Leaders' Questions

Happy St. Valentine's Day.

We are having a love-in.

We will try to avoid a massacre.

Last evening I met Maurice McCabe and his family in his home in Mountnugent.

It is shocking and horrific that any family should have been put through what they have been put through over many years. I read the Tusla file when in Maurice McCabe's home. It is truly shocking. What strikes one is the incredibly casual approach to a monumentally false allegation on the part of the authorities in terms of the fact that the report was left hanging around in Garda stations without being corrected and in terms of the length of time it took for either Tusla or the HSE to deal adequately and properly with it. The lethal aspect of all this is the fact that the report in question was used to fundamentally undermine the integrity of Maurice McCabe. There is no doubt, in my opinion, that there was an attempt and a campaign to undermine the integrity of Maurice McCabe because he was proving to be a major thorn in the side of senior people within An Garda Síochána or on foot of the fact that he was raising issues that have subsequently been vindicated by a commission of investigation.

There is a need - I would like the Taoiseach to confirm this - for a public tribunal of inquiry under the Tribunal of Inquiries Act. Any inquiry cannot be secret. There must be the right of public cross-examination. People may ask why this should be the case. The McCabes made it very clear to me that they will never again engage with an O'Higgins-type process because what they went through in that regard was shocking, with the kitchen sink and all thrown at them by senior counsel representing the Garda Commissioner. The senior counsel said that he would be attacking McCabe's integrity and motivation all the way through the inquiry. He said that his instructions were to challenge the integrity of Sergeant McCabe and his motivation all the way through the inquiry. There was a five-page document prepared by the Chief State Solicitor's office on behalf of the Garda Commissioner. That is why they do not want to be involved in a similar exercise again under any circumstances. They want a public inquiry, Taoiseach. I know that Deputy O'Callaghan, who has acted in good faith throughout this situation, has sent out draft terms of reference for such an inquiry, which must include events at the O'Higgins commission of investigation that were designed to entrap Sergeant McCabe. Had he not had the tape recording of the Mullingar meeting, God knows where this would have ended up. That has to be investigated. I want confirmation from the Taoiseach that the Government is agreeable to including events at the O'Higgins commission of investigation in the terms of reference and that it is agreeing to a tribunal of inquiry.

I thank Deputy Micheál Martin for his question. Since responsibility came my way as a result of the office I hold, for the first time since the foundation of the State we have had a senior ministry for children, a Department for children, an agency for children, children's rights enshrined in the Constitution by way of a referendum and a statement in respect of sexual abuse in Cloyne and the cover-up engaged in and the limbo that existed in respect of what went on in this country for years. The entire country has sympathy with Sergeant McCabe and his family. I have made that point on many occasions. What is required is an effective process to deal with a central issue, namely, was there or was there not a deliberate smear campaign against Sergeant McCabe and his family by senior gardaí. That is what needs to be dealt with.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality received two protected disclosures some time ago. Four days later, she sent them to a judge, Mr. Justice O'Neill, who assessed them. His response was that what was needed was a commission of investigation to determine the truth and he set out the terms of reference for that commission of investigation. Following on from Deputy Micheál Martin's meeting with Sergeant McCabe and my meeting with the Deputy this morning, I understand that the McCabe family will not participate in a private investigation.

They want a public investigation. I want to be very clear about this. When we proceed down the road of having a tribunal of inquiry under the 1921 Act, dealing with tribunals, we have to be very clear that this is right down the middle in respect of everybody. The presumption of innocence until proven otherwise stands for every citizen, and people should be very careful in respect of this. Yes, Sergeant McCabe has pointed out the appalling litany of instances of his treatment. There is nothing worse in this country than being called a sexual abuser. It has to be soul-destroying for the individual or his or her family to put up with that.

I can confirm to the Ceann Comhairle and the House that the Government agreed in principle this morning to set up a tribunal of inquiry under the 1921 Act, with the terms of reference to be worked out and the details and the structure by which the central issue here can be addressed, that is, the determination of the truth and justice for everybody in respect of the central question as to whether there was an organised smear campaign against Sergeant McCabe by the senior Garda officers. The Government will work with the individual parties in respect of the terms of reference. I want to make it clear, however, there can be no bias or over-reliance upon anybody in the determination of how these terms of reference will be set out and the purpose for which they are intended.

