Clockwise from top left Ian Mallon, Claire Grady, Paul Williams, Stephe Rea: and Sgt Maurice McCabe during the Disclosures Tribunal at Dublin Castle
In September 2012, Stephen Rea, former crime correspondent and then editor of the Evening Herald and ex-editor of The Garda Review, was made editor of the Irish Independent.
One of Mr Rea’s first appointments to the paper was crime journalist and author Paul Williams, who took on the title of ‘special correspondent’.
Mr Williams had worked with the recently-closed The News of the World and was crime correspondent for The Sunday World for 23 years.
Coverage of the Maurice McCabe controversy was dealt with by the paper’s Security Editor Tom Brady and its then Public Affairs correspondent Shane Phelan (more on this in part 2).
Mr Williams took no part in the ongoing scandal until April 12, 2014 when he published his first article based on an interview with Ms D.
By this time, Mr Rea was group editor of all INM titles, Claire Grady was editor of the Irish Independent and Ian Mallon was group news editor.
Mr Williams’ interview with Ms D – which was pre-approved by Mr Mallon – took place on Saturday, March 8, 2014, after Mr Williams initially met Ms D’s parents on Thursday, March 6. Mr Williams’ first article on the matter appeared on Saturday, April 12, 2014.
The interview and three subsequent articles ending on May 3, 2014, spanned a two-month period which saw the forced resignations of the then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe has argued before the Disclosures Tribunal that Mr Williams’ articles were the catalyst for the reactivation – on April 30, 2014 – of a false rape referral from Tusla to An Garda Síochána with the referral eventually being given to the then acting Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan in May 2014.
Stephen Rea told the tribunal that he and his editorial team which included Ian Mallon, Dearbhail McDonald, the paper’s Legal Affairs editor and Claire Grady had at least six meetings concerning the Ms D story.
Mr Rea said:
“[The article] would have had to go through a whole rinsing process, a whole fact-checking process. It would have had to have gone through several iterations before anything was being presented as the final product, if you will…”
The tribunal also heard an earlier draft of Mr Williams’ first article had failed a ‘stress test’ carried out by Ms McDonald. The tribunal’s counsel has asked INM to provide it with Mr Williams’ initial draft. More on this below.
Mr Williams interviewed Ms D at her home a month earlier on Saturday, March 8, 2014, after Mr Williams had initially visited Ms D’s parents on Thursday, March 6, 2014.
Part of the interview on March 8, 2014, was videoed by Caoimhe Gaskin.
In a statement to the tribunal, the digital editor of INM Fionnuala O’Leary said she watched the video with Mr Mallon and other senior editors.
Ms O’Leary said:
“I believe I watched this on my own and then I watched it in conference with Stephen Rae, Group Editor in Chief, Ian Mallon, Group Head of News and Claire Grady, then Editor of the Irish Independent. We watched the full version of video. It was not edited.
“It was clear to me there was no possibility that this interview could be put online in any shape or form. It was therefore a matter as far as being editor of independent.ie I would have no input. The print side would have complete control over decisions as to publication, editing and legaling.”
Mr Mallon has no recollection of watching the video.
Each of the four articles included Ms D’s wish to have her complaint heard alongside the cases of malpractice identified by whistleblowers in Cavan and Monaghan.
Sgt McCabe and Garda John Wilson are, in fact, named in the first article in this context.
At the tribunal, Mr Williams was asked by Mr McDowell if he felt these inclusions helped identify Sgt McCabe.
This was especially pertinent as Sgt McCabe was at this time the alleged victim of repeated intimidation and harassment by fellow gardaí.
Mr Williams denied identification was possible.
Michael McDowell: “I take it you have some respect for the intelligence of Gardaí. Have you any doubt but that the great majority of Gardaí in the Cavan-Monaghan division would have known who you were writing about?”
Paul Williams:” It was anonymised and I don’t know who would have known anything about it. I don’t believe anyone did know much about it. Perhaps people close to it worked it out.”
McDowell: “It was clear it was relating to Cavan-Monaghan, isn’t that right? Because your series of articles clearly indicated that it was — that it was to be investigated in conjunction with the Cavan-Monaghan allegations —
Paul Williams: “There were allegations of malpractice coming from all over the country at that stage.”
