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Chief Superintendent to investigate claim garda leaked info on stabbing suspect to Gript website

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Mark Tighe

Gardai have appointed a Chief Superintendent to investigate an allegation that a garda officer leaked information about the suspect in last week’s stabbing attack outside a Dublin school to Gript, a conservative news website.

Yesterday, Gript removed a news story published on Thursday that went into extensive detail about the immigration history of the Algerian man it claimed was the suspect in the attack on Dublin’s Parnell Square that injured three young school children and a creche worker.

Although the Gript article did not name the man in its story, the extensive detail reported allowed a number of right-wing agitators to identify him from a published court ruling and a subsequent newspaper interview he gave about his time in Ireland.

Gript removed the article yesterday morning after gardai contacted it to say the Algerian man they had written about had no connection with the attack on the schoolchildren.

The gardai have since had to offer the innocent Algerian man garda protection and today gardai confirmed it has also had to provide protection to the innocent man’s former employer which was singled out by far-right activists for allegedly employing “illegal” immigrants.

The actual suspect for the stabbings is a 49-year old man originally from Algeria who remains in hospital as a result of injuries suffered in the attack.

In response to the revelation that its story was incorrect, John McGuirk, the editor of Gript, told this newspaper yesterday that he believed he had been “rat-f**ked”, a term used to describe dirty tricks or sabotage.

Mr McGuirk said Gript had sourced the identity of the Algerian man from a garda and a Department of Justice source before cross checking with details of the suspect published elsewhere.

He also said Gript had checked photos of the Algerian man Gript had written about with photos of the suspect taken at the scene and said they “line up”.

“If it’s wrong then holy f**k,” he said. “But we didn’t rush it out without checking.”

In a subsequent statement published yesterday that accepted it made an error, Gript said it was investigating whether it was “deliberately deceived by a senior justice official”.

If it determined that was the case, it said its obligation to protect the identity of its source “will be considered forfeit”.

However, speaking today, Mr McGuirk said he is now satisfied that Gript’s sources “acted in good faith”. He said it was a mistake and not an attempt to fool Gript.

“The protection of sources is a foundational principle of journalism, even it means prison time or prosecution for the journalist. We will abide by this principle.”

The Department of Justice was contacted by the Irish Independent about the claim that one of its official was also was involved in “confirming” the story.

In response, it said in a statement: “The Department of Justice rejects the allegation that any member of staff provided information to any media outlet in relation to this matter.

"A small number of senior officials within the Department have been involved in the response to the horrific assault last Thursday. None of them have had any contact with the media.”

In a statement today, the garda press office said: “An Garda Síochána has appointed a Chief Superintendent to examine the public allegation made by in relation to this matter.”

A Garda who leaks confidential information can be found guilty of an offence under Section 62 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005. That makes it an offence to disclose information received in the course of duties if the garda knows that the information is likely to have a “harmful effect”.

Gardai have previously seized the mobile phones of journalists in criminal investigations.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that applications for search warrants at District Court level must inform the presiding judge if a journalist is asserting journalistic privilege so this can be weighed up by the judge before granting any warrant.

The gardai press office also stated that following “highly inaccurate social media posts” over the last 24 hours that arose from “a highly inaccurate article on an online news site” that a commercial premises in the east of the country had been named as employing a certain individual.

It said the naming in public of the business and the nature of some of the social media posts meant the gardai “has had to deploy resources to provide security measures to this premises”.

The original X post published by Gript on its story claimed to an exclusive revealing “the ten year legal saga” of the stabbing suspect that included “multiple refusals by the Irish state to enforce a deportation order” before he was granted leave to remain.

The post had been viewed more than 740,000 times before its deletion yesterday morning.

After the story was published and right-wing agitators published details of the innocent man’s identity and his legal case, the details were republished on American Q-Anon chat forums.

Named staff working for an NGO (non-governmental body) that had helped the wrongly identified Algerian man in his immigration case were labelled as “traitors” and “accessories to murder” on the forum.

The five-year-old girl who was critically injured in last Thursday’s stabbing attack remains gravely ill in hospital.

The only suspect in the case, a 49-year-old Algerian man also remains in hospital where he is being treated for head injuries. However, it is understood that his condition is improving, and he may be medically fit to be arrested for questioning soon.

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