I welcome the confirmation that there will be a tribunal of inquiry. The Taoiseach made the point that we must be very careful. I suggest to him that maybe we were all too careful in our response to this saga over the last number of years, particularly considering that the O'Higgins commission of investigation was conducted in an unacceptable manner. That said, I put it to the Taoiseach that the establishment of a tribunal of inquiry - it has not been established yet - is no basis for Ministers not coming into the House to answer questions and being accountable to it in regard to the Tusla file, which is over and above and additional to the protected disclosures issues that gave rise to the inquiry in the first instance. As the Taoiseach, the Minister for Health, the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Minister for Children, in particular, know, the Tusla file indicates an apology was to be given by a State agency to a citizen, namely, Mr. Maurice McCabe. Incredibly, his family was on the file. They were embroiled in it; it is appalling. It is very difficult to understand why that was not revealed to the Cabinet, that is, that a State agency is about to apologise to someone who at this stage is a major public figure in respect of very high-profile cases. There is an onus. This is an important Chamber in terms of accountability. This week, Ministers should come before the House to answer in regard to their responsibilities in this matter and to give straight, clear answers which may clear up a lot. There has been incoherence at the heart of the Government's response to the Tusla file, and that is to put it mildly. There is an opportunity this week in this House for Ministers to do what is normally done in Parliaments, that is, account in the House for their stewardship regarding a particular issue and enlighten the Deputies on whatever challenges and constraints they were operating under, or give explanations as to the lack of coherence in articulating their position on an issue that has given rise to major public interest and major public scandal.

I am before the House myself. I have said to the Deputy that the Cabinet has agreed in principle to hold a public inquiry under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921. The Deputy mentioned the O'Higgins investigation. Without being too political about this, I understand one of the Deputy's own Members was a number of years ago allegedly given very important information that could have been germane to the report but chose not to give it for a period of three years. People should understand that, over the past period of time, the Government has tried to set up the independent inspectorate, to revamp and restructure GSOC after ten years and set up the completely independent Policing Authority because the perception of the Garda at higher levels over many years has not been what it should have been.

It will take some time to change that culture by the independence in appointment of the independent Policing Authority.

I want to make it clear, as the Minister, Deputy Zappone, pointed out, that when she informed me that she had spoken to the McCabes, the discussion that she had with them was about false allegations made to Tusla. She did not indicate to me any issue of the detail of the discussions she had with the McCabe family or, indeed, the existence or any content of a file that the Deputy mentioned. Obviously, this became very public knowledge on the relevant "Prime Time" programme. The Minister, Deputy Zappone, is very clear that the discussions she had with Sergeant McCabe were of a confidential nature, that she had to respect his privacy and that these things were not in the public domain at the time that she met with them.

I might say mea culpa, because I did say, and I am guilty here of not giving accurate information, I understood, from thinking myself that I had, that she had asked me about meeting Sergeant McCabe in the first place. It actually was her office that consulted with my officials, who told me. She is very clear that she did not tell me that she intended to meet Sergeant McCabe but she did tell her official to tell my office, so I regret that.


"I said to her."

Who told her to take notes?


Ciúnas, please.

I regret that. That is the same information. I did not actually-----

A Deputy

Is that the best the Taoiseach can do?

Has the Taoiseach got his story straight yet?


Deputies, please.

She did not tell me herself that she was meeting Sergeant McCabe.


She did tell me before the Cabinet meeting last Tuesday that she had met with him and they had discussed allegations that were false in respect of those given to Tusla.

The Taoiseach will know that Sinn Féin has tabled a motion of no confidence in the Government. If he wants to know why, he should reflect on his mea culpa of a moment ago. His little deal with the Fianna Fáil leader may delay that necessary development. It will also delay the search for truth by Maurice McCabe. The tipping point for Sinn Féin was the way that the Government dealt with the campaign of vilification, smears and false accusations against Garda Sergeant McCabe. That is a campaign that the Garda Commissioner now acknowledges, although she says that she did not know it was happening at the time it was happening.

