From top: Sergeant Maurice McCabe; Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan
At the Disclosures Tribunal.
In George’s Hall, Dublin Castle.
Diarmuid McGuinness SC, counsel for the tribunal, read out an opening statement outlining the progress the tribunal is making and an overview of the evidence gathered to date.
Readers will recall how the tribunal is examining claims that a smear campaign was conducted against Sgt Maurice McCabe by former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan – with the knowledge of Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan – as alleged by the former head of the Garda Press Office, Superintendent David Taylor.
Both Mr Callinan and Ms O’Sullivan deny the allegations.
In reading out the opening statement, Diarmuid McGuinness SC explained that Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness, RTÉ journalist Philip Boucher-Hayes and Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy have all told the tribunal about claims former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan made to them directly about Sgt Maurice McCabe.
He also read out statements made by former Sunday Independent editor Anne Harris, journalist Gemma O’Doherty, and Labour TD Brendan Howlin, about a conversation he had with former Irish Mail on Sunday journalist Alison O’Reilly and a follow-up statement from Ms O’Reilly.
He also explained how the tribunal wrote letters to almost 30 journalists but “with a few exceptions” many of these letters have gone unanswered (more below). Diarmuid McGuinness SC didn’t specify who responded and who didn’t respond.
The Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy said he and former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan met at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee [PAC] on January 23, 2014. It was at this meeting that Mr Callinan, who sat next to Noirin O’Sullivan, referred to former Garda John Wilson and Sgt Maurice McCabe as “disgusting”.
Mr McCarthy told the tribunal:
Commissioner Callinan referred to Sergeant McCabe by name and made statements to the effect that Sergeant McCabe was not to be trusted, that he had questions to answer, and that there were allegations of sexual offences against him.
In his response, Mr Callinan said:
I did not at any point state that Sergeant McCabe was not to be trusted nor that he had questions to answer. I did not state that there were any allegations of sexual offences against him.
Mr McGuinness told the tribunal a meeting took place between him and former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan on the 24th of January, 2014 – the day after the PAC meeting – in the carpark of Bewley’s Hotel, Newlands Cross, Co. Dublin. Mr McGuinness told the tribunal:
Mr Callinan asked if I was aware of issues surrounding Mr McCabe’s personal life. I stated that I had heard vague rumours and gossip that Mr McCabe had abused someone and that he was a paedophile but that I had been assured by Mr McCabe that these rumours were lies, that he had heard them before and that they were malicious falsehoods.
Mr Callinan stated to me that the rumours were true, that Mr McCabe had sexually abused someone and that he was not a credible person. Mr Callinan stated that an investigation into Mr McCabe’s activities was underway. Mr Callinan then asked me was I aware that Mr McCabe had sexually abused family members. I was shocked and extremely troubled by what Mr Callinan was telling me because the allegations being made were extreme and the person relaying them to me, as well as the fact that an investigation had commenced, was the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána.
When he left my car, Mr Callinan put his hand on my arm and stated that Mr McCabe was not reliable and could not be trusted and suggested that I had gotten myself and the Public Accounts Committee into a lot of trouble by pursuing the penalty points issue.
In addition, Deputy McGuinness’s statement to the tribunal states that he kept a handwritten note of the meeting. Part of that note reads:
Individual + family
Don’t trust him
Story not credible
He’s not credible
In his response, former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan told the tribunal:
I did not at any time state to Mr McGuinness that Mr McCabe had sexually abused anyone or that he was not a credible person… I never at any stage indicated to Mr McGuinness that Sergeant McCabe had sexually abused family members.
Mr Boucher-Hayes told the tribunal of a conversation he had with Mr Callinan outside an RTE studio on December 17, 2013, as part of Crimecall programme. There had been a disagreement about whether Mr Boucher-Hayes could ask Mr Callinan about the penalty points allegations made by Sgt Maurice McCabe.
Mr Boucher-Hayes said:
He offered me background information on the penalty point story. But the majority of his information related solely to the two whistleblowers, John Wilson and Maurice McCabe, not to the substance of the story. He offered a negative but cursory impression of John Wilson, before speaking at some length on Maurice McCabe’s character. I had not asked any questions to elicit this information.
He told me that McCabe was a troubled individual and that he had a “lot of psychological issues and psychiatric issues”. He claimed that McCabe was motivated by a set of grievances against Garda management and that he was famous with An Garda Síochána for this. He warned me that McCabe was not to be trusted and went onto add that there were other things he could tell me about him “horrific things, the worst kind of thing” but he did not elaborate further.
In his response, Mr Callinan said:
I did not speak “at some length” on Sergeant McCabe’s character as indicated. I did not state that Sergeant McCabe had “a lot of psychological issues and psychiatric issues,” and was “motivated by a set of grievances against Garda management and that he was famous within An Garda Síochána for this.”
I did not indicate to Philip Boucher Hayes that Sergeant McCabe was not to be trusted, nor did I state there were other things I could tell him about “horrific things, the worst kind of thing.” I do not know what Philip Boucher-Hayes is referring to.
