Allegations in relation to An Garda Síochána: Statements (Resumed)

Since news of the suspected eavesdropping of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission emerged and events since developed to include serious allegations of Garda malpractice based on the complaints of Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe, the uniform response of the Government, that is, of the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Justice and Equality, and the Fine Gael and Labour Ministers, has been to close ranks to protect the top management of the Garda Síochána and to denigrate, undermine and demean GSOC officials and both Garda whistleblowers, Sergeant McCabe and now retired Garda John Wilson.

This is not just because of the apparent close professional relationship between the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Garda Commissioner. This is because the Garda is the institution that in this capitalist State, this Government and its predecessors relied upon not just to deal with day-to-day normal policing actions such as traffic management and crime investigation, but, crucially, to enforce the implementation of right-wing neoliberal economic and social policies such as savage austerity and the privatisation of public resources against the opposition of ordinary people. For example, this Government and its predecessors used the Garda in the most disgusting fashion to brutally repress an entire community in Mayo which was opposing the writ of giving to Shell Oil a fabulous natural resource, our natural gas wealth, with the endangerment of their community and environment. There has been in recent years a tendency to criminalise protest and to use the Garda Síochána in a very brutal fashion to oppose legitimate protests by ordinary citizens in this State. These and other similar actions of the Garda Síochána should also be investigated in a really independent way.

Sergeant Maurice McCabe has welcomed the appointment of a senior counsel to examine his dossier of evidence of malpractice and incompetence in the Garda after years of being victimised, isolated and slandered by certain senior Garda officers. It is a significant achievement for Sergeant McCabe that his detailed concerns about wrongdoing within the Garda are now accepted, after much personal suffering on his part, as needing a major investigation. However, appointing a senior barrister to look at a dossier like this is not enough; the victims of the highlighted Garda malpractice all support the claims of the whistleblowers. Should any serious investigation not involve them and other citizens who have been victims of malpractice and involve ordinary working people whose taxes pay for the Garda, rather than it being confined to the exclusive Law Library which is a bastion of the establishment? Will the Minister for Justice and Equality state categorically today that not only will the Garda whistleblowers be fully engaged with in any future investigation, but that he will guarantee that there will be no further victimisation of Sergeant McCabe or of any other ordinary member of the force who brings malpractice complaints against superiors? Is the Minister prepared to give that clear recommendation here today? Will former Garda John Wilson be enabled to engage with the investigation? John Wilson has also been subjected to shocking pressure, including from an individual who pressurised him to withdraw complaints against a senior officer on the erasing of penalty points. That individual also slandered Garda McCabe in a most disgusting fashion. This individual was a senior judge practising in the courts. Will that be investigated?

The Labour Party in particular stands shamed by its slavish failure to stand for a totally independent investigation into what anyone could see were blatant abuses by sections of senior Garda management. Who will forget the spectacle of the hapless Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, in the House last Thursday in defence of the indefensible as she hyperverbalised and hyperventilated herself into quite a state, pointing her trademark quivering forefinger and flapping her hands in such a frenzy that we thought she might become airborne as she desperately tried not to look over to the Labour benches to see the ghost of her Opposition past berating past Governments for much lesser political crimes. Democratic revolution, where are you?

Sections of the media have acted as a journalistic Praetorian guard for the Garda Commissioner and management undermining the complaints of legitimate whistleblowers. That is extremely consistent with the previous acts of Independent Newspapers which sacked journalist Gemma Doherty for having the audacity to question why the Garda Commissioner himself was forgiven penalty points. It is not just the Garda who need democratic supervision, but the billionaire-owned media also needs to be subjected to the democratic control of ordinary citizens to see if it could tell the truth and really represent the interests of ordinary people for a change.

It should not be forgotten that the Garda Síochána has served this country well since the foundation of the State. Its unarmed status is a very important facet of its existence, of how it does its business. It is an organisation that has the trust and confidence of the general public which has been measured on numerous occasions over the years. The Garda Síochána is not a perfect organisation. It must be acknowledged that over the years it has made some very serious mistakes. The question is whether it will make mistakes in the future. Will some gardaí do wrong? The answer is probably "Yes".

I refer to a recent article in The Irish Times by someone I have never quoted before, the journalist, Fintan O'Toole. He encapsulates quite well the point I have made:

One thing that needs to be made clear here is that there's nothing really shameful in a democracy about the existence of some malpractice in the police force. There will always be malpractice in police forces. It is in their nature. They have extraordinary powers and, because they operate under pressure and danger, they have very strong internal codes of loyalty and omerta. This is a perilous combination. It will generate problems in the best-run police forces in the best-governed countries.

That is an important point for us at this juncture because the police service in this country is one of the key institutions of state. It is incumbent upon us as legislators to ensure that at all times we have the best possible police service. We require the Garda Síochána to provide a policing service striving for the highest standards of integrity and professionalism in the manner in which it carries out its daily duties.

I want to challenge the use of the word "force" in the context of the Garda force - the members of the force, the force is behind me, my force. The word, "force" has connotations of control. For many people it can have connotations of intimidation. The word is outdated and should no longer be used. The Garda Síochána is there to serve; it is the Garda serving the State, serving the people. It is in the clearest of public interest that a high level of trust and confidence is retained in the Garda Síochána and this is reflected in studies undertaken and in opinion polls. Previous inquiries have highlighted major weaknesses and serious malpractice in the Garda Síochána. Today, Vincent Browne comes back to one of his more favoured topics when he lists the series of allegations over the years, some of which have been subject to an inquiry while others have not, but all of which point to some form of allegation of malpractice, that all is not right and that matters need to be improved.

There is something wrong when we have an unhealthy organisational culture and practices that have developed in many large organisations, be they the banks, the Catholic Church or more recently, as evidenced in cases of medical malpractice. We need to examine these examples from a cultural perspective and to ensure that what happened and what was tolerated in the past is no longer tolerated or regarded as acceptable practice. The former practices of protecting wrongdoing, sweeping under the carpet information that may be uncomfortable for an institution of State, are well gone. These days are finished. These matters, by and large, are being dealt with by this House which has provided leadership, particularly in recent years.

The same applies to members of the Garda Síochána. Gardaí at all levels must uphold their obligation to the law and to the truth above any loyalty to their organisation or their colleagues. There is no room for misplaced loyalty and no room for bullies putting their own survival or their career path above the service of the State and the people.

It is important that we learn the lessons of recent events. We must allow the various inquiries that are under way to continue their work unimpeded by this House. One of those inquiries is the assessment of issues by Mr. Seán Guerin, who has been asked to report his findings and to make recommendations before Easter. The Taoiseach has indicated that no matter what Mr. Guerin recommends, he will publish the report immediately and we will have an opportunity to deal with the matter in this House. In addition, the Government has appointed the retired High Court judge, Mr. Justice John Cooke, to conduct an independent inquiry into reports of unlawful surveillance of the offices of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. That public interest investigation is expected to take up to eight weeks to complete. Again, its report will be published and acted upon in this House.

The functions and operation of GSOC, which arose out of the Morris tribunal, are now in need of review. We need to strengthen the commission's remit and its resources. The Minister has indicated that this job of work will be the subject of a broader undertaking by an Oireachtas committee. In the meantime, the Government has approved proposals, which are being brought forward in tandem with the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013 introduced by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, to allow gardaí to make complaints directly to GSOC. Pending the early enactment of that legislation, the Minister, Deputy Shatter, has confirmed the appointment of an interim confidential recipient.

As part of its hearings into these matters, the justice committee should examine international best practice. Recent comments by the former Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Nuala O'Loan, who has direct experience of changing the culture of a police service, are instructive in this regard. Ms O'Loan should be invited to attend the committee hearings and I look forward to hearing her views. We have also heard apposite remarks from a former member of GSOC, Conor Brady, who also can speak not only with experience but with some expertise.

It has become clear that the management structure within GSOC is fundamentally weak and that must be rectified. What is most important, however, is that senior Garda management engage with whistleblowers when required and ensure effective systems are in place for handling such issues. There is a place for whistleblowers in our society, in both the public and private sectors. They must not be demonised by their colleagues or denigrated by senior management for raising concerns, especially where a failure to act on allegations could have a destabilising effect on the entire justice system. In addition, we need to examine the situation regarding our bail laws. The referendum that took place in 1996 resulted in the implementation of certain changes, but there remain fundamental difficulties to be addressed, some of which have arisen in the context of recent allegations.

We must ensure a strong culture of respect throughout our institutions of State, including the Garda Síochána. That includes respect for colleagues, for the law, for high standards and for professionalism in the manner in which gardaí do their business. Most of all, we must ensure respect for the truth. The Garda Síochána owes a loyalty to the criminal and civil law of the State - indeed, to the entire machinery of the State. More than anything, however, gardaí owe a loyalty to the people of this country.

This is an important debate. We must allow the various inquiries to take their course and must, thereafter, act on the recommendations that are brought forward. There is no person in this House better placed to undertake a leadership role in that regard than the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter.

Listening to the Minister's statement in the Dáil this morning and following events as we have been in recent weeks, we would all agree that nobody in this House - no party and no individual - has a monopoly on pledging support to An Garda Síochána or wanting to see the force do the right thing. That is to what everybody in the House aspires. Unfortunately, part of the commentary has been about who can articulate the most support for the Garda. No more than the media, politicians and every other profession in the modern world, gardaí are and must be subject to scrutiny and oversight. Irrespective of whether individuals like it, that is the way it is and we in this House must support it.

What I have found most disturbing about events in recent days, weeks and months is the entire approach to the whistleblower, Sergeant Maurice McCabe. When members of the public who have been following the debate ask themselves whether they believe the Minister's version of events or Garda McCabe's version, their answer is not coming down in favour of the former. That is where the problem lies. We have had a whole series of events, briefings to the media, documents released and so on. At the back of it all, however, we have a serving garda sergeant who has been completely discredited in this House. That is most regrettable.

It is not good enough for the Minister to deliver a statement in the House this morning, 5,600 words in length, but not find it within himself to express regret or issue an apology to Sergeant McCabe. There has been too much confusion, spin and misinterpretation and too many red herrings. The fact is Sergeant McCabe was not interviewed by the O'Mahoney inquiry. To say he did not co-operate completely undermines his credibility and character. How many people have lined up in recent weeks to testify to Sergeant McCabe's bona fides? Members of the Committee of Public Accounts, including Deputy Charles Flanagan, from right across the political spectrum, sat with me in a television studio and discussed this. People who have engaged with Garda McCabe say he stands up to rigour and scrutiny. Yet the Minister for Justice and Equality chose to come in here and discredit him. That is very regrettable and he must find it within himself to correct the record in that regard.

What message does his attitude send out to other potential whistleblowers? Yes, we have legislation going through the House. However, if the Minister of the day in the particular Department in the civil or public service in which an individual intends to blow the whistle is seen to act like the Minister, Deputy Shatter, has acted in this matter, then we have a problem in that the legislation simply will not work.

Neither the Minister nor the Taoiseach dealt properly with the questions that were raised about why Oliver Connolly was relieved of his functions as confidential recipient. In effect, the Minister said in his statement that he had to sack Oliver Connolly because he did not deny or disown the truth of what he said to Sergeant Maurice McCabe. The fundamental aspect of the matter is that the confidential recipient has been dropped because, as the Minister said in his statement, he did not repudiate or deny what he said to Sergeant Maurice McCabe. The lever was pulled and the trapdoor underneath him was released. The attitude of "shoot the messenger at all costs" is corrosive to the administration of justice. The Minister previously used a private and confidential briefing to seek to discredit a Deputy in this House. A huge political problem has manifested itself around the Minister, who is in a sensitive position as Minister for Justice and Equality. He cannot think there is no problem doing what he did to Deputy Mick Wallace or Sergeant Maurice McCabe. If he thinks he can keep going, on the basis that this will pass and move on, that would be hugely corrosive.

We are looking for an independent commission of investigation. It is worth reminding the House of what the Minister said prior to the establishment of the Morris tribunal:

I am making no judgment on the truthfulness or falsity of any of the allegations made. I am saying, however, that these allegations cast a shadow over the integrity of the Garda force and it is in the vital interests of the State and the Garda Síochána that all of the allegations made be investigated by an independent tribunal and the true position made known.

He went on in the same vein by suggesting that an independent tribunal of inquiry was needed. He continued:

This is not a banana republic. It is a parliamentary democracy which is dependent for the policing of this State on the Garda Síochána from whom we expect the highest standards of integrity and adherence to the law.