McDowell: “No, but Sergeant McCabe wasn’t making them.”
Williams: “The issue of malpractice was generally being raised, Chairman, in the Dáil and everywhere, generally in An Garda Síochána.”
McDowell:: “You said: ‘She wanted her case looked at again in a similar fashion to those being reviewed by Seán Guerin SC on foot of a dossier of alleged systemic Garda malpractice compiled by whistleblowers, Maurice McCabe and John Wilson‘.”
Justice Charleton: “And John Wilson is from what part of the…”
Mr McDowell: “The same neck of the woods, Judge.”
Justice Charleton: “Same neck of the woods, okay.”
Mr McDowell: “And it’s up to you, are you suggesting to this Tribunal that people would read that in the Cavan-Monaghan Garda force, division, and not know that you were referring to Sergeant McCabe?”
Williams: “I hadn’t thought about it.”
McDowell: “Well, would you think about it now?”
Williams: “Perhaps some would.”
Ms Grady, Irish Independent editor at the time of the articles, said in a written statement to the tribunal:
“I believe that the publication of this story in which Sergeant McCabe was not identified would not contribute in any way to impugning his character in the public eye.
While a number of gardaí would have known the identity of the garda in the story, there was no reason that the general public would have.“
Garda Press officer Dave Taylor described to the tribunal’s investigators his method of briefing journalists on the sex abuse allegations.
Mr Taylor said:
“I did always clarify that a file had gone to the DPP and that there was no prosecution. However, this was the narrative. It was put in such a way that there was no smoke without fire.‘
Director of Communications Andrew McLindon told the tribunal that Supt Taylor was going to inform Ms O’Sullivan about Paul Williams’ pending articles on Ms D.
Mr McLindon said:
“Certainly Superintendent Taylor told me that he was going to communicate with Nóirín O’Sullivan. That was again in line with policy and procedure.”
Mr McLindon had earlier said:
“He [Supt Taylor] basically said that Paul Williams was going up to interview Ms. D, that was about the extent of it, in relation to the allegations that she had in relation to Sergeant McCabe…
I kind of got the impression from his demeanour that he [Supt Taylor] felt that that would be significant and that this might — that this might be of benefit to the organisation insofar as it might show that there was an issue in relation to Sergeant McCabe.”
It was put to Mr McLindon that Mr Williams’ articles could have been seen as “the best use of any opportunity you can get to downgrade him, that might suggest that that was actually the case because you [McLindon] didn’t do anything on foot of your knowledge of this article’s publication, despite you being in a major way responsible for the organisation’s reputation?”
Mr McLindon replied:
“Superintendent Taylor, as far as I was aware and concerned, had provided Mr Williams with the information in relation to the DPP’s directions and, as far as I was concerned, that that was the fair thing to do in relation to Sergeant McCabe.”
Ms O’Sullivan said she “vaguely” remembered reading Mr Williams’ first article of April 12, 2014.
Asked if she knew they concerned Sgt McCabe. Ms O’Sullivan said: “Not necessarily at that time. But subsequently I would’ve become aware it was in relation to that issue, yes.”
On the evening of April 12, 2014 – the day of Mr Williams’ first article on Ms D – Mr Williams and Ms O’Sullivan shared a text exchange.
Asked about this, Ms O’Sullivan said: “I can’t recall what the text was about, but I certainly didn’t text him about the article in the Independent.”
The tribunal has not seen the contents of this text.
Mr Williams was read an extract by Mr McDowell from Mr Williams’ second article on Ms D from April 16. 2104:
“The woman claims the assault took place when she was six years old in the garda’s home during a Christmas party in 1998 and the original investigation into her complaint was flawed.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has agreed to meet her next week to discuss the latest disturbing allegation of Garda malpractice to be made public.
Referring to the alleged attack the woman said: ‘Our two families were friends at the time and we were over for a party. He (the garda) was playing hide-and-seek with us, including his own children.
He caught me hiding in the sitting room on my own. He closed the door and sexually assaulted me for what seemed like a long time before anyone else came into the room.'”
Mr McDowell and Mr Williams then had the following exchange:
Mr McDowell: “Now, that is the first time that that allegation had ever been made?”