This is not the time to go into the twists and turns, lies and spin of this long episode, but it is remarkable that Maurice McCabe, his wife, Lorraine, and their family have survived it all. That is obviously because of their resilience, bravery and commitment to each other and the need for the highest standards in public life, including in An Garda Síochána.

There are two issues - allegations of a criminal conspiracy by senior gardaí and the enabling of that by the Government. This series of scandals began when Maurice McCabe raised concerns about corrupt practices in the hierarchy of An Garda Síochána in 2008 and then publicly when he and Garda John Wilson did so in 2012. They were smeared, bullied and undermined. So were Teachtaí who raised concerns in this Chamber.

Then there was the Taoiseach's role in the retirement of Commissioner Martin Callinan, the resignation of the confidential Garda recipient, the resignation of the Minister, Alan Shatter, and the transfer of the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality. It goes on and on. Eight years of public defamation and State vilification of Sergeant McCabe and his family.

What of the concerns of the other whistleblowers? Last week, the Government proved itself once again to be incompetent, incohesive and without any authority to govern except that gifted to it by the Fianna Fáil leader. Citizens deserve a 21st-century, accountable policing service. So do members of An Garda Síochána. The Government is not capable of establishing that. The Taoiseach and the Fianna Fáil leader in their choreographed, staged little exchanges of a moment ago may laud the merits of the public inquiry that the Taoiseach has just belatedly announced, but the credit for that public inquiry is entirely Maurice and Lorraine McCabe's.


Hear, hear.

It should not proceed without their full agreement.

While the Government remains in office there will be no truth. There will be no justice for Maurice McCabe and no resolution of the wider issues underpinning this shameful episode. A criminal investigation is needed. Last week the Government rejected a Sinn Féin amendment to the terms of reference of its ill-fated commission. The amendment would have allowed investigation of contacts between members of An Garda Síochána, members of the Government, former members of the Government, Members of the Oireachtas and other State agencies relevant to the allegations made against Sergeant McCabe. The Taoiseach blocked that. Why was that blocked by you, Taoiseach, and the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality?

You are an absolute hypocrite-----


Hear, hear.

-----after what you did and what you said to former Senator Máiría Cahill.


Hear, hear.

And what you did and did not do in respect of safe houses, including on this side of the Border, where sexual abuse was conducted on young men by members of your organisation.

And Jerry McCabe.

You are an absolute hypocrite.

You have brought shame to your office again.

Let me tell you something, Deputy Adams. If you want to play politics with an issue that is so sensitive and so personal that it goes to the very heart of the public soul of Ireland then do so, but I do not agree with you because four days after this Minister got two protected disclosures about these very serious issues, she sent that to an eminent judge to examine them. He carried out his analysis and said he could not determine the truth here and that what the Tánaiste needed to do was set up a commission of investigation. The Government followed his recommendation to the letter in respect of the terms of reference and the way that it should be conducted. It is, Deputy Adams, not about running away but about facing the issue here-----

-----which is to determine the truth as to whether there was a deliberate smear campaign against Sergeant McCabe and his family by senior members of the Garda.

There was and the Taoiseach knows it.

Here is the issue. Deputy Adams has never gone through this because he ran away each time it was raised.


Hear, hear.

In his kangaroo court.

He wants to convict before he hears the evidence.

Shoot first ask questions later.

When one sets out to have a tribunal of inquiry under the 1921 Act, one cannot show any bias to anybody in the setting up of the terms of reference. One cannot determine the outcome of the inquiry before it ever begins. I understand the difficulties, stress and pressure this has caused for the McCabe family. There is nothing worse in this country than being called a sexual abuser, but everybody has a presumption of innocence-----

Who is the hypocrite now?

-----and there are two people here who vehemently deny that they were guilty of any smear campaign against Sergeant McCabe. That is why the Cabinet in its wisdom today has decided to have a tribunal of inquiry, under the 1921 Act-----

-----which will be fair to everybody and which will be drawn up with terms of reference that will include all of these relevant issues to get at that central question of whether there was or not a smear campaign against Sergeant McCabe.