That is true. The Minister said that while calling for the establishment of a tribunal of inquiry. It should not take an external barrister to tell the Government what is the right thing to do. The right thing to do is to establish a commission of investigation under the 2004 Act. It is the most fit-for-purpose vehicle available to all. It would stop the narrative which is going on across the country. People are concerned that the Garda is at the centre of a political discourse and a media narrative to the effect that something is wrong. We must face up to the fact that there are things may have been wrong. The only way to do that is to have an independent commission of investigation under the 2004 Act.

The Minister did not come in here today in a spirit of humility or public service to tell us he did something wrong and to correct the record in regard to Sergeant Maurice McCabe. He came in here to continue to stonewall the call that has been made by me, my party and other Deputies. He did not try to put the record straight. I ask him to make a final effort to look within himself to see whether he can do the right thing by Sergeant Maurice McCabe. Does the Minister have it within himself to correct the record and to say to Sergeant Maurice McCabe that he got it wrong? People get things wrong all the time. The Minister should come in, put up his hand and say "I got it wrong". If he cannot come in here and tell Sergeant Maurice McCabe and the rest of us that he got it wrong in the case of Sergeant Maurice McCabe, the Government's problem, which is crystallised around the Minister, is not going to go away. I will conclude by putting to the Minister a question that I intend to put to him again on Question Time. Does he have it within himself to apologise and correct the record of the Dáil? Can he reach inside himself to say that he completely discredited this man and that he is taking this opportunity to put the record right?

I would like to share time with Deputy Coonan.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

In clearing today's Dáil schedule for a debate on this issue, the Government has clearly and unambiguously expressed a shared desire to establish once and for all the foundations of the allegations which have been made. The Minister, Deputy Shatter, is undoubtedly one of the most progressive justice Ministers we have had. The catalogue of reforms he has introduced and guided through the Oireachtas is unequalled among his predecessors. It is important to consider the legislative reforms the Minister has championed. He has maintained a Garda Síochána force strength of more than 13,000, which is higher than that planned by the previous Government at a time of great strain on State finances. The Minister secured the finance necessary to commence Garda recruitment, with a staggering 20,000 people expressing an interest in joining the Garda ranks, which is an important vote of confidence in the force. He is reforming the custodial system by championing legislation that gives a second chance to people who have committed relatively minor crimes. I refer to the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012, which I hope will be passed soon. The Minister is also introducing legislation that promotes the use of non-custodial options. He has introduced legislation to substantially overhaul our bankruptcy and insolvency systems. He has reformed the State's immigration and citizenship procedures, which have radically reduced waiting times for applications and for which proper ceremonies are now held. These ceremonies are befitting of the important status of Irish citizenship.

The Minister has initiated a significant quantity of amending criminal justice legislation in various areas. I refer, for example, to the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012, the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 and the Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Act 2011. The Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill 2013 will establish a DNA database as an indispensable tool in the fight against crime. The Minister is working on two other very important issues which I warmly welcome and for which I look forward to campaigning, namely the Children and Family Relationships Bill 2013 and the proposal to hold a referendum on marriage equality. However, the important and motivating zeal and vigour which is displayed by the Minister, Deputy Shatter, can place him at odds with others who do not share his views and visions. It is fair to say that the Minister is a public representative of conviction, cast in the mould of those public representatives for whom popularity is secondary to an enthusiasm to get on with the job. It would be impossible for any Minister championing reforms of such breadth, which span many different areas, to avoid upsetting or clashing with some people.

It is regrettable that some participants in this debate in the media and elsewhere seem unable to approach this serious issue with objectivity. Some people have allowed their dislike or personal opinions of the Minister to colour their judgment. I fear that for some people, establishing the facts of what happened has become secondary to political point-scoring. The Minister aptly described the direction events have taken when he said earlier that "a situation has been reached in which other allegations made by Sergeant McCabe have become caught up in partisan and divisive political debate". The allegations that have been made with regard to the Garda Síochána and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission are very serious. Therefore, it is wholly appropriate that independent people have been asked to investigate the allegations and determine whether full-scale inquiries are required. The questions of when these allegations were first espoused are secondary to the need to investigate them and to establish the facts clearly and beyond doubt. Only when this has been achieved will we be able to say that public confidence in these vitally important institutions has been restored.

An important Bill that is going through the Oireachtas, the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013, will give whistleblowers in every walk of life certain rights, including the ability to provide information that is of interest from the perspective of public safety. I welcome the decision the Government made yesterday to introduce legislation in tandem with the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013 to allow the Garda to make complaints directly to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. That is important in the context of a case I have come across which does not relate to the Garda. I have spoken previously in this House about an individual who was fired from his job, along with a number of other people, for questioning procedures within a health facility. It is very stressful for a person to have such information. I can fully understand the concerns of the person in question.

I also welcome the appointment of the retired High Court judge, Mr. Justice Cooke, to investigate the GSOC bugging and the appointment of Mr. Seán Guerin SC to assess the issues and allegations made by Sergeant McCabe. I also welcome the role of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality in investigating amending the Garda Síochána Act 2005 to expand the role for GSOC.

The public's trust in the force is of paramount importance. Everything being done by Mr. Justice Cooke, Mr. Guerin SC and the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality needs to ensure we have full confidence in An Garda Síochána and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

I am glad to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate and to put on the record my absolute confidence in the Minister for Justice and Equality. He has been the most reforming and active Minister for Justice and Equality we have had for a long time. I come from Templemore, where we regularly meet members of An Garda Síochána of all ranks. I have had numerous discussions with them and the general public. They fully support the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter.

Deputy Niall Collins spoke about his loyalty and all our loyalty to the Garda Síochána. He complimented it and said we all had a role to play in that regard. I remind the Deputy that not only is that the case, but the Opposition has a duty of care to all members of the Garda Síochána and not just to a select few. The same applies to all members of the general public.

I am amazed at the amount of time the Opposition has dedicated to castigating the Garda Síochána, bearing in mind that it has more than 13,000 members. It has devoted so much time and attention to a former member and a serving member. I believe the Opposition is really playing politics with An Garda Síochána. Opposition Members might say that I would say that. However, I can give three examples.

The tradition of Fianna Fáil has always been to berate a Fine Gael Minister for Justice. It did so with Mrs. Nora Owen in terms of zero tolerance. It tried to hound her out of office. It is now hoping that history will repeat itself by making a prolonged attack on the Minister for Justice and Equality, something he is well able to deal with comprehensively and competently. In doing that it does not care about the damage it is doing to the Garda Síochána. I have spoken to members of the Garda Síochána and the general public, who all feel the distraction is doing untold damage to the force and needs to stop. This afternoon, I plead with the Opposition to bring this to an end and to give its support to improving the Garda Síochána and restoring its members' confidence as the Minister has done since he took office.

Prior to the Minister coming into power, we had no Garda recruitment in Templemore; the previous Government had ended recruitment. The Minister has introduced fresh blood and recruitment is recommencing in the Garda College in Templemore, which is very welcome. The Garda did not have adequate resources - for example, there was no investment in Garda patrol cars, which the Minister has corrected. He is giving the Garda Síochána the necessary backup and facilities it so richly deserves as it looks after our interests.

The leader of Fianna Fáil has been at this matter non-stop in the recent weeks, berating the Minister and thereby doing untold damage to the Garda Síochána. I ask Deputy Martin or his spokesperson to say exactly when he found out about all of this, and to confirm or deny that when members of his party came to him some years ago, he dismissed what they were saying. Now he is conveniently jumping on a bandwagon set rolling by Deputy Wallace regarding the allegations that are being made. He did want to know about them when his own party members came to him. Now he wants to jump on the bandwagon.

I will give an example of the damage that has done. During last night's "Tonight with Vincent Browne" programme, Mr. Browne made scurrilous allegations about the Garda College. I call on him to apologise forthwith to the management and teaching staff of the Garda College in Templemore. He gave out about them being locked away down there for three or four years - he could not even get his facts right. He then referred to weirdo legal students down there, which is appalling stuff. People such as him are jumping on the bandwagon and doing untold damage to the Garda Síochána, which is disgraceful.

I call on Opposition Members to bring this to a conclusion by binding together and giving the Garda Síochána the backing it deserves. They need to stop the ongoing political nonsense in which they are engaging.

I call Deputy Mac Lochlainn.

On a point of order, the record of the House needs to show that this debate is taking place arising out of very serious allegations made by Deputy Martin, the Leader of the Opposition, and his spokesperson. There is now not one Member of the Fianna Fáil Party in the House.

I do not want take from Deputy Mac Lochlainn's time.

There is a predictable pattern to these statements. Obviously, the Opposition will express criticism and deal with our concerns and the Government Ministers and backbenchers will speak to the virtues of the Minister and so on. I will get that out of the way first. The Minister has been extremely hard working and has brought through a large amount of legislation. In the main, he is progressive and it is a pity about this entire debacle bearing in mind the programme of work he has done and wishes to do in the future. That is not the point. That is agreed. Nobody denies that the Minister is hard working or that much of the legislation he has introduced is admirable and needed to happen. That is not the point.

The second issue relates to An Garda Síochána, which has more than 13,000 members. Deputy Charles Flanagan is right in pointing out that we have a police service and I am glad he made the distinction from a police force. We all need to start using the term "police service" in future. Our police service is unique in that it is so close to our communities. There is no one in this House who has not played football or had conversations when we have left our children to school with a member of An Garda Síochána. Many of us have served on local community committees with them. It is a very admirable service. The vast majority of the men and women of An Garda Síochána are honourable, decent and hard-working people who have done no wrong.

All of these controversies are a let-down to them because a garda pulling over a motorist today to give penalty points is the one taking the flak for all this. A garda investigating matters and trying to do his or her job is the person taking the flak on the front line. The people who have been failed most are the members of An Garda Síochána and some of the families caught up in these various controversies. Also impacted, sadly, is the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

The people to have failed the members of An Garda Síochána most are their senior management. That senior management has made the errors and not dealt properly with the matters coming before it. That is indisputable. I also believe the Minister has not handled these matters as he should have.

I listened to the Minister's speech today. He is entitled to give a defence of himself as he did on a range of matters. He is also entitled to raise the previous Administration's handling of these matters. However, I was alarmed about two issues. First, he did not even deal with the issue of the sacking of the confidential recipient and the transcript of the comments made that have given rise to major questions in the public domain. The sacking of the confidential recipient was a major development and it is remarkable that the Minister found it unnecessary to touch on it in his 30-minute speech.

The second area about which I was alarmed was the Minister's return to the issue of Sergeant Maurice McCabe not co-operating and his inability to deal finally with that issue. It is very clear that the assistant commissioner, John O'Mahony, did not make any effort to go to the person in question. Can we imagine if gardaí were investigating any alleged crime and they did not go to see the witness, the person who made the report? Can the Minister imagine any scenario where a member of An Garda Síochána investigating a very simple crime or allegation would not go to the person who made it? The assistant commissioner, John O'Mahony, has confirmed that he did not knock on the door of Sergeant Maurice McCabe. He did not text, ring, call, e-mail or make any attempt to go to the people who made the allegations. If, as the Garda Commissioner apparently suggested, he gave an order to Sergeant Maurice McCabe to co-operate, why was Sergeant Maurice McCabe not disciplined? When the Minister famously went out on the plinth after the publication of the O'Mahony report back in May 2013, he strongly criticised the whistleblowers that day but why did he not refer to the fact that they did not co-operate if that was the issue for him? Why did the assistant commissioner, John O'Mahony, go to the station in which Sergeant McCabe serves and interview personnel but not see fit to talk to Sergeant McCabe? It is clear and patently obvious that they did not want to talk to Sergeant McCabe.

When An Garda Síochána was dealing with the cold case review of the Fr. Niall Molloy case, the journalist, Gemma O'Doherty, whose immense work almost definitely led to that review, was not questioned by the team doing that cold case review. We have a culture where people who have made allegations, done the work and put their concerns about important matters of public interest in the public domain, or by whatever channel is necessary, are not even interviewed. It is indefensible. It is nonsense. The Minister should have apologised today on the record.