Justice Charleton:: “Mr McDowell, unless I am mistaken, as I understand it the original allegation did not include an allegation that the door was shut.”
McDowell: “Or that it went on for a long time. In fact, quite the reverse.”
Justice Charelton: “Yeah. And the original allegation mentioned footsteps in the corridor as opposed to anybody coming into the room.”
McDowell [to Mr Williams] “So you weren’t to know that this was quite different from what she had alleged in 2007?
Wiliams: “I didn’t know — I didn’t have any access to what she said in 2007.”
McDowell: “And it goes on [quoting from article]: “She has doubts over whether the officer concerned was properly questioned.” You didn’t know that he had been questioned under caution by the investigating inspector?”
McDowell: “And again, there is a repetition [quoting from article]: ‘The investigation was a farce. I feel that because he was a garda they treated him differently’. Is that right?”
McDowell: “And then at the end she says: ‘The woman said that the assault claims had left her parents deeply traumatised and in particular “has eaten up” her father who worked with and trusted the garda allegedly involved.'”
Williams: “That’s correct.”
McDowell: “Tell me, Mr. Williams, did it ever strike you that you should make some efforts to validate the truth of those charges?”
Williams: “The confirmation that the Director of Public Prosecution wasn’t proceeding with any charges was confirmation; the allegations were made and there was no charge to answer.”
Mr McDowell asked whether Mr Williams was surprised that Garda Taylor would confirm that an accusation had been made against Sergeant McCabe some seven years previously
Mr Williams, who has a masters degree in criminology, replied:
No, because he confirmed that the Director of Public Prosecutions ruled that there was no case to answer.
Mr McDowell pressed:
Mcdowell:”Now, you see, I am suggesting to you that this plainly was confidential information, and it would be confidential in the scenario painted by yourself or myself; that nobody is entitled to ring up the Guards and ask them was an allegation made seven years ago of sexual abuse against a named individual and have it confirmed.”
Mr Williams: “As I say, I ask questions for a living and if people wish to answer them, they will answer them. If they don’t want to answer them, they don’t answer them.”
Mr McDowell continued:
McDowell: “Well, put it this way: Did it surprise you that you did get answers of the kind you did?”
Williams: “I don’t think I was surprised with anything. I just got the answer. The answer was that it confirmed that the investigation had taken place, who had been involved in it and that the DPP had ruled there was no case to answer.”
McDowell: “Well, what were you told about the DPP’s direction?”
Mr Williams: “I was told there was insufficient evidence.”
Mr McDowell: “Well, it was ‘no case to answer‘, isn’t that right?”
Mr Williams: “Well, that is insufficient evidence. No case to answer.”
However, while similar, ‘insufficient evidence” and “no case to answer” are legally quite distinct.
As Justice Charleton informed Mr Williams:
“[one] means if you go to court you’re highly likely to lose; the other may be that there was no offence committed’.”
The exchange continued:
McDowell: “I think you told the Tribunal’s investigators that you pressed Superintendent Taylor on the DPP’s directions.”
Williams: “I did, yeah. I asked a few — I asked a number of times what was the basis for which this case wasn’t going ahead, or which was — there was no charges.”
McDowell: “And he had gone off to research it, is that right?”
Wiliams: “I think he did, yes.”
McDowell: “And did he come back to you and say that the allegations didn’t constitute a sexual assault or indeed an assault at all?”
McDowell: “Perhaps you would look at page 1 of the documents. You asked Superintendent Taylor to give you an account of what the Director of Public Prosecutions had directed in this case?”
McDowell: “Can you see that now in front of you?”
Williams: “I have, yes.”
Mr McDowell “Were you misled about the nature of the DPP’s directions?”
Williams: “I was told that the DPP said there was to be no charges preferred. That is the first time I have seen that letter there..”
Justice Charleton then asked Mr McDowell to identify the document:
Mr McDowell:“This is a letter,from Liz Howlin, a professional officer in the DPP’s Office to the State Solicitor for County Cavan dated 5th April 2007. And it reads:
I acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 1st March 2007 together with copy investigation file. I agree with you and the Guards that the evidence does not warrant a prosecution.