Shame on you, Taoiseach. It is a disgrace. You should resign.

Ask Máiría Cahill what you did.

It is utterly hypocritical of Deputy Adams to come into this House after what he did and said about Senator Cahill and young men on this side of the Border who were abused in safe houses by members of his organisation.

You are a disgrace.

This Government will set up the facility, together with Members of the House, so that central question can be answered.

Well Taoiseach, I am not going to rise to your bluster-----


Hear, hear.

-----to your diversions, to your distractions-----

What about your kangaroo court?

The fact is, Taoiseach, it was on your watch that all of these malicious accusations, allegations and malpractice happened. Every single proposition put forward by Sinn Féin to the Taoiseach to deal with it, to "Pattenise" the process, to radically reform An Garda Síochána and to have transparency was dismissed. Aithníonn ciaróg ciaróg eile. Let me ask the Taoiseach the question again which he refused once again to answer. Why did he block the amendment to allow the investigation of contact between members of An Garda Síochána with members of the Government, former members, Members of the Oireachtas and other State agencies relevant to the allegations made against Sergeant Maurice McCabe? The Taoiseach can say what he wants about me but he would have much more credibility if he answered that straightforward simple question.

The Taoiseach should tell the Dáil when he was briefed about the false child abuse allegations made against Sergeant McCabe. He should stand up now and tell the Dáil when he was briefed about that and who briefed him.

A bit of truth - Paddy wants to know.

The Taoiseach will stagger on. His Government's sole achievement has been to completely undermine public confidence in his ability and that of the Government. He is now a major obstacle to a satisfactory resolution of this crisis and other matters of public concern. Sinn Féin will not put up with that. Fianna Fáil might prop up an arrangement that has delivered nothing but perpetual crisis. Will the Taoiseach answer those two questions and then have the grace to call an election?

On Sinn Féin's instructions, the Northern Ireland Executive was collapsed to cause chaos. There is no leadership there now. Does Deputy Adams want to do the same thing down here? Sinn Féin has tabled a motion of no confidence in the Government simply because it wants to cause chaos down here as well. Allegations, rumour and hearsay do not count in our dictionary here but truth does. Sergeant Maurice McCabe and his family deserve, as do others, the fairness and justice that will come from a tribunal of inquiry under the 1921 Act. Deputy Adams should not come in here and try to determine what the outcome of that might be before it is even set up. We have had all of Sinn Féin's stuff over the years - run away and deny everything. Sinn Féin's deputy leader says "sure Gerry couldn't be wrong". That is the way it is. When our Tánaiste received these two protected disclosures, they were given to a judge within four days and the judge took an extra six weeks to examine them. The important point made by Deputy Micheál Martin and others, including myself, is that the central issue here is that Sergeant McCabe has made the case that there was a deliberate smear against him to denigrate and do him down. The only way we can deal with that is by getting at the truth. The way you can determine that truth is by having compellability, cross-examination, publication and everybody understanding what went on here so that the central question can be answered. What Deputy Adams wants to do is bring down the Government so that this cannot happen. It is the same old story from Sinn Féin. This is a very sensitive personal issue for this family. It is also an issue for the Garda Commissioner and the previous Commissioner. This is why there must be fairness and a recognition of innocence until proven otherwise. Under our legal system, we do not jump to conclusions or have kangaroo courts as happens in some other places.

The Taoiseach mentioned the truth quite a few times. He is well known for having a casual relationship with the truth.

That is outrageous.

The admission, or mea culpa, made by the Taoiseach a moment ago goes well beyond the man with two pints in his hand, the Army protecting the ATM machines or the people ringing up the Department of the Taoiseach to tell it how great the budget was. It goes well beyond that. Let us quote what the Taoiseach said on "This Week" on Sunday. He said:

Minister Zappone, who is doing a very good job, did tell me that she intended to meet with Sergeant McCabe in a private capacity. That's all I knew. I said to her "well if you do have a meeting make sure that you have a thorough account of it."