I wish to ask the Minister, who is engaged in a conversation, a question. Has he had a chance to review the transcript issued by Sergeant Maurice McCabe - a statement read out by the Commissioner - around the visit by a Garda chief superintendent on behalf of the Garda Commissioner? I will ask him this question later on, as I appreciate he cannot answer it now, but I ask him to think about it and I will revisit it later. Anyone who would read that chief superintendent's transcript of a conversation would see that it was an order to Sergeant Maurice McCabe to stay silent, not to use PULSE, not to co-operate with third parties and that there was no order for him to go out and immediately co-operate with the investigation. It is incredible that the people who were dealing with the allegations, who made them and who had gone through the process were not interviewed about all that. I cannot understand how the Minister cannot see that but there we are.

In terms of the three episodes that are in the public domain, one is the issue of the penalty points debacle. To recap on this briefly, two Garda whistleblowers went to the confidential recipient, felt they were apparently being stonewalled after months of inaction and then took their concerns to the Road Safety Authority, the Comptroller and Auditor General, Government Departments and to a Dáil Deputy, as is their right under the law. The Minister then settled for an internal Garda investigation. The report of the internal Garda investigation, published in May 2013 after a period of six months, is now seen to have minimised the scale of what was being reported. Months later, the Comptroller and Auditor General's report pretty much vindicates the concern about the scale of the problem. That was the core complaint from the Garda whistleblowers - the scale of what was happening, the amount of loss revenue and the other issues related to road safety. The matter found its way into the Committee of Public Accounts. The Commissioner infamously came before it and made comments that he thought the behaviour of these whistleblowers was disgusting. Then it turns into a crisis and after almost two years and after all of that, the Minister finally refers it to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, an independent arena. That was badly handled. The Minister must see that was badly handled throughout.

The second issue is that of the confidential recipient, the sacking of Oliver Connolly. With regard to the transcript, why would he say what he said? Where did he get that from? Apparently, he is an honourable man. The Minister said so himself when he appointed him. He is a respected solicitor. His character is not in question. Why would somebody like that say what he said? That must be answered.

The third issue is the alleged bugging of the offices of GSOC, how that was handled and how GSOC was put in the dock rather than given the support of the Minister's office. What the Minister demonstrated in his handling of all three issues, because of his unhealthily close relationship with the Garda Commissioner, is that his instinct was to circle the wagons and not to get to the truth of the allegations and, in some cases, to discredit those who were making the allegations or to undermine them. The Minister has handled all three issues badly in the way he has dealt with them and the way the Garda Commissioner has dealt with them. That is why the more than 13,000 members of the Garda Síochána are under pressure, and this has impacted on their morale which has been impacted on already by cutbacks and everything else they have faced in recent years.

Why did the Minister not avail of the Commissions of Investigations Act 2004? There is probably no Member of this House more expert on, au fait with, knowledgeable and capable of dealing with the legislation. He must know that legislation is almost custom-made for scenarios like we are facing now, that it would have been the legislation to use to compel witnesses, compel the production of relevant documentation and make findings of fact. Why is it that we have instead gone for a review in regard to the bugging of the offices of GSOC and another review by Sean Guerin SC? I will give these questions to the Minister. Why did he not use that legislation rather than take the option of a review in these cases?

There is a lot of thinking for the Minister to do. I hope these episodes will be learned from and that more powers will be given to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. There needs to be, and we have engaged in discussion on this, an independent policing authority in this State, similar to the arrangement in the north of Ireland, that is accountable to the Oireachtas, accountable to an independent policing authority representative and accountable to joint policing committees. That is where we need to get to. We need to see serious change to learn lessons from all that has happened and then the Minister can get on with the other work, on which I have commended him.

The next speakers on the Government side are Deputies Conaghan and Moloney.

There is much troubling talk currently about policing. It is evolving in the public mind and is gaining momentum. It refers to the fact that some gardaí are involved in wrongdoing where proper procedures are being ignored, where established processes are delayed - this is what is being alleged - where established practices are being set aside and also that a small number of officers are complicit in crime and wrongdoing. This talk is gaining currency, regardless of whether it has a basis in fact. Another category of talk is that officers wishing to follow the correct course are being prevented or discouraged from doing so. Then there is the very disturbing matter of the whistleblowers being threatened, their promotion postponed, their career advance stymied, and so on. All this concern and talk is surging to the surface now. If it spreads and takes a firmer grip on the public mind, it can become deeply damaging. It can erode confidence and chip way at the credibility of the Garda force. It could even create a crisis of credibility in State security and personal safety. Such a situation, were it to evolve, would take a generation to heal.

It has fallen to this Government, as in so many other spheres of public and political life just now, to step in and tackle the big issues, to deal with the current policing concerns, to bring in reforms and to restore confidence. In this regard, the Government has acted decisively and promptly.

It has held special Dáil debates. The Minister was before the relevant committee for four hours. The Government established two inquiries led by competent, qualified, highly regarded specialists in their field.

As to the purpose of all this, it is to separate fact from fiction, to distinguish truth from hearsay. However, the Government review must go further. The Government must bring in legislation to establish a policing board. This is the only guarantee of a truly independent oversight mechanism and true transparency. I have written to the Minister in this regard. It is the only mechanism that will really underpin confidence and assuage public fears. Whether in regard to State security or personal freedom and safety, such an initiative will serve the public as well as the vast majority of gardaí, those men and women who put themselves in harm's way on our behalf, who face down gunmen, who walk lonely streets at night. It will also be in their best interests.

Regarding a policing board, the Northern Ireland Policing Board, to quote Nuala O'Loan, is an effective, efficient, impartial, representative watchdog, offering accountability regarding the police service. We must learn from Northern Ireland. If we consider the issue of policing during the Troubles, we can see how the board has resolved the issue and been able to rebuild very quickly and establish confidence in all of the communities of Northern Ireland. I call on the Minister to bring forward legislation for a policing board as a matter of urgency.

He is backing the Minister. Fair play to him.

I have long held the view that in a civilised and democratic society whistleblowers are a positive thing. Irrespective of what career path to which it applies, be it policing, the Army or even politics, in any civilised society, both in the public interest and as legislators, we should protect whistleblowers. We do not always need to make a judgment that everything they claim is correct but it is for people like ourselves to be objective about these matters.

In regard to the most recent history of inquiries, tribunals and so on, I sometimes think the political establishment has learned very little from the past. I am particularly referring to the Morris tribunal in Donegal, an extensive tribunal of inquiry held over a period of six years at a great cost to the taxpayer of some €60 million. While some positive things came out of it, if anything should have been learned from the Morris tribunal, it is the point to which Deputy Conaghan has just alluded, namely, there has to be some sort of authority, as in our neighbouring jurisdiction, whether that is Northern Ireland or across the water. Policing should be independent. An opportunity was missed by the Government of the time when the Morris tribunal findings were presented. While there was talk about it, nothing happened.

We are now at a place where we have been trying to wrestle with this issue for some time. Given the nature of Irish politics, the Opposition has a particular role to play. This leads to the obsession with trying to wound the Minister, the temptation of which is so great that the Opposition becomes obsessed with that and loses the very important point that whistleblowing is a public interest issue. No one should be above the law, be it a politician or a policeman. We have to confront those kinds of issues.

In my three short years here I have become aware of a danger we could run out of retired judges if we look for any more inquiries. Almost every second week now there is a call for a public inquiry into this or that. I do not know what we have been up to as a society since the British left but some of it is not good. We are going to run out of judges, and I am sure some of them are taking flight at this stage in case they are called upon. I am sure there are many upstanding people in the legal profession. However, while I am not saying all of these inquiries and tribunals should not take place, because they should in certain instances, I am long of the opinion that, in many cases, the benefactors are the legal profession, not the public.

I have avoided speaking up for the Minister because he does not need me to speak up for him. He is well able to do that himself and he has made his stand. Again, to repeat, we missed the opportunity after the Morris tribunal. While I am not an expert on this and there are few experts, it is the case that we in this House will have to face up to some form of policing forum or authority. That is the way to take all of these issues out of the realms of politics and make them accountable to the public.

The next speaking slot is shared by Deputies Thomas Pringle, Finian McGrath, Richard Boyd Barrett and Shane Ross.

The Minister's contribution to the House today has done nothing to answer any of the very serious questions that have arisen in regard to how he and the Government have dealt with the allegations that have been presented to them. He again attempted to deflect, confuse and divert attention from the major issues in these various crisis that have come up in regard to how the Garda and the Department of Justice and Equality have dealt with very serious allegations.

To try and blame Fianna Fáil for the problems from their time in government was pathetic. We all know that some of these allegations have been around for a while. The Minister and his colleagues have trumpeted that they are different, that a democratic revolution took place and that all would change. Fine Gael would bring a new politics, they said. We see that nothing has changed and, in fact, they are worse than Fianna Fáil because at least they never claimed to be anything else.

Everyone will view the Minister's comment this morning that "whistleblowers should be treated with respect" with the contempt that it deserves. It is said that actions speak louder than words. The Minister's actions have screamed from the rooftops that he holds nothing but contempt for whistleblowers and anyone who dares to question him or his actions, or raise genuine concerns about how this system has operated. The Minister again today repeated his allegation that Sergeant McCabe refused to co-operate with the inquiry into the penalty points scandal. Not only could the Minister not bring himself to acknowledge or even apologise for the fact he may have been wrong, he has repeated it again. He is defending the indefensible.

There has to be an independent inquiry into the handling of all of these issues. There also has to be an independent inquiry into the surveillance of GSOC, and it is interesting that this issue seems to have disappeared in the last week or so. That is the only way that confidence can be restored. Everyone would welcome the accountability it would bring, everyone, that is, except the Minister.

The only people who told the truth in this whole affair are the only ones to have suffered. Garda whistleblower John Wilson was forced to retire, Sergeant McCabe has been made a pariah within the force and the confidential recipient Oliver Connolly was sacked because he would not deny the conversation he had with Sergeant McCabe.

How can any of us have faith that the Minister will shepherd through the changes that are required to the Garda Síochána Act 2005? He is not the person or Minister to make the necessary changes. He should resign and let someone who is not blind to the problem do the job that the Irish people and the gardaí need to be done.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak in this urgent debate regarding allegations relating to An Garda Síochána, the role of the Minister for Justice and Equality and the GSOC issue. The Minister still does not get it. Sergeant McCabe's name was dragged through the mud; John Wilson, another whistleblower, was forced to leave his job; Deputy Clare Daly was handcuffed and arrested and the entire issue leaked to the national media; Deputy Wallace was spied on and his details leaked on "Prime Time"; Oliver Connolly was dismissed; and the well-known journalist Gemma O'Doherty played a huge price for challenging the quashing of the Commissioner's penalty points. These are huge issues and there are many more out there that should and will be dealt with and will come out in the future. Does he now get it? Does he accept responsibility as part of his brief as Minister for Justice?

Another significant issue is the case of Fr. Niall Molloy. Ten National Bureau of Criminal Investigation detectives were assigned to investigate the murder of Fr. Molloy. Most of the evidence was based on the great work and research done by Gemma O'Doherty yet she was not even interviewed once even though her investigation led to the re-opening of the cold case. I have also raised this issue many times in the Dáil. Does the Minister get that? Does he understand the significance of it? Does he grasp the reality that many people are losing trust and confidence in the leadership and management of the gardaí? That leadership starts with the Minister. When it comes down to it, I ask myself who do I believe. Who do I trust? I know clearly that I trust John Wilson and Sergeant Maurice McCabe because I want a Garda service that serves the people in a fair and impartial manner. I honestly hope that after all this mess and after the entire truth comes out, we will have a Garda Síochána that serves all citizens fairly and professionally. In the meantime, I want an independent commission of inquiry as I believe it is the only way to get to the truth and to get justice for all the victims of these particular incidents. We need to see that public confidence is maintained in the Garda Síochána.

I urge the Minister to apologise to the whistleblowers Sergeant McCabe and John Wilson, face up to the terrible mistakes, have a little humility and let us all get on the with job of reforming and changing the Garda Síochána in a way that has the trust and confidence of the Irish people.

The Minister said all along that he wanted to restore and maintain public confidence in the policing and justice system in this country. Surely it is obvious that his handling of these matters over the past two years, particularly in the past few weeks, has done the exact opposite. It has battered the credibility of the gardaí, the Department of Justice and Equality and the Minister. He has impugned the reputation of Maurice McCabe, somebody brave enough to speak out about what he believed to be widespread wrongdoing, malpractice and failure to investigate serious crimes. He tried to undermine the credibility of GSOC which suspected it was being bugged by the gardaí. He has sacked somebody who was involved in a conversation with the whistleblower Maurice McCabe because he refused to retract what he said in that conversation. Despite recounting his own history of wanting to bring about reform before he got into Government and of having a history of reform, he has gone native. He has closed ranks with the gardaí and tried to undermine, demonise and vilify anybody who has questioned his view of these things or who has brought serious questions about malpractice in the gardaí into the public domain, including Deputies in this House.

