From top: RTÉ’s Crime Correspondent Paul Reynolds covering the Jastine Valdez search in May; with Ray Burke, RTÉ producer; leaving the tribunal last week
Paul Reynolds has been employed by RTÉ for the past 27 years and has been the State broadcaster’s crime correspondent since Veronica Guerin’s death in 1996.
He gave evidence to the Disclosures Tribunal over three days last week.
The tribunal is examining allegations by the former head of the Garda Press Office Supt Dave Taylor that he was instructed, in mid-2013, by the former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan – with the knowledge of Mr Callinan’s successor Nóirín O’Sullivan – to convey to journalists that Sgt McCabe was driven by maliciousness and motivated by revenge due to an allegation of sexual assault made against him in 2006.
This was the allegation made by a Ms D – the daughter of a former Garda colleague of Sgt McCabe who was sanctioned after Sgt McCabe made a complaint on foot of the colleague attending the scene of a suicide after drinking alcohol.
In April 2007, the DPP found Ms D’s allegation had no foundation.
Supt Taylor alleges that he was instructed to tell journalists about this allegation and to tell them that the DPP ruled against a prosecution, but that he was to convey that it was the “root cause” of Sgt McCabe’s complaints about malpractice within An Garda Siochana.
Following on from this, the reasons Mr Reynolds was giving evidence to the tribunal were three-fold:
– The former head of the Garda Press Office Supt Dave Taylor claims Mr Reynolds is one of the 11 journalists he claims to have negatively briefed against Sgt McCabe in 2013/2014. Mr Reynolds denies this.
– Dublin City University professor and journalist Colm Kenny claims Mr Reynolds was one of two security correspondents – the other being Tom Brady, of the Irish Independent – who told him in early 2014 that Sgt McCabe was being investigated for child abuse at the time. Mr Reynolds also denies this and the tribunal has heard Mr Brady denies the allegation too.
– The tribunal was tasked with looking at reports by Mr Reynolds on a leaked report of the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation on May 9, 2016 – ahead of the report’s official publication – in which he reported Sgt McCabe “lied”. The report said Sgt McCabe told an “untruth”.
In relation to the allegation that Supt Taylor briefed Mr Reynolds about Sgt McCabe, Supt Taylor claimed he would have done this at crime scenes or press conferences.
Mr Reynolds – who said he became aware of a child sex abuse allegation against Sgt McCabe in 2013 in the context of the penalty points controversy – gave a lengthy, and somewhat breathless, account as to why this would never happen.
“Well, that didn’t happen. And anybody who knows how reporters work in the field, knows that that, you know, couldn’t happen the way it is explained there. If I can give you an example, Chairman.
“For example, I go to a lot of murder scenes. They’re busy places. I arrive with a camera crew or a satellite van. I get at the scene. I have to find out what is going on, what happened, what are the details. I’m moving around, I’m trying to identify if there are any eyewitnesss. I’m trying to — we’re trying to, you know, for everything, to try and find parking for the satellite van and trying to find location for a live view.
“You’re trying to find out what happened, who the victim is, what the situation is, what the circumstances are. You’re waiting for the guards to arrive, you’re waiting for, is there going to be a press briefing, there may be a press briefing and whether it’s at the scene or whether it’s at the Garda station, and the senior officer will arrive and that is usually when the press officer will arrive.
“So the press officer will be in the company of the senior investigating officer. But when Dave Taylor was the Press Officer, more often than not he would do it himself. I would be just one of a number of journalists there. There’s a thing called the huddle, where the microphones are set up, we’re in a group, and in many cases I tend to be asking all the questions because I have responsibility both to television and radio, so we tend to try and put an elongated interview on the radio, and you’re asking questions about the murder and the circumstances, you’re getting as much information as you can so you can broadcast it.
“Once you have that information, you’re gone to the satellite van, you’re trying to get the stuff together. The idea that someone would come in, or, you know, that a press officer would sidle over to you and — in the middle of a particular story and try and talk to you about something completely innocuous, completely different, you know, it doesn’t make sense, really, and it’s not — it wouldn’t happen.
“And how was I separated, you know, the goat, how was I separated from the sheep within the huddle, that we’re all there, we’re all trying to work on this story, so how was I separated
for this particular negative briefing, how were journalists separated, how were other journalists not separated? It just doesn’t make sense to me. I can’t see how it is possible.”
