From top: Justice Peter Charleton; Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan (right) with former Garda Press Officer Dave Taylor; Former Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan; Today’s report.
Further to the release of Justice Peter Charleton’s Disclosures Tribunal report, we asked the eminently caffeinated Legal Coffee Drinker: what’s it all about?
Broadsheet: “Legal Coffee Drinker, what’s it all about?”
Legal Coffee Drinker: “The Report on matters dealing with the conduct of the Health Service Executive, the Child and Family Agency (TUSLA), RTÉ, Garda Headquarters and Garda officers concerning Sergeant Maurice McCabe and related matters, prepared by the Honourable Mr Justice Peter Charleton and published this lunchtime.”
Broadsheet: “So what are its conclusions?”
LCD: “Justice Charleton is hugely positive about Maurice McCabe, whom he describes as
‘…A genuine person who at all times has had the interests of the people of Ireland uppermost in his mind… an extremely serious state of lack of application to duty and failure to follow basic and fundamental procedures was at the heart of [his] legitimate concerns…
Maurice McCabe has done the State considerable service by bringing these matters to the attention of the wider public and he has done so not out of a desire to inflate his public profile, but out of a legitimate drive to ensure that the national police force serves the people through hard work and diligence.
He is an exemplar of that kind of attitude. Notwithstanding everything that happened to him, he remains an officer of exemplary character and has shown himself in giving evidence to the tribunal as being a person of admirable fortitude.’
The overall purpose of his report, he says, is to ascertain how such a man became the subject of a level of calumny and gossip which most people would find shocking.”
Broadsheet: “And what conclusion does he reach on this issue?”
LCD: “Justice Charleton says that the rumours about McCabe arose for a number of reasons:-
(i) A culture of Garda gossip
According to Charleton:
‘…by a natural process, following the investigation conducted in consequence of the allegation of Ms D, about which the tribunal makes no comment and can make no finding one way or another, it was inevitable that local gardaí should hear about the matter and that talk should begin. , talk against him began to grow.
He came to be seen by a substantial minority of his fellow officers as a pariah and someone who was heedlessly causing trouble.
Consequently, rumours grew out from the garda community and reached political and journalistic circles. closed and self-loyal organisations are ones in which an attitude can take hold and can be very hard to displace.’
(ii) An accidental mistake by an employee of the Cavan counseling organisation, Rian
Again, according to Charleton:
“Within the counselling organisation, Rian in Cavan, a mistake was made in transcribing an account of Ms D by mixing that up with the account of a Ms Y. In the result, the complaint of Ms D about an alleged and brief fully clothed encounter became a complaint of vaginal and digital anal penetration: a rape offence.
Yet, the transcription error turning the fully clothed alleged encounter, which the Director of Public Prosecutions had described as not disclosing an offence, became a rape allegation through a mistake…..
This must be one of the most unlikely coincidences ever to be accepted by any judicial tribunal. Yet, coincidence it was. All of the witnesses were honest. The computer analysis checks out absolutely correctly.
So do the paper files. When the mistake was discovered nearly a year later in 2014 when Maurice McCabe was even better known, the person who made it did all she could to rectify it.”
(iii) The perpetuation by the Cavan/Monaghan branch of TULSA of this mistake rather than rectifying it. (More here)
(iv) Failures on the part of the Northern Region Gardai to correct the error when they became aware of it
In addition to the failures of Tulsa, the Northern Region Gardai also played a role in perpetuating the erroneous Rian report.According to Charleton, this inaccurate report
‘…was sent to the assistant commissioner of the Northern Region. Garda Headquarters was immediately informed of the false report as if it had been true. When the report to the Northern Region was explicitly corrected and the error explained, the incorrect report to Garda Headquarters was never uncorrected.’
(v). RTÉ’s inaccurate reporting of the O’Higgins Commission Report
Sergeant McCabe’s position was further worsened by the fact that RTÉ, in its broadcasts of the 9th May 2016, wrongly implied that the O’Higgins Commission had been critical of him.
In fact, according to Charleton, RTÉ had completely misunderstood the message of Mr Justice O’Higgins, which was that the Gardai were to wake up and actually start doing its job properly.
(vi) A deliberate campaign to damage McCabe on the part of Dave Taylor and Martin Callinan
The Report is particularly critical of Superintendent David Taylor, describing him as”
“…a witness whose credibility was completely undermined by his own bitterness and by the untruthful nature of his affidavit in the judicial review proceedings that he intended to commence before the High Court, and while his motivation in bringing forward this allegation was to stop or undermine a criminal investigation rightly being taken against him.”