Another example of this is the very serious case of Cynthia Owen. She alleges that as a ten year old child, she was raped and made pregnant by members of her own family and that senior gardaí were involved in that. The investigation of that case was a travesty. It was closed down after six weeks. Some of the people at the centre of the allegations were involved in the investigation. There was a review of the paperwork similar to the one the Minister is now proposing in these cases but Cynthia Owen was never interviewed about this horrendous case. The child that issued from that rape and abuse was murdered and serious allegations were made. Cynthia Owen's legal representatives have asked the Minister to open that case up as a public inquiry and have asked to meet him - just to meet him. I have asked two parliamentary questions about the mishandling of that most serious of cases involving rape and murder with a ten year old child at the centre of it and the Minister has refused even to meet the legal representatives of Cynthia Owen. Why? It is because it raises questions about the gardaí.

The Deputy is over time. I call Deputy Ross.

Will the Minister include the Cynthia Owen case in an open public investigation into these matters regarding a failure in the gardaí to investigate properly serious crimes?

The Deputy is over time. Can I ask him to be seated?

I would like to try to take the politics out of this and look at it in a very cold, clinical and forensic light. If one looks at it that way, the accumulation of evidence here is that there is an utter crisis in the justice system in this country. There is a complete lack of confidence among the people. It was indicative of what is happening that members of the Labour Party have so eloquently expressed that view and they are welcome to do so. Justice here is toxic. Justice is regarded by the ordinary people in this country as toxic and they have lost confidence in the gardaí at the top and the management of the gardaí at the top as a result of this accumulation of evidence.

The fundamental problem that the Labour Party has so belatedly come to conclude today as far as I can see is that the gardaí are politically appointed. I do not know whether Members of this House were here last Friday but if they were-----

Congratulations on your promotion.

(Interruptions).

The top 200 gardaí are politically appointed. That is a fundamental problem and is one of the reasons we are in the mess we are in at the moment because promotions, extensions and appointments are controlled by the Government. What does that mean? It means that those below the rank of Commissioner must behave in a way that pleases their political masters. That is a great pity and has had disastrous consequences. One of the beneficiaries but also one of the victims is the Commissioner himself because his promotion was due to a political appointment and any Commissioner who is appointed and then promoted is, of course, beholden to the Government who has given them that promotion or appointment. The extension of that term was a mistake. The Commissioner's treatment of whistleblowers echoes the Government's treatment of whistleblowers. To call whistleblowers "disgusting" is something everybody in this House recognises as unacceptable and something for which he should come to the Committee of Public Accounts to withdraw. The short-term solution is not just for an independent authority to be set up. If a message is to go out today from us to the people, it should be that the Commissioner should fall on his sword and resign because of his behaviour and because of his deep politicisation of this particular controversy. His treatment of the whistleblowers is absolutely and totally unacceptable. In respect of his statement that he gave a direction to them, nobody interprets that except those with a vested interest.

The Government cheerleaders are here.

I want to address briefly the contributions made by the last few speakers who spoke about politicisation and corruption in the Department of Justice and Equality and the gardaí. They have been throwing around these remarks for some weeks to give credibility to their case.

The debate of recent weeks has done nothing to enhance the procedures and legislation in place as regards the ombudsman's office. It has only politicised the administration of justice. Just a few days ago, the same group of people wished to set up a judicial appointments commission comprising their own people, yet allegedly above politics. I presume that one of the Members opposite who was vocal or an associated Member intended to chair that commission, which would have been apolitical and met their requirements. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

This debate originally took place in 2004 when the people on the Opposition side of the House were in government. Although I do not have the time to do so, it would be interesting to read the speech of the Minister of the day when he was setting up the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC. The debate focused on whether a single ombudsman or a commission would be appropriate. The latter was chosen. The next question was to whom the ombudsman would report, if anyone, and whether the Minister would have particular responsibilities. The Opposition of the time raised questions as to whether the Minister would have any responsibility. A strange thing has happened in recent weeks. If the Minister should not be involved or have a right to respond to issues, why has the Opposition been blaming him and the Department for the problems allegedly of concern to it?

It must be recognised that we all support the need for an open and transparent system in which complaints can be made to a particular body, whatever that may be in this or that Department, and reports can be made and allegations checked by the relevant authorities, not politicised or brought into the Houses of Parliament. Despite suggestions from the Opposition, which seems to avoid any attempt to address these issues, the responsible authorities addressed them after being brought to their attention. I am sure that the Minister is aware I tabled a parliamentary question on this matter. I hope it will be answered tomorrow.

The scarcity of Members on the Opposition side of the House is amazing. After making a political point, they scurry out of the House to make telephone calls to their respective contacts in an effort to enhance their political status. That is what this is about. This is the most disgraceful exhibition I have seen of an attempt by Members of Parliament to politicise the operation of An Garda Síochána. They pretend that they have sought to ensure there is an open and transparent body, although we do not know to whom it would be responsible. I believe it would be responsible to themselves.

The Oireachtas is not, never was and never should be the place to deal with complaints. A body already exists in the Garda. In recent days, people on the Opposition side of the House have suggested that the place to report is to the Oireachtas. That is not the procedure. They claim they have no confidence. They never had, not in anything. They claim that, because they do not have confidence in the system, Members of the Oireachtas must be approached. That is not the procedure. If matters are to be handled that way in future, we will not have a reliable or robust system. We will only have public pronouncements in the Houses of Parliament. Issues will be raised, after which people will run away from them without examining them adequately.

I will mention one or two other matters. Unfortunately, the time limit does not allow us to go into any great detail. The former Minister, Mr. Michael McDowell, went into great detail to rebut the Opposition's suggestions in 2004 concerning GSOC's construction. He was clear in his mind that the structures being put in place were adequate, robust, transparent and accountable. If I had time, I would read his remarks into the record. The debate, which took place on Tuesday, 2 March 2004 at 3 p.m. in the Upper House, illustrates adequately to all and sundry. The structure was provided by some of the Opposition Members who have expressed so little confidence in it. This is the reality, irrespective of whether we like it.

There has been a certain amount of political posturing recently in the hope that those involved will benefit. In the course of that, however, great damage has been done to the integrity of the Garda which has suffered a great deal in promoting the interests of integrity, honesty, security and justice in the State. There is no sense in being selective about incidents with which to disagree. The Garda has a difficult job. I do not doubt there are people in the Garda who should not be there. Everyone would accept this. I also have no doubt the same applies to every profession, as indicated by the occurrence of crime. Some Deputies might even be able to spend their time more usefully elsewhere. However, this does not give anyone the right to undermine the integrity of a state's police force as has been done in Ireland in recent weeks in gradual drips, creating doubt in people's minds. It is a dangerous approach.

Like others, I was a Deputy when details were brought to the House's attention of various gardaí being shot, executed and so on in pursuit of their duties on behalf of the State. I find it difficult to understand why this crying is taking place now when it relates to issues in respect of which people should know better. They know full well how the system works and that a complaint in any organisation must be investigated. The question in this instance is whether complaints were investigated fully and to the extent of the Opposition's satisfaction. The answer is that the Opposition does not need to be satisfied. Rather, an investigation must satisfy the conditions laid down in the original legislation. This morning and afternoon, the Minister and Taoiseach indicated clearly in the House that the procedures had been followed. What has been suggested in some Opposition quarters, that there was a cover-up, is not true.

I am amazed that taped conversations have become the basis for lodging complaints. I believed that documents marked "confidential" were not meant for disclosure to all and sundry so that people might promote their political philosophies. "Confidential" means confidential, particularly in terms of justice. It is about time that some people in this House recognised that they also have responsibilities in this regard.

I know. One can do a lot of damage in 40 seconds depending on which way one goes. I will refer to the Dáil debate of 22 June 2005 on the establishment of the ombudsman commission. A current Minister of State, Deputy Costello, made a considerable contribution to the then Minister to the effect that most of the Opposition was unhappy with the office's structure. The Minister stated:

What I have put in place, and what I stand over completely, is that for the purposes of sovereign Government and accountability to this House, if a dispute arises as to whether a file in the possession of An Garda Síochána should be made accessible to the Executive power of this State, it should only be accessible if the most senior civil servant in my Department, who is not under my direction in this regard, concurs and demands the production of that file.

Thank you Deputy. Your time is up.

I am glad you thanked me, because I can assure you I could on and on about this. I ask that the Members of the Opposition, who have been so loquacious on the issue over the past two or three weeks, go back and read it again.

I call on Deputy Creighton, who is sharing time with Deputies Shortall and Broughan.

It is deeply depressing that the democracy of this State and the functioning of government has been paralysed due to weeks of collective failure by the Government to uphold the free and fair administration of justice. This is not just a matter that falls on one Minister. The events of recent weeks have demonstrated the profound weaknesses that exist here in the 31st Dáil. Those watching on their television screens have observed with deep scepticism the concern that Deputy Micheál Martin has portrayed over the last few days and weeks; this is the same man who for decades defended the indefensible and sat in a Cabinet which oversaw the financial destruction of the State. Equally, the general public is expected to believe that Deputy Gerry Adams, without any hint of irony, has concern for the protection of whistleblowers; this from a man who is widely accused of ordering the abduction and murder of a woman who his movement believed to be a suspected whistleblower. Forgive me and many people outside this Chamber if we have difficulty in stomaching that level of cognitive dissonance.

Three years ago, two thirds of the people elected by the Irish people to this House were from Fine Gael and the Labour Party; over 100 men and women elected by over 1 million voters who put their trust and faith in us to defend their interest and to protect the public interest at large. I know very well that there are members of the current Cabinet and colleagues in the Fine Gael and Labour parliamentary parties who have been privately appalled by what has taken place over the last number of weeks. I know that because they say it in private. These Members are not appalled because they believe it is damaging their support for the local and European elections; they are appalled because of the cavalier attitude shown to matters of profound importance to the free and fair administration of justice in this State. Yet for these public representatives, public silence is absolutely deafening. Politics is supposed to be about more than simply the parish pump and local issues on which Government TDs will happily challenge their own Ministers. Defending the indefensible on the grounds that the current Minister for Justice and Equality acted in the exact same fashion as his predecessor in Fianna Fáil - essentially what was argued this morning - is not what the almost 1.2 million voters who voted for Fine Gael and the Labour Party expected of this Government.

Nobody can dispute the diligence, duty or dedication of this Minister for Justice and Equality, but neither should these qualities excuse him from a failure to act, nor a refusal to acknowledge wrongdoing. The single fact remains that the Minister received a Garda confidential recipient report from Oliver Connolly in January 2012, outlining a number of grave allegations which have been well reported in recent days. Less than a week after the Taoiseach received what we believe to be the exact same documents the Minister received two years ago, independent outside counsel has been appointed to investigate these allegations and to explore the need for a full commission of inquiry. The question remains: why did the Minister chose not to adopt the same course of action two years ago, besides arguing that it was precisely what his predecessor, Dermot Ahern, did or did not do? What damage has the Minister's inaction caused in the intervening two years? These are serious questions and I hope that we will receive some answers to them this afternoon.

I firmly believe that the vast majority of the 1.2 million people who voted for Fine Gael and the Labour Party in the last election did so because they honestly believed that they would be given something different to what went before. Whether the polls move up or down, the silence of over two thirds of the Members of this House in upholding their constitutional duty to hold the Executive to account is an extremely sad indictment of the state of democracy in this country at this point in time.

Amid all the political mud slinging in recent days, it is important to remind ourselves that this debate is about two central but distinct issues, and the Government's handling of those issues. The first issue is the alleged bugging of GSOC and the second is the way in which official Ireland responds to Garda whistleblowing. In respect of the latter, Sergeant Maurice McCabe is certainly owed an apology. The portrayal of his whistleblowing actions and those of his colleague John Wilson as "disgusting" is completely unacceptable. It sends a clear message to others considering speaking out that if they do, they will regret it.

The response of the Minister for Justice and Equality to this entire saga has been appalling in my view. He broadcasted allegations against Deputy Wallace based on tittle tattle, which was a disgrace. In any other country, he would be sacked for that alone. However, his most serious bad mouthing is in respect of Sergeant McCabe. He has consistently tried to peddle the untruth that Sergeant McCabe did not co-operate with the Garda inquiry into his allegations of Garda misconduct. This is despite the fact that Sergeant McCabe's good character has been attested to by many, including the former Garda Ombudsman, Conor Brady, and the former confidential recipient, Oliver Connolly.