Supt Taylor’s counsel John Ferry BL later put it to Mr Reynolds that he is the “newsman in this country” and suggested it was “completely unrealistic” that he would learn about the past allegation against Sgt McCabe and simply dismiss it.
Mr Ferry said:
“So you have a situation where the journalist that is normally in front of Garda Headquarters, normally in front of the Department of Justice or normally standing in front of a murder scene tent on the six o’clock news, he is told that the actual sergeant who is raising the penalty points issue that the Garda Commissioner is held answerable to has been accused of child sexual abuse in the past… and the journalist says that is the end, no further inquiries?”
“It’s a bit like, I don’t know if you ever saw the Naked Gun movies and Lieutenant Drebin is standing in front of the fireworks factory that has just gone on fire and he is giving a press conference to the media and saying move along folks, nothing to see here while the entire fireworks factory is exploding in the sky behind them.”
Mr Reynolds, after saying he knew Sgt McCabe had been exonerated, told Mr Ferry he should work in television.
In relation to Mr Kenny’s claim, Mr Reynolds said this conversation never took place.
When giving evidence Mr Kenny told the tribunal that in early 2014, two security correspondents – whom he didn’t name but whose names he gave to the tribunal – told him Sgt McCabe was being investigated for child sex abuse.
He didn’t appear to be sure of the date during which this alleged conversation took place.
But he said he felt the two journalists were telling him to “cop himself on” and to “not take Sgt McCabe at face value”.
He also said they encouraged him to go and talk to gardai “up there” – which Mr Kenny took to mean gardai in Cavan/Monaghan.
Mr Kenny said they didn’t name any specific people with whom he should discuss the matter.
Mr Kenny said he subsequently went to Sgt McCabe and learned of the DPP’s directions.
He mentioned Sgt McCabe and the DPP’s directions in an article on March 2, 2014 in the Sunday Independent – almost a week before the Irish Independent’s Paul Williams, who was the only journalist to write an article about Ms D in 2014, interviewed Ms D on March 8, 2014. [Mr Williams has since told the tribunal that he doesn’t believe he saw Mr Kenny’s article at the time].
Mr Kenny said the two journalists – whom he said he took very seriously – definitely did not indicate that the child sex abuse allegation was something from the past which had been dismissed by the DPP.
Mr Reynolds categorically denied Mr Kenny’s claim and the tribunal has heard Mr Brady also disputes the claim.
It was put to Mr Reynolds that Mr Kenny believed the conversation may have taken place sometime around a Dáil committee meeting in February 2014 and, in particular, one on February 19, 2014.
Mr Reynolds said he wasn’t at that committee meeting that day, he wasn’t working that day and he was ill that afternoon.
Mr Reynolds told the tribunal:
“The conversation that he alleges didn’t happen…I never spoke to him about Sgt McCabe…The man is mistaken…For the last five years, Mr Kenny has been writing disparagingly and factually incorrectly about me.”
Separate to his reports on the leaked O’Higgins Commission of Investigation report in May 2016, Mr Reynolds was also asked about reports he did two years before that – on February 24, 2014 – in relation to the internal penalty points investigation by Asst Commissioner John O’Mahoney.
Apart from allegedly telling journalists about the Ms D allegation, Supt Taylor claims, in his protected disclosure, that he was also to convey to journalists that Sgt McCabe didn’t cooperate with an internal Garda investigation called Operation Squeeze into the quashing of penalty points led by Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahony – which began in October 2012 and reported in May 2013.
Specifically, Supt Taylor said:
“I was instructed by the Commissioner to brief the media that Sergeant McCabe had refused to cooperate with Assistant Commissioner O’Mahony. I later found out that this was untrue.”
[It should be noted that this was a claim made by celebrity solicitor Gerald Kean on RTE’s Marian Finucane Show on Sunday, January 26, 2014 – after Mr Callinan appeared before the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday, January 23, 2014, and before Sgt Maurice McCabe appeared before the same on Tuesday, January 28.
Mr Kean had received a briefing from Mr Callinan before the show and has told the tribunal that Mr Callinan instructed him not to reveal him [Callinan] as his source of information – a claim Mr Callinan denies.
In addition, Supt Taylor told the tribunal that the only journalist who pushed back at him in relation to this was Conor Lally, of The Irish Times and that Mr Lally told Supt Taylor he didn’t believe the claim.
