The Garda whistleblower controversy had a “devastating” effect on Nóirín O’Sullivan and her family, the former Garda commissioner has said in her first interview since her decision to resign in November 2017.
People called to her home and abused her adult children, and armed gardaí were sent to the sittings of the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle such was the atmosphere created by allegations against her that have since been shown to be untrue.
In a separate interview, the former tánaiste and now MEP, Frances Fitzgerald, described as “harrowing” the experience of having to leave government because of a false allegation.
The publication of the fourth interim report of the Disclosures Tribunal in July of this year means that all of the allegations against the two women that were made during the controversy have been dismissed.
Ms O’Sullivan was accused of being privy to or involved in attempts to target or discredit Garda whistleblowers Maurice McCabe and Nicky Keogh after they made protected disclosures.
Ms Fitzgerald was accused of knowing about but failing to stop a plan by Ms O’Sullivan to use false allegations against Mr McCabe at the confidential hearings of a commission of inquiry that was investigating complaints made by Mr McCabe.
The Disclosures Tribunal found that the former head of the Garda Press Office, David Taylor, and the then Garda commissioner, Martin Callinan, had been involved in a campaign to smear Mr McCabe.
Ms O’Sullivan said there was a “bombardment” of untrue allegations about her made in the Dáil and reported in the media.
“The cumulative effect of it all is that it is dehumanising. That is the word I would use. It is dehumanising to be at the centre of this vortex, and feel that you are a political football, which I felt very deeply.
“It had a huge effect on my family, on my husband and my [adult] children, and on people who dared to be close to me or dared to be supportive in any way.
“I had people call to my home. I had people abusing my children. I had such horrible things happen. Even at the tribunal, for example, we had to, albeit quietly, have armed detectives there. Because there were people, you know. It attracts this. And if this is allowed to continue, then actually democracy begins to break down, and society begins to break down.”
She said she was supportive of the Oireachtas committee system but her experience of appearing before them as a witness had been that some members were solely focused on “looking for sensational headlines”.
Ms Fitzgerald said genuine issues had to be dealt with during the whistleblower controversy, but “you don’t try and right one injustice by creating others, and I think that is a fairly basic point in democracy”.
“There was an awful lot of rushing to judgment,” said Ms Fitzgerald, who is now a Fine Gael member of the European Parliament.
She argued in the Dáil that the proper way to deal with the allegations was to allow for due process, but the Dáil had not done that, even though it had already established a tribunal.
When the tribunal’s reports are taken together, she said, the consequences of rushing to judgment can be seen.
“A lot of what was taken as absolute truth, by the Dáil, by the media, turns out actually not to have been true.”
False allegations were made by Mr Taylor, against Ms O’Sullivan and her husband, James McGowan, who was at the time a detective inspector.
Ms O’Sullivan said she and her husband, who retired as a detective chief superintendent, had to end their Garda careers with a public assumption that they had failed to live up to the standards they had tried to live by.
They had to wait for a number of years for tribunal reports to be published that said, “well, this is not true,” the former commissioner said.
It was claimed in the Dáil that Ms O’Sullivan was party to, or had known about, the targeting of the whistleblowers, Mr McCabe and Garda Keogh.
All of these claims about Ms O’Sullivan have been dismissed in tribunal reports, with the report in July saying Garda Keogh’s claim was meant to be “extremely damaging” to the then commissioner and was made without any basis.
The false claims against Ms O’Sullivan and Ms Fitzgerald were aired in the Dáil, where politicians enjoy absolute privilege in terms of being sued.
In his tribunal report in July, Mr Justice Seán Ryan noted how false allegations made by Garda Keogh against a number of members of An Garda Síochána had been disclosed in the Oireachtas.
“The problem was that the allegations could not be answered by the persons accused in the forum in which they were raised,” he said.
Mr Taylor, who was removed as head of the Garda Press Office by Ms O’Sullivan following the resignation of her predecessor Mr Callinan, falsely alleged that she had known, as deputy commissioner, about a campaign to discredit Mr McCabe.