The other central issue - arguably even more serious - is the allegation that GSOC was bugged. Again, there was a concerted campaign by the Government to rubbish these concerns. The incredible thing is that we still do not know if it was bugged and if it was, who was bugging it. The instinctive reaction of the Taoiseach and the Minister was to undermine GSOC by peddling more untruths about its legal responsibilities.

There is no question but that we need a full independent commission of investigation into all of these matters. We now have six different types of inquiry or review under way, none of which is adequate and most of which are simply delaying tactics. The public is not interested in whether or not the Minister can pin any of this on Fianna Fáil. The public wants to know whether or not the Minister, his colleagues in Fine Gael and his sleeping partners in the Labour Party, are up to the job of governing properly. Increasingly, the jury is out on that one.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to this critical debate in the House. I also share the strong concerns of other Deputies about the nature and extent of the allegations made by Sergeant Maurice McCabe on Garda misconduct and the potential dereliction of duty. I welcome the decision of the Government to initiate the review of the dossier by Sean Guerin SC, as well as the earlier decision on the review by Mr. Justice Cooke. I think we should move to a commission of investigation under the 2004 legislation immediately.

I was not able to be present for the Minister's speech this morning, but I studied it very carefully. It is hard to imagine why a Minister who has been very vigorous in respect of legislation on other matters, would not have conducted a much more transparent and quick investigation of this matter in the two years since he became possessed of these very serious allegations. It could have been resolved in 2012. I have continuously been pursing him regarding the failure to apply fixed charge notice penalty points, and have highlighted in particular the campaign run by the PARC road safety group.

The serious allegations made by former Garda John Wilson and Sergeant Maurice McCabe on the specific issue of full enforcement of the road traffic laws are another reason to establish a commission of inquiry.

I have always been a strong supporter of community policing, as are many other Deputies, and I organised joint policing committees in my constituency before the House passed the relevant legislation. Labour Party policy for the past two decades has been to have an independent Garda authority. The current debacle has underlined the necessity to separate the Garda Síochána from Ministers and politics in respect of all operational matters.

I note Deputy Mick Wallace tabled a Bill some months ago to amend the law to make the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission more independent and strengthen its powers. I join other Deputies in commending Deputies Clare Daly and Mick Wallace on their courageous initiative in this matter. I also share the views expressed by the former Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Nuala O'Loan, who noted the weaknesses of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, including its lack of powers to investigate the performance of the Garda Commissioner and access all information on the PULSE system and criticised the fact that serving gardaí are working for the commission. The best way forward would be to establish a commission of investigation.

The gravity of this matter requires all of us to take it seriously. We all have a responsibility to restore confidence in the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and an Garda Síochána. Speaking on a Private Members' motion last week, I noted that the Garda Síochána is held in high esteem and is a pivotal pillar of our democracy. Many gardaí have expressed disgust to me that their force is being discredited by many people. The Garda Síochána is the guardian of the State and its members do tremendous work. It behoves all Deputies to ensure this is at the forefront of what we do.

I have a message for Deputy Shortall. Deputies on this side take their job in government seriously and will not funk or walk away from tough decisions. Speaking this morning, the Minister stated: "My concern is, as always, that the full truth is known". That is correct and he is a prodigious, reforming and honest Minister for whom the interests of citizens are at the heart of what he does.

Those who make claims about the Garda must examine their role in this matter. We must protect whistleblowers, which is the reason the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, has introduced a Bill in this area. We must also place victims of crime at the heart of what we do, which is the reason the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, will bring legislation on victims rights before the House. If Deputies have a family member, colleague or friend who has been the victim of crime, they will be aware of the heartache and horror associated with crime. The Minister is taking action for this reason.

Last night on "Six-one", when asked by Brian Dobson whether he was satisfied in his own mind that these concerns were not raised with the then Fianna Fáil Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform during the period in question, Deputy Martin stated, "I am". No one, including the whistleblower, made any such assertion and Dermot Ahern has trenchantly asserted that these concerns were not brought to his attention. I ask the Minister to reveal to the House the full facts regarding the information available to Mr. Ahern when he was the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Last night's statement by the Leader of the Opposition on "Six-one" was astonishing.

What we have seen from Deputy Martin is a cynical act of political opportunism, a continuation of the Punch and Judy type of politics he promised to end when he spoke on the issue on 9 March 2011. He has done so to exploit the victims of crime and their families for the short-term gain of the Fianna Fáil Party, whose Members were missing from the benches opposite for more than one hour of this debate. Moreover, neither the party leader nor its spokesperson on justice is in attendance.

Why did Deputy Martin not give the full facts on television last night? Why did he rush to appear on "Six-one"? We need to have one Minister with responsibility for justice, one Garda Commissioner and one police or Garda service to use the words of Deputy Charles Flanagan. I hope the Minister, during the questions and answers session, will give the House full details of the correspondence received by the former Minister, Mr. Dermot Ahern whom he exonerated when he introduced the debate. The people and families named by the Deputies opposite want answers and deserve to have this information.

Victims of crime must be placed at the heart of the justice system. The Garda and criminal justice system must always work with victims because their lives have been affected by crimes such as murder, assault, misinformation, disappearance and so forth. If we want to see the full impact of crime, let us consider the families who have been affected by it. Deputies must act as custodians for the period for which they are elected.

Deputy Lucinda Creighton spoke about the previous general election. I will not run away from decisions or decline to question Ministers. The Deputy may smile at me cynically but I take my job seriously, as do many of my colleagues on the Government benches. To say otherwise is to engage in populism and Deputy Creighton is better than that. This issue is about people's lives, the Garda Síochána, victims of crime and a Minister who has been maligned for cheap political gain. We can continue to play Punch and Judy if the Deputies opposite so wish but we must also reform how we do business in the House.

At the centre of the many current controversies are a group of victims. I note the language used by some Deputies from the Technical Group, all of whom are notable by their absence. I welcome the presence of some Fianna Fáil Party Deputies as I was beginning to believe they would not return to the Chamber. It is also noteworthy also that there are no Sinn Féin Deputies present.

If the victims at the centre of this controversy are following this debate at home, they must be wondering why the cases of their loved ones have been brought into a political squabble and an attempt to smear the Minister for Justice and Equality, which is clearly the objective of many of the Deputies opposite. This morning, when the Minister outlined a catalogue of actions he had taken, including letters he had written and correspondence with the Secretary General of the Department and others, Deputies on the Fianna Fáil benches were crestfallen. The leader of the Opposition became tetchy when he delivered his script because his hopes of undermining the Minister and walking out of the Chamber with his head fell asunder.

The debate was cynically politicised just a few minutes ago when another Member known for grand-standing, Deputy Ross, walked in and called for the resignation of the Garda Commissioner before walking out again. He regurgitated the same speech he has made on multiple occasions in the past three years. I have no doubt I will read it again on the pages of the Sunday Independent.

Issues relating to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission are being investigated by Mr. Justice Cooke and a senior counsel has been appointed to examine issues related to whistleblowers. This does not satisfy some Deputies because their political motivation, regrettably, is to smear the Minister.

We hear about the need for a separation of powers and calls on the Minister not to interfere in the operations of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and Garda Síochána. This morning, however, the leader of the Technical Group, Deputy Joan Collins, lacerated the Taoiseach on the basis that the Minister was not interfering in the operations of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. Having argued that the Minister should not have any contact with the commission, the Deputy called on the Minister essentially to take over the commission and tell it what to do and how to do it in order that she and Deputies Clare Daly and Mick Wallace would be satisfied. The Deputies want to have their cake and eat it and then take it to a stall on Grafton Street to try to sell it. They want to do everything and nothing, which is regrettable.

Deputy Lucinda Creighton was doing fine when she made two assertions about the leaders of the Opposition parties. She then stated, however, that two thirds of Deputies have taken a cavalier attitude to this issue.

I do not know where Deputy Creighton has been but this is the fourth or fifth occasion on which I have spoken in the House on this issue. I am also a member of the Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions, at a meeting of which I questioned the Minister, Deputy Shatter, on his actions in relation to this matter, as have my colleagues in Fine Gael and the Labour Party. If Deputy Creighton chooses not to accept or take on board what we as Government backbenchers are doing, that is her own problem. The Deputy made clear her own position when she left Fine Gael. For her to come in here and try to smear Fine Gael backbenchers just because she might have an issue with the-----

I was pointing out what they are saying privately versus what they are saying publicly.

I never speak privately or publicly to the Deputy so she cannot be talking about me.

Deputy Creighton, in coming in here and trying to smear the rest of us as well as the Minister, Deputy Shatter, and the Taoiseach, has managed to hit a new low.

It is quite pathetic when the Deputy tries to turn it into personalities all the time.

The ultimate issue is confidence in An Garda Síochána. If as Members of the Oireachtas we are to be true to our word we must allow Mr. Justice Cooke and the senior counsel appointed to examine these two issues the space to do so. The Taoiseach made it clear the other day that if a commission of investigation is required one will be established.

I would like to put a number of questions to the Minister, Deputy Shatter, at this point because I must attend a committee meeting on this issue and I will not get an opportunity to ask him later. The Minister said in his statement to the House this morning that the matter had been brought to the attention of the then Minister for Justice. Did the then Minister bring a memo on the matter brought before Cabinet and were other members of the Cabinet aware of the matter? What action was taken in that regard and was the Department satisfied that the action taken by then Minister was adequate? It is worth pointing out that despite the cynical attempts to smear the current Minister, all of the issues we are now discussing are of a time when the Minister, Deputy Shatter, was the Opposition spokesperson on justice calling for the introduction of these powers.

The Minister, Deputy Shatter, has been accused of trying to ensure that GSOC and independent oversight of the Garda Síochána is limited. If members of the Opposition care to check the record relating to his time as Opposition spokesperson, they will find that the contrary is the case.

I wish to share time with Deputy John McGuinness.

I want to deal with a particular aspect of this debate, on which issue Ministers have made public comment during the past few days, namely, how the Garda Síochána fits into the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013, Second Stage of which is currently before the Dáil and may conclude this evening.

On 4 February 2014, some three weeks ago, I contributed to the Second Stage on the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013. I spoke specifically about section 19 which deals with the amendment of the Garda Síochána Act 2005. I made a number of observations in relation to that section which will be followed up by way of amendments tabled for consideration on Committee Stage of the legislation. Section 20 of the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013 deals with complaints in relation to the Ombudsman (Defence Forces) Act 2004. There is a contrast between how complaints and whistleblowers are dealt by the Garda Síochána legislation versus the Defence Forces legislation. There is a need for consistency in this regard.

Section 19 of the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013, commonly known as the whistleblowers Bill, which appears to be good until one examines it further, seeks to insert a new section requiring the Minister, following consultation with the Garda Commissioner, Garda ombudsman and the inspectorate, to make regulations providing procedures for the making of protected disclosures and seeking redress for a member of the Garda Síochána that makes such a protected disclosure. On the face of it, that appears good. However, it is not half good enough when one considers the culture of what is happening in terms of how people are being dealt with.

I would like to reiterate the points I made during the Second Stage debate three weeks ago. First, I support the Minister, Deputy Howlin, in his desire for proper protected disclosure within An Garda Síochána. I believe the full measure of this should be dealt with in the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013 in the context of the amendments being made to the Garda Síochána Act 2005. It should not be left to the Minister for Justice and Equality to further amend that legislation in due course.

Second, it is typical of this Government's top-down approach to matters that in introducing a whistleblowers mechanism into An Garda Síochána, it consults the Garda Commissioner, the Garda ombudsman and the inspectorate. There is no mention of the 12,500 rank and file gardaí or the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors. The Government is proposing to introduce this mechanism without any consultation with the people involved, except top brass. I said also at that time that this matter should not be addressed by way of regulation, which is a statutory instrument done in private by the Minister, but by way of primary legislation such as the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013 which is currently progressing through the Houses. If it is necessary to draw up a draft of the regulations to incorporate them into the primary legislation, then that needs to be done before the aforementioned Bill is finalised. It is not acceptable in this day and age to state in legislation, as is the case in the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013, that the Minister will bring in regulations in due course. That is no longer good enough. We want to see the matter dealt with in the legislation and not by way of regulation following discussions between the Minister, Garda Commissioner, Garda ombudsman and the inspectorate, a process in which rank and file gardaí, Members of the Oireachtas or the public have no opportunity to be involved.

