From top: left to right: Michael McDowell, Lorraine McCabe and Sgt Maurice McCabe; The Sunday Times journalist and columnist Justine McCarthy and John Mooney, Crime Correspondent for The Sunday Times; A May 6 tweet from Mr Mooney.
Before and during the Disclosures Tribunal, solicitor Elizabeth Mullan, on behalf of Justice Peter Charlelton, reached out to journalists seeking any information that could help the tribunal meet its terms of reference.
Approaches were made with reporters who may have been in contact with Supt Dave Taylor from the summer of 2012 to the summer of 2014 – when he was head of the Garda Press Office.
In his response, John Mooney, security correspondent of The Sunday Times, to whom Supt Taylor claims he negatively briefed against Sgt Maurice McCabe but which Mr Mooney says isn’t the case, replied:
“It’s my practice as a journalist not to comment on news gathering activities and/or sources of information.
“I believe that I have certain professional obligations in that regard. I note from your letter that the Tribunal will be considering the issue of journalistic privilege.”
On Friday, June 8, 2018, during the tribunal’s proceedings, a visibly exasperated Supreme Court judge Peter Charleton clashed with a separate journalist about privilege.
In the exchange, Justice Charleton said:
“You apparently phoned him to tell him what you’d done, that is what he tells me, and then every time you are asked any question about that, you say journalistic privilege, journalistic privilege, journalistic privilege…
Well, for a start, I have to know the facts and circumstances on which you are basing that, and then, secondly, I actually need to know that you are actually telling me the truth because I can tell you, I’m not an idiot, and I have sat here for very close to 90 days, and I know…that an awful lot of people haven’t told me the truth.”
“…It’s not a question of adopting a position. If you think you have journalistic privilege, I will certainly listen to that, but you have to give me the facts and circumstances upon which you claim to base it…
“And at the moment I just can’t see how it arises, and unfortunately at the moment a reasonable person might see this as a complete smokescreen.
“I’m not saying whether I see it that way or not, but I’m here to listen.”
Mr Mooney was the first witness to give evidence the following Monday morning.
He told the tribunal he had decided to adopt a different approach to his earlier reply to Ms Mullan.
Mr Mooney said:
“I have given this matter some thought and notwithstanding the optics of this matter and the professional difficulties it poses for me, I do think it’s appropriate maybe that I do assist the Tribunal in whatever way I can.
“I personally wasn’t negatively briefed by Dave Taylor or any member of An Garda Síochána who attempted possibly to suggest that Sergeant McCabe was involved in child abuse or something like that. That didn’t happen with me.”
Mr Mooney who has worked in The Sunday Times since 2007, was the first journalist to name Sgt Maurice McCabe as having been at the centre of an internal Garda investigation into complaints about policing in the Cavan/Monaghan area.
This article was published on November 14, 2010, headlined ‘Internal inquiry clears gardai’.
In this article, Mr Mooney reported:
“An internal garda investigation into allegations of malpractice and indiscipline in the Cavan/Monaghan division has upheld complaints over the failure of officers to follow procedures, but found no evidence of corruption.
The inquiry led by Derek Byrne, an assistant garda commissioner in charge of national support services, was established two years ago to investigate claims by Maurice McCabe, a sergeant in Mullingar, Co Westmeath.
…Byrne’s report was sent to Fachtna Murphy, the garda commissioner, last month. It is understood to have recommended sanctions against a number of officers, including McCabe.“
When Mr Mooney gave evidence to the tribunal, Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe, referred to the third paragraph above and put it to him that it wasn’t true.
Mr Mooney replied:
“Well, at the time that was the information that I was provided with.”
Mr McDowell read out another line from the article which stated:
“McCabe is now under investigation himself for alleged breaches of internal Garda regulations.”
Asked if this was correct, Mr Mooney said:
“My understanding of that was, when this issuing concerning the final report by Byrne/McGinn had been, I suppose, completed, that other areas had arisen. There was obviously this incident at the Hillgrove Hotel (see panel below) which I was aware or had become aware of, and I think there was the accessing information via Pulse and that kind of stuff.”