He also falsely claimed that Ms O’Sullivan’s husband was party to a conspiracy to cover up evidence of her knowledge of the smear campaign.
In a tribunal report in October 2018, the then tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton dismissed the allegations and said Mr Taylor’s “viciousness” towards Ms O’Sullivan arose because he was “suffused in bitterness” because she had moved him from the Garda Press Office.
Claims by Garda Keogh and another whistleblower Garda Keith Harrison that they had been targeted in the wake of making protected disclosures contributed to calls in the Dáil for Ms O’Sullivan’s resignation on the basis that she was not protecting whistleblowers.
“The assumption was that I was targeting and discrediting whistleblowers, without a shred of evidence to support that,” she told The Irish Times.
In a tribunal report in November 2017, Mr Justice Charleton said Garda Harrison’s claims against Garda colleagues and the child and family agency, Túsla, were “entirely without any validity”.
In his report in July, Mr Justice Ryan, who replaced Mr Justice Charleton as tribunal chairman in late 2018, said that all of Garda Keogh’s claims about being targeted were unfounded.
Ms Fitzgerald said there were lessons to be learned by politicians and the media from the whistleblower era, which threw up serious matters that had to be investigated.
“How did the Dáil deal with them? How did the media deal with them.”
In her case the publication of a Department of Justice email in which she was informed of a dispute at the O’Higgins Commission, led to claims that she had known about, but done nothing to stop, an alleged attempt to discredit Mr McCabe at the commission’s confidential hearings, by using false allegations.
In the Disclosures Tribunal’s third interim report in October 2018, Mr Justice Charleton said that the transcripts of the commission hearings showed “nothing of the kind alleged” ever happened.
Leaked “snippets” of transcript, and the email that referred to a row at the commission, had “somehow transmogrified” into an allegation that Mr McCabe had been “maliciously accused” at the commission of false offences, and that Ms Fitzgerald had “stood back and let it happen”.
No one, never mind the Garda commissioner, had ever accused Mr McCabe of any crime at the commission, “or hinted at it, or attempted any innuendo about it”, the judge said.
He said Ms Fitzgerald had been correct to decide, in response to the email, that it was not for her to interfere with the commission hearings and that she should let the sole member of the commission, Mr Justice Kevin O’Higgins, “sort out” any dispute that might have arisen there.
A week before the proposed no-confidence vote in Ms Fitzgerald, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said in the Dáil that “it seems to me that there was a conspiracy to ruin this honourable man [Mr McCabe] and that members of An Garda Síochána and the tánaiste’s former department [justice] were part of this conspiracy.”
On the same day, the Fianna Fáil spokesman on justice, Jim O’Callaghan, said “the tánaiste was aware of the strategy of the Garda commissioner to attack and to try to personally destroy the reputation of Sgt Maurice McCabe.”
“What happened to me in the Dáil was completely connected with the idea that I knew there was a strategy to undermine the whistleblower,” Ms Fitzgerald said. “But there was no strategy, and I did not.”
There were fears the UK housing market has begun to splutter after fresh data showed price growth had dramatically slowed.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the average UK house price increased by 7.8 per cent in the year to June, sharply down on May when prices jumped 12.8 per cent.
The slowdown followed similar assessments from mortgage lenders such as Halifax, which this month said prices fell in July for the first time in over a year.
The Office for National Statistics reported that the average UK house price increased by 7.8% in the year to June, sharply down on May when prices jumped 12.8%
‘We are seeing the end of an era of consistent rapid house price growth and the start of a new chapter characterised by economic instability,’ said Andy Sommerville, director at property data firm Search Acumen.
He forecast house price growth stalling or falling, as inflation and interest rate rises take the heat out of demand, which had been ‘exponentially outstripping supply since the pandemic.’
It comes as mortgage costs have jumped after the Bank of England raised its benchmark lending rate from 0.1 per cent in December to 1.75 per cent this month in an effort to curb inflation.