I want to put on record again that the vast majority of gardaí on the front line do an outstanding job on behalf of the public. This controversy is damaging to them. The cause of that damage is the manner in which this issue is being dealt with at senior level and how the Garda Síochána interacts with the Department of Justice and Equality. All of the problems are happening at senior level rather than ground level. Fianna Fáil is opposed to any attempt to put in place by way of the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013 a procedure which applies to all public and private organisations and allows the Minister to draw up regulations for Garda whistleblowers. There should be no exemption for staff of the Minister's Department. There should also be consultation with rank and file gardaí about these measures. This matter must be addressed during Committee and Report Stages of the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013, at which time Government will have an opportunity to accept Opposition amendments to incorporate in the Bill measures which the Minister said previously he would like to see in it. We will give members of the Government an opportunity to do that, thereby testing their sincerity about putting proper whistleblowers legislation in place.

I have listened carefully to the debate. I point out to the previous two speakers from the Government backbenches that when I spoke on this issue in the House last Thursday morning there was no member of Fine Gael in the House. That matter was raised at the time by a former member of Fine Gael. Out of respect for other Members, I responded that they were probably watching the proceedings on monitors in their offices. That is what happens. Let us not get diverted by comments like that. Let us also not be diverted by the politics swirling around this issue or by the ongoing political noise around this debate. I ask that the Minister focus on the complaints made by Sergeant McCabe. There are serious concerns about what he has had to say. I ask too that the Minister not forget - I made this appeal to the Minister, Deputy Howlin last week - the case, of which he has been aware for the past 18 months, of Lucia O'Farrell and the tragic death-murder of her son, Shane. She has been writing to the Minister in relation to the process of justice, the investigation of the case and the issues that arise from that investigation.

Lucia O'Farrell and her husband Jim have asked that the Minister would consider that case and what happened to them.

I appeal to the Minister to now address the matter because I know he has the papers - he has acknowledged them. In the past 18 months Lucia O'Farrell has received no response bar acknowledgements. She is calling on the Minister to consider the case she is making regarding the death of her son. I am appealing to the Minister today to do precisely that not only for her but for the many other cases in which people and families believe they did not get recognition, due process or justice. This is not politics, it is a Member of this Parliament appealing to the Minister for Justice and Equality to investigate. I would appreciate it if the Minister took note of that after he has finished whispering to Deputy Buttimer.

The next matter I wish to address is the independence of the confidential recipient. The Minister referred in a statement this morning to a sexual harassment case in the Garda as if it was the only case - that is what the lady concerned has picked up - but it is not the only case. There is another case that has been processed through all of the available procedures in place but it has got nowhere. I question the fact that the Minister sacked the confidential recipient rather than keep him in place until this matter has been fully dealt with. I would like to have asked the confidential recipient why he said to the lady that the last man who used the service was now washing cars in Navan. That is what was said. The person stands over that claim. He later went on to say-----

Will the Deputy say that again?

The confidential recipient, responding to a person making a complaint, said that the last man who used the service was now washing cars in Navan.

I have no idea what he means.

This is a fact. The garda then went on to ask the confidential recipient to process the complaint, questioned the fact that nothing was happening and then asked for an update on the position. I would like to ask the confidential recipient whether he said to her that it had gone too high to cover it up and that it had to be investigated. He then suggested to her not to forget his proximity to the Minister and not to think that he had not had a word in his ear. I am simply repeating to the Minister what the garda has said.

I have no idea what he means.

You will get a chance to respond, Minister.

I am repeating to the Minister the fact that he should not have been sacked and that he should have been asked to account for those comments.

Thank you Deputy. Your time is up.

I do not know whether he made those comments to the Minister but I believe the person told me that in truth and I believe that the Minister should investigate it.

Along with the confidential recipient and his remarks, there are cases within the Department that should be examined. The confidential recipient suggested to this person that she should play the political game and that then she might get preferential treatment elsewhere. Will the Minister ask the confidential recipient whether that is true or false? I call on the Minister to examine that case and determine the details.

This is not politics, this is me, a Member of Parliament, asking the Minister for Justice and Equality to do what he should do.

Deputy Seán Kenny is next. I understand you are sharing time with Deputy Anne Ferris.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on what is an issue of substantial national importance, one which has been in the public domain continuously for several weeks. I was pleased to hear the Government announcement yesterday that a senior counsel will make an assessment of all the issues that have been the subject of so much controversy. I believe this is the right thing to do and I am certain that if the assessment recommends a commission of inquiry, then there will be one. A commission of inquiry might be the best outcome in the long term. All of the issues need to be resolved in a way that ensures public confidence in An Garda Síochána is upheld and maintained and such that members of An Garda Síochána are able to do their job and report wrongdoing if they believe there has been wrongdoing.

I have referred to the Mahon tribunal in the House previously and I wish to do so again because I believe the report makes for relevant and powerful reading when it comes to the matter we are discussing. One of the passages in the report states:

Corruption is frequently an offence committed by wealthy and/or powerful members of the Community and those reporting it may well fear the consequences of doing so for their own careers and employment prospects. Whistleblower protection may help alleviate those fears, thus facilitating the reporting of corruption offences.

In this context I wish to take this opportunity to restate my support for the protected disclosure legislation which I had the opportunity of speaking on in the House recently. That legislation will help to ensure that serving gardaí will be able to make complaints directly to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. This will be a positive step that will see a more direct and responsive approach if an issue of wrongdoing should arise. As a member of the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality I look forward to the work of the committee in reviewing the 2005 Garda Síochána Act. I believe that review should consider recommending that the powers of GSOC should be extended to include the post of the Garda Commissioner.

Much has been said in recent weeks about the public interest. GSOC commenced what it termed a public interest investigation into suspicions of surveillance of its offices. Last week a retired High Court judge was appointed by the Government to consider among other matters the decision of GSOC to withhold information about its investigation from the members of the public in whose name it had been initiated. Garda whistleblowers maintain they were prompted by the public interest in releasing information about Garda activities into the public domain. An eminent senior counsel has been asked by the Taoiseach to consider the whistleblowers' information and decide whether a public inquiry should be held in the public interest. These issues have raised four matters of significant public interest which must be given priority by the Department of Justice and Equality and the Government.

The first is the tragic murder of Silvia Roche Kelly in a hotel in Limerick. This woman's family need to know if her death was avoidable. The public need to know if Silvia Roche Kelly was a victim of errors in our policing system and, just as important, whether any errors were properly investigated and resolved. If the death of Silvia Roche Kelly happened because of Garda errors or misconduct that have not been resolved since her death, then tomorrow any one of us could be the next Silvia Roche Kelly.

The second issue of significant public interest is the management by the Garda of the abduction and assault of the Kells taxi driver, Mary Lynch. This woman is entitled to know why her assailant was released on bail without her account of the attack being made available to the courts. The public needs to be assured that an attack of that nature will be properly investigated in future by the Garda and that the attacker will be brought to justice. Women in particular need to feel safe while going about their daily business.

The third issue of significant public interest is the attempted abduction of a five year old girl by Jerry McGrath when he burgled a house in County Tipperary while on bail. The family of this young girl, who is no doubt seriously traumatised by the event, need to know why a dangerous criminal was out on the streets and not in prison. All parents and grandparents of five year old children throughout Ireland need to be assured that their children are safe from predators who would otherwise be in prison if the justice system had managed prior offences correctly.

The fourth issue of significant public interest is the bugging of the GSOC offices. The public need a strong authority for investigating complaints about the Garda. Gardaí need a strong authority for investigating complaints about the Garda. Any suggestion that GSOC is less than secure will undermine its authority. Any evidence that GSOC has been bugged calls into question the security of other organs of the State. This matter needs to be fully investigated in the public interest.

The fifth issue of significant public interest is connected to the other four. The Garda Síochána comprises of 13,000 members. I have said on several occasions that the vast majority of the men and women in our police force are decent, honourable and upstanding members of Irish society. The vast majority of these gardaí are as appalled as everyone in the House at the mere thought that corrupt or incompetent gardaí contributed to the serious crimes I have described.

The public needs us to preserve what is good about our Garda force, while hunting out what is bad. It is in the public interest for the events discussed over recent weeks to lead to a better police force. I welcome the appointment of Mr. Justice John Cooke and Mr. Sean Guerin SC, and I look forward to the investigations they will conduct.

Just as important for the public interest in the future is the Government's decision to refer the Garda Síochána Act 2005 to the Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality for review. As Vice Chairman of that committee, my aim will be to see real change emerge from that review. I would like to see a stronger GSOC and a better Garda force result from much-needed changes to the legislation governing both bodies. That would be very much in the public interest.

Tá a lán líomhaintí, ní hamháin os comhair na Dála ach os comhair na bhfiosrúchán difriúla atá ar siúl. Measaim go bhfuil sé ceart go mbeadh muid ag déanamh cinnte de, ag deireadh na bhfiosrúchán siúd ar fad, go mbeadh muinín ag an bpobal ní hamháin as An Garda Síochána ach as an gcóras dlí agus cirt ina iomlán chomh maith. Ní hamháin gur cheist maidir leis An Garda Síochána atáimid ag plé leis ach ceisteanna maidir le GSOC, an confidential recipient agus an tAire féin chomh maith. Sin iad na ceithre colúin atá i gceist. Muna thagann arís ár muinín san Gharda Síochána agus a bhaineann leo agus sa chóras dlí agus cirt, is drochlá é don daonlathas agus don Stáit.

Is fíor-líomhaintí tromchúiseacha atá leagtha i gcoinne ní hamháin an tAire féin agus an Garda ach i gcoinne an Taoiseach chomh maith nár déanadh obair tapaidh go leor maidir leis na líomhaintí a bhí sa dossier a chur an Sáirsint Maurice McCabe os a chomhair agus os comhair daoine difriúla thar thréimhse. Ní dhearnamar práinn mhór go leor agus níor thugamar tábhacht mór go leor do na ceisteanna móra a d'ardaigh sé. Tá siad sin fós os ár gcomhair.

An tseachtain seo caite, chuir an tAire an t-iar-bhreitheamh Cooke i mbun fiosrúcháin maidir le GSOC, an cúléisteacht agus cad a tharla ansin. Chomh maith leis sin, tá an tAire tar éis a fhógairt go mbeidh an t-abhcóide, Sean Guerin, ag déileáil leis an gceist, ag tabhairt sracfhéachaint ar dhoiciméadaí atá ar fáil idir an tAire agus An Garda Síochána faoi cad atá i measc an phobail anois, is é sin, an méid a bhí Sáirsint Maurice McCabe ag cur trasna. Chomh maith leis sin - níl fhios agam cá bhfuil sé anois - bhí fiosrúcháin inmheánacha laistigh den Roinn Dlí agus Cirt agus Comhionannais maidir le mo líomhaintí céanna. Níl a fhios agam an bhfuil tuairisc le teacht, an bhfuil sé tagtha nó an bhfuil in ann dó in aon chor laistigh den Roinn. Ag an am céanna, tá cás san Ard-Chúirt maidir le Sylvia Roche Kelly.

Rud eile nach bhfuil mórán daoine ag díriú isteach air agus rud a dhéanfaidh tarrtháil amach anseo ar an tslí a oibríonn An Garda Síochána ná Cigireacht an Gharda Síochána. Sa deireadh thiar thall, siadsan a fheiceann ar conas mar a oibríonn An Garda Síochána, conas mar a déileálann siad le fiosrúcháin - ní hamháin an ceann seo ach le gnáth-fiosrúcháin - conas a déileálann siad leis an bpobal agus conas a déileálann a bhaill lena chéile. Bunaíodh an cigireacht faoi stiúir Kathleen O'Toole, an póilín ó Mheiriceá, chun a dhéanamh cinnte de go mbeadh an caighdeán agus an bealach oibre is fearr ar domhain againn sa Stát seo. Go dtí seo, níl sé sin le feiceáil.

