Belfast Telegraph

Former Garda commissioner claims she was used as a ‘political football’

There were accusations that she sought to challenge the integrity of whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Former Garda commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan has said 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 denied drafting a speech for the former justice minister and tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald to declare confidence in her as Garda Commissioner during the fallout of the press reports.

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Former tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald, (Brian Lawless/PA)

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.

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 O’Higgin’s Inquiry, 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 private O’Higgins Commission in 2015.

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.

The hearing continues.

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