In addition, Superintendent Dave Taylor has told the tribunal that, in the company of now Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, Garda communications director Andrew McLindon, Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahoney and Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness that Mr Callinan called Sgt Maurice McCabe a ‘kiddie fiddler’.
This took place after the PAC meeting in January 2014, in which Martin Callinan referred to former Garda John Wilson and Sgt Maurice McCabe as “disgusting”.
Superintendent Dave Taylor has provided the tribunal with a waiver of any journalistic privilege and is not claiming privilege over his identification as the source of any information to journalists relating to Sgt Maurice McCabe.
Similar waivers have been signed by Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.
Diarmuid McGuinness SC notes:
This waiver, and the similar waivers signed by Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and former Commissioner Callinan, have been notified to several journalists. The journalists named by Superintendent Taylor are Paul Williams, Paul Reynolds, Conor Lally, John Mooney, Michael O’Toole, Cormac O’Keefe, John Burke, Daniel McConnell, and Juno McEnroe.
In particular Superintendent Taylor reiterated in his statement to tribunal investigators that Paul Reynolds and Conor Lally would have received negative briefings by him about Sergeant McCabe.
Sir, the tribunal has also identified from telephone data other journalists that Superintendent Taylor contacted during the relevant period.
Arising out of its investigations to date the tribunal has now written to the following journalists: Sarah Bardon, Ali Bracken, Tom Brady, Jennifer Bray, Stephen Breen, John Burke, Paul Connolly, Dyanne Connor, Ken Foy, Fran Greany, Mark Hilliard, Mick McCaffrey, Juno McEnroe, Cathal McMahon, Emma McMenamey, John Mooney, Eavan Murray, Niall O’Connor formerly of the Irish Sun, Niall O’Connor currently of the Irish Independent, Mick O’Toole, Paul Reynolds, Joe Walsh, Debbie McCann, Alison O’Reilly, Paul Williams, and at a later date, Conor Lally, Daniel McConnell and Cormac O’Keefe.
In the first instance, the tribunal wrote to most of these journalists on the 15th of March 2017 and requested statements from anyone who may have information relevant to the terms of reference. Regrettably, many of these letters went unanswered.
Five weeks later on the 21st of April 2017, the tribunal wrote again to these journalists, informing them of the waivers referred to earlier and asking the following series of questions:
1. Can you confirm your mobile phone number and work phone number?
2. Was this number your mobile phone number in the years from July 2012 until Feb 2017?
3. Were you briefed negatively about Sergeant McCabe by anyone? And if so, by whom?
4. Have you any information or evidence about an orchestrated campaign directed by senior officers of the Garda Síochána, to discredit Sergeant Maurice McCabe by spreading rumours about his professional and personal life?
5. Were you contacted by Superintendent David Taylor in relation to Sergeant Maurice McCabe?
6. Were you briefed negatively by Superintendent David Taylor in relation to Sergeant Maurice McCabe?
7. Were you briefed negatively by Superintendent David Taylor in relation to Sergeant Maurice McCabe to the effect that his complaints had no substance?
8. Were you briefed negatively by Superintendent David Taylor in relation to Sgt McCabe to the effect that the Gardaí had fully investigated complaints and had found no substance to his allegations and that he was driven by agendas?
9. Was your attention drawn by Superintendent Taylor to an allegation or suggestion of criminal misconduct made against Sergeant McCabe in any respect?
10. Was your attention drawn by Superintendent Taylor to an allegation that the root cause of Sergeant Maurice McCabe’s agenda was revenge against an Garda Síochána?
11. Were you informed by Superintendent David Taylor that he was instructed/directed by former Commissioner Callinan and /or (then) Deputy Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to contact the media to brief the media negatively against Sgt Maurice McCabe?
12. Are you aware and have you any evidence of any attempt made by former Commissioner Callinan or Commissioner O’Sullivan or any other senior member of an Garda Síochána to discredit Sergeant Maurice McCabe by reference to an allegation of criminal misconduct made against him ?
13. Were you informed by a journalist or any other person of any matters referred to in the questions above?
14. Have you any knowledge, information or evidence relating to any of the matters above? 15. Have you any knowledge, information or evidence relating to any matters within the Terms of Reference of the Tribunal?
16. Have you any records (however made, wherever stored) of any communications from or with Superintendent Taylor or former Commissioner Callinan, Commissioner O’Sullivan or any other senior Gardaí relating to any of the above matters?
With a few exceptions, the journalists have either ignored these letters, or refused to answer these questions, citing journalistic privilege. Many of them nonetheless wish to make generalised academic arguments about the nature of journalistic privilege to the tribunal.
Former editor of the Sunday Independent, Anne Harris told the tribunal:
In the years 2013 and 2014, matters raised by whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe, such as the termination by senior gardaí of fixed penalty points, as well as allegations of murder and abductions not properly investigated, came to prominence. From the first instance that the Sunday Independent began to report on these matters, certain journalists came to my office to warn me off Sergeant McCabe.