When Mr Lally gave evidence, he initially said he couldn’t recall ever having such a conversation with Supt Taylor but then said: “I really can’t get into, for reasons of source protection I really can’t get into specific conversations that I had with individual Garda members.”
He then said: “I don’t remember any conversation with him about that issue, and I’m not sure that conversation took place, actually.”]
Mr Reynolds reported on the O’Mahony investigation on February 24, 2014 – about a month after the then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan made his “disgusting” remark at the Public Accounts Committee.
Mr Reynolds reported:
“The Garda Commissioner wrote to the whistleblower, Sergeant Maurice McCabe, 14 months ago and told him to cooperate with the investigation into allegations that penalty points had been cancelled.
“Martin Callinan issued a direction to the sergeant on the 14th December 2012 to cooperate with the investigation being carried out by the Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahony and directing him to bring any information or concerns he had to the inquiry.
“The Garda Síochána is a disciplined force and members are required to comply with directions issued by the Commissioner. It is understood that Sergeant McCabe may have been on sick leave for a number of months from December 2012 and did not contact the assistant commissioner until April 2013, by which time the investigation had been completed.”
Mr Reynolds explained to the the tribunal how he came to write this report.
His first report about the matter went on the RTE website at 14.28pm – after he got sight of a letter which was read out to Sgt McCabe in December 2014 by Chief Supt Mark Curran. This letter can be read here.
Mr Reynolds said he didn’t get it from Supt Taylor and that he got it from someone else.
Mr Reynolds said after this story went up online, he sought an on-the-record response from Garda Headquarters and Sgt McCabe.
He said, within about 90 minutes, he received an on-the-record response from Supt Taylor which stated that the then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan told Sgt McCabe to cooperate with the O’Mahony investigation.
Mr Reynolds then updated his story at around 4pm.
Later that day, Sgt McCabe gave a response to Katie Hannon of RTÉ’s Prime Time and Mr Reynolds said he then incorporated Sgt McCabe’s response into his reports later that evening and the following morning.
The tribunal saw that, a few days after Mr Reynolds’ report on the O’Mahony investigation, John Burke, of RTÉs This Week radio show, wrote to the Garda Press Office:
“In light of statements given in the Dáil during the week and the statement by Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe with regard to whether Sergeant McCabe cooperated with the O’Mahony inquiry into penalty points, can you please inform RTÉ’s This Week programme whether the Garda Commissioner wishes to add or amend any remarks he has put into the public domain or which have been attributed to him with regard to this matter.”
In response, Tony Connaughton, of the Garda Press Office, wrote back to Mr Burke saying:
“The Garda Commissioner wishes to confirm that he did not put any remarks into the public domain. Any comments that the Garda Commissioner wishes to put on the public record will be by way of official statement issued by the Garda Press Office or face-to-face
interviews quoting what the Garda Commissioner wishes to convey.
“The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission have been appointed to investigate this matter, and therefore it is inappropriate to comment.”
Mr Reynolds says he did a report for RTE based on an on-the-record statement from Garda HQ – via Supt Taylor – but Mr Callinan, via the Garda Press Office, later told a separate RTE reporter that he did not put any remarks into the public domain and that the matter was being investigated by GSOC.
Mr Reynolds told the tribunal he only saw Mr Burke’s email exchange while sitting in the witness box.
He also told the tribunal:
“Well, I mean, I spoke to the Garda Press Officer, I wrote up the story, it went on-line at four o’clock, there were no complaints from the Garda Press Officer, and I had spoken to him a number of times later on that evening and there were no complaints from the Garda Commissioner or the Garda Press Office in relation to the inaccuracy of the story.”
“I know I got an official statement from the Garda Press Office. I put it on the record and I attributed it…So if there was any problems with it, I would have heard.”
Kathleen Leader then had this exchange with Mr Reynolds:
Leader: “…what I am suggesting to you is, it would seem to be that at least Superintendent Taylor was making it clear to you, as I understand it, that Sergeant McCabe had not cooperated with the O’Mahony inquiry.”
Reynolds: “First of all, I was never briefed by Superintendent Taylor that Sergeant McCabe refused to cooperate.”
Reynolds: “I never reported that he refused to cooperate. I was given a statement from Garda Headquarters that said the Garda Commissioner said he didn’t cooperate.”
Reynolds: “And that is what I published.”