[Hillgrove Hotel in County Monaghan is where Sgt McCabe met Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne and Chief Superintendent Terry McGinn on October 11, 2010, when they informed Sgt Mcabe of the results of their investigation into his 42 complaints. During this meeting, Sgt McCabe produced PULSE print-outs to highlight his concern that certain cases had not been followed up on. After an alleged confrontation, Byrne took the printouts from Sgt McCabe. Sgt McCabe subsequently made a complaint against Byrne and accused him of assault. The matter was investigated and the DPP ruled against a prosecution]
Mr Mooney continued:
“But just again to explain: We take a completely impartial view. If there are issues concerning, I suppose, the activities of a guard, whether he is acting rightly or wrongly, I also have to be absolutely straight down the line in our coverage of that. So there were issues around the Hillgrove Hotel, there was allegation and counter-allegations allegations being thrown, you know, quite freely around these matters. So we would have covered them and tried to cover it impartially.”
At the time of writing this article, Mr Mooney told the tribunal, he was aware of the 2006 Ms D allegation against Sgt McCabe – which had been comprehensively dismissed by the DPP in April 2007.
He said it wasn’t told to him by a guard but, rather, a civilian. He subsequently checked out the rumour with a Garda source.
It should be said while he knew of the allegation in 2010, he said he wasn’t sure when he became aware of Ms D’s identity – it could have been 2014 or 2016.
Mr Mooney said he treated the Ms D matter as “gossip” and “noise” while explaining how he came to know about the allegation:
“I always kind of need to know what I don’t need to know. I had examined Sergeant McCabe’s complaints or became aware of them at that time and written a number of stories about it.
“Sergeant McCabe had made a number of very valid allegations about issues in policing in the Cavan-Monaghan area. Subsequent to that, I would have been contacted by lots of different people.
“I was working in the border area quite a lot at that time; dissident republican factions, I suppose, were becoming very active in late 2008, 2009. So meeting people up there wouldn’t have been a major issue to me.
“There was, someone made a very fleeting reference to an allegation against Sergeant McCabe. I subsequently made an inquiry about that and was told categorically that there was nothing in it.
“I didn’t pursue it any further for the simple reason that these matters are confidential by the health services, the guards and the other statutory agencies involved and I don’t think it’s appropriate for journalists to get involved in examining them or trying to second-guess any sort of proper investigation that has been taken — that is being undertaken. So, I left it at that.
“As far as I was concerned, I would be very aware of internal Garda procedures; if there was an allegation that was of any substance against a member of the force they would be at the minimum suspended.
“So the fact that Sergeant McCabe was still a sergeant would have clarified that for me. I didn’t get into looking at it in any great detail. As far as I was concerned I treat such matters as gossip and noise and that was it.”
When Mr Mooney gave evidence he was also asked about Paul Williams’ articles in the Irish Independent about Ms D and Sgt McCabe, though neither were identified, from April and May 2014.
In those four articles, Ms D complained about the 2006/2007 investigation into her complaint with Mr Williams reporting that she claimed “the incident was covered up through a botched investigation”.
In the articles, Ms D alleged the investigation was “flawed” and that she wanted to meet Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin to highlight her allegation that the matter had not been investigated properly.
One of Mr Williams’ articles also claimed Taoiseach Enda Kenny was “expected to order an investigation” into the matter.
Mr Mooney says when he read the articles, he suspected they were about Ms D and Sgt McCabe.
Mr Mooney told the tribunal he never made any further inquiries about the Ms D matter until after Katie Hannon, on RTÉ’s Prime Time, on February 9, 2017, outlined how the 2006 Ms D allegation of “dry humping” became an allegation of digital penetration, both vaginal and anal, in referral from a HSE counsellor, who had spoken with Ms D in July 2013, to Tusla and in a subsequent referral from Tusla to An Garda Síochána in May 2014.
Mr Mooney explained:
“When the matter became public following the Prime Time broadcast, I couldn’t understand the circumstances and how this thing with Tusla had arisen, so I did at the time send a message to Ms. D with a view to trying to establish what had happened.”
Mr Mooney said he identified Ms D through her father’s Facebook account.
