Garda who arrested Department of Taoiseach official was transferred after story broke
The garda who arrested a female Department of the Taoiseach official after a late-night row over a taxi soilage fee was transferred three days after a Sunday newspaper published details of the emerging political scandal.
The female garda was transferred from a Dublin station to a Donegal station on December 20. On December 17 last, the Irish Mail on Sunday revealed the contents of a protected disclosure which alleged that attempts had been made to stop the prosecution of the female civil servant.
The woman was arrested after a drunken disagreement with a taxi driver, during which she refused to pay the fare and a soilage fee. The MoS has established that three charges related to the incident have been issued and are listed for hearing at a court date this month.
They include: refusing to pay the fare or fee for the hire of a vehicle of €160 (which includes the soilage fee); intoxication in a public place and threatening and abusive behaviour. But in a protected disclosure submitted by a member of the force, it is claimed a superior officer phoned the arresting garda and said the charges against the Taoiseach’s official should be dropped.
It was suggested that she be given an ‘adult caution’, which is a warning that avoids a criminal record. But the arresting garda proceeded with the prosecution against the wishes of the superior officer.
It was also alleged that at least two senior gardai knew of this approach. It is understood the female garda has connections to Donegal and had sought a transfer from Dublin on a number of occasions. Sources confirm it is difficult to get a transfer out of Dublin.
A Garda spokesman said that of the approximate 1,000 annual garda transfers, only 100 are conducted from the Dublin Metropolitan Division to outside divisions.
Relative to the number of gardaí in the capital, this one in 10 rate is significantly small. The protected disclosure alleges abuse of power, seeking to pervert the course of justice, and coercion of the garda. It says efforts to thwart the prosecution were made to preserve ‘her reputation and that of the office of An Taoiseach’.
The allegations are currently being investigated by GSOC. In December, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar issued a statement saying he had ‘no involvement in the issue whatsoever’.
However, the statement raised a litany of further questions about the role of the Taoiseach’s department in the affair. A political scandal is emerging from a relatively minor incident that began when the civil servant allegedly argued with gardai and threatened their jobs, accusing them of being ‘s*** on her shoe’.
The woman has a provisional court date to face charges for later this month and the arresting garda will have to attend in court for the prosecution to proceed. The arresting garda was working in Letterkenny Garda Station this week. When we spoke to her on the phone, she asked how we became aware that she was the arresting garda.
After telling her the details are contained in court documents, she expressed unhappiness that details of her transfer had been given to us. ‘I’ll have to stop you there now, unfortunately. I’ll have to speak to the GRA [Garda Representative Association] about this, all right, nobody should have given you my details or what station I’m attached to,’ she said.
But, as a uniformed officer and public servant, the details of every rank-and-file garda’s deployment are publicly available.
Our original revelations came after the Houses of the Oireachtas rose for the Christmas break. As the Dáil resumes this week, Fianna Fáil and Labour TDs are preparing a raft of questions for the Taoiseach.
TDs will focus on the sequence of events after the woman, who is not a political appointee of the Taoiseach, was arrested in Dublin last June. Last month, a Department of the Taoiseach spokesman told the MoS that the events referred to took place on the weekend of June 23 to 25 last year. He added: ‘They involve a civil servant who has served for several years in the Department of the Taoiseach.’
The department’s press office was anxious to keep the emerging scandal from damaging the Taoiseach, with the spokesman saying: ‘She is not a political appointee of the Taoiseach. The Taoiseach had no involvement in the issue whatsoever.’
The department said Martin Fraser, secretary general of the Department of the Taoiseach, became aware of the arrest in mid-November, when the secretary general of the Department of Justice, Noel Waters, informed him.
The spokesman said: ‘He was informed that there had been an anonymous complaint about the Garda handling of an incident involving a civil servant in the department and that the complaint was being investigated by An Garda Síochána. This is the appropriate course of action.’
The Taoiseach was not informed of the matter until Sunday, December 10, 2017, when the Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan told him. Yesterday, the Department of Justice refused to comment on the transfer.
The Garda Press Office did not want to comment further on the circumstances of the arrest or the protected disclosure.
A spokesman for the Taoiseach said: ‘The Department of the Taoiseach has no knowledge of, or involvement in, the matters referred to in your query and therefore has no comment to make on them.’