Wednesday 13 December 2017

Fitzgerald refuses to extend scope of garda whistleblower inquiry

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald will not broaden the remit of the latest inquiry into the treatment of garda whistleblowers, despite accusations that it excludes relevant cases.

The minister has rejected calls from lawyers for whistleblower Keith Harrison to have his situation reviewed by Judge Iarfhlaith O'Neill, who was last week tasked with probing an alleged smear against Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Mr Harrison's solicitors have written to Ms Fitzgerald stating their client was "astonished" at his omission from the six-week investigation announced last Friday.

However, a spokesperson for the minister indicated that the Department of Justice sees Mr Harrison's case as separate from the issues raised by Sgt McCabe and former garda press officer Dave Taylor, who have made the most recent protected disclosures.

Mr Harrison has alleged that he suffered harassment from senior colleagues and effectively had his career ruined after arresting a detective garda for suspected drink driving.

A letter, sent by Kilfeather and Company to Ms Fitzgerald, said that the "review in its current form is limited to historical events and clearly fails to address our clients concerns".


They said the garda's family has been subjected to "covert surveillance, victimisation, bullying and harassment".

The minister's spokesperson said Mr Justice O'Neill was appointed "to specifically address" protected disclosures received by the Tanaiste last Monday.

"The strict provisions of [the Protected Disclosures Act, 2014] mean that it is not possible for the recipient of the disclosures to disclose anything which might identify the persons making them and, accordingly, is not possible to comment on the nature of the disclosures or their relevance or otherwise to other matters," the spokesperson said.

It comes as another cabinet minister said it is "very important" that Mr Justice O'Neill has full access to all the evidence needed for his review.

It is claimed that three phones linked to Mr Taylor, which are currently in garda custody as part of a separate investigation, contain a chain of text messages outlining a plot to target Sgt McCabe by spreading rumours.

The review, which was set up by Ms Fitzgerald, is non-statutory, although the judge can recommend further action be taken to address the allegations.

Asked whether Mr Justice O'Neill would be able to access the phones as part of his initial inquiry, Minister of State Finian McGrath said he will raise the issue at Cabinet level.

"I would accept that's a very important part of the case and I hope that would be the case," he said on RTE's The Week In Politics.

A garda spokesperson was unable to specifically address the issue but pointed to a statement issued on behalf of Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan last Friday. It said An Garda Siochana will "co-operate fully with this review process".

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