That is not some slightly inaccurate remembrance of his conversation with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. It is a completely inaccurate statement. He has said that this conversation did not take place. How could he remember it in such detail if it did not take place? It is a central untruth and the reason it matters is because it means that at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the Taoiseach knew about Tusla and did not brief the Cabinet and it means that he consciously did not include it in the terms of reference and that he misled the public on RTE.

Having admitted that moments ago, how can he now continue as Taoiseach? It is not the only matter of fact on which there is a difference. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael can agree that the difference between the Tánaiste and Deputy Jim O'Callaghan does not really matter now. However, it does matter. It matters because one of them is telling the truth and the other one is not. If Deputy O'Callaghan is telling the truth, that means the Tánaiste misled the Dáil on Thursday.

We need facts and statements from all of these and we need the ability to question them.

Mr. Martin Callinan described what the whistleblowers were doing as "disgusting". That is the word that sums up the actions of the top gardaí in smearing Mr. Maurice McCabe, engaging in a pattern of black propaganda of a similar sort against at least two other gardaí, political policing, Operation Mizen, spying and trumped up charges against Jobstown protestors. It is disgusting. The Commissioner has said that she will not step aside because "a campaign of false accusations ... do not make me guilty of anything". Tell that to Mr. Maurice McCabe, who had his life ruined. Tell it to Mr. Dave Taylor, who was suspended from his job for 22 months with the Commissioner's husband leading the investigation. The Commissioner's husband took control of his mobile phones, upon which, allegedly, there is a text from the Commissioner saying "Perfect" in response to the idea that a journalist was meeting the alleged victim of Mr. Maurice McCabe. How can the Taoiseach allow Commissioner O'Sullivan to remain in place? How does he know that she will not use her position to obstruct the inquiry?

The questions that Mr. Maurice McCabe has posed do not need a tribunal. We are in favour of a tribunal, but Mr. McCabe has posed six simple questions that the Government and the Ministers can get answers to from the Commissioner, Tusla and the HSE. When will Mr. McCabe have answers to those questions?

It is a funny thing that when one comes to the House and to the people in this position and actually tells the truth, one gets pilloried also. There are many people who were here before me for many years who made mistakes. I stand here to say that I had spoken to the Minister about the information on her meeting with the McCabe family. She notified my office, which told me of that information. I put that in the public domain and I regret that because I should not have. The Minister did not refer to any of the details of the discussion with the McCabes, the existence of a file in Tusla or the information contained in that file. It is not true to say that I had any information about the existence of that prior to the Cabinet meeting in Government Buildings.

The judge who was appointed to conduct the commission of investigation confirmed that what he saw on the "Prime Time" programme was covered by the existing terms of reference. After Judge O'Neill examined both protected disclosures, he was unable to determine the truth. He set out the terms of reference that Government followed faithfully. That included covering the issue of erroneous sexual allegations against Sergeant McCabe.

I will return to the central point. There is an issue of truth and justice that needs to be determined. It is a very sensitive, serious and public matter now. The way to achieve that is to have the co-operation of everybody in order that this work can be done. There is no point in having some private investigation or commission if the McCabe family is not willing to participate in it. As far as I am concerned, the Government was very anxious to decide in principle to have a tribunal of inquiry under the 1921 Act, to be fair to everybody and draft terms of reference that will allow the tribunal to do its work. I hope that can be concluded within the next 48 hours and that it can go through both the Dáil and the Seanad in order to let that commission and tribunal of inquiry get on with its work.

The central issue is whether there was or was not a concerted smear campaign by senior gardaí against Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

That is the question which needs to be answered and it is the question I hope the tribunal of inquiry will be able to deal with in everybody's interest.

Will the Taoiseach agree that what has happened here is utterly chilling, namely, a criminal conspiracy led by the hierarchy of the Garda to destroy the lives of gardaí who pose difficulties for them? If they felt able to do that against gardaí, what else are they willing to do to those who they consider to pose a threat to them? Does the Taoiseach agree that it is a fundamental threat to any notion of democratic rights when those at the top of a police force feel able to do that? Will he agree that it is not a question of one or two bad apples but that, in the context of the Garda, the barrel is evidently rotten at the top? We need a police force that is democratically controlled and accountable to the communities its members are supposed to serve.

