Belfast Telegraph

Garda Commissioner denies approving alleged whistleblower smear campaign

The Garda Commissioner has denied approving an alleged smear campaign against a whistleblower in the force.

With a judge expected to be called in to examine the allegations, Noirin O'Sullivan was forced to insist publicly that she knew nothing about claims that senior gardai targeted the officer in a widespread character assassination.

It is understood two senior gardai have made statements to justice chiefs that false and damaging allegations were made against the whistleblower and that one has said they were following orders.

The police chief said she would condemn any conspiracy or smear campaign against an officer.

"Commissioner O'Sullivan would like to make it clear that she was not privy to nor approved of any action designed to target any Garda employee who may have made a protected disclosure and would condemn any such action," her office said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the allegations were very serious and suggested a judge would be asked to review them.

Clare Daly, TD with the Independents4Change group, demanded Commissioner O'Sullivan resign and claimed the smear campaign was "systematic, organised and orchestrated" and had the "full involvement of the present and former commissioner".

She said it was designed to "not just discredit a whistleblower but to annihilate him".

The Commissioner said it would be inappropriate to comment on specific allegations made under protected disclosure rules, which were introduced in 2014 to support whistleblowers.

The police chief urged a comprehensive investigation into the claims as soon as possible.

"The Commissioner wishes to re-iterate that any employees in An Garda Siochana who bring forward any concerns or issues they might have will be taken seriously and the matters examined," the force said.

It is understood the statements about the smear campaign were sent to Tanaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald's office.

"Others may be free to comment. I want to ensure what we have is a just and fair approach to this issue and I am very carefully, very carefully assessing and considering what is the appropriate response to those disclosures," she said.

The allegations are understood to have been given to the Tanaiste's office in the last week, but the smear campaign itself may date back as far as 2013.

It is claimed hundreds of text messages were disseminated among a large group of officers with instructions to attack the whistleblower's character, and an intelligence file was opened on the whistleblower and movements were monitored.

Journalists and some politicians were also briefed by senior garda about allegations about the whistleblower.

Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald accused Ms O'Sullivan of running for cover on the allegations.

"She has talked the talk when it comes to disclosure, transparency and openness, but when it comes to walking the walk, it's business as usual," she said.

"What of suggestions that minister Frances Fitzgerald has received other complaints? Complaints that she has failed to respond to over a period of months."

Several whistleblowers in the Garda have been identified in recent years, some of whom have spoken out about their treatment after raising concerns about corruption or bad policing.

Among them are Sergeant Maurice McCabe who was vindicated over the vast majority of his concerns about policing standards in parts of the Cavan-Monaghan division and abuse of the penalty point system.

Others are Nick Keogh and Keith Harrison both of whom have been named in the Dail as being victims of harassment after raising concerns about policing.

It is understood the Tanaiste received the disclosures on Monday.

John McGuinness, former chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, revealed earlier this year that he had heard allegations about Sgt McCabe while the parliamentary watchdog was examining complaints about abuse of the penalty point system.

He also claimed under parliamentary privilege that he met former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan in January 2014 in a car park where the police chief allegedly told him that Sgt McCabe was not to be trusted and there were serious issues about him.

The Carlow-Kilkenny TD described stories being peddled by senior members of the force about the respected whistleblower as "vile" and "appalling".

Ms Daly urged anyone who believes they were given malicious information about garda whistleblowers to come forward.

"They are in part responsible for allowing the situation to go on as long as it has," she said.

"I do think the onus is on them to come forward and verify the statements. I don't expect that they will. Some will say it did not have any implications on them but they should still come forward.

"It's never too late to do the right thing. They may have received these texts, they may have believed this information genuinely but now there's information that this isn't the case."


From Belfast Telegraph