Yesterday housebuilder Persimmon reported a profit of nearly £440million for the first half of the year, down from £480million in 2021. ‘
As the pressure on people’s finances grows it is going to become increasingly difficult for them to afford to move house,’ said AJ Bell analyst Danni Hewson.
She added that Persimmon’s ability to build was hit by ‘shortages of skilled labour and materials.’ Its share price fell 7.8 per cent, or 145p, to 1704p.
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Furious neighbours are fed-up after a council flat garden that has been used as a dumping ground for rubbish for more than a decade is now starting to attract rats.
Hospital worker Darren Holden, 52, from Weoley Castle in Birmingham, said he and his fellow neighbours are ‘reaching the end of their tether’ after the pile of waste, which includes fridges, trollies and furniture, has been building for 10 years.
Video footage of his neighbour’s garden shows a sea of discarded household appliances, including what looks like a bathtub and mattress, as well broken bits of wood scattered across the garden.
Mr Holden said the garden belongs to an elderly tenant who lives in the council flat above his own and is understood to have a medical condition.
The frustrated resident said: ‘The other neighbours and myself are just getting sick of it. We’re getting rats in our gardens and it’s getting worse and worse every year.
‘I’ve lived in the property for 14 years and I’d say this has been going on for up to ten years now. Some of the neighbours have to look at all the rubbish from their windows.
‘I’ve seen rats in my garden – my dog chased one off the other day.’
Darren Holden, 52, from Weoley Castle, Birmingham, is ‘reaching the end of his tether’ after the garden next door to his home has been used a dumping ground for more than 10 years. The ever-growing rubbish pile, which includes a fridges, trollies and a mattress, is now attracting rats.
Everyday Mr Holden has to walk through the rubbish-strewn garden to get from his home into his own garden.
Despite making a complaint to Birmingham City Council years ago, when the mound of waste first started to build, he heard nothing back.
He added: ‘It’s full of old fridge freezers with the doors taken off, air fryers, televisions, baby baths, old chairs, lots of wood, bed bases, chairs, glass – you name it, it’s in there.
‘I saw a shopping trolley from Asda in the road the other day then noticed the next day it was in the garden.
‘I have complained to the council before but nothing happened, I didn’t hear back. Then it just carried on getting worse.’
Broken bits of wood, household appliances and chairs are some of the items that have been chucked into the garden over the last decade. Mr Holden first made a complaint to Birmingham City Council years ago but he never got a response. The council has now said it has issued a warning to the tenant to clean the garden within the next 14 days.
Mr Holden said he does not want to cause any issues for the elderly man who owns the garden but wants the council to provide him with help to clean it up.
He added: ‘I’m at the end of my tether now and don’t know what to do. Enough is enough, people are getting fed up and I’m not putting up with it anymore.
‘I don’t want to cause any issues for the guy who lives there – he’s elderly and lives alone so he probably just needs some help. But something has to be done.’
The council flat garden is believed to be owned by the elderly man who lives above Mr Holden. Mr Holden said he does not ‘want to cause any issues to the guy who lives there’ but added that something had to be done.
Birmingham City Council said it has now contacted the tenant and issued a warning letter to clear the garden within the next 14 days.
A spokesperson for the council said: ‘We have been in contact with the tenant about the items left in their front garden and the impact this is having on the local community.
‘They have been issued with a warning letter to clear the garden in the next 14 days. We are working with the tenant to resolve this.’
Over 150 potential tenants queued to view a single rental property in Dublin last night as Ireland grapples with a housing crisis.
A long queue formed along St Brendans Road in Dublin on Tuesday night, with over 100 people queuing for a viewing at the three-bedroom house at 8.30pm.
Within 30 minutes, even as the sun set, a further 50 people joined the queue to view the property, which costs €1,850 a month, in the city.
Conor Finn, who posted footage of the long queues, tweeted that he had waited for an hour in the queue before leaving without viewing the property.
‘An hour later and I’ve left the queue after no real movement or chance of viewing the house tonight,’ Finn said on Tuesday night at 9.30pm. ‘People were still joining the end of the queue as I left.’