There are no admissions, the incident as described by the injured party is vague. It appears that it was only when she was eleven/twelve that she decided that whatever occurred was sexual in nature.
Even if there wasn’t a doubt over her credibility the incident she described does not constitute a sexual assault or indeed an assault
Further, the account given to her cousin [blank] differs in a number of respects to that given to her parents and the Guards. There is no basis for a prosecution.“
McDowell: “Now, did Superintendent Taylor give you any hint that was the force and substance of the DPP’s direction?”
McDowell: “If he had told you that that was the gravamen [that part of an accusation weighing most heavily against an accused] of the DPP’s direction, would it have affected you in any way?”
Williams: “You would certainly take a different view of it, yes.”
Williams: “You would certainly take a different view.”
In contrast, Mr Rea, during his evidence told the tribunal that the Irish Independent knew of the DPP’s directions.
Mr Rea said:
“As part of the fact-checking process, we were able to establish quite quickly that the DPP — or the police force had investigated those allegations and had sent the file to the DPP and the DPP had found that no crime had been committed, or even if what had happened did happen, that it didn’t establish a crime.’
After being informed his series of articles was predicated on a lie, Mr Williams took further questioning from counsel for Sgt McCabe.
McDowell: “Did he [Dave Taylor] tell you that Ms D had made an accusation of sexual assault in 2007 against Sergeant McCabe?”
Williams “He confirmed what I asked about, based on the interview I had done with Ms. D.”
McDowell: “Well, you said that you pressed him for the DPP’s reasons for not prosecuting?”
Williams: “Yeah, mm-hmm.”
McDowell: “What did he tell you?”
Williams: “I can’t recall. I think it was — that there was — basically, that there was no — that the DPP had come back and said there were no charges, they might — there was something about whether there was a discrepancy in her statement between something she said to a cousin, I think. I am not 100 percent sure on this, I can’t recall.”
McDowell: “You have just read that off a letter. Did that refresh your memory that the Superintendent Taylor told you that way back?”
Williams: “I don’t recall, I can’t recall the details.”
McDowell: “You see, a while back you expressed some surprise that Superintendent Taylor didn’t give you the detail of that letter from Ms. Howlin, and now you are saying that he may have done.”
Williams: “No. You are asking me when I pressed him what information did he give me for the DPP’s decision …”
Williams: “And I am trying to remember. And I can’t recollect.”
McDowell: “You then say that he might have mentioned something about discrepancies in accounts given to a cousin?”
Williams: “Mm-hmm. That line in that letter did — does ring a bell, yeah.
McDowell: “Or is it just ringing a convenient bell now?”
Williams: “No, it is not.”
McDowell: “Well, now, see if you can look at the letter it’s on page 1, and tell us, does any of the rest of it ring any bells with you?”
McDowell: “I mean, would you agree with me that if Superintendent Taylor told you about discrepancies in respect of an account given to a cousin, that he must have had access to that letter because he wouldn’t know these things?”
Williams: “I could be completely wrong but that, it’s that line there that…”
McDowell: “Would you just answer the question?”
Williams: “I don’t know.”
McDowell: “Would you answer the question I put to you? Would you agree that if he did mention discrepancies in the account …”
Williams: “Yeah, but my recollection, it’s not accurate enough to be absolutely sure of any of that.”
McDowell: “Well, you see, the point is if he did it at all, if it’s even remotely possible he must have been reading that letter before he gave you a briefing?”
Charelton: “Or the garda file.”
McDowell: “Or the garda file, one or the other?”
Charleton: “Or the letter from Inspector Cunningham to the State solicitor.”
McDowell: “Do you believe that he went off and consulted the Garda file before he replied to you?”
Williams: “I don’t know what he did.”
McDowell: “And aren’t I right that you told us earlier that you wouldn’t have written it in the way you did or written the article at all if you had seen that, the DPP’s direction?”
Williams: “That’s correct.”
McDowell: “So which is it, Mr. Williams? Did he mention the discrepancy with the cousin’s account or didn’t he?”
Williams: “Can’t recall if — I didn’t see that letter, I don’t know — it’s the line about… no.”
Charelton:: “You are not sure one way or the other?”
Williams: “I am not sure, Judge, no.”
