Garda chief Noirin O’Sullivan will “clarify as much as possible” whether she ordered lawyers to attack the good name of a whistleblower within her ranks, Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald has said.
But the Justice Minister said the Garda Commissioner was entitled to confidentiality in dealing with her legal team and warned that forcing her to reveal instructions was “going down a dangerous path”.
Ms O’Sullivan is coming under intense pressure to explain her role in reported orders to lawyers to undermine the credibility of Sergeant Maurice McCabe in the latest State inquiry into allegations of Garda wrongdoing.
The vast majority of his claims of negligence and malpractice were proven in the O’Higgins report, which also found him to be a man of integrity who should be thanked for his whistle-blowing.
Leaked documents have suggested the Garda Commissioner’s lawyers were under orders to attack his integrity, motivation and credibility.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin told the Dail the revelations were “fairly damaging”.
Questioning Ms Fitzgerald – who is responsible for holding the Garda chief to account – he said the controversy had escalated to a point where a “significant intervention is needed”.
“There are some really stark realities emanating from this because it goes to the core of how whistleblowers are treated,” he said.
Mr Martin said it appeared that Garda lawyers were ordered on an “all out right through attack on the credibility and motivation of Sgt McCabe”.
Ms Fitzgerald pointed out the O’Higgins commission findings that Sgt McCabe had genuine and legitimate concerns and was due the gratitude of both the public and the Garda for his role.
She said Ms O’Sullivan accepted fully the commission’s findings, adding: “I have no doubt she will seek to clarify as much as possible. . . in her own interventions.”
The Justice Minister added that the leaking of transcripts from the inquiry “robs the Garda Commissioner of an opportunity to defend her good name”.
She said she could not respond to “partial transcripts”.
The O’Higgins report has been handed to the independent Policing Authority, which is charged with oversight of the force.
Ms Fitzgerald said the authority’s public questioning of Garda top brass would be an appropriate forum to deal with the ongoing fall-out.
She said she had no doubt Ms O’Sullivan would “say as much as possible when she is questioned in the future in relation to this issue” within legal constraints.
“If it is feasible and legal for the Garda Commissioner to put forth information into the public arena I have no doubt she will do that,” she added.