Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Garda chief claims she was a ‘political football’ in whistleblower scandal

The retired police chief was on day two of her evidence to the Disclosures Tribunal.

Former Garda commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan has claimed she was used as a “political football” during the whistleblower scandal.

On day two of her evidence to the Disclosures Tribunal, the retired police chief said she had been left “isolated” following accusations in the media that she had sought to challenge the integrity of whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe during a private inquiry into his allegations of bad policing.

Mrs O’Sullivan clashed with Sgt McCabe’s lawyer during the tribunal on Tuesday after he accused her of being “insincere” in her treatment of the officer.

Barrister Michael McDowell said that Sgt McCabe would have had reason to doubt Mrs O’Sullivan’s talk about support for him in the workplace after her legal counsel accused him of acting in bad faith in bringing allegations of malpractice.

However, Ms O’Sullivan hit back saying: “It was not hypocritical and insincere. I invested significant time and thought as to how to support Mr McCabe.

“There was nothing insincere and hypocritical.”

She also insisted that she had never instructed her lawyers to attack Sgt McCabe’s integrity.

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Frances Fitzgerald (Niall Carson/PA)

Earlier, Mrs O’Sullivan denied drafting a speech for the former justice minister and tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald to declare confidence in her as Garda Commissioner following the negative press reports about her.

An email sent from Mrs O’Sullivan to Mrs Fitzgerald on May 18, 2016 – ahead of a speech the former tanaiste was to make in the Dail in relation to the scandal – was shown to the Tribunal on Tuesday.

In the email, Mrs O’Sullivan said she understood the tanaiste was to make a speech to the Dail and enclosed “a draft” for her consideration.

Penned in the third person, the email said recent negative news headlines about the commissioner were false and that she had been “robbed” of the right to defend her good name.

The email concluded: “I wish to state here and now that I have confidence in the commissioner”.

Tribunal lawyer Kathleen Leader said Mrs O’Sullivan appeared to be drafting a statement for the minister to read to the Dail.

However Mrs O’Sullivan insisted that was not the case.

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Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe (Niall Carson/PA)

She said: “No. It is just facts. I felt the minister had to be fully informed of my position.

“I was giving her the factual position and making sure she was in possession of the full facts. It was facts to put to right inaccurate reporting. I was isolated.”

Mrs O’Sullivan claimed she was used as a “political football” at the time.

Recalling the aftermath of media reports that her lawyers had intended to question Sgt McCabe’s motivations at the private O’Higgins Commission in 2015.  she said: “There were political calls for me to consider my position.”

She added: “In my experience, I have never experienced anything like this vortex.

“The (media) report led to unprecedented politicalisation of my position as commissioner.

“These matters were being personalised against me. I felt I was being used as a political football. That’s something which continued right up until I retired last year.

“I was being put into a position where my role and statutory position were being politicised in a way that was unacceptable to me.”

She said “selective leaks” to the media about her approach to Sergeant McCabe’s claims of wrongdoing within the force “were designed to do maximum damage to my position and my reputation”.

The Disclosures Tribunal at Dublin Castle is investigating whether unjustified grounds were used in an attempt to discredit Mr McCabe at the O’Higgins Commission.

That inquiry examined the sergeant’s claims of wrongdoing among gardai in Cavan-Monaghan.

Part of the Disclosure Tribunal’s terms of reference is considering whether a false and unfounded child sex abuse allegation made against Sgt McCabe in 2006 was used against him.

It is also investigating whether Mrs O’Sullivan’s lawyers advised that Sgt McCabe’s motivation should be challenged at the private inquiry despite public support for whistleblowers.

Mrs O’Sullivan will continue her evidence when the tribunal resumes on Wednesday.

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