Ireland’s economy is booming as the republic offers low corporation tax rates to tech and pharmaceutical companies such as Google – and pandemic-enhanced revenues from those companies has meant the republic is enjoying a €8bn corporate tax windfall.
But employees from these companies have flooded into the country, meaning the demand for properties in Ireland have soared. They are also able to afford to pay higher prices for houses and renting a property, meaning costs have soared.
This, coupled with a shortage of properties, has meant Ireland is facing a housing crisis and one estate agents in Dublin have even had to introduce a lottery system for viewings after they received 1,200 applications for one home.
Over 150 potential tenants queued to view a single rental property in Dublin last night as Ireland grapples with a housing crisis
An hour later and I’ve left the queue after no real movement or chance of viewing the house tonight. People were still joining the end of queue as I left pic.twitter.com/EBRozByoXk
A long queue formed along a street in Dublin on Tuesday night, with over 100 people queuing for a house viewing at around 8.30pm
Demand for rental accommodation in Dublin has grown from already sky high levels in recent months – to such a degree that Ireland’s largest private landlord could have recently filled a new apartment block 30 times over, its chief executive said on Thursday.
Chronic supply shortages pushed Irish rental properties to a new record low this month, with just 716 homes available to a population of 5.1 million people as of August 1, property website Daft.ie said in a report on Wednesday last week.
Irish Residential Properties REIT (IRES) Chief Executive Margaret Sweeney told Reuters that it received 600 requests to view 20 new apartments it listed last month near Dublin’s city centre.
The 61-unit development was fully occupied within a week of the builders completing the project, she added.
‘We’re definitely seeing much greater demand, there is a real shortage of good available accommodation. We’ve seen it increasing month-on-month,’ Sweeney said in a telephone interview.
‘It’s coming through in the fundamentals, unemployment is even lower than it was pre-COVID, there’s been quite strong FDI (foreign direct investment). We’ve a very young population as well as less emigration than previous decades.’
Estate agents Brock Delappe in Dublin said they have been forced to operate a ‘lottery system’ when choosing who can view properties because they have been inundated with applications.
Within 30 minutes, even as the sun set, a further 50 people joined the queue to view the property in the city
Ireland is facing a housing crisis due to a shortage in houses coupled with soaring demand
David Brock, an estate agent at the firm, said that there have been 1,200 applications for a single property.
‘The knock-on of that is, while the rent is low, you can only rent it out to one person and then you have got 1,999 disappointed people,’ Brock told Newstalk.
‘When we’re doing the lettings and it comes to that, we need to operate a lottery system, which is unfair as well. You meet a lot of people who are desperate.’
While Ireland built too many homes in the wrong places in the 2000s, supply has since constantly fallen short of demand and rents have long passed their previous peak, limiting prospective buyers’ ability to save a deposit.
A years-long mismatch between low supply and high demand in Ireland has been compounded by two shutdowns of the construction sector in the past 18 months to slow the spread of Covid-19.
The resultant stalling in the building of new homes and a high number of well-paid employees at tech companies moving to Ireland has contributed to house prices rising again and rents increasing.
In 2009, there were over 23,400 homes available to rent in Ireland – nearly 8,000 in Dublin and 15,500 elsewhere. In contrast there were less than 300 homes to rent in Dublin and 424 elsewhere on August 1 this year.
Ronan Lyons, who wrote the Daft.ie report, said: ‘A resurgent economy over the last year has accentuated the chronic shortage of rental housing in Ireland.
‘The shortage of rental accommodation translates directly into higher market rents and this can only be addressed by significantly increased supply.’
Last month, Irish officials claimed Britain’s Rwanda policy has triggered a surge in refugees arriving in Ireland, reports The Telegraph.
But that is just one factor – the Irish government said that the country has seen an increase of refugees due to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
The unprecedented number of refugees arriving in Ireland has put pressure on the country’s housing crisis, despite generous offers to host Ukrainian families.
The shortage of accommodation has become so critical that around 4,300 Ukrainian refugees are set to be displaced this month, reports the Irish Independent. They are being housed in hotels and hospital accommodation.