[Mr D told the tribunal last summer that Michael O’Toole, of the Irish Daily Star, contacted him via Facebook in early 2014 around the time other journalists – Debbie McCann, of the Irish Mail on Sunday; Eavan Murray, of the Irish Sun – had called to the D family’s home. Paul Williams, of the Irish Independent, interviewed Ms D and published articles about her claim against Sgt McCabe in April and May 2014]
Ms D also gave evidence about this contact with Mr Mooney after the Prime Time programme in February 2017.
She said he had tried to contact her numerous times on Facebook.
“I do recall I was away at a training day for a college course which I was attending, and he was Facebooking me constantly on the Saturday.
“So I explained that I was at a college course, I wasn’t able to talk. forwarded on the messages to my father and I asked my father if he would ring him and see what it was he wanted or what he wanted to speak to me about.
“I believe it may have been a couple of weeks later, once again, he had Facebooked me, and I do recall I rang him, I would say the call maybe lasted for about three minutes.
“I rang him because I wanted to know what he — why he kept at me, what he was wanting to know.
“And he made reference to — he asked me the question: Was your case investigated by the independent investigators which were looking at the Cavan-Monaghan district?”
In his article of February 12, 2017, Mr Mooney never made mention of any independent investigators and Sgt McCabe.
In terms of the DPP’s 2007 directions, Mr Mooney reported in his article: “The director of public prosecutions ruled that McCabe had no case to answer and the matters referred to did not even constitute an offence.”
The main focus of the article was on Supt Taylor and the then Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and his claim that he texted Ms O’Sullivan in early 2014 to tell her a journalist was going to write an article about Sgt McCabe and Ms D and that she replied “perfect”. [This is denied by Ms O’Sullivan].
Mr Mooney also referred to matters reported earlier that week by Ms Hannon concerning the false Tusla referral.
However, in addition, he reported:
In a statement issued to The Sunday Times yesterday, a solicitor instructed by the woman said she was approached by gardai from Cavan in May 2014 and informed them she had not made the complaint in question and knew nothing about the matter concerning Tusla.
My client did not know what the gardai were talking about. She did not know her counsellor had even made any referral to Tusla naming her as a complainant, nor had she made these specific allegations.
The gardai who contacted her quickly realised that Tusla had made a mistake and we understand the gardai immediately informed the child protection agency of this,” said the solicitor.
My client is deeply upset and traumatised by the events of the past week.”
This section of Mr Mooney’s article was put to Ms D when she gave evidence last summer, by Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe, and they had the following exchange:
McDowell: “But the account given seems to be very wrong, in the sense that it wasn’t the Gardaí who approached you, it was your father?”
Ms D: “My father is a member of the Gardaí.”
McDowell: “I see. And then it was the Gardaí who told Tusla about the error, but it was you who did it?”
Ms D: “That’s correct.”
When Mr Mooney gave evidence to the tribunal, he was also asked about an interview he gave to Joe Finnegan on Northern Sound radio, which covers Cavan and Mongahan, in April 2016.
This interview was based on Mr Mooney’s sight of a leaked copy of the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation report. The interview took place a day after the report had been handed to the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.
[The O’Higgins commission sat in private from May 2015 to December 2015 and examined allegations of poor policing in the Cavan/Monaghan district, following complaints made by Sgt McCabe]
Mr Mooney’s report on the O’Higgins findings was a couple of weeks before RTÉ’s Paul Reynolds’ broadcasts on the same which were the subject of a term of reference in the tribunal.
During the Northern Sound interview, which contained a number of significant factual errors none of which favoured Sgt McCabe, Mr Mooney said that Judge O’Higgins didn’t find gardai “were on the take” – an allegation Sgt McCabe never made.
Mr Mooney said:
“I think there is a lot of senior Gardai will be delighted with the findings about this, I think that it’s going to raise all sorts of issues for Enda Kenny in terms of when you look at Alan Shatter was removed, effectively removed from office on the basis of the Guerin Report. But it also does bring into question Maurice McCabe and some of the things that he said.”
In his report, Justice Higgins had stated unequivocally:
‘Some people, wrongly and unfairly, cast aspersions on Sergeant McCabe’s motives; others were ambivalent about them. Sergeant McCabe acted out of genuine and legitimate concerns, and the commission unreservedly accepts his bona fides.