Independent News and Media Group Business Editor Dearbhail McDonald, who would have been Legal Editor of INM at the time of Paul Williams’ articles in early 2014, was tasked with “stress-testing” and “fact-checking” Mr Williams’ first article
She told the tribunal she advised against Mr Williams’ first draft being published.
She also told Micheál Ó Higgins SC, for An Garda Síochána, that her advice led to Sgt McCabe’s reputation being “protected”, saying:
“I believe that the advices that I gave and the role that I played actually went to ensure that Mr McCabe’s reputation was protected. I gave advices, I’m not going to go into the specific advices that I gave. But the ultimate decision of an editor is final. And perhaps I wouldn’t — well, I know I advised against publication.”
Ms McDonald told Judge Peter Charleton:
“For reasons of confidentiality and privilege, I don’t want to go into the specific advices that I gave, but certainly there were material changes between the draft I saw and the article that was ultimately published.”
As mentioned previously, the tribunal has since asked Mr Williams to furnish the tribunal with his first draft of his first story on Ms D.
Both Ms McDonald and Mr Williams told the tribunal they never spoke to each other about her “stress-testing” of his first article – with Mr Williams saying he only learned of this during the tribunal’s proceedings.
Ms McDonald told the tribunal that in March 2014 – at a time when she was covering the Anglo trial of Pat Whelan, Willie McAteer and Sean FitzPatrick in the Criminal Courts of Justice – she was asked by then INM Group Editor Stephen Rae to “stress-test” Mr Williams’ first article.
Ms McDonald said she was asked to:
“…essentially stress-test a story that had been written by a colleague that they were considering for a publication, and I was tasked with that by my editor and asked to go off and make my own inquiries and to come back and see was it fit for publication, in my view, in terms of both being legally and factually robust…”
She further explained that she did know the article was about Sgt McCabe, saying:
“Yeah, at that stage it was fairly evident that it was, and I undertook my own inquiries and
reported back to my editor, Stephen Rae, to our group head of news, Ian Mallon, and, as the Tribunal is aware from my statement, I did compose a memo over which I’ve raised confidentiality and privilege, outlining some of my observations, concerns and the risks as I perceived them, and that was the end of the matter for me.”
Ms McDonald told the tribunal that she was given both the article and Mr Williams’ accompanying video interview to consider before she made her own “inquiries”.
She also said that in/or around March 14, 2014, she would have watched the video in the company of Mr Rae and Mr Mallon.
[Mr Mallon can’t recall any meeting about the article or seeing the video]
Ms McDonald said she wrote up a memo, with her notes, as part of her inquiries and:
“It was quite a discrete function, task that I had been assigned. I did that. I had no — I wasn’t apprised of anything that happened before that, or how it came about, and I had no interaction thereafter with it. I went back to the CCJ [Criminal Courts of Justice] after that.”
Ms McDonald was asked by the counsel for An Garda Síochána if she was aware of the criticism that has been levelled against Mr Williams for him not contacting Sgt McCabe ahead of the publication of his series of articles.
In response to this, Ms McDonald said:
“I have no knowledge of that because I was brought in specifically to assess or give my views or opinions, I have no absolutely no carriage or knowledge of what the company otherwise did in terms of liaising with Mr McCabe or any of the relevant parties.”
Mr Ó Higgins SC, for An Garda Síochána, asked Mr Williams if he was aware that Ms McDonald, as part of her fact-checking exercise, contacted Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe, in March 2014.
Mr Williams said he wasn’t aware of this until April of this year – via the tirbunal.
Judge Charleton said there was nothing wrong with this contact between Ms McDonald and Mr McDowell, saying it was “a perfectly legitimate exercise as opposed to taking sides” while Mr Ó Higgins SC, for the gardaí, said he wasn’t suggesting otherwise.
The tribunal heard intermittently about a ‘poison pen’ letter, dated February 26, 2014, about Sgt McCabe which was sent to RTÉ and INM.
Ms McDonald was asked about this letter and her knowledge, if any, of it.
She told Kathleen Leader SC, for the tribunal:
“It was the Tribunal through — or my lawyer, our lawyers, through the Tribunal, that brought attention to it, and I have no knowledge of it, no receipt of it, haven’t had it in my possession, did not see it until it was provided by the Tribunal.