Tá a lán os ár gcomhair, nílimid tagtha fiú ar tús an scéil seo agus measaim go bhfuil níos mó le teacht chun cinn. Sin an fáth, measaim, go mbeadh sé i bhfad níos éasca dúinn sa deireadh thiar thall é seo a thógáil as an gciorcal, an arena, polaitiúil agus é a chur isteach i gcoimisiún fiosrúcháin seachas é a thabhairt do abhcóide a mbeidh tuairisc aige roimh nó i ndiaidh na Cásca beagnach ag an am céanna agus a mbeidh tuairisc ón mBreitheamh Cooke. Dá mbeadh sé seo go léir curtha isteach i gcoimisiún fiosrúcháin amháin, bheadh a fhios againn ag deireadh an scéil go mbeadh tuairiscí firiciúla tagtha os ár gcomhair agus go mbeadh muid in ann obair dá réir. Má thagann ceachtar den dá fiosrúcháin atá mé tar éis a luadh chun cinn le moltaí nó le cásanna cúirte nó fiú le cásanna gur chóir go mbeadh ag dul os comhair na cúirte, ní bheidh siad in ann é sin a dhéanamh. Beidh orainn teacht ar ais anseo agus coimisiún fiosrúcháin a bhunú. Faoin am go mbeidh na fiosrúcháin a luaigh mé críochnaithe, beidh muid trí mhí taobh thiar den áit gur chóir go mbeadh muid.

I have a problem concerning where we are at the moment. At this stage, we should have passed this and other justice related matters that have come to the fore in recent weeks to a commission of inquiry. Such is the level of public concern, including concern in this House, over the possibility of malpractice, incompetence or worse at a level within An Garda Síochána, it should have been taken out of the political arena and given to a commission that could have investigated it from start to finish.

What has happened, however, is that a barrister will scan a number of documents, but why was that not done in the first instance? These documents have been in the possession of the Minister and others for quite a long time, but they did not receive proper, urgent analysis. This matter is so serious that a commission of inquiry is required and it should have happened from the start. We would then have been further down the road towards getting the facts by the end of this session or early in the next session.

Neither Mr. Justice Cooke, whom the Minister has tasked with dealing with the GSOC scandal, nor Mr. Sean Guerin SC, to whom other questions have been referred, can come up with statements of fact that can be used in court or to charge somebody if they are perceived to be guilty of incompetence, malpractice or worse, as has been alleged.

Much of the current situation results from failures during the earlier passage of the Garda Síochána Bill which has been enacted. We did not have a Minister who believed that the culture within An Garda Síochána at a certain level was such that it required the equivalent of what was introduced in the North. I remember arguing across the Chamber and in committee with the previous Minister, Michael McDowell, at that time that a more robust Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission was needed. In fact, I argued that it should be an individual, such as the Police Ombudsman in the North. I also argued for more resources and that the office should be built on the same scale, with equivalent pro rata resources and staff as in the North. Mr. McDowell refused, however, saying that the scale of the problems within An Garda Síochána were not such that it required that.

We have had the Morris report since then and now have a scandal concerning penalty points. In addition, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission says it does not have sufficient resources to address in a timely fashion all the complaints it has received. That is one of the key elements, so it has either sought additional resources or changes in its remit to allow it to deal summarily with some of the complaints. That is one of the reasons I believe the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has not been able to deal with the plethora of complaints from the Shell to Sea protestors. Quite a big dossier of complaints was handed to the Taoiseach, which concerned the way in which An Garda Síochána handled those protestors in Mayo.

I ask the Deputy to conclude. We must move on to the question and answer session.

I am just concluding.

I am also of the view that the issue of the confidential recipient has not been addressed. When he appointed the individual who held that post until recently, the Minister stated that he was a man of the highest integrity and provided a list of references in respect of him. That person has now been sacked and probably rightly so. Does this mean the Minister no longer believes him to be a man of integrity? What is the state of play in this regard? The Minister should have made a more lengthy statement to the House in order to explain his actions in that matter.

I welcome the changes that will come about as a result of the legislation with which the House will be dealing following this debate. However, I am of the view that we should go much further. I welcome the fact that the Select Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence will have the opportunity to discuss the legislation in question on Committee Stage.

We will now take questions to the Minister, for which 30 minutes have been allocated. Time limits have not been set for individual questions. However, in the interests of being fair, I propose that we allocate four minutes in respect of each question and answer. If the House agrees, I will take questions from Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group in that order.

Will there be a second round of questions?

Yes, provided we dispose of the questions asked in the first round.

Will Government Members have an opportunity to pose questions?

In my initial question I wish to focus on the confidential recipient, Mr. Oliver Connolly. In the transcript of the conversation which took place between him and Sergeant Maurice McCabe, he stated:

Shatter would have read your report in detail, I know he did, he communicated with me and he will have read all of your exhibits ... the only thing I would have redacted was your name. Alan studied everything in fact I know he did.

Mr. Connolly also stated:

I believe you and I think the Commissioner has a case to answer. I think you have the evidence they destroyed you, a man has only got his reputation. You were just standing up for what is right if you ask me.

The Minister did not really expand on the reasons that he relieved Mr. Connolly of his duties. Will the Minister indicate whether he had discussions with Mr. Connolly in respect of the dossier he forwarded to him on behalf of Sergeant Maurice McCabe? Will the Minister also indicate if the confidential recipient conveyed to him that he believed the import of what the whistleblower was saying to the effect that there was a case to answer? Will he confirm that the confidential recipient communicated with him on the matter? Comments have been made to the effect that the confidential recipient seems to have spoken to more than one whistleblower and informed them about his proximity to the Minister. I am not casting any aspersions with regard to who made those comments. However, they were uttered. Does the Minister accept, on reflection, that perhaps it was a mistake to appoint to the very sensitive position of confidential recipient for whistleblowers someone who was a friend and who had donated to his campaign?

On the inquiry into penalty points, does the Minister accept that no one from the O'Mahony investigation team contacted Sergeant Maurice McCabe to speak with him or to seek his input or co-operation? Does he also accept that the Road Safety Authority highlighted the fact that not interviewing the whistleblowers was the major failing of the O'Mahony inquiry?

I will do my best to reply to the Deputy. He will have to forgive me but I have a sore throat and I am sucking a cough sweet in order to keep myself functioning.

We are all in that sort of situation.

I intend no disrespect to the Deputy. I will try to work my way through the questions he asked.

Mr. Oliver Connolly - despite Members persistently making allegations - was not appointed as the confidential recipient as a result of making a contribution to my election campaign. As is well known on foot of my declaration following the 2007 general election, Mr. Connolly contributed €1,000 towards my campaign. I accept that it is popular for people not to believe this but I can quite adamantly and frankly state that said contribution had nothing to do with his appointment. Not only did it have nothing to do with it, I did not actually recall the contribution at the time of the appointment. What I did was consider who, in my view, was an appropriate person for appointment. Mr. Connolly, as everyone knows, headed up an mediation service called Friarylaw. In 2005, his service was named by the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform as one of the appropriate designated organisations to deal with mediation. Mr. Connolly was well known as a counsel and he had a good reputation. I had some engagement with him when I tried to encourage Friarylaw to provide mediation courses to solicitors operating in the area of family law. I did so because I was concerned to ensure that family lawyers would, in circumstances where family breakdowns had occurred, to resolve their problems through mediation rather than by means of litigation. I encouraged Mr. Connolly to provide a course for family lawyers. I recollect that I assisted him in putting together that course, free gratis, and that I might have contributed as a guest lecturer. Again, I did not get paid for my services.

My association with Mr. Connolly was, therefore, in the context of his being a very competent individual who was engaged in mediation internationally and domestically. He was recognised by one of my predecessors in the area of mediation and I thought he was an ideal person for appointment. I took the view that, in the context of the job he was doing, it was important that he should remain at arm's length. In light of the fact that his job would require him to engage with members of the Garda force, I was very conscious of the fact that much of his work had nothing to do with the Minister for Justice and Equality. That work relates to members of the force making complaints and allegations that would be transmitted directly to the Garda Commissioner. A complaint or allegation would only come to me if it related to the Garda Commissioner.

The Deputy referred to a letter I received on 23 January 2012. The allegations detailed in that letter were of a most serious nature. Mr. Connolly was very anxious to ensure that I read the letter. I recollect that we had a very brief conversation when he was seeking an assurance that I had read it. That was the extent of our conversation. I would not tell the Deputy the date on which that conversation took place and I have no note of it occurring. However, I recollect that this was a matter in which Mr. Connolly sought to ensure that I had received and read the relevant documentation. That was the extent of our engagement on the matter, with the exception of the correspondence that followed from the response I received from the Garda Commissioner on 30 January.

I must ask the Minister to conclude.

The Deputy inquired as to why Mr. Connolly's position was terminated. Approximately two weeks ago the Deputy quoted from the transcript that has now become available as a result of its publication on Broadsheet.ie and I recall him saying that Mr. Connolly's position was untenable. Deputy Wallace read into the record a particular quote which the Members opposite enthusiastically repeat regularly in which Mr. Connolly appears to state to Sergeant McCabe that "if Shatter thinks you're screwing him, you're finished". Mr. Connolly also made another comment of that nature.

I ask the Minister to conclude.

I regarded that as being quite extraordinary. I thought it was highly inappropriate that a confidential recipient would make any such comment. In no circumstances would I encourage any such comment to be made.

I ask the Minister to conclude.

It is of absolute importance that a member of the Garda Síochána approaching the confidential recipient would have confidence that the matter about which he or she was concerned would be dealt with appropriately. In no circumstances would I take the approach suggested towards any individual.

I must ask the Minister to conclude.

I am conscious that Deputy Martin posed some other questions and perhaps the Acting Chair will give me a moment to reply to them.

I only asked two questions.

Those matters are going to be revisited.

To be fair to all Members, I am adhering to Standing Orders. I ask the Minister to conclude.

I will conclude. I am sure the same question will be posed by someone else and I will reply to it at that stage.

I ask for a "Yes" or "No". Does he accept that no one from the O'Mahony investigation made contact with Sergeant McCabe? This is very important.

The Deputy will have an opportunity to come back.

I will not have an opportunity. I want a "Yes" or "No" answer. The Minister has dodged the question. He has answered a question he was not asked. He filibustered.

I refer to the Minister's point about the confidential recipient. What is his opinion of him now? The Minister said he was a man of integrity when he appointed him and now, rightly so in my opinion, he has relieved him of his post because of some of his comments. My other question relates to the Garda Síochána Inspectorate which was established to deal with the investigation of Garda procedures such as promotions. We have not heard much about the inspectorate in the time since it was set up. Some of the allegations fall into that category. Has the inspectorate been asked to examine whether the investigative processes of An Garda Síochána are sufficiently robust? Why will the Minister not state that he believes that both Sergeant Maurice McCabe and former Garda John Wilson are honourable men and that their intention from the start was to do good? Why will he not state that their intentions were honourable, that they wanted a justice system and the Garda Síochána to stand the test of any inquiry, that they wanted to make the system better and highlight wrongdoing in An Garda Síochána, not to the detriment of An Garda Síochána but to ensure that it was corrected? If they had been listened to, it would not have got to this point but the Minister has so far failed, to my knowledge, to state that both men were honourable men.

I remind the Deputy that only four minutes are allowed for the question and answer. The Minister has two minutes.

First, contrary to the manner in which people wish to present it, I have not cast any aspersions or made any comment about anyone's honour. I refer to the statement I issued on the day when Assistant Commissioner O'Mahony's report was published. People choose to cherry-pick the bits that fit the narrative. I do not mean that Deputy Ó Snodaigh is doing that. In that statement I pointed out a number of things. I pointed out that in the context of both former Garda Wilson and current Sergeant Maurice McCabe, that with regard to the ticket charge issue, many of the serious allegations made against members of An Garda Síochána have not been substantiated. The most serious allegations were that as a consequence of ticket charges not being paid, there had been seven road fatalities. That would be a most serious matter if that were true. That allegation was very substantially investigated and it was not true.

I said in my statement:

It appears there have been cases where clearly laid out procedures for the cancellation of notices were not followed, for example, where tickets were cancelled by some superintendents outside their Garda district areas. It also appears that in some cases, detailed records were not maintained. I am conscious that even where correct procedures were followed, the subjectivity of judgments made in accepting petitions for the cancellation of fixed charge notices inevitably leaves room for disagreement on individual decisions. It is clear from the report I received from the Garda Commissioner that strengthened procedures and protocols with regard to the cancellation of fixed charge notices are necessary and should without delay be put in place.