It should be noted that Asst Commissioner John O’Mahony – when he gave evidence on June 6 last – was shown Mr Reynolds’ report and said he was not Mr Reynolds’ source and never spoke to Mr Reynolds about it.
He also says that what Mr Reynolds reported “wouldn’t be my view either in relation to what
had actually happened”.
Asst Comm O’Mahony – when he gave his evidence – also made it known publicly for the first time that he purposefully didn’t engage with Sgt McCabe when he was carrying out his investigation as he felt “precluded” from doing so, due to regulations.
He also said Mr Callinan would “been aware of the process” he was undertaking.
Meanwhile, in regards to Mr Reynolds’ reports on the leaked O’Higgins Commission of Investigation report on May 9, 2016…
In Sgt McCabe’s protected disclosure of September 2016, Sgt McCabe said he was on work-related stress and:
“One of the reasons for this is to a disgraceful series of broadcasts on RTÉ on 9th May 2016 purporting to leak an account of the unpublished O’Higgins Commission report in which I was branded a liar and irresponsible.
“I am now satisfied on impeccable authority that those RTÉ broadcasts were planned and orchestrated by the Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan personally using briefing material prepared at Garda Headquarters.”
The tribunal has already heard that Sgt McCabe’s “impeccable authority” for this claim is John Barrett, the head of HR at An Garda Síochána. Sgt McCabe told the tribunal that Mr Barrett told Sgt McCabe and his wife Lorraine during a visit to their home.
But Mr Barrett, the tribunal has heard, says this conversation did not take place.
Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe, told the tribunal last Friday that Sgt McCabe would not be withdrawing the allegation. He said:
“Sergeant McCabe isn’t in a position to withdraw anything; he has faithfully reported to the Tribunal what he was told by Mr Barrett and it’s up to this Tribunal to ascertain whether his account of what Mr Barrett told him is correct or whether it’s not, but he is not withdrawing his testimony as to what he was told by Mr Barrett.”
Mr Barrett will resume giving evidence on this on Thursday.
Mr Reynolds, who told the tribunal he would have risen “through the ranks” with Ms O’Sullivan, said he only became aware of Sgt McCabe in 2013 due to the penalty point controversies that arose that year.
In December 2012, People Before Profit TD Joan Collins named Irish Independentjournalist Paul Williams as having had points quashed while, in April 2013, Gemma O’Doherty, in the Irish Independent, reported that points pertaining to the then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan had been quashed.
[The tribunal has repeatedly heard Sgt McCabe wasn’t the source of Ms O’Doherty’s story].
Mr Reynolds said, also in 2013 and in the context of the penalty points controversies, he became aware of a child sex abuse allegation which had been made in the past about Sgt McCabe.
Similar to other journalists – such as Conor Lally, of The Irish Times, Michael O’Toole, of the Irish Daily Star, and John Mooney, of The Sunday Times – Mr Reynolds said the matter never concerned him because of his knowledge of the DPP’s directions in relation to it.
“I think I first heard that there had been an allegation some time around 2013, but I heard it all together, if you know what I mean, I heard there had been an allegation but that there was nothing to do it, and then I heard four facts in relation to it: I heard the fact that there was an allegation, I heard the fact that there was an investigation, I heard the fact that a file had been sent to the DPP and I heard the fact that there was no prosecution. And that’s it…once I heard that the DPP had decided there was no prosecution, it was… as far as I was concerned, it was nothing to do with me as a reporter.”
In his statement to the tribunal, Mr Reynolds said: “I do know that the allegation was circulating for a time in media, Garda and political circles.”
He also told the tribunal:
“I knew politicians knew about it, I knew journalists knew about it, I knew Gardaí knew about it, but I also knew myself about it and I knew there was nothing in it.”
Mr Reynolds was asked if he ever thought that when he heard about the allegation, did he feel it was being linked to Sgt McCabe’s motivation for making complaints about poor policing in Cavan/Monaghan.
Mr Reynolds was categorical that this wasn’t the case.
“No, I’ve never heard that, and that didn’t make sense to me…Because he was exonerated.”
And yet, reference to the Ms D allegation came up twice in notes that Mr Reynolds took in April and May of 2016 – ahead of his reports on his leaked copies of the O’Higgins report.
Mr Reynolds referred to his notes as “bits and bobs”, he said some things he jotted down were his own reflections while others were notes