I was given varying accounts of an alleged case of child sex abuse by him, which was apparently being investigated. This was repeated several times by a very reputable journalist, one who had shown great courage in exposing incidents of corruption and terrorism. I made enquiries and was satisfied that the matter had been investigated by the DPP, and the complaint found to be without grounds.
The Sunday Independent continued to report on Sergeant McCabe’s concerns and the consequent treatment of him. In 2013, the allegation that Sergeant McCabe as a “paedophile” was stated in my office by senior executive from the wider “Group” editorial hierarchy of Independent Newspapers.
I am certain that a whispering smear campaign was being conducted and that the media were being used. The pressure on me was less about publishing the sex abuse allegation – it would have been difficult within the laws of libel – but had the clear purpose of discrediting him, and therefore censoring the issues he was raising.
Labour leader and TD Brendan Howlin also made a statement to the tribunal about a conversation he had with journalist Alison O’Reilly, then of the Irish Mail on Sunday.
Diarmuid McGuinness SC writes:
According to Mr Howlin, Ms O’Reilly informed him that another journalist, Ms Debbie McCann, had told her “that the Commissioner had given information to her claiming serious sexual misconduct on the part of Sergeant McCabe.”
Ms O’Reilly then informed Mr Howlin that Ms McCann described Sergeant McCabe in very derogatory terms following a conversation with Commissioner O’Sullivan and that these matters were being discussed generally in the Mail on Sunday office. Ms O’Reilly also told Mr Howlin that Superintendent Taylor and Commissioner O’Sullivan had both provided this type of information to Ms McCann. Obviously some of what Ms O’Reilly recounted to Mr Howlin was hearsay evidence.
…In response to Mr Howlin’s statement, Ms Alison O’Reilly sent a very helpful and detailed statement to the Tribunal which covers not only her account of her conversation with Mr Howlin, but also her knowledge of events from 2013 until the present as seen from the perspective of the media. This statement is of great assistance to the Tribunal and has opened up a number of avenues of enquiry. Some of the information is hearsay but is nevertheless helpful in identifying journalists who it appears have first-hand knowledge of who may have been behind a campaign to blacken Sergeant McCabe’s good name.
Journalist Gemma O’Doherty told the tribunal that she was:
Well aware of the whispering campaign against Sergeant McCabe and when I was informed about the allegations of child sexual assault against him, I put them to him. He immediately informed me as to what happened and when I did some further investigation into the allegations, I found them to lack credibility entirely.
It was in 2013 that I first became aware that Sergeant McCabe was being associated with an allegation of child sexual assault. Rumours about this were circulating in a number of Dublin newsrooms at the time. It is my understanding that a copy of the garda file concerning the allegations had been provided to Mr Paul Williams (Special Correspondent) by senior gardaí in Garda Headquarters and that was how ‘the word’ got out.
The fact that a Garda investigation file was said to exist and that it contained damaging details concerning Sergeant McCabe, gave the story certain credibility but knowing Sergeant McCabe, I was in no doubt that this was a malicious campaign against him orchestrated by certain people who wanted to silence him and knew they couldn’t.
I spoke to Garda Wilson about the allegations that I had heard concerning Sergeant McCabe. He was aware of them. He said that a number of journalists were on the story but that it was untrue. One such individual was Paul Williams. Paul Williams has significant garda connections which both he and [Independent News and Media] rely upon for exclusive information… It is my understanding that the same firm of solicitors represents Paul Williams, [Independent News and Media] and the woman who was purportedly behind the allegations of sexual abuse concerning Sergeant McCabe…
Rumours circulated that a copy of the garda file had been given to Paul Williams and that it revealed that Sergeant McCabe was under investigation for child sexual abuse… Garda Wilson also informed me that a reporter named Debbie McCann, who worked for the Irish Daily Mail and whose father was a senior garda, was allegedly one of the journalists that was putting the word out that Sergeant McCabe was a child sex abuser. He said that she called him a ‘paedo’.
Readers will recall how Paul Williams, in the Irish Independent, wrote a series of articles in April 2014 concerning the woman – referred to in the tribunal as Ms D – who was at the centre of an allegation made in 2006 against Sgt Maurice McCabe.
This allegation, readers will recall, was investigated and a file was sent to the DPP with the DPP subsequently directing that no prosecution be taken – with the observation that it was doubtful the allegation should constitute a crime at all.
In relation to this…
Diarmuid McGuinness SC writes:
Sir, in early 2014, some journalists sought to contact Ms D, at whose instigation is not yet entirely clear. However, Ms D engaged in contact with a journalist in relation to her initial complaint in 2006. This appears to have been as a result of an inquiry made by her father of her as to whether she’d be prepared to speak to a Mr Paul Williams. He in turn appears to have been nominated to her father by a friend of his, who is a Detective Superintendent in the gardaí.
Diarmuid McGuinness SC told the tribunal that of the 15 phones that are of interest to the tribunal – six granted to Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan; six to former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and three to Superintendent Dave Taylor – just four have been located.
Read the opening statement in full here