Sergeant McCabe has shown courage, and performed a genuine public service at considerable personal cost. For this he is due the gratitude, not only of the general public, but also of An Garda Síochána.
While some of his complaints have not been upheld by this commission, Sergeant McCabe is a man of integrity, whom the public can trust in the exercise of his duties.”
Sgt McCabe subsequently sued Northern Sound and received damages.
Before Katie Hannon’s Prime Time report – on February 9, 2017, almost a year after the Northern Sound interview – Mr Mooney spoke to RTÉ’s Seán O’Rourke on Today with Seán O’Rourke.
This was in the wake of the setting of the terms of reference for what eventually became the Disclosures Tribunal and they discussed how Paul Reynolds’ reports on the O’Higgins commission were to be examined to see if they were linked to Ms O’Sullivan.
During the interview, Mr Mooney and Mr O’Rourke had the following exchange.
John Mooney: “And if I can go back to my own sort of interaction with the Garda Press Office and that kind of thing, pretty much all, a lot of communication that on — that sort of journalists who are maybe involved in reporting on matters against the Gardaí — guards tend to get threats to litigation and everything else.
“It’s not a case that you are given steers on anything, so this is a very small group of people who are involved in this. It’s not something that was spread, you know, across the media in general.
Seán O’Rourke: “Yes. But it’s going to preoccupy minds not least in this organisation here when there is a term of reference in item [g] to investigate whether Commissioner O’Sullivan used briefing material prepared in Garda Headquarters, planned and orchestrated broadcasts in RTÉ on 9th May 2016 purporting to be a leaked account of the unpublished O’Higgins Report in which Sergeant McCabe was branded a liar and irresponsible.”
Mooney: “Well, there’s a couple of different approaches you could take to that. There was a lot of people who were witnesses in the O’Higgins Commission and who were provided with draft copies and advance copies before it was published.
“And I can tell you in the days before that official publication of the O’Higgins Report there were lots of people who had possession of that. I am a little bit unsure as to why there is a belief that Nóirín O’Sullivan herself done that. Nóirín O’Sullivan doesn’t generally, to the best of my knowledge, deal with journalists. She is a very secretive sort of woman.
“Most of her actions with the media are adversarial, including those with RTÉ. So again, I can’t and I haven’t managed to find out where that specific allegation that she briefed the media, I presume you were going to say, came from, isn’t that right?”
The tribunal saw that the transcript of this interview was emailed by Amy Rose Harte, then of the Communications Clinic, to Ms O’Sullivan some two months later on April 20, 2017.
This Seán O’Rourke transcript wasn’t the only matter concerning Mr Mooney which was sent to Ms O’Sullivan from the Communications Clinic.
On July 16, 2017, at 3.51am, Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic, sent an email to Ms O’Sullivan containing a link to an article written by Mr Mooney and published almost four hours earlier, just after midnight.
The article was headlined ‘Journalist denies garda chief smeared McCabe’ and it was about Debbie McCann, of the Irish Mail on Sunday.
[Ms McCann’s former Irish Mail on Sunday colleague Alison O’Reilly alleges that Ms McCann told her that Ms O’Sullivan and Supt Taylor were among her sources for information about Ms D. Ms McCann categorically denies this, as does Ms O’Sullivan. Ms McCann, the tribunal heard, was the first journalist to call to the D family in February 2014]
In this article, Mr Mooney reported on what he said was a “private interview” Ms McCann had with the tribunal’s investigators.
“McCann said the research into Miss D was prompted by stories that had appeared in the Irish Independent about an unidentified woman who had complained about the garda force’s handling of an allegation of child abuse she had made.”
The tribunal never heard Ms McCann say this in evidence.
In contrast, the tribunal heard from Mr and Mrs D – as Ms D wasn’t at home at the time – that Ms McCann was the first journalist to call to the D house in late January or early February 2014 – before Mr Williams was even in contact with Mr D and, subsequently, Ms D.
It has been the evidence of Mr D and Mr Williams that it was, as a consequence of journalists such as Ms McCann and Eavan Murray, of the Irish Sun, calling to the D family that prompted Ms D to speak to Mr Williams [though it’s the evidence of Ms Murray that she was at the house after Mr Williams].
The claim that Ms McCann was prompted by Mr Williams’ articles doesn’t make sense.
