Belfast Telegraph

Taoiseach 'nothing to hide' over Garda whistleblower legal strategy

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he has nothing to hide over the strategy to attempt to discredit Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe at a private inquiry into malpractice in the force.

The sergeant spoke to the Taoiseach on the phone for 15 to 20 minutes last night as a Government email was released confirming that Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald was told in 2015 about the tactics being used by Garda lawyers at the O'Higgins inquiry.

The note, written by the assistant secretary of the Department of Justice, alerted Mrs Fitzgerald, then justice minister, that "a serious criminal complaint" which had always been denied by Sgt McCabe, was raised at the commission.

The email was sent to a number of people including the Tanaiste.

The Taoiseach told the Dail: "I have nothing to hide here. I've nobody that I'm trying to protect.

"There's nothing here to hide. There's nobody here that I or this Government is trying to protect. All we are interested in is the truth."

The Taoiseach said he read the email to Sergeant McCabe during the phonecall and the whistleblower disputed its contents.

The officer said he was targeted by lawyers for then Garda commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan who attempted to claim that he raised issues of bad policing because he had a grudge against colleagues.

He said the transcripts from O'Higgins would show he was not targeted in the manner suggested in the email.

The Taoiseach also insisted that there was no collusion between the Department of Justice and the Garda over how Sgt McCabe would be challenged by lawyers.

"The Tanaiste had no hand, act or part in the legal strategy pursued by the former Garda commissioner," he said.

"There's an attempt in some way to suggest in this house and other places that the state, or state entities were acting in collusion or acting together. That is not the case."

The Taoiseach has asked the Department of Justice to audit its files in relation to Sgt McCabe and his long-running battle to be believed as a whistleblower to see if anything has not been handed over to the Disclosures Tribunal.

Ms Fitzgerald said on Tuesday she had been aware a "serious criminal" complaint was levelled at Sgt McCabe during the O'Higgins inquiry.

She has also insisted that she did not know about a smear campaign against the officer until 2016.

Last year it emerged the legal team appointed by the former Garda commissioner was instructed to question Sgt McCabe's motivation and credibility at the O'Higgins Commission, which was set up in February 2015 to examine allegations of Garda malpractice.

The strategy pursued against Sgt McCabe is one of a number of issues being examined by the disclosures tribunal, chaired by Mr Justice Peter Charleton.

Mr Varadkar also raised concerns that he had not been fully briefed on the issue in the last few days.

"I'm not satisfied with the fact that at least two occasions in the last week I've been given incomplete information from the Department of Justice," he said.

"It is not something that I like to see happen."

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