I suggest to the Taoiseach that the reason he has made the mea culpa is not because he re-remembered what happened but because he got caught out by the contradiction between what he said and what was said by the Minister, Deputy Zappone-----


Hear, hear.

-----just as either the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, or Deputy O'Callaghan were caught out. Facts are stubborn things. They cannot exist in two different states at the same time.

Do I take it from the Taoiseach's response that he does not agree to Maurice McCabe's request that the six questions that have been posed be answered in advance of, or at least parallel to, any tribunal of inquiry? They are simple questions and the Government has the power to ask them of the relevant authorities and get the answers. For example, who contacted the counsellor or who was contacted by that counsellor such that this matter ended up in the domain of being put back on the Tusla file? Where did that come from? The answer will clearly establish a train of events in terms of where this comes from? Does the Taoiseach agree that the questions should be answered?

Deputy Murphy is supporting, in principle, the setting up of a tribunal of inquiry and then prejudging its outcome before it starts. That is the Deputy's position. I have pointed out already that the Government has made serious adjustments to bring about greater trust, confidence and belief in the Garda, both in terms of the restructured Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, which is a totally independent police authority, and an independent inspectorate to help create that trust and confidence that the public and gardaí themselves need in the force.

The questions posed will be answered in so far as they can but I would say to Deputy Murphy that there is clearly an interaction between the substance of a number of those questions and the tribunal of inquiry to be set up. In so far as the Department of Justice and Equality can answer from relevant information, that will be done. However, the fundamental issue is that a tribunal of inquiry must be balanced, fair to everybody, have terms of reference that include that and then be allowed to do its job. I hope that can be approved by the Dáil and by the Seanad this week so that this tribunal of investigation and inquiry can start its work at the earliest possible time.

The public inquiry should have a criminal investigation running in parallel to it and this should be pursued by police from outside the country. Many bad things have happened.

The Taoiseach said that everybody has the presumption of innocence. He has a short memory. For several years, according to the Fine Gael-Labour Government, Maurice McCabe was guilty until proven innocent. Nóirín O'Sullivan talked yesterday of a campaign of false accusations against her. Is she saying that Maurice McCabe was lying? Is she saying that David Taylor, Keith Harrison, Nick Keogh, Sinéad Killian, Eve Doherty, Donal O'Connell and others are all liars? If she genuinely did not know how whistleblowers were treated, she is not fit for the job because she did not know what was going on in the force.

In the context of the O'Higgins inquiry, she instructed her legal team to give false evidence until Maurice McCabe's tape turned that upside down. If she was innocent, why did she not sanction or discipline the two gardaí involved?

It is a long time ago. How can the Taoiseach explain that when Nick Keogh reported Garda involvement in the heroin trade in Athlone he faced five internal investigations that same year but none before that. Why? Why was the superintendent whom Nick Keogh accused of bullying and harassing him put on the promotion list? In 2014, the Garda Commissioner appointed an assistant commissioner to look at Keith Harrison's complaint. The assistant commissioner leaked information back to the superintendent who was the subject of the complaint. On foot of a different complaint involving the very same superintendent that same assistant commissioner was asked to carry out an investigation. If all this was not bad enough, when GSOC, following its investigation into the second matter, asked for disciplinary proceedings to be taken by An Garda Síochána, whom did Nóirín appoint over it? One would never guess - the same assistant commissioner.

In early 2014, a journalist contacted David Taylor when he was press officer. The journalist told him he had been to the family of the girl at the centre of the sex allegations against Maurice McCabe. He told him he had a great story which would be really damaging for McCabe. Taylor texted Callinan and O'Sullivan and told them the good news. Callinan texted him back to welcome it. Nóirín decided to ring him and have a good chat about it. This is the woman who said several weeks ago on "Today with Sean O'Rourke" that she had absolutely no knowledge and nor was she privy to any campaign to undermine any individual in An Garda Síochána. The press officer, David Taylor, who was given back his job yesterday, stated everybody in headquarters knew about the campaign against Maurice McCabe. Everybody, seemingly Taoiseach, except Nóirín. What does the Taoiseach think?