The tribunal heard she went to the D house in either January or February 2014 while Mr Williams’ first article on Ms D wasn’t published until April 12, 2014, after having interviewed Ms D on March 8, 2014 – part of which was videoed.
When Ms McCann gave evidence, she told the tribunal she had heard “murmurings” about Sgt McCabe around February 2014, made inquiries with a number of sources and then called to the D house – from which she was turned away by Mrs D.
Ms McCann is invoking privilege about her sources.
She told the tribunal that she would speak to Mr Williams “occasionally” and “he’s not somebody that I would speak to on an ongoing basis, or anything like that”.
Ms McCann also said she didn’t know Mr Williams had been to the D house in March 2014 and she didn’t know this until she saw his first article on April 12, 2014, at which point Ms McCann was on maternity leave.
Ms McCann said:
“I don’t know afterwards if he would have told me – possibly – but I didn’t know that he was there and I didn’t learn about this until I read it in the newspaper.”
Coincidentally, Mr Mooney’s article about Ms McCann appeared the very day before the D family gave evidence, on July 17, 2017, when they outlined how Ms McCann was the first journalist to call to their house and, as previously mentioned, it was a consequence of her and Ms Murray’s separate visits to the house that Ms D spoke to Mr Williams.
It wasn’t explained to the tribunal why the Seán O’Rourke transcript and the article about Ms McCann were sent by the Communications Clinic to Ms O’Sullivan but the tribunal did hear the Communications Clinic is paid to work on strategic communications with the Garda Press Office.
When Mr Mooney gave evidence to the tribunal, Mr McDowell put to him that it had been the evidence of Ms McCann that she didn’t believe being told the facts about Ms D and Sgt McCabe – that there had been an allegation made against Sgt McCabe, that there had been an investigation and that the DPP didn’t seek a prosecution – would constitute a “negative briefing”.
Mr McDowell asked Mr Mooney for his view.
Mr Mooney said:
“I suppose it would depend on the way it’s being said. If I can be really, really straight. When I initially checked this out and this reference was made to me, and it wasn’t a member of An Garda Síochána, I take the approach of trying to deal with senior police officers who are in a position of knowledge and would know, in other words may have access to the relevant files, they would by their rank have to know about these issues or have an independent and good understanding of it, and certainly when I asked the question, quote-unquote, there is nothing in this was said to me, in terms of, you know — like, that’s — that’s what I was told.”
Mr McDowell also asked Mr Mooney if he thought Supt Taylor was “entitled” to confirm the same facts to Mr Williams and Mr Mooney said: “Honestly speaking, no.”
Judge Charleton pointed out that, as a matter of fact, Supt Taylor wasn’t entitled to do so because the Garda Press Office does not comment on individual cases.
Mr Mooney went on to say:
“My view on that is, is that I personally — I can’t speak for the actions of other journalists, but my own personal belief is these matters are dealt with in a system, I believe in that system, and I don’t think it’s really helpful to anyone to have these matters thrashed out in any public forum, particularly when it’s an offence of this type. And I have to be frank with you, I haven’t encountered it in any other sphere in terms of information being relayed about these type of allegations to anyone.”
Mr McDowell put it to Mr Mooney that it’s his (McDowell’s) belief that to give “corroboration to that inquiry” amounts to a negative briefing.
Mr Mooney said he accepted Mr McDowell’s view and later said:
“Chairman, I take both sides, but I suppose the fact of the matter is, if something is published that is where it maybe becomes an issue, if that makes sense.”
In one of his final questions to Mr Mooney, Mr McDowell asked him if could recall saying on the radio [in his interview on Northern Sound] that there was “no substance” to the majority of complaints in the dossier that Sgt McCabe gave to Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin – this dossier lead to the O’Higgins inquiry.
Mr Mooney replied:
“Sorry, I think some of them, they were maybe embellished and matters like that, but I have to say, the real issue with this and having reported on it for unfortunately too long, is that allegations are made, they mutate into something else and then it becomes something else.
“Now, in the various materials that we have published about Sergeant McCabe we have stressed that I believed he was acting in the public interest, but in saying that, I think some things possibly may have been said in haste or whatever, and that they were inaccurate. And we have a duty to report that as well. But we don’t always get it right. But we would try keep it straight down the line.”
