RTÉ’s Crime Correspondent Paul Reynolds
Further to the release yesterday of the Disclosure Tribunal Report…
Justice Peter Charleton examined evidence given to the tribunal by RTÉ’s Crime Correspondent Paul Reynolds.
Mr Reynolds had been asked at the hearings about several allegations made against him.
One was that former Garda press officer Supt Dave Taylor claimed he “negatively briefed” Mr Reynolds about Sgt McCabe.
Mr Reynolds denied this and Judge Peter Charleton accepted his evidence on this – rejecting that of Supt Taylor.
Another matter Mr Reynolds was asked about was a report he wrote for the RTÉ News website in February 2014 about an internal Garda investigation into the wiping of penalty points by the then Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahoney.
A third matter concerned Mr Reynolds’ reports in May 2016 about the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation after he obtained a leaked copy of the report.
Judge Peter Charleton had been tasked with examining these reports to see if there was any evidence that Mr Reynolds’ reports had been influenced by the then Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.
In relation to the second matter – Mr Reynolds’ reports on Asst Comm O’Mahoney’s penalty point investigation in February 2014 – Mr Reynolds had reported that the then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan had previously written to Sgt McCabe and “told him to co-operate” with Asst Comm O’Mahoney’s report.
Mr Reynolds told the tribunal that this report was based on his interpretation of a “direction” relayed to Sgt McCabe in December 2012 – which Mr Reynolds had seen.
Judge Charleton found:
“Prior to its publication, he sought comment from Garda Headquarters and Maurice McCabe. He [Reynolds] received comment from the gardaí but not from Maurice McCabe, who gave a response to ‘Prime Time’ ahead of that programme being broadcast that evening. Paul Reynolds then amended his article to incorporate Maurice McCabe’s response to ‘Prime Time’.
“His [Sgt McCabe’s] clearly stated position was that he had never been directed by the Commissioner to cooperate with the O’Mahoney investigation, nor had he been contacted by the investigation team.”
Going forward to the third matter – Mr Reynolds’ reports of May 2016….
The term of reference pertaining to this stated that Mr Reynolds’ reports had “branded [Sgt McCabe] a liar and irresponsible”.
Mr Reynolds’ had used the word “lied” in his reports – as Justice O’Higgins found Sgt McCabe had told an “untruth”.
[Sgt McCabe told an “untruth” when he told a superintendent that a victim of assault and his wife made a complaint to GSOC about the Garda investigation into the incident. Sgt McCabe did this in the hope that the assault would gain more attention from the gardai. Judge O’Higgins criticised the handing of the case by the gardai and said Sgt McCabe told the “untruth” for “genuine” and “commendable” reasons but found it was “unsatisfactory” to tell an untruth]
However, Mr Reynolds didn’t use the specific word “irresponsible” in his reports.
The claim that Ms O’Sullivan, whom the tribunal heard rose through the ranks of her respective career over 30 years with Mr Reynolds, was involved in Mr Reynolds’ reports came about because Sgt McCabe – in his protected disclosure – had claimed the head of HR in An Garda Siochana John Barrett told him Mr Reynolds’ reports would have come from “block one” in Garda HQ which is a reference to the Garda Commissioner’s office.
Sgt McCabe referred to his source, Mr Barrett, as an “impeccable authority”.
When Mr Barrett gave evidence to the tribunal, he denied ever telling Sgt McCabe that “block one” was the source of Mr Reynolds’ reports.
Judge Charleton rejected Mr Barrett’s evidence on this and accepted that of Sgt McCabe, finding:
“Possibly John Barrett does not fully remember making the remark or how serious it was likely to sound in the febrile atmosphere of the time. Perhaps he was speaking casually, but if so, it was loose speech in the wrong context.”
The tribunal examined Mr Reynolds’ reports and the tribunal heard every single report Mr Reynolds made on May 9 2016 – RTÉ Radio One’s main news bulletin at 8am, Morning Ireland and News At One, and RTÉ Television’s News at One, Six One and the Nine O’clock News.
In two of his reports, Mr Reynolds used the word “lie” and told the tribunal he did this after consulting his dictionary to check the word “untruth”.
When he gave evidence, Mr Reynolds said everything he put into the public domain was based solely on the content of leaked copy of the commission’s report and denied that he was ever under any influence from either Garda HQ or Ms O’Sullivan.
[Ms O’Sullivan also denied having sought to influence Mr Reynolds’ reports]
He also said that he “spoke to a number of people as well and I got various information”, without identifying these individuals.
Taking the second and third matters together, at the tribunal, it had been suggested that Mr Reynolds’ reports of February 2014 and May 2016 indicated “a continual influence on RTÉ by Garda Headquarters”.
Judge Charleton rejected this inference.
He also found that no criticism could be made of Mr Reynolds reporting on the “untruth” and that the claim Mr Reynolds branded Sgt McCabe “irresponsible” was “inaccurate”.
He said of Mr Reynolds:
“What Paul Reynolds did was honest. He was not under the directions of Garda Headquarters and he went about his job as an intelligent and independent reporter. In no sense was he a tool of the higher echelons of Garda Headquarters.”
“This is a matter of opinion only, not something from which a negative inference could be taken. With the same material [O’Higgins leak], perhaps another broadcaster would have concentrated more on how bad policing investigations were in Cavan/Monaghan, perhaps not.
“Perhaps the story might have been more about the issues and not about the personality of Maurice McCabe, perhaps not. That is not the point. On which would be better or not, the tribunal does not comment.
“The tribunal accepts the evidence of Paul Reynolds that no one in Garda Headquarters was influencing his broadcasts. He gave honest evidence to the tribunal and he was entitled to his view on the O’Higgins Commission upon his examination of a leaked copy of the report.”
Judge Charleton did say this about Mr Reynolds’ May 2016 reports:
“The broadcasts of 9 May 2016 on Raidió Teilifís Éireann reporting on the O’Higgins Commission laid a great deal of emphasis on the character of Maurice McCabe and little emphasis on the incompetence and indolence which the report of Mr Justice O’Higgins had laid out line by line. The messenger, in relation to this matter, was much less important than the message which was delivered: that our police force was to wake up and actually start doing its job properly.”
Dublin City University professor and journalist Colum Kenny
A fourth matter pertaining to Mr Reynolds at the tribunal related to the evidence of Dublin City University professor and journalist Colum Kenny.
Mr Kenny claimed Mr Reynolds, along with the Irish Independent‘s Tom Brady, told him that Sgt McCabe was being investigated for child abuse in early 2014.
Both Mr Reynolds and Mr Brady denied this.
Mr Kenny and Mr Reynolds’ conflict on this matter was one of a number of incidences where journalists relayed conflicting accounts to Judge Peter Charleton.
Judge Charleton ultimately did not attempt to resolve this conflict, or that of Mr Kenny and Mr Brady.
Judge Charleton didn’t even record Mr Kenny’s claim to the tribunal about Mr Reynolds in his report.
Judge Charleton said to even “set out the detail” of the conflict or “attempt to resolve” would not be appropriate and, to do so, would be beyond the tribunal’s jurisdiction.