From top (clockwise) Irish Mail on Sunday editor Conor O’Donnell, IMOS Crime Correspondent Debbie McCann, Deputy News Editor of the IMOS Robert Cox, Irish Daily Mail journalist Alison O’Reilly, Mail Group Editor Sebastian Hamilton; Eavan Murray, of The Irish Sun; Irish Times Crime Editor Conor Lally; Daniel McConnell, Juno McEnroe and Cormac O’Keeffe, of The Irish Examiner; John Burke, of RTÉ
Ahead of statements being made in the Dáil about the report this afternoon from 4.50pm…
And further to a post this morning concerning some of Judge Peter Charleton’s findings on certain gardai who appeared at the Disclosures Tribunal…
Judge Charleton also found that some journalists also frustrated his efforts to find out exactly what happened to Sgt McCabe.
At the outset, he found that “no newspaper or media outlet ever traduced the character of Maurice McCabe in consequence of any communication from Superintendent Taylor, or indeed at all” in relation to the Ms D allegation which was found to have no foundation by the DPP in 2007.
“No one in print or on radio or on television or on Internet sites ever said either that Maurice McCabe had abused a child or that he was a bitter man with hidden agendas in consequence of being investigated by his colleagues due to an allegation made against him in December 2006 of what was then claimed to be historic abuse.”
But he conceded:
“Rumours were, however, as this report details in part, flying around about him; particularly from 2013 and in January 2014.”
Following on from former Garda press officer Supt Dave Taylor claiming in his protected disclosure that he “negatively briefed” journalists about Sgt McCabe – but giving no significant details of where, when and how he briefed them – the tribunal wrote to 25 journalists at the outset of the tribunal’s inquiries on March 15, 2017.
Each of these journalists, after having been found to have been in contact with Supt Taylor during the relevant period of time of the smear campaign against Sgt McCabe, were asked if they had any information relevant to tribunal’s terms of reference.
On March 21, 2017, the tribunal wrote to Conor Lally, of The Irish Times.
[This took place a month after the publication of an article by Mr Lally, on February 20, 2017, based on an interview he had with Ms D, upon which Sgt McCabe subsequently took action. The print version of the article was headlined “Woman behind alleged complaint about McCabe wants her day before inquiry” while its online version was headed “When can I get on with the rest of my life? – woman at the centre of the McCabe case”.]
[In the High Court in July 2018, the newspaper apologised to Sgt McCabe for suggesting in the article that the DPP’s ruling that no prosecution be made against Sgt McCabe was based on merely “insufficient evidence”.
[When Mr Lally gave evidence to the tribunal – which took place between the time he wrote the article and when The Irish Times apologised to Sgt McCabe – Mr Lally said he had first heard of the Ms D allegation in 2010 or 2011 and that the matter was “dead” to him because he knew “the case was, quote-unquote, completely thrown out by the DPP]
On April 21, 2017, the tribunal wrote to each of the 25 journalists again and it also wrote to Cormac O’Keeffe and Daniel McConnell, of The Irish Examiner.
On April 24, 2017, the tribunal wrote to Mr Lally again.
The judge noted:
“In these letters to 28 journalists, the tribunal requested answers to a list of questions relevant to its terms of reference. With one exception, no answer was given to the complete set of questions at that time.”
[That exception was Frank Greaney, of Newstalk]
On April 13, 2017, Supt Taylor gave the tribunal the names of nine journalists – claiming that he negatively briefed them about Sgt McCabe.
The nine journalists were: Paul Williams, INM; Paul Reynolds, RTE; Conor Lally, The Irish Times; John Mooney, The Sunday Times; Michael O’Toole, Irish Daily Star; Cormac O’Keeffe, Irish Examiner; John Burke, RTE; Daniel McConnell, Irish Examiner; and Juno McEnroe, Irish Examiner.
Again, Supt Taylor’s details about these alleged briefings were scant.
Judge Charleton noted:
“In the months following April 2017, the tribunal’s focus was on those journalists who had been nominated by Superintendent Taylor as having been negatively briefed by him. Some journalists began to engage with the tribunal…
“RTÉ journalists provided statements in September 2017, and Michael O’Toole provided information to the tribunal investigators in April 2018. Others, however, waited until just before giving evidence to the tribunal before they provided any meaningful assistance to the tribunal.
“The tribunal, while grateful to those journalists who eventually cooperated with it, regards the delay in providing that cooperation as regrettable and as a frustration of the public will, as expressed by the terms of reference set by the Oireachtas, that a tribunal of enquiry should do its work quickly.
“Ultimately three journalists from the Irish Examiner, Cormac O’Keeffe, Juno McEnroe and Daniel McConnell, refused to give evidence to the tribunal about the content of their dealings with Superintendent Taylor. This, obviously, and without justification, frustrated the work of the tribunal.”
The tribunal later learned, through other means, and not through Supt Taylor, that two other journalists had separately called to the home of Ms D in early 2014 – Eavan Murray, of The Irish Sun, and Debbie McCann, of the Irish Mail on Sunday – in an effort to interview Ms D.
When asked about these visits, Supt Taylor added them to his list of nine journalists he “negatively briefed” brining the tally to 11.
But Judge Charleton found that Supt Taylor purposefully didn’t tell the tribunal about the two female journalists, saying:
“Bizarrely, Superintendent Taylor’s phone records showed him having a great deal of contact with both during the relevant period. Phone traffic to Eavan Murray was extraordinarily heavy. He did not forget these two journalists. He deliberately left them out.”
“… It is clear that keeping the tribunal away from any knowledge of any interaction with Eavan Murray and Debbie McCann was part of his overall strategy of minimisation of his own role in this scandal.”
A 12th journalist – Cathal McMahon, formerly of the Irish Mirror – was added to the list in the final days of the tribunal when he came forward and told the tribunal that, upon hearing of the 2006 allegation against Sgt McCabe back in early 2014, he contacted Supt Taylor and Supt Taylor suggested he travel to Cavan “and find further details there”.
Ultimately his editor John Kierans told him to not explore the allegation and he didn’t.
In respect of the nine male journalists initially named, each of them told the tribunal that they either were not negatively briefed about Sgt McCabe or claimed journalistic privilege.
In respect of Mr Lally, Judge Charleton accepted his evidence that he wasn’t negatively briefed by Supt Taylor. He also accepted Mr Lally saying he heard of the Ms D rumour in 2010 or 2011 and that “an allegation had been made, he had been exonerated, there wasn’t a huge amount to be done”.
In respect of Mr Mooney, of The Sunday Times, Judge Charleton accepted his evidence that he wasn’t negatively briefed by Supt Taylor.
He also accepted Mr Mooney’s evidence that he was aware of the Ms D allegation going back as far as 2010 and that he “did not look any further into the matter as he said the Ms D story wouldn’t have met the threshold for publication in The Sunday Times”.
In respect of Michael O’Toole, of the Irish Daily Star, Judge Charleton accepted his evidence that he wasn’t negatively briefed by Supt Taylor.
And he accepted Mr O’Toole’s evidence that he had heard of the Ms D allegation before Supt Taylor became Garda Press Officer and, like Mr Lally, the matter was “dead” to him as he was fully aware of the DPP’s directions.
[The tribunal had heard evidence from Ms D’s father Mr D that, in or around the time that Eavan Murray, of The Irish Sun, and Debbie McCann, of the Irish Mail on Sunday, called to the home of Ms D in early 2014, Mr O’Toole tried to contact Mr D via Facebook. Mr D said they didn’t talk about the Ms D case. When Mr O’Toole gave evidence, he wasn’t asked about Mr D’s claim. Also, during the tribunal’s proceedings in the summer of last year, Mr O’Toole tweeted about journalists’ coverage of the TUSLA module, saying “Hacks saying the DPP “dismissed” allegations. Really? I thought it either said enough evidence for a charge or not. #DisclosuresTribunal”. Mr O’Toole wasn’t asked about this either]
In respect of RTE’s John Burke, Judge Charleton rejected Supt Taylor’s claim that he negatively briefed Mr Burke.
In respect of Cormac O’Keeffe, Daniel McConnell and Juno McEnroe, of the Irish Examiner – who all refused to either confirm or deny any communications they had with Supt Taylor – the judge found that they were likely not to have been negatively briefed by Supt Taylor but also that, as mentioned above, they:
“…refused to give evidence to the tribunal about the content of their dealings with Superintendent Taylor. This, obviously, and without justification, frustrated the work of the tribunal.”
Judge Charleton cast his eye over the testimony of The Irish Sun‘s Eavan Murray – who claimed she was told to go and meet the D family after The Irish Sun newsroom became aware that Paul Williams had a pending exclusive about Ms D in the Irish Independent – and Debbie McCann, who was the first journalist to call to the home of Ms D in early 2014, somewhat collectively.
[Both Ms Murray and Ms McCann said they were not negatively briefed by Supt Taylor].
Judge Charleton found:
“Superintendent David Taylor denied influencing in any way any trip by either Eavan Murray or Debbie McCann to Cavan to search out a story about Ms D. Nonetheless, he claimed that they both informed him about the trip before they went up to Cavan. He added that he did not say anything about it either way: “I did not discourage them.” This evidence from Superintendent David Taylor about two journalists reporting to him about their activities without him having the slightest thing to do with their quest is improbable and is also plainly deceitful.
“Eavan Murray claims to have travelled to Cavan on 14 March 2014; that is six days after the tribunal has established that Paul Williams had done an interview on video with Ms D on Saturday 8 March 2014. She claimed she knew the visit took place on that date because of personal matters. She claimed that she spoke to Mrs D and Mr D, in their home, about the visit of Paul Williams. That, however, is not the account given by Mr D or by Mrs D and is inconsistent with the narrative recounted by Ms D as to why she wished to give an interview to Paul Williams.
“Basically, that was because journalists, the two in question, had started calling to her home and in consequence, Ms D wished to give an interview to someone she trusted. Nor did any member of the D family recount the friendly chat that Eavan Murray said that they all had.
“Her editor at the time was Fergus O’Shea. He thought it unlikely that news from the Irish Independent story on Ms D would filter into his newsroom or be widely discussed. He had never heard that there was an allegation by Ms D claiming that she had been sexually assaulted as a child by Maurice McCabe. His testimony, contrary to that of Eavan Murray, was that there was no “word … in the newsroom” about a big exclusive. Further, Eavan Murray claims that she was “tasked with going up there”. But, the recollection of Fergus O’Shea was not that. Instead his evidence was that she came to him.
“Another factor which is significant is the extraordinarily voluminous telephone traffic between Superintendent David Taylor and Eavan Murray. From 12 February 2014 to 27 June 2014, this amounts to 40 print out pages of him contacting her.
“Eavan Murray refused to confirm her phone number to the tribunal investigators when interviewed in October 2017. Journalistic privilege was claimed. The tribunal had no difficulty, however, working out her phone number through its inquiries since the level of contact between Superintendent David Taylor and her is amply proven.
“In giving evidence, Eavan Murray accepted that these records demonstrated contact between her and Superintendent Taylor. While Eavan Murray may well have been helping him gain a higher degree qualification in communications, the reality is that this cannot of itself be a sufficient explanation. While she denied ever being negatively briefed by Superintendent Taylor about Maurice McCabe, and maintained that she heard rumours about the sergeant from somewhere else, not from a garda, the tribunal cannot accept that.
“There is no explanation for her being in Cavan that is credible, apart from assistance from Superintendent Taylor.
“He denies knowing more than a surname and claimed not to know the address of the D family. But this came across as yet another false denial. He claims to have texted Commissioner Callinan to inform him of the fact that Eavan Murray and Debbie McCann were going to visit the D home, but there is no evidence of this.
“He was, of course, systematically deleting texts. That, the tribunal is convinced, had nothing to do with keeping a tidy phone.
“Eavan Murray denies ever telling Superintendent Taylor that she was planning on going to Cavan ahead of her visit and puts the first conversation about anything to do with Ms D and Cavan as being in late March 2014.
“Eavan Murray also claims that “he didn’t seem at all put out that” when she told him that she could not publish any story about Ms D. This is not the reaction of the Superintendent Taylor that the tribunal saw testify. Superintendent Taylor merely claims to have confirmed details about the investigation, including that there was no prosecution, to both Eavan Murray and Debbie McCann when the two journalists contacted him.
“That scenario is more than unlikely. It should be noted that he denied confirming those details to Paul Williams but accepts confirming them to Cathal McMahon. In this context, it should be remembered that the tribunal accepts Cathal McMahon’s testimony that Superintendent Taylor suggested that he should travel to Cavan. There was, of course, only one reason in his mind for sending someone to Cavan.
“Debbie McCann claimed in evidence never to have been negatively briefed by any person in the police force against Maurice McCabe.
“She was questioned closely on this, and what emerged was that she was adopting her own definition of what a negative briefing was and applying that definition to any answer that she proposed to give in order not to answer any questions about Superintendent David Taylor.
“In addition to that, she claimed journalistic privilege any time any detail was sought in relation to the press officer for Garda Headquarters. Debbie McCann claims that any information in relation to Maurice McCabe and a claim of child sex abuse came to her, effectively, out of the ether.”
Ms McCann was not the only witness from the Mail group to give evidence.
Irish Daily Mail journalist Alison O’Reilly, a former colleague and friend of Ms McCann’s, also gave evidence to the tribunal.
Ms O’Reilly – who told Sgt McCabe there were rumours circulating about him to the effect that he had sexually abused a girl when she first met him on February 28, 2014 – claimed Ms McCann told her that, at some point, she had spent about an hour interviewing Ms D, and that Ms McCann was able to describe in detail how Ms D held her arms as they spoke to each other.
She claimed Ms McCann called Sgt McCabe a paedo, child abuser and a dirty fucking bastard.
She claimed Ms McCann told her she’d heard Ms D “was in a bad way” from the former head of the Garda Press office Supt Dave Taylor and that she seemed to have been very moved emotionally by Ms D’s story.
She claimed Ms McCann said the then Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan was a source of information for her about Ms D.
She claimed Ms McCann said Sgt McCabe was hated within the gardaí.
She claimed Ms McCann said she had written a story on Ms D but that it wasn’t published.
And she claimed Ms McCann said editor of the Irish Mail on Sunday Conor O’Donnell wanted to publish it as an anonymous story but that Group Editor Sebastian Hamilton didn’t want the story published as he was too cautious.
In regards to the above claims, Ms McCann, Mr O’Donnell and Mr Hamilton categorically denied them all, while Ms O’Sullivan also utterly denied being a source of information for Ms McCann.
Judge Charleton found:
“Prior to speaking to Debbie McCann, Alison O’Reilly was not privy to rumours about an alleged sexual assault on Ms D by Maurice McCabe sometime in the distant past. She recounts conversations which she had with Debbie McCann.
“These were in the way of rolling discussions about various items that might be in the news while both were around the newsroom or partaking of refreshments or, on other occasions, walking back to where their cars were parked. Into May 2014, when Debbie McCann was on leave, there were also conversations over the phone and some exchanges of text messages.
“Alison O’Reilly was actively discouraged by her employer newspaper company from giving evidence to the tribunal. Her testimony was that she had been told, in colourful language, that anyone who went to a tribunal with information out of a sense of duty might end up at the receiving end of criticism themselves: “You know, nobody comes out of a Tribunal looking okay, even if they’re trying to be the good guy.”
“While this could be seen as mere chat, the reality is that Alison O’ Reilly felt far from encouraged. This was not an appropriate way to deal with an employee who wished to cooperate with a public enquiry. In fact, it is appalling. Worse was to follow.
“She wrote to the tribunal on 7 June 2017, in response to the plea for public assistance made on 27 February 2017 and because Brendan Howlin TD had made a statement to the Dáil on 8 February 2017, and had helpfully provided a statement to the tribunal on 15 March 2017. Alison O’Reilly’s employers had been asked specifically for any information they had in March 2017.
“Journalistic privilege was claimed in a letter of 13 March 2017, and further correspondence followed, with Debbie McCann and Alison O’Reilly being interviewed by the tribunal’s investigators.
“On 13 April 2018, it was claimed in a letter that Alison O’Reilly was an embittered person. As between her and Debbie McCann, they attacked her testimony, without any basis other than that Debbie McCann had had no story about Ms D to pitch to her editors.
“The tribunal accepts the evidence of Alison O’Reilly. The tribunal is of the view that while a great deal of the conversation that went between these two journalists can be seen as braggadocio, or simply loose talk, the core of this is factually correct.
“Someone had strongly biased the mind of Debbie McCann against Maurice McCabe. That person, the tribunal is convinced, was neither her father, retired Detective Superintendent John McCann, who was a responsible and hard-working officer, nor Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, who had hardly ever met her and had not the slightest reason to interact with her, save in a social context, but the press officer for An Garda Síochána, with whom she was in regular contact, namely Superintendent David Taylor.
“It was he who, like his conversation with Cathal McMahon, had directed both Debbie McCann and Eavan Murray to Cavan. There was no truth to his senseless evidence that they were somehow merely reporting to him on activities in that area, especially as he also denied that those activities had anything to do with him. Why would they report to a superintendent sitting up in Garda Headquarters?
“The account given by Debbie McCann to Alison O’Reilly as to Ms D being in a bad way and sitting on a couch and hugging herself certainly did not come from Paul Williams.
“In addition, Debbie McCann had details which appeared in the garda file sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions. There is the reference to them being at “a party or gathering” and there is a description of the alleged encounter. She told the tribunal that it was “an allegation of inappropriate touching”, and she said that she may have known at the time that “there may have been tickling involved”. That last, evocative, word appears in the garda file.
“These are details that she admits to knowing, but she claims to have obtained this information about the tickling from what she describes as a source.
“This was a case of Debbie McCann making a mistake and being sucked into the orbit of Superintendent David Taylor and listening to the kind of detail which the tribunal is satisfied he had at his disposal and which he was content to deploy, to a major extent with the detail provided by him to Debbie McCann, and to a lesser extent by way of supplying details which were easily at his disposal to both her and to Eavan Murray. They were taken in by him.“
Previously: Maurice McCabe And The Mail Newspapers