And just even in terms of my own general practice, I do maintain a readers’ correspondence file where it’s suitable to hold on to material, and, if I had received that, I would have brought it to the attention of the relevant news editor or person that was working on it.
But I certainly, if it had been in possession, would not have given it away. I have a practice of retaining important correspondence when I receive it, including unsolicited and anonymous correspondence.”
Later, it was put to Ms McDonald by Mr Ó Higgins SC, for the gardaí, that, according to a statement of Sgt McCabe, Ms McDonald had “a role in relation to the issuance or the production of that letter and it coming to the attention of Sergeant McCabe’s side of the house?”
Ms McDonald said this was incorrect.
“And I just have to take issue and disagree with that because I am quite emphatic about my knowledge. The first time I saw or received the letter, had knowledge of the so-called foxtrot bravo letter, when it was brought to my attention courtesy of the Tribunal.”
“He [Sgt McCabe] says, “it was my understanding”, namely Mr McCabe’s understanding at the time, that the document had been given to a person. That was — that is not the case.”
Diarmaid McGuinness SC, for the tribunal, subsequently asked Mr Williams about this letter.
They had the following exchange:
McGuinness: “…just one final matter. The investigators asked you about this and you were shown a document… This is a letter dated — purported to be dated the 26th February of 2014, and Sergeant McCabe, when being interviewed by Mr [Sean] Guerin, read a fragment of it to Mr Guerin in connection with an allegation of sexual assault of a minor.”
Williams: “I’m aware of this, yeah.”
McGuinness: “So that was on the 1st April. And he told Mr. Guerin that his counsel had got it from the Irish Independent…”
Williams: “I read the statement…”
McGuinness: “…a couple of weeks earlier than that?”
Williams: “He told Mr Guerin that he got it — that his counsel, Mr McDowell, got it from Dearbhail McDonald in the Irish Independent. I read that. In 2014, this was?”
Williams: “I saw that, yeah.”
McGuinness: “And Sergeant McCabe then made a statement explaining his understanding of it…We’ve also been informed that Prime Time received this at the end of February. And we belatedly received a copy of that, a version of that letter from them since.”
Williams: “Prime Time received it when?”
McGuinness: “In February 2014.”
Williams: “Is this the same document?”
Williams: “Oh, right, okay.”
McGuinness: “But just in the context of this issue as to whether it came to the Independent, did you ever see this letter before?”
Williams: “The first time I ever heard about this document was in April when the Tribunal contacted my solicitor, and I saw it then the next day. I had no knowledge of it, never saw it before in my life.”
McGuinness: “And you heard no talk of it, about having been received or…”
Williams: “Never heard of it.”
McGuinness: “…going the rounds…”
McGuinness: “… or going to any other news organisations…”
McGuinness: “… or chitchat. Ms [Katie] Hannon referred to it in a broadcast in July 2016 on a Prime Time programme.”
McGuinness: “Did you pick up the reference from that at any stage?”
McGuinness: “In any event, this played no part in your knowledge or
information or decision-making?”
Williams: “No, and I also am very cognisant that my colleague Dearbhail McDonald made a very unambiguous statement stating that she never saw this document and never gave it to Mr McDowell.”
McGuinness: “No, I understand that, but I am just…”
Williams: “So I don’t know the provenance of it, I don’t know where it came from.”
McGuinness: “I’m just anxious to get your evidence on the matter to advance matters. Thank you very much, Mr Williams.”
Sgt McCabe’s legal team didn’t ask any questions of either Ms McDonald or Mr Williams – who gave evidence about his articles last summer.
During the tribunal Dublin City University professor Colum Kenny told the tribunal that he sent a document to Independent News and Media lawyers in early 2014.
This, he said, outlined the DPP’s full directions in regards to Ms D and Sgt McCabe and was to verify a line in an article he wrote concerning Sgt McCabe which said:
“It is understood that Sgt McCabe has also been subjected to a serious accusation by a senior garda that was subsequently referred by gardai to the DPP, who found no basis on which to pursue the matter.”
This article was published on March 2, 2014.
A week before Mr Williams met Ms D.
Tomorrow: Maurice McCabe And INM: Part 2
Previously: Maurice McCabe And RTE