCabe’s life “has been hell” since he came forward adding that above all he now wants, “the full and complete truth.”

Mr Howlin rejected suggestions he should have remained silent until hard evidence of the alleged phone calls was produced.

“If it is a requirement for a whistleblower to be definitive then there would be no need for an inquiry and that would be an extraordinary hurdle to put in the path of any whistleblower," he said.

He insisted the whole purpose of holding an inquiry is to determine whether, "any such allegation is true or false."

Stand aside

“What finally made up my mind that I should do this was that I think it is inappropriate for the current commissioner to stay in her role during this inquiry,” he said.

“The Garda Síochána have come under enormous support for nearly a decade now,” he said. “The thousands of men and women who do their job, who stand in harm’s way for the rest of us deserve our full support and the ongoing investigations have to take their place because we need to be confident in the management and oversight of an Garda Síochána.

He said that since the terms of reference of the newly set up inquiry require the examination of Commissioner O’Sullivan’s phone records and papers as well as “all the documentation that she, as the garda commissioner, is custodian of,” it would appropriate for her to stand aside for the duration of the investigation.

No knowledge of allegations

In a statement yesterday Commissioner O’Sullivan said she had “no knowledge of the matters referred to by Deputy Howlin.”

She said she “refutes in the strongest terms the suggestion that she has engaged in the conduct alleged against a serving member of An Garda Síochána.”

She said the Commission of Investigation will receive the full support of an Garda Síochána

You can listen back to the full interview with Deputy Howlin here: