Bryan Wall: Vindication At The Expense Of Justice


From top: Former Garda Commissioners Martin Callinan and Noirin O’Sullivan in March. 2012; Bryan Wall

With the publication of the Charleton Tribunal’s findings the public can apparently sigh with collective relief.

Maurice McCabe and John Wilson — the latter having been forgotten about in most reporting — have both been vindicated.

Both men risked their careers and health in order to publicise Garda malfeasance and corruption.

Penalty points were wiped, cases improperly investigated, and suspects released on parole when they should never have been released in the first place.In the latter case the person in question went on to commit murder.

Justice Charleton excoriated both former Commissioner Martin Callinan and former Garda Press Officer David Taylor.

The two men, Justice Charleton found, were essentially working together in order to denigrate the characters of Mr. McCabe and Mr. Wilson.

Justice Charleton wrote that “Superintendent Taylor completely understated his own involvement” in the campaign against both whistleblowers.

Mr Callinan’s denial of reported statements he made to various people, in which he called Maurice McCabe a paedophile and rapist, were themselves disbelieved by Justice Charleton.

All in all, the reporting of Justice Charleton’s findings has been one in which the idea that the truth has been ferreted out by a thorough investigatory procedure is accepted at face value.

Therefore, we can all rest assured that the guilty either have been or will be punished.

But is that really the case?

Justice Charleton’s report reads as an inconsistent investigation whose limits were not only set legally, but also it seems ideologically. Scapegoats had to be found and they were.

Martin Callinan and David Taylor provide both. The evidence against both men was too large to ignore and simply too well known by politicians and journalists.

On the other hand, limits as to who could be blamed were clearly set.

John McGuinness TD gave evidence that after a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Martin Callinan had approached him in the chambers and told him that Maurice McCabe and John Wilson were “fucking headbangers”.

He also told TD McGuinness that McCabe “fiddles kids”. In his evidence TD McGuinness also pointed out that David Taylor and, Martin Callinan’s eventual successor as Commissioner, Nóirín O’Sullivan “were present when these remarks were made.”

David Taylor, in his evidence, confirms this. Callinan would the next day meet TD McGuinness in a car park for the now infamous meeting in which he reaffirmed his statement regarding McCabe and Wilson. In his report, Justice Charleton writes that “The conversations as described by John McGuinness TD took place.”

Yet, he also states that “There is nothing to show” that Nóirín O’Sullivan knew anything about former Commissioner Callinan’s comments.

This is despite the fact that two witnesses, one of whom the Tribunal considered to be completely honest in his evidence, placed her at least within earshot of the comments made after the PAC meeting.

It is also despite the fact that on other occasions Justice Charleton says that evidence given by former Commissioner O’Sullivan is, quite literally, unbelievable.

“The tribunal cannot accept her evidence”, writes Justice Charleton, regarding her claim that she did not take any phone calls from her counsel in the aftermath of their cross-examination of Maurice McCabe during the O’Higgins Commission; a cross examination during which Maurice McCabe was described by some as having had his character “traduced”.

Nonetheless, in the report it states that this “had nothing to do with Commissioner O’Sullivan.”

There is, of course, also the issue of missing phones. As stated in the report, “six phones used by Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan during the relevant period” were requested. Only one of those phones was received.

The lonesome phone that she did turn over was used “intermittently”, with her son coming to use it on “a basis personal to him”.

Martin Callinan also used six phones during the relevant period but like O’Sullivan, a number of them were missing.

The Tribunal received only two of the phones in question. As egregious as this may sound, however, David Taylor had previously told TD Clare Daly that phones and SIM cards were regularly destroyed in order to get rid of evidence but this is not linked in the report to the issue of the missing phones.

Instead, the fact that a number of phones belonging to both Martin Callinan and Nóirín O’Sullivan have gone missing is accepted as is and without much comment on the part of Justice Charleton.

All of this is just one aspect of a report which reads more like an exercise in bureaucracy than an investigation into malfeasance and corruption on the part of some of the most powerful people in the country.

Coincidences abound, questions remained unasked let alone unanswered, and the evidence of witnesses who are considered to be completely honest and reliable is accepted on a basis of when it suits the investigation.

ohn McGuinness is reliable when he gives evidence regarding what he was told by Martin Callinan. When he states that Nóirín O’Sullivan was there when the comments were made, however, this part of his evidence goes ignored.

The furthest that Justice Charleton goes in assigning culpability to Ms. O’Sullivan is when he writes that it was “improbable that she did not have an inkling at the very least about Commissioner Callinan’s views.

Blame needed to be assigned to someone. Martin Callinan and David Taylor meet this description and have been duly sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.

Of course, I am not arguing that what both men did was not contemptible and slanderous.But there is more to the entire story than just two men who set out to denigrate the characters of Garda whistleblowers.

It appears that a hierarchy of plausible deniability was created in order to protect individuals the further up the chain it went. And the only reason Callinan and Taylor have been duly sacrificed is that they were too vociferous in their methods.

Subtlety is the bedfellow of intrigue. In this regard it was easy to point the finger at these two given their complete lack of subtlety.

Yes, Maurice McCabe and John Wilson have been vindicated but there are people who participated in their vilification who remain unscathed and in some cases unidentified.

In the Charleton Report, the concept of a constructed plausible deniability among the upper echelons of the political and social worlds has shown its purpose and value. In this sense then, for the rest of us at least, vindication has come at the expense of justice.

Bryan Wall is an independent journalist based in Cork. His column appears here every Monday. Read more of his work here and follow Bryan on twitter:  @Bryan_Wall


Previously: Legal Coffee Drinker: Charelton Report Conclusions

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18 thoughts on “Bryan Wall: Vindication At The Expense Of Justice

  1. Catherine costelloe

    Entirely agree. Text to Callinan on the day he met John MC Guiness from Purcell in Justice Dept ” How did you get on with JMG?” proves injustice Dept had prior knowledge . If Frances Fitzgerald is updated as Justice Minister “No action required” “Attention only” on this debacle & others (She kicked Lucia o Farrell into touch), then we don’t need a “Minister”. A bright junior cert student would be capable of reading files from start to finish on Maurice and cry “Stop.” It’s would have suited them if Maurice was found floating & then the spin machine in overdrive on his “psychological” problems.

    1. Cú Chulainn

      I had a glimmer of hope that Charleton would do the right thing. Sadly, and to his eternal shame, he didn’t. Cover up of cover up. No state employee, except the very bravest, could ever consider whistle blowing again.

  2. Anomanomanom

    Why is this a surprise. Its few good Apple’s with this lot, the vast majority or rotten to the core.

  3. phil

    totally agree, hasnt done much to draw a line under malpractice, the report wont assure people that the Gardai are back on track…

    I’ve often wondered, if Ireland could survive a well functioning , honest, transparent , and highly professional police force ? Is this what the establishment want? It it what the people want ? probably not unless you find yourself needing a professional police force ….

  4. RuilleBuille

    Charleton could not admit that a combination of the Gardai force, civil servants, politicians and Social Services all conspired to do down McCabe and destroy him.

    People would loose all faith in the state if that was to happen.

    1. Leopold Gloom

      But people know that is what happened. Even if it’s not on the record, they know. All he would be doing is formally recognising it.

      Callinan should be stripped entirely of any pension, and charged with some form of crimes related to fraud and defamation.

      Taylor too. At least 2 ministers, a few civil servants. Every garda that was involved should be turfed out too.

  5. A Person

    Lots of tin hats on Broadsheet. As I said here before BS live tweeting from the hearing but never reported that Taylor recanted his evidence. Bias at its best.

  6. Ron

    Charleton is a judge appointed by politicians. He is part of the cabal. He was never going to bite the political hand that feeds his mouth.

    He had 2 options. The state would have liked for him to find that nothing untoward was done to Mc Cabe. But they know that there would have been riots on the street if he did that.

    Instead he took the path of least resistance and redeemed NOS whilst pinning it all on Taylor and Callinan.

    Why is anyone complaining? The Irish electorate failed Maurice Mc Cabe by not demanding it be treated as criminal investigation.

    What they did in the Irish state is like something you would read from corrupt tinpot Governments in many African states. You know the ones I’m talking about.

    Thank you for your service Maurice Mc Cabe. As an Irish citizen I’m sorry that they weren’t or will not be subject to any form of discipline or criminal proceedings.

    1. Cian

      “Charleton is a judge appointed by politicians.”

      *All* judges are appointed by politicians.
      He is already on the Supreme Court – so he can’t go any higher.

      1. Ron

        stop commenting on my posts Cian. There is something wrong with you and I feel bad having to put you down all the time especially considering your intellectual deficit.

  7. @denonoulopez

    This piece seems to hang a lot on the whether or not Noirin O’Sullivan overheard Martin Callinan telling John McGuinness that McCabe was a kiddy fiddler.

    McGuinness’s testimony was to the effect that O’Sullivan was present when these remarks were made, but that is somehow transformed into her being “within earshot” by Bryan Wall. Wall also charges that Charleton “ignored” this reference in McGuinness’s testimony, but in fact he addresses it thus:
    “In terms of what was happening in the room, the meeting having just concluded, and the general noise of committee members, witnesses, and attendees from the public and the press talking to each other, the tribunal cannot be sure that this remark would necessarily be overheard.”

    As for the talk of phones, Charleton concludes that all of the allegations to do with phone communications emanated from Dave Taylor and he only made these allegations “to undermine confidence in any electronic evidence that there was against himself in relation to leaking details of criminal investigations to the media at a time when he was no longer employed in the Garda Press Office.”

  8. Verbatim

    “Men will not cease to be dishonest merely because their dishonesties have been revealed or because they have discovered their own deceptions. Whenever men hold unequal power in society, they will strive to maintain it.”
    R. Niebuhr said that.

  9. Olga Cronin

    Hi A Person,

    Apologies for the delay in getting back to you.

    (I have previously responded to your incorrect claim that I didn’t report on Taylor withdrawing some of his claims. Please see here:

    Taylor rowed back on what he claimed about the Clerkin investigation/the phones/NOS and her husband’s involvement but he maintained his position that he believed Noirin O’Sullivan knew about the smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.

    On Taylor’s first day of evidence (less than 15 minutes on his first day in the stand) he said he accepted the Clerkin investigation into him leaking material to press. I live tweeted this immediately:

    #DisclosuresTribunal hears Supt Taylor doesn’t contest the contacts that the CS Clerkin’s investigation found he had with journalists during CS Clerkin’s investigation (this pertained to time AFTER Supt Taylor’s time in GPO)

    See here:

    On day three of his evidence, I live tweeted the following (OH being Mícheál Ó Higgins for the gardaí)

    #DisclosuresTribunal OH continues with the timeline and points out Taylor applied for a Judicial Review to stop criminal and disciplinary investigation against him on Feb 29, 2016 [NOTE: tribunal has already heard that DPP first ruled no prosecution against Taylor in Feb 2016]

    #DisclosuresTribunal [ALSO NOTE: Tribunal has already heard the application wasn’t ultimately successful]

    #DisclosuresTribunal Hears in his JP applic to High Court, it was put on Taylor’s behalf that his arrest in May of 2015 was made “exclusively for the purpose of….causing embarrassment …and/or…inflicting emotional pain and suffering…and/or…public ridicule and contempt”

    #DisclosuresTribunal Charleton intervenes and says what he alleged in JR was effectively an allegation of “an abuse of public office”. Taylor: “It was a traumatic event….it inflicted pain…” OH: Are you abandoning the claim that the arrest was for the purpose of embarrassment?

    #DisclosuresTribunal OH suggest the sentence infers AGS did something improper. Taylor: I’m not impugning their integrity. OH asks if he’s then withdrawing the allegation as set out in JR bid. T repeats he was saying the arrest caused him embarrassment

    #DisclosuresTribunal OH reads out other section of JR bid in which he said investigators were “Tactless…unneccssarily autocratic and oppressive and they failed to afford DT a reasonable level of courtesy and respect.” OH says he has an opportunity now to withdraw this claim.

    #DisclosuresTribunal Taylor tells how he was stripped of shoes, belt and placed in a cell after he was arrested by appointment and he wasn’t a flight risk. OH presses Taylor: Are you saying officers were heavy-handed?

    #DisclosuresTribunal Taylor repeats he was stripped of shoes, belt and placed in a cell. OH pressing Taylor to say if he stands over his claim in the JR application. Taylor repeats he always treats people with civility…says he would always shake hand with a prisoner, etc.

    #DisclosuresTribunal Taylor also wrote in his JR application: “On a date unknown evidence obtained in the course of the aforementioned investigation was tampered with or interfered with.” Asked if he still stands over that, T says this concerned the Viber text (see prev tweet)

    #DisclosuresTribunal Taylor said he still hasn’t got an answer on what happened with the Viber message. OH pointing out evidence from last week when there was an exchange about this tampering claim…

    #DisclosuresTribunal Charleton now specifically asks “Are you saying AGS tampered with your phone, any of your phones, with a view to manipulating evidence?” T says he can’t answer that, he raised his concern about the Viber matter and he has yet to establish how that happened.

    #DisclosuresTribunal Taylor says he requested permission from gardai to go to Viber to find out how the incident occurred and said he was willing to pay, but gardai didn’t give him permission.

    #DisclosuresTribunal After many attempts to get a clear answer if he believes AGS tampered with his phone and Taylor repeating he’s never felt he got an adequate answer, OH moves on.

    Tweets from this day can be read here:

    On his final day of giving evidence, we tweeted (again OH is for Ó’Higgins SC for gardai)

    #DisclosuresTribunal OH puts to Taylor there’s a reason why his account is so vague and lacking in specifics. OH suggests there’s a reason there are no texts or documents substantiating his account and reason why he’s watered down his account and removed texts from the equation

    #DisclosuresTribunal OH suggests the reason for above is the fear of being directly caught out. OH: I’m suggesting you’ve abandoned much of what you’ve told McCabe, McGuinness, Clifford, Wallace and Daly and possible others, again for fear that your account would be exposed

    #DisclosuresTribunal OH continues: There’s not a single person to support your claim of an orchestrated campaign. You were in a predicament, world closing in on you, pressures at home, finances in disarray, you had a grievance that you were unfairly targeted.

    #DisclosuresTribunal OH continues: I’m suggesting you became fixated on NOS and her husband and came up with a plan to exact your revenge…for what was done to you..You came up with a plan to shield yourself from the criminal and discplinary procedures you were facing..

    #DisclosuresTribunal OH continues: What better way to defend and protect yourself than paint yourself as a victim and align yourself with Maurice McCabe..As part of this plan, you attempted to sell to Maurice McCabe what were a load of lies.

    #DisclosuresTribunal OH: I’m suggesting you hawked around those lies to journalists and politicans, whoever would listen to you in Sept/Oct 2016 before and after you made your protected disclosure.

    #DIsclosuresTribunal OH: And purpose of this was to undermine NOS and as part of that you had to attack Martin Callinan and you decided to extend it out to Andew McLIndon as well. Taylor rejects all of this.

    #DisclosuresTribunal Tribunal has already heard Supt Taylor say “yes” when asked by tribunal counsel “You’re not contesting that you did make all of those communications to journalists outlined in the [Clerkin] report”.

    #DisclosuresTribunal McGuinness puts it to Taylor that any alleged claim that he was a victim by way of Clerkin investigation then is false. Taylor accepts this.

    #DisclosuresTribunal McG has asked T if he has any evidence to suggest NOS appointed her husband to investigate him for any reason. T says no but repeats his concern about a potential conflict of interest as she removed him from GPO and then her husband was appointed to invest.

    #DisclosuresTribunal McG states CS Clerkin was appointed by Ass Comm (Twomey) to look into Roma matter in Aug 2014 and he chose NOS husband and, at that time, there was no suspicion of Taylor being involved

    #DisclosuresTribunal Taylor accepts that there was no suspicion of him at that time. McGuinness said he was then interivewed in Nov 2014 and suspicion only fell on him after analysis of his phone which was seized in Dec 2014 (this was issued in Sept 2014) …

    #DisclosuresTribunal …and 2800 communications were found on his phone btw him and journalists (btw Sept and Dec ’14) despite him being in Traffic since June 2014. Taylor accepts this.

    #DisclosuresTribunal McG: So nobody could have foresight or guile to appoint someone to an investigation in that process with view to doing you down? Taylor: That’s correct

    #DisclosuresTribunal Taylor now accepts Clerkin investigation – which recommended charges against Supt Taylor – was right. “I accept my culpability.” Judge suggests he broke the Garda code every day for a year.

    #DisclosuresTribunal Taylor: I regret that every day. NOTE: DPP ruled no prosecution after Clerkin investigation

    #DisclosuresTribunal Judge: Were there in fact any texts that were worth destroying in the sense of implicating Martin Callinan or Noirin O’Sullivan in any kind of plot against McCabe? Taylor: No.

    #DisclosuresTribunal Judge earlier put to Taylor: You’ve had a problem with NOS? What was the problem?
    Taylor: I was removed from the press office. Judge: You could have been sent to Donegal or Westmeath…not saying these aren’t wonderful places but…

    #DisclosuresTribunal T: I was removed from a job I felt I was doing a good job. T: “As I said it was a public move from a high-profile position to a less profile position” Judge: What does that matter? Taylor: “Within the Garda family…that’s clearly seen as a move sideways”.

    Tweets from his final day giving evidence can be read here:

    Towards, the end of proceedings on May 29, 2018, counsel for Taylor told the tribunal (while Noirin O’Sullivan was giving evidence) “Insofar as in his [Taylor’s] protected disclosure he had said that he copied you [NOS] in on texts and insofar as that gave an implication that the texts confirmed the existence of a smear campaign or negative briefing against Sergeant McCabe, no case is made that any texts of that sort were sent.”

    However Taylor’s counsel went on to reiterate that Taylor believed NOS was aware of the smear campaign against McCabe. These matters from May 29 weren’t tweeted by me because I had to leave the castle about a half an hour beforehand to go to work.

    See tweets from May 29 here:

    But the following day, May 30, I tweeted the following [Dignam being Conor Dignam SC, for the gardai]

    #DisclosuresTribunal Dignam puts to NOS the tribunal has now heard that Taylor has said NOS did not interfere with the investigation into him re: leaking to press, that NOS did not appointed her husband to the investigation; and she had no hand, act or part in the investigation

    #DisclosuresTribunal Dignam also says it’s been inferred that Taylor’s phones were seized in order to wipe alleged wrongdoing on her part.

    #DisclosuresTribunal NOS: Since 2015 those allegations have been repeated several, umpteen times. I’ve been doorstepped at press conferences, I’ve constantly had to deny those specific allegations.

    #DisclosuresTribunal Tearful NOS speaking about how she retired from her rolse as Garda Commissioner. Dignam asks her if it’s of any comfort to her today that much of what he has claimed, he no longer claims…

    #DisclosuresTribunal NOS: Absolutely none, absolutely none but bear in mind the impact it has had on myself, my family and, most imporatnly, confidence in An Garda Siochana

    #DisclosuresTribunal Dignam points out that Taylor has no details in terms of his allegation that NOS was aware of alleged smear campaign. Judge steps in to say (in terms of there being no details) the allegation is T told her about things happening and she didn’t respond

    Tweets from above (May 30) can be read here:

    We also did this round-up on Taylor’s evidence with commentary on the same from Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe – and Judge Charleton’s response to it – in his closing submission.

    I hope this helps.
    Thank you.

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