It does, however, conclude that Superintendent Taylor was right about one thing:
“[t]here was a campaign of calumny against Maurice McCabe. He himself was, along with Commissioner Callinan, the prime mover… Superintendent David Taylor completely understated his own involvement in a campaign of calumny against Maurice McCabe.
He claimed, for the first time, while giving evidence to the tribunal that he was acting under orders. That was not the case. The tribunal is convinced that he pursued a scheme that somehow evolved out of his cheek-by-jowl working relationship with Commissioner Callinan.
Their plan was that there was to be much nodding and winking and references to a historic claim of sexual abuse while, at the same time, saying that the Director of Public Prosecutions had ruled that even if the central allegation did not have credibility issues, what was described did not amount to an offence of sexual assault or even an assault.
Debbie McCann and Eavan Murray, were… like Cathal McMahon, another journalist nominated by Superintendent David Taylor in the dying days of evidence before the tribunal, encouraged to seek out Ms D and to publish a negative story about Maurice McCabe in relation to her allegation…. committed journalists who were looking for news [they] were very unfortunate to have come within the orbit of Superintendent David Taylor.
Commissioner Martin Callinan… personally felt the need to supplement [these] efforts of his press officer… by speaking to two Teachtaí Dála, Deputy John McGuinness and Deputy John Deasy, an to the Comptroller and Auditor General, Séamus McCarthy, in the most derogatory way about Maurice McCabe.”
Broadsheet: “Heavy stuff. A comprehensive and hard-hitting Report then so?”
LCD: “Not exactly. Although the conclusions of fact regarding Commissioner Callinan are the most striking feature of the Report, Charleton in no way subjects the Commissioner to the same level of criticism and exoriation as he does Superintendent Taylor.
Instead of focusing, as one might expect, on the deplorable behavior of the head of the Force, Charleton’s conclusions and recommendations at the end of the Report feature numerous matters unrelated to the issues under inquiry.
These include Garda failure to publicly direct traffic and the good character of Leslie Price de Barra, a veteran of the 1916 Rising.
Broadsheet: (coughing) “I beg your pardon?”
LCD: “German, 17th century philosopher.”
Broadsheet: “Ah. I thought you said….”
LCD: “AND he also quoted from an article he himself had written in the Irish Journal of Legal Studies (Vol 1 2010).”
Broadsheet: (slackens jaw)
LCD: “Choosing to opine on matters of history, philosophy and traffic control outside the remit of the inquiry, while entertaining, has the unfortunate effect of downplaying and soft-pedaling the findings regarding Commissioner Callinan and, in so doing, itself commits a further injustice to Sergeant McCabe.”
Broadsheet: “Any more soft pedaling?”
LCD: “It is also present in the Report’s attitude to subsequent Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan. Charleton takes the view that she was not involved in a campaign to smear Maurice McCabe, regarding Dave Taylor’s allegations against her as motivated by malice. However he does indicate that in some respects he doesn’t believe O’Sullivan’s evidence:-
“She reached out to Maurice McCabe and attempted to solve the workplace-related issues which surrounded him.
These efforts were successful at first, but were undermined by what she felt was the necessity to test where he was coming from in the very serious allegations of corruption that he was making before the O’Higgins Commission.
Her decision in that regard involved talking at length to officials in the Department of Justice and Equality. She is likely to have remembered that, contrary to her evidence, because she realised what was at stake.
It is also improbable that she did not have an inkling at the very least about Commissioner Callinan’s views. At the very least,
it was more than improbable that nothing emerged in the car journey with him back to Garda Headquarters from the meeting of the Public Accounts Committee on 23 January 2014.
It was disappointing to hear her evidence on this.”
LCD: “Effectively, what this is saying is that Noirin O’Sullivan, while not implicated in the smear of McCabe, was not truthful in her evidence – an extremely serious conclusion with regard to a former Garda Commissioner, and something which surely merits more than just ‘disappointment’.”
Broadsheet: “I’m sure Mr.Kant would have something stronger to say on the subject.”
LCD: (drains coffee)
Broadsheet: “Were he still with us, bless his mind. Thank you Legal Coffee Drinker for that comprehensive and illuminating yet depressing round-up. You are never a disappointment to us.”
Earlier: Justice Charleton On…