The Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan is under pressure to quit after the former head of the Garda press office admitted that he had taken part in a top level smear campaign against a whistleblower to try to undermine his allegations of corruption.
The Minister for Justice in Dublin, Frances Fitzgerald, is now being urged by senior police figures to set up an inquiry into dysfunctionality in the force’s leadership. Its report could recommend that O’Sullivan be removed from her position.
The latest allegations are understood to have come from Superintendent David Taylor, a former head of the Garda press office who was suspended over a year ago.
Supt Taylor has said there was a campaign, orchestrated by senior officers and in which he admits participating under orders, to discredit whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe. Sgt McCabe had revealed systematic and widespread Garda corruption in the handling of penalty points for motoring offences.
Supt Taylor’s evidence is understood to include a Garda intelligence file of ‘dirt’ to be used against Sgt McCabe.
Two other whistleblowers, Keith Harrison and Nick Keogh, said they repeatedly sought to highlight campaigns against them from within the force, but were ignored by the Garda Commissioner, the Garda Ombudsman, and the Justice Minister herself.
A previous investigation by Justice Kevin O’Higgins showed that O’Sullivan’s legal team had been instructed to attack McCabe’s character of The Commissioner has repeatedly denied engaging in such campaigns.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the latest Garda scandal may again warrant the appointment of a judge to examine the claims. However, whistleblowers have warned that this would favour garda bosses as they have all the relevant records from the period in question, which are not available to them.
Independents4Change TD Mick Wallace said the Commissioner is doing “so much damage” to the force which he said is in “turmoil”.
“The Gardai is in turmoil. There is a split in it with two camps. The Garda Commissioner has promoted a ring around her. It is corrosive. She is doing so much damage to An Garda Siochana that there are many good gardai shocked at how she is operating,” he said.
“The Tanaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality cannot leave her in position,” Mr Wallace said.
His colleague, Clare Daly, said there was a “huge gulf between public statements of the Commissioner offering support to whistleblowers in the force, and what goes on behind the scenes.” She said there had ben revelations of a deliberate and organised campaign to “annihilate” Sgt McCabe.
“Word came down from the top that he [Sgt McCabe] be crushed,” she said. “He had to be discredited, inaccurate information was given about him in the most horrific way, text messages were sent to Gardai, people in the media told “you don’t want to be talking with him now, you know all about him, hint hint”, with some more graphic detail beside it.
“Politicians, who I think need to come clean, also got the message about him. What it was, was an attempt to isolate and crush this man, because he had the audacity to speak up against the hierarchy, and I suppose the most serious part of all of this, was that, the claim is, it was done utterly with the knowledge of the former and present Commissioner.”