Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Garda chief: Inquiry into whistleblower claims was chance to get to truth

Noirin O’Sullivan said it was her imperative that any whistleblower who spoke up would be supported.

Former Garda commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan has said the private inquiry into allegations of Garda malpractice by Sergeant Maurice McCabe was a chance to get to the truth.

In her first public evidence to the Disclosures Tribunal, the retired police chief said she told the whistleblower at their first meeting that she was committed to supporting and protecting him.

“I was setting the tone from the top,” Mrs O’Sullivan said.

The former Garda boss said it was her imperative that any whistleblower who spoke up would be supported.

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Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe arrives to hear former Garda commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan give evidence at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle (Niall Carson/PA)

The Disclosures Tribunal at Dublin Castle is investigating whether unjustified grounds were used in an attempt to discredit Mr McCabe at the private O’Higgins Commission in 2015.

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

Ms O’Sullivan was asked about how she viewed the O’Higgins Commission in the weeks before it began hearing evidence in May 2015. She had first met Mr McCabe in August 2014.

“I felt this was a forum that we could actually deal with this issue that once and for all establish the facts and get to the truth of the matter,” she said.

Mrs O’Sullivan said she felt that she had an obligation to assist the inquiry.

“I wanted to know exactly the nature and extent of what we were dealing with here and make sure we got to the crux of the matter,” she told the tribunal.

“Going into the (O’Higgins) commission I was not sure what I was going to be faced with coming out.”

Mrs O’Sullivan said that she believed the O’Higgins Commission would have allowed the force to deal with the issue of trust in the Garda which had fallen to an all-time low in 2014.

She told the tribunal that she believed the issue of an allegation of corruption in An Garda Siochana and among top officers stemmed from a combination of the allegations made by Sergeant McCabe about policing in the Cavan-Monaghan region.

The tribunal, chaired by Judge Peter Charleton, also heard that a recommendation was made for An Garda Siochana to instruct a legal team over concerns about “reputational and corporate” issues for the
force at the O’Higgins Commission.

Lawyers for the then commissioner only came on record in the two weeks before the behind-closed-doors inquiry began hearing evidence.

The tribunal heard that there were delays in getting necessary Garda documents handed over in a timely fashion.

Mrs O’Sullivan said she did not accept that the delay in appointing lawyers was a mistake.

The former Garda chief said she was also personally doing the work of two deputy commissioners at the time, as well as dealing with other inquiries and major policing issues.

Ms O’Sullivan was Garda commissioner from 2014 until announcing her retirement in September last year.

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.

The hearing continues.

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