Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Garda dossier claims grave: Kenny

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has handed a dossier on the allegations to Enda Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has described as very grave a dossier of alleged Garda misconduct handed to him in the latest twist in a marathon controversy hanging over the force.

Such is the seriousness of the claims, he has appealed for anyone with further evidence of wrongdoing to come forward and vowed to deal with it "in the interest of our state, of our country".

The file of allegations - said to involve rogue policing and cover-ups connected to assault, abduction and even murder - was compiled by Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin handed the evidence last night to the Taoiseach, who has described the claims as "extremely serious allegations".

"These documents are now being examined and the allegations contained therein are very grave," Mr Kenny said.

"I have to say in the case of Deputy Micheal Martin, he was right to hand over this documentation.

"So I would say to him and everyone else that if there is any other relevant material in their possession, they should come forward and make that material known."

Mr Kenny said the evidence relates to incidents between 2007 to 2009.

The dossier contains scores of claims that serious crimes were not properly investigated over several years.

One of the cases relates to the killing of 33-year-old Silvia Roche Kelly in the Clarion Hotel in Limerick in December 2007.

Jerry McGrath, from Dundrum, Co Tipperary, was jailed for life for her murder in 2009.

At the time he had been on bail after being charged with attempting to abduct a five-year-old girl from her bedroom and months before that had been charged with assaulting a female taxi driver in Co Meath.

Mr Kenny said he has a duty and responsibility to examine the claims very carefully and will then decide the best way in which to deal with them.

"I have no intention of playing politics with an issue as serious as this," he said.

"I will deal with it in the interest of our state, of our country and of our people."

The latest turn in an 11-day controversy enveloping Justice Minister Alan Shatter, the Garda and the force's official watchdog sparked angry scenes in the Dail.

Despite mounting pressure from the Opposition, the Government is resisting demands for a wider independent inquiry into a web of claims involving spying, mistreatment of whistleblowers and alleged rogue policing.

Mr Martin said the "shocking" evidence in the dossier he handed to the Taoiseach was seen and read by Mr Shatter two years ago, according to Oliver Connolly, the Garda confidential recipient who handled whistleblower complaints from serving officers.

"He knew about the gravity of them," said Mr Martin.

"And what happened? Nothing happened."

Mr Connolly has been sacked from his role, the Government announced yesterday.

Labour deputy leader and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton, who was representing the Government during leaders' questions in the Dail, insisted Mr Shatter had the full confidence of his Cabinet colleagues.

Both Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein have demanded a fuller commission of investigation be set up to investigate the many claims in the ongoing controversy.

"What is appropriate now as a result of the shattering of confidence in sections of the Garda Siochana, right up to the level of commissioner, is not for the Taoiseach to start studying these documents but to immediately set up an independent commission of investigation to find out what happened," said Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty.

The Justice Minister was "in the dock" for not having responded to evidence handed to him in 2012, he added.

But Ms Burton insisted an inquiry - to be headed up by retired High Court judge John Cooke - has already been set up by Mr Shatter.

That inquiry will look only at claims the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Office (Gsoc) was placed under surveillance.

In a statement, Mr Shatter said he " found it necessary to relieve" Mr Connolly of his position because he did not deny reported extracts of a conversation he had with Sgt McCabe.

"While rumours were circulating for some time regarding the existence of an alleged tape and transcript of a confidential conversation between Mr Connolly and Sergeant Maurice McCabe, given the importance of the office's confidentiality, no justice minister could properly seek out such a transcript or tape," said Mr Shatter.

"However, following an alleged extract from the alleged tape being placed on the Dail record, I asked my department two weeks ago to contact Mr Connolly outlining my concerns that, if the conversation as reported had taken place, then his actions had undermined the office of the confidential recipient.

"Contacts with Mr Connolly over the following two weeks did not satisfy me as to his response to the controversy.

"I informed him that in the context of his failure to unequivocally repudiate the content of the alleged conversation or take the necessary action to restore public confidence in the office of confidential recipient, I believed his position was untenable and I had no alternative but to relieve him of the position."

A transcript of a conversation read into the record in the Dail last week quoted Mr Connolly as telling Sgt McCabe: "I'll tell you something, Maurice - and this is just personal advice to you - if Shatter thinks you're screwing him, you're finished."

It added: "If Shatter thinks 'here's this guy again, trying another route, trying to put on pressure', he'll go after you."

Mr Shatter said he is making interim arrangements for a retired judge to act as confidential recipient until he changes legislation to allow Gsoc to handle whistleblower allegations.

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