Mr McDowell clarified with Mr Mooney that he wasn’t trying to blame Mr Mooney.
Instead, Mr McDowell said, Mr Mooney wouldn’t have said what he said on Northern Sound unless he had been told by somebody that there was no substance to the complaints.
Mr McDowell put it to Mr Mooney: “You wouldn’t have invented that as a thought of your own.”
Mr Mooney said: “That’s correct” before adding:
“But we had — again, I go back, allegations are made, more allegations are made. At this point in time, I couldn’t even describe all the allegations that have been made because there’s so many of them.
“But I do think it’s important to say, and we published this and we published this right at the very beginning in 2009, I might have even written it in 2008 that Sergeant McCabe was acting in the public interest.”
The Garda legal team had no questions for Mr Mooney.
In the Garda legal team’s final submissions, Shane Murphy SC, for An Garda Síochána, did recall the evidence of Mr Mooney – along with Micheal O’Toole of the Irish Daily Star, and Conor Lally, of The Irish Times – that they had heard the allegation against Sgt McCabe as early as 2010 and heard it from a non-Garda source.
This, Mr Murphy said, was “long before the period being considered by this tribunal and indeed before the beginning of the alleged campaign which Superintendent Taylor alleged he was instructed and directed to begin, in the middle of 2013”.
Mr Murphy referred to Mr Mooney, Mr O’Toole and Mr Lally’s evidence collectively three times in his final submission.
Justine McCarthy, of The Sunday Times, also appeared before the tribunal.
On the same day Mr Mooney published his article, on February 12, 2017, after Katie Hannon’s Prime Time report, which contained a quote from Ms D’s solicitor – the content of which Ms D told the tribunal was incorrect – Ms McCarthy wrote an opinion piece about Sgt McCabe.
The piece headlined ‘Name and shame the rumour-mongers who slurred Maurice McCabe’ recalled the April and May 2014 articles by Paul Williams in the Irish Independent.
Ms McCarthy wrote:
“Any journalist who had contemplated reporting on the allegations of misconduct being made by the whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe recognised him as the unidentified garda in Williams’s story.
“For we had been warned to treat McCabe with the utmost suspicion. Generally, it was crime reporters who received the warning from their garda sources, and relayed a tread-carefully SOS to non-crime beat colleagues, who get shorter shrift from the garda press office.”
In her opinion piece, Ms McCarthy asked if it was a coincidence that Mr Williams’ articles started to appear in the same month that Tusla created separate files on Sgt McCabe’s children “erroneously stating that he stood accused of penetrative child sexual assault?”
Ms McCarthy was asked by the tribunal’s counsel about this article.
She explained the piece was an opinion piece and that in regards to the line “generally it was crime reporters who received the warning”, Ms McCarthy said this was her impression “knowing how the system works”.
She also wrote:
“None of this is to impute wrongdoing by Williams, Reynolds or their colleagues. Journalists rely on contacts for information, protecting source’s anonymity is a cherished principle of the trade, but in this case trust was demolished in the relationship between some journalists and their sources. The debt is cancelled.
“Even in media outlets that refrain from reporting the spurious claims, the campaign to vilify McCabe exerted a chilling effect and is partly the reason this controversy has gone on for years. Apart from the anguish this caused the sergeant, his wife and their children, the relentless denigration of McCabe put the safety of Irish citizens at risk by deferring urgent examination of what is rotten in the country’s law enforcement. That is not to mention how such vicious campaign has accelerated the disintegration of public morality.
“Journalists, even if inadvertently, facilitated it by not properly interrogating the false rumours against McCabe. There is an onus on us now to correct the record. We can start by dispensing with the shield of protecting our sources. Why protect a source on whom you cannot rely to tell the truth? Those of us who know the identities of the rumour-mongers have a duty to the Charleton Commission and name those names. The journalist’s first obligation is to the truth.”
Ms McCarthy told the tribunal she believed the story was a “huge public interest story”.
“I suppose what I was talking about was the use of State agencies to undermine a whistleblower who was trying to put into the public domain information that was in the public interest.”