I thank Deputy Wallace. What he is doing is making his comments and he is also concluding the outcome of a tribunal of inquiry. What is the question being asked here? Was there a deliberate smearing campaign by senior gardaí against Sergeant McCabe or was there not? We can talk all we like about it in here, but it will not answer that fundamental question. Judge O'Neill was unable to determine what that truth was and he examined both of those protected disclosures in great depth and got a six-week extension to do his work. He concluded at the end of it all that he was not in a position to determine what the truth was, so he said to the Minister and the Government they had to hold a commission of investigation and gave them the terms of reference. The Government followed that faithfully, but clearly the judge appointed was also happy that the terms of reference covered agencies that might or might not be involved. The position is the Government has agreed in principle to set up the tribunal of inquiry. The question of the terms of reference, its structure, its range and all these are issues to be decided now, and I hope this matter can be accepted and approved by Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann this week and that the person to be appointed, whoever that might be, will be able to get on with his or her work and start the process of effectively finding out the answer to the central question on whether there was or was not a concerted effort of smearing Sergeant McCabe from the highest echelons of Garda Síochána na hÉireann.

Everyone says the Garda Commissioner is innocent until proven guilty. That is grand. We are not saying lock her up and throw away the key, but for God's sake take her out of the police job because she is not fit for it. I am not throwing notions plucked out of the sky at the Taoiseach. I am throwing information and facts at him. In 2008, when Maurice McCabe first raised issues of wrongdoing in An Garda Síochána and systemic problems in how the force worked, he was trying to change the culture in An Garda Síochána.

Here we are in 2017 and, sadly, the culture has not changed.

The Government did not change anything. It brought in a few changes in legislation but these were not nearly enough. It changed the Commissioner but appointed one who was at the shoulder of the other one when he called whistleblowers "disgusting". Since then she has hounded and harassed whistleblowers. It is not as if the Tánaiste was not told about this. The Government knows it is going on but it has decided to turn a blind eye. It did not want to know what is happening because it did not suit. If the Taoiseach has any interest in how we do policing in Ireland he should change it now by getting rid of the Commissioner. He should get rid of all the hierarchy too as several assistant commissioners are due for retirement. He should do as the Patten report recommended in Northern Ireland and start afresh. Let us find someone from outside the country or a civilian and get a new hierarchy from the lower members of the force who were not able to get promotion because they were clean. Let us make a fresh start before the Taoiseach retires and let us do something for policing. There was a time when Fine Gael was seen as the party of law and order but this Government has rubbished that.

I disagree fundamentally with the view of the Deputy from Wexford on this case. He said we should look outside but this was the first competition held internationally for a Garda Commissioner. The Commissioner is the first person to come through an independent competition trawled internationally for that purpose. The Deputy said we should change history. He might think he is in a position to fire everybody but this Government introduced a totally independent policing authority, the first since the foundation of the State.

Where has it been in the past two weeks?

Its function is to make senior appointments to An Garda Síochána and that is what it will do. It takes time to change perception and culture.

The authority has no power over the Commissioner.

Everybody understands the way some gardaí were perceived over the years. This is why Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring is changing the structure of GSOC to ensure people have trust and confidence in the organisation and that if they want to make complaints those complaints will be examined confidentially and be subjected to a full and thorough analysis of their value or otherwise. This Government, like the previous one, is changing the nature and the perception of the structure of the Garda, which is necessary. The Deputy can talk about it but there is now an independent police authority and a changed structure, with confidentiality in the way complaints are made and in the way business is done, all under an eminent judge. We are doing all of that to protect whistleblowers and we are having a tribunal on the central issue, namely, the alleged smearing of Sergeant McCabe on the basis of erroneous sexual allegations. The Deputy should support the holding of a tribunal of inquiry, which should be drafted in a way that is fair to everybody so that justice and truth will be the outcome.

That concludes a much extended Leaders' Questions.