Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

Sacked official hits out over tape

Whistleblower Maurice McCabe has made allegations about Garda malpractice.

The sacked Garda confidential recipient has said he feels betrayed over the leaking of a conversation where he allegedly warned a whistleblower to avoid confrontation with Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

Lawyer Oliver Connolly, sacked from his post last month after extracts of the recording were released , said he has been the victim of a concentrated attack by some politicians.

Mr Connolly, founder of the Friary Law dispute resolution law firm, refused to disclose whether he told Sergeant Maurice McCabe that Mr Shatter would go after him and that he was finished if the minister thought he was being "screwed".

In a four page statement he claimed his honour, good name, professional competence and integrity and his and his family's privacy have been impugned.

And he accused some members of the opposition of a naked political attempt to embarrass Mr Shatter and selectively reading lines from an unverified transcript of a confidential conversation.

On the leaking of the tape recording with Sgt McCabe, Mr Connolly said the ends do not always justify the means.

"There is also a personal sense of betrayal in that the principal whistleblower felt it necessary to vindicate his rights by infringing my rights and, by extension, the privacy of my family. The ends do not always justify any means," he said.

"One must not become so focused on a goal that it is pursued at all costs.

"We might accomplish our goal, but in doing so cause unnecessary and regrettable damage to the constitutional rights of others and to the rule of law itself; ironically, the very thing the principal whistleblower seeks to uphold."

Mr Connolly was sacked after several meetings with Government chiefs following the publication of the alleged transcript of the conversation.

He refused to discuss whether extracts of the taped warning are true - including that he told Sgt McCabe he would be finished if the minister thought he was being "screwed" - insisting he is subject to the Official Secrets Act and the Garda act.

Mark Kelly, head of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, rejected the argument and said the law was unclear after whistleblower Sgt McCabe waived his right to anonymity.

"Legally and logically, a statement that was not made could not possibly be covered," he said.

Sgt McCabe has alleged serious Garda malpractice in districts where he has served and also claimed his complaints have not been properly acted on.

The McCabe allegations - a sample of which were sent in a dossier to Taoiseach Enda Kenny - are just one in a series of issues to dog relations between Mr Shatter, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and the Garda Ombudsman's office.

Sgt McCabe was also involved in allegations that the penalty points system was being abused with officers routinely wiping charges for people.

The Taoiseach said he hoped Mr Connolly would co-operate fully with an inquiry into Sgt McCabe's allegations by senior counsel Sean Guerin.

"I would expect that he would be able to do that, respecting the confidentiality of his office," he said.

Mr Connolly had earlier said he wanted to remind the Taoiseach he would abide by the law as he sees it.

Despite his controversial sacking and his refusal to discuss whether he warned Sgt McCabe over the potential for a run-in with Mr Shatter, Mr Connolly said he still supports the minister and his reform agenda.

In his statement he suggested the Government make policing reform a priority now that the country is no longer constrained by economic rules of the Troika.

Mr Connolly said he did as much as his liaison role allowed after taking complaints from Sgt McCabe and a female officer whose sexual harassment case was raised last week by Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness.

" I believe that I reached an understanding of many of the concerns of the principal whistleblower and I also believe that I possess some understanding of the principal whistleblower's frustrations," he said in a statement.

Mr Connolly added: "I believe that they each reported to me in good faith."

He also accused Mr McGuinness of "carelessly flouting hearsay" when he claimed the female garda was warned by Mr Connolly that the last officer to use his office is "now washing cars in Navan".

"Again, all in an effort to discredit the minister and to imply a conspiracy to frustrate efforts to report alleged acts of wrongdoing and/or misconduct in An Garda Siochana," he said.

The lengthy statement was his first comment since being sacked.

Mr Shatter said he was fired after his position became untenable when he failed to unequivocally repudiate the extracts of the alleged conversation.

Another Garda whistleblower John Wilson, who has retired from the force since raising complaints, said he found the sacking very disturbing.

"I find myself allegedly taped by a serving member of An Garda Siochana without my consent and these opposition politicians, in a very misguided attempt to secure some perceived political advantage, are only too happy to provide the greatest exposure to an unlawful recording and, by their so doing, trample over my rights and, by extension, those of my family," Mr Connolly said.

"The publication of selective excerpts from alleged transcripts of statutorily confidential meetings, twisting excerpts for political gain, and hurling accusations without context are not characteristic of a functioning parliamentary democracy that respects the rule of law."

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