The tribunal heard when Ms McCarthy responded to the tribunal and wrote to the tribunal in December 2017, she gave the following view of journalistic privilege.
“My view on journalists obligations to protect sources is that it is a fundamental value designed to facilitate the emergence of information which is in the public interest. However, I believe that the obligation falls if a journalist’s source knowingly conveys false information for the purpose of damaging somebody’s reputation. In those circumstances I believe it’s a journalist’s duty to expose that wrongdoing. This doesn’t prevent the difficulty of course of ascertaining the source’s intentions and knowledge about the veracity or lack of it of the information conveyed.”
Ms McCarthy told the tribunal she was told about the Ms D allegation against Sgt McCabe by another journalist in 2013.
She said she was told shortly after she wrote about the profiling of a Traveller baby on PULSE in March 2013.
On being told this, Ms McCarthy said:
“I didn’t need to make a note because I was stopped in my tracks by what he told me. I was horrified. I have written a huge amount over the past two decades about child sexual abuse, I would nearly say it was my specialist subject, and the idea that this man had been accused of sexually abusing a child utterly shocked me.”
“I can’t remember the specific words that were said to me, but the impression I came away from the conversation with was that Sergeant McCabe had been accused of sexually abusing a child and that the issue had not been concluded.”
“…My impression was that it had not been investigated to conclusion.”
The tribunal heard Ms McCarthy, within days of hearing the Ms D allegation, made her own inquiries and learned that there had been an investigation, that a file had gone to the DPP and that there was no prosecution.
“I was told that not only had the DPP decided not to prosecute but the DPP had said no offence had been disclosed. That satisfied, was one of the reasons that I felt satisfied in my mind that the information that I had been given was not true.”
Ms McCarthy said when she was told of the Ms D matter, her exchange with the journalist wasn’t accompanied by any negative briefing of Sgt McCabe, and it wasn’t linked to his whistleblowing in any way.
Conor Dignam SC, for An Garda Síochána, asked Ms McCarthy several questions.
They had this exchange.
Conor Dignam: “…you have some journalists and some politicians who, on their account of things, were either told that one or both of the former commissioners were conducting a smear campaign against Sergeant McCabe by alleging various things against him but including this no-smoke-without-fire concept in relation to the sexual abuse allegations and, on one journalist’s account and two politicians’ accounts, this allegation was made to them directly by former Commissioner Callinan, but they didn’t pursue that either as a political matter or from a journalist point of view as a story, does that surprise you?
Justine McCarthy: “No. No, that doesn’t surprise me to write a story like that would have been extremely hard and it would have been very hard to find an organisation that would have published it. That’s the first thing. The second thing is that, just because journalists didn’t write this story, doesn’t mean that they didn’t disseminate the information.”
Dignam: “I appreciate that. But the evidence which has yet to be heard but from what we know from statements given to the Tribunal is that this information was simply received and nothing further was done. I take it your point about the difficulties of publishing a story like that, the difficulties of proving facts et cetera, but presumably a journalist, and particularly an investigative journalist’s modus operandi and objective is to dig out difficult stories and to hold power to account as we have heard over the last couple of days, but no such steps were taken to even investigate the story that the Commissioner was involved in or participating in or conducting a smear campaign?
McCarthy: “The first time I heard of a campaign was in relation to what David Taylor said.”
Dignam: “Could I be clear, this isn’t a criticism directed at you, Ms. McCarthy?”
McCarthy: “No, I understand that. No, I am just trying to explain that before the Taylor claim of a campaign I wouldn’t have thought of a campaign in my head. But there certainly were people spreading this story about Maurice McCabe.”
[Two days after an article by Ms McCarthy appeared in The Sunday Times, on July 23, 2017, about the evidence Paul Williams had just given to the tribunal, The Sunday Times published a clarification and apology to Mr Williams, Ciaran McGowan, a son of Nóirín O’Sullivan, and Independent News and Media. Ms McCarthy had erroneously stated that Mr McGowan was the videographer used by Mr Williams when he interviewed Ms D]
Monday: Maurice McCabe And INM
Yesterday: Maurice McCabe And The Irish Times: Part 2
Wednesday: Maurice McCabe and The Irish Times: Part 1
Tuesday: Maurice McCabe And RTÈ