Let me start by saying that the top priority in this matter is achieving justice for the McCabe family. I have not encountered one person- since the story broke- who does not have enormous sympathy for the McCabes – and the ordeal they have subjected to.
As such, I very much support this Government’s commitment in principle to the establishment of a public Tribunal of Inquiry to investigate allegations that senior Gardaí conducted a smear campaign against Sergeant McCabe.
It is imperative we ensure that we are very clear as we enter the Tribunal process, that the presumption of innocence stands for every citizen.
I am hopeful that this tribunal will uncover the truth and it’s crucial now that we see full justice for the McCabe family. It is no less than they deserve after the soul destroying experience they have been through.
At this point I would like to say that the fact that Sinn Féin see this whole matter as an opportunity to make political gains is appalling. They are playing politics with what is a sensitive and personal issue to the McCabe family.
Indeed it’s more than a bit rich for Sinn Féin, to suddenly show concern for the Gardaí and the concept of law and order given their record on issues such as: the murders of Garda McCabe, Brian Stack, Joseph Rafferty, Jean McConville; and the treatment of Mairia Cahill -to name but a few.
At this juncture- I would like to discuss Reform of the Gardaí which this issue has inevitably raised. To date his Government has a good track record in this regard, most notably the establishment of the Policing Authority.
It is a sea change in policing in this country to have an independent Policing Authority, which will grow, develop and have that oversight of An Garda Síochána, as well as having the ability to have public meetings, as it has done already. I also welcome the fact that An Tánaiste recently indicated in the House on the Justice Committee Report on Governance and Accountability, that she will introduce legislation to enhance the powers of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC.
The Tánaiste has indicated previously that she spends much of her time as Minister for Justice and Equality ensuring that we have the strongest possible protections for whistle-blowers. These measures along with the new code of ethics for new recruits in Templemore are all very welcome and necessary.
The McCabe issue however has highlighted that fact that we cannot be too vigilant – it is essential our citizens can have trust in An Garda Síochána because they occupy such a critical part of our democracy.
It is crucial we now put in place strong, durable and sustainable policies and procedures to prevent a recurrence of recent events. It is of the utmost importance that allegations of wrongdoing by members of An Garda Síochána are fully addressed.
Regarding Minister Zappone I think what must be stressed now is this is not an issue about who said what, that’s a sideshow. Our main focus here is the establishment of a Tribunal and getting justice for Maurice McCabe.
My Questions for Minister Zappone:
The big question concerns communication links between staff of Tulsa and the Gardaí, how did it come to pass that a person such as Sgt McCabe was falsely accused of such a heinous crime?
Have any similar mistakes of this magnitude have been made by Tusla? Whether or not Tusla made this mistake in respect of any other members of An Garda Siochana or others who are not members of the force?
If so – what supports can be given to these individuals and their families?
What immediate steps have been taken, apart from the investigation announced yesterday, to ensure against this ever happening again?