I listed a series of issues that quite clearly would not have been addressed without both of those members of the Garda Síochána raising these issues and I have repeated this. I will answer the questions from both Deputy Ó Snodaigh and Deputy Martin. I refer to the extract about which Members of the House are creating some controversy, where I made a reference to the level of co-operation. I specifically said, "It is only fair to acknowledge that these reports [of Assistant Commissioner O'Mahony] and their findings and recommendations are in response to allegations of improper cancellation of fixed charge notices." I have expressly acknowledged this a number of times. I am not casting aspersions on the honour of individuals. I would question a member of An Garda Síochána secretly taping other individuals. If that was happening in other circumstances there would be uproar in this House.

I ask the Acting Chairman to allow me one minute because I know that Deputies want me to deal with this.

Does the Minister accept that the O'Mahony team-----

I accept absolutely that Sergeant Maurice McCabe was not interviewed by either Assistant Commissioner O'Mahony or by his team dealing with the issue. I said in the House-----

There was no contact.

That is not correct.

It is in the Minister's statement.

I said in the House that I expected that Sergeant McCabe would be engaged with the investigation and I expected that he would be interviewed. I also made reference to a matter on which other Members of the House are taking a different view. In the context of what is referred to as "the direction", he clearly was not directed to engage but he was invited to engage with Assistant Commissioner O'Mahony. In a letter from one of my departmental officials which I can quote to the Deputy-----

That is not true; I have read it.

-----he was asked to co-operate.

Those officials were not on the team. The Minister is continuing to mislead. He said he did not co-operate.

This is a member of An Garda Síochána who knows an investigation is taking place on an issue of great concern to him.

Please, Minister, to be fair to the other Members.

I will conclude by saying what I said today that different people have different perceptions of this issue and I absolutely appreciate that. In addressing the issue-----

Please conclude, Minister.

-----I am not casting aspersions on anyone's integrity.

But the Minister did.

I remind Deputies and the Minister that four minutes are allowed for questions and answers.

The point is the Minister alleged non-co-operation. Obviously Sergeant McCabe was not interviewed by Assistant Commissioner O'Mahony but does the Minister accept that Sergeant McCabe was never called on the telephone, texted, e-mailed, faxed or visited at his home by the Assistant Commissioner or anyone acting for him, to ask him to participate in the investigation?

I again say that it was my expectation that he would be engaged in the matter and it was my expectation that he would be interviewed. The understanding I have of the matter is that the investigation that took place was based on the totality of the information and the documentation he provided which included extracts from PULSE, which members of the investigation team could access for themselves. I repeat my expectation was that he would be engaged and he would be interviewed. One can look at it in different ways; for example, from the perspective that there was a serious misunderstanding between the investigation team and a member of the Garda force who knew an investigation was taking place. I have no idea how that arose but Sergeant McCabe confirmed - not me - that matters got to a point where the investigation had been completed and a report was completed but the report had not been published-----

What the Minister said now-----

I ask the Deputy to allow me finish-----

The Minister is running down the clock. I want him to be very precise.

I am being very precise. The report had not been published. An e-mail was sent to An Taoiseach which was referenced today-----

I know all that. I want to ask a supplementary question.

I ask the Minister to allow the Deputy ask a supplementary question.

That e-mail was referenced by Sergeant McCabe himself:

I again remarked that I was concerned and seriously concerned that I was never contacted or interviewed." [This is to Assistant Commissioner O'Mahoney] I informed the Assistant Commissioner that I had seen tens of thousands of ...terminations on PULSE and I hoped his report would reflect this. Alarmingly, he then asked me if I wanted to speak to someone on his investigation team. I ended our call having expressed concern about him not interviewing me.

He was invited to meet a member of the investigation team.

I have read all that. What the Minister has just said about a potential misunderstanding is a completely different situation to non-co-operation.

If the Minister were in charge of a major investigation and he knew a particular witness had expert knowledge of the situation, would he be happy for a misunderstanding or anything else to stop him from contacting that person? Would he not contact that person directly, by any means possible, to make sure he was interviewed?

As I said, I would have expected a long-standing member of the Garda who had a major interest in this issue and who was invited or advised by one of my departmental officials with whom he was in regular correspondence to give any additional information he had, to so do.

Let us get real here.

Acting Chairman, either I am allowed to reply or the Deputy is allowed to shout at me.

Deputy Higgins must allow the Minister to reply.

I am asking questions and the Minister is running down the clock.

If the Deputy wishes to shout at me, I cannot deal with the matter.

If the Minister were in charge of a major investigation, would he not think it essential to pick up the telephone and call the expert witness or find out where he was and go to talk to him?

The Deputy's time is up. The Minister must be allowed to reply.

Second, when the sergeant returned from sick leave and found out that the investigation had been finished and the report was not published, does the Minister not agree that the assistant commissioner should have interviewed him at that stage?

The Minister will have no time to reply to the Deputy

I repeat that Sergeant McCabe was invited to meet with a member of the investigation team on 24 April and he found that invitation alarming. I do not know why that was the case. Common sense would suggest to me that there may be fault on both sides. Common sense suggests that someone who had such a commitment to this issue, knowing an investigation was taking place and having been advised in the context of ongoing correspondence by an official of my Department that if he had further evidence or information, he should give it to the Garda authorities, would do so. He did not, however, and I do not see how that can be described as co-operating with the investigation. Equally, however, I do not understand why, as the Deputy put it, a telephone call was not made or he was not asked to come along to an interview. I think, frankly, there was fault on both sides.

Could the Minister not just have said that earlier?

I also do not see how one can describe the individual as having co-operated in circumstances where he was invited to come along to an interview or meeting with a member of the investigation team, having been asked, five months earlier, to provide any further evidence he had.

"Sorry" really is the hardest word. Can the Minister not just say he is sorry, he got it wrong?

I have two issues to raise with the Minister. The first relates to the Garda Commissioner's recent appearance before the Committee of Public Accounts, where he described the actions of the two whistleblowers, Sergeant McCabe and former Garda John Wilson, as "disgusting". What is the Minister's view of that comment? Does he agree with it? If not, is he prepared to take this opportunity to disassociate himself from that assessment of the two gardaí? Does he accept that this kind of comment only serves to silence people who have the courage to speak up about things that are wrong and is entirely unhelpful if we are trying to create an atmosphere where whistleblowers feel they can come forward?

The second issue relates to the Minister's appearance on "Prime Time" where he disclosed confidential information in regard to Deputy Mick Wallace which seems to have been based on tittle-tattle. In hindsight, does the Minister regret doing that and, if so, is he prepared to take this opportunity to apologise to the Deputy?

I have already addressed the second issue. It is not a matter I will deal with today.

In regard to the first issue, I was not present at the meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts to which the Deputy referred. I have not read the transcript and do not know the context in which the Commissioner made his comment.

The Minister should have read it. He should not be giving us this old nonsense.

Am I allowed to reply, Acting Chairman?

The Minister, without interruption.

I do not know the context of the comment made by the Commissioner. I am conscious that Sergeant McCabe raised serious issues, including in regard to ticket charges. In a number of areas he has been proved correct, and in a number of areas he has been proved incorrect. I also know that he has alleged that a variety of members of An Garda Síochána are corrupt. There has been widespread currency given to these allegations outside this House. He has conducted himself in a manner which if any other member of the force had so behaved would give rise to uproar in this House. We now know that he secretly taped a conversation with a senior officer, a transcript of which has been published and was referenced today in the House. I would think there are concerns in this area.

Is this the person towards whom the Minister claims to have no animosity?

I am sorry if my answers do not suit Deputy Daly, but this is a very complicated issue. If 13,000 members of An Garda Síochána were engaged in the unauthorised taping of conversations, we would be asking GSOC to investigate the entire force.

I asked the Minister a straightforward question. Does he agree with the Garda Commissioner's assessment of the actions of the two whistleblowers or does he not? If not, will he take this opportunity to disassociate himself from that comment? Surely he accepts that the whole issue of workplace bullying is a serious issue in our society. The message needs to go out to people that they are encouraged to come forward, not threatened in a way that ensures they shut up if they have something to say. This is an important issue that goes way beyond the Garda and it is important that the Minister should state his position on it. Does he agree with what the Commissioner said or not?

I have acknowledged that this is a very important matter. That is why the Government is amending the legislation brought forward by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, to ensure that whistleblowers are encouraged and protected.

I also believe it is important that those who make allegations have the evidence to substantiate them. They should not make allegations that are unsubstantiated and they should behave lawfully. I am not going to comment on what the Deputy is putting to me because I do not know the context in which the Commissioner made that comment. I have not read the transcript and I am not a member of that committee.

The Minister is being disingenuous. He knows perfectly well.

Hear no evil, see no evil.

He certainly knows lots of other things.

On the "Six One News" last night, Deputy Micheál Martin was asked by Bryan Dobson whether he was satisfied in his own mind that these concerns were not raised in correspondence with the Fianna Fáil Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform during that period. Deputy Martin replied that he was. In the light of the Minister's statement this morning, can he provide the House with full details of the correspondence between Sergeant McCabe, the former Minister, Dermot Ahern, and Mr. Kelly? The families require answers and they deserve the truth.

I have to hand an e-mail of 23 March 2009 directed by Sergeant McCabe to my predecessor, Mr. Dermot Ahern. It reads as follows:

Dear Minister,

My name is Maurice McCabe. I am a member of An Garda Síochána with the rank of sergeant. As you are probably aware, I have made a complaint in relation to malpractice and corruption in Bailieborough Garda district, Cavan-Monaghan, and these issues are being investigated at present. A preliminary report has been forwarded to Garda headquarters by the investigation team which states that there were indeed bad practices and bad procedures uncovered as a result of my complaint.

On 12 March 2009, on the front page of the Anglo Celt, it was reported that the chief superintendent for Cavan-Monaghan [he here names the individual] stated publicly at a public forum to elected representatives that the issues in Bailieborough were absolute rubbish and that he had been briefed on a number of issues and there was no criminality involved. How can he possibly say such a thing when he is one of the Garda management complained of? The investigation into my complaint is ongoing and for the chief superintendent for Cavan-Monaghan to openly speak about the investigation and conclude that all issues were absolute rubbish is appalling. Certain serious matters have been uncovered during the investigation. To call them absolute rubbish is Donegal all over again.

My e-mail to you is to ask for an independent person to oversee the investigation because the whole investigation has been tainted and undermined by his comments. I feel it is the only way that the truth will be uncovered. The chief superintendent remaining in charge of Cavan-Monaghan while the investigations are ongoing is severely hampering potential Garda witnesses to come forward and tell the truth as they afraid to do so.

He then concludes:

I am sorry for annoying you, but I am at a loss as to where to turn to. Certain spin can be offered by certain Garda management, but the facts and evidence that I have... will show that the public and victims of crime were treated very badly by certain gardaí. This behaviour was allowed to happen and continue by Garda management.

On 11 May 2009, there was a brief response to Garda McCabe's letter of 23 March 2009, as follows:

Dear Sergeant McCabe,

I am directed by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Dermot Ahern, to refer to your e-mail regarding alleged malpractice and corruption in Bailieborough Garda district (Cavan-Monaghan) and ongoing investigation into same. The conduct of an investigation is a matter for the Commissioner in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005 and the Minister has no role in directing him in such operational matters. The Minister believes that in the circumstances, the most appropriate action for now is to allow the Commissioner to complete his work and let due process take its course. I hope the foregoing is of assistance.

The Minister is wasting time.

That letter was signed by the private secretary to the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. There might not be time for me to go into a second series of correspondence.

I will summarise it briefly. It consists of an initial letter from Mr. Lorcan Roche Kelly, an initial response from the Minister's private secretary, a second letter from Mr. Lorcan Roche Kelly complaining that his original issues were not addressed, and a second response from the then Minister's private secretary directing him to take his complaints to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

That is just an abuse of the process.

It is not. Did the Deputy not hear the first line, which began with "as you are aware"?

On a point of order-----

What is the point of order?

According to Standing Orders, it is entirely the prerogative of the Government, represented in the Chamber at the moment by the Minister, Deputy Shatter, and the Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, to reorder slightly the order of the Dáil from this morning or from yesterday. I ask them to do so and thereby allow other Deputies who are offering to get the time they deserve. I suggest that my request for an additional 15 minutes of questions should be acceded to. There is no pressure of business between now and 7.30 p.m.

There is no business next week.

The next piece of business is the whistleblowers Bill and I think we should proceed with that.

That was said without a hint of irony.

The Government is deliberately closing down this question session.

What just happened is a disgrace.

It is disgusting.

It is an insult to this House.

We must move on to the whistleblowers Bill.

It is the "whistleblowers make me sick to the pit of my stomach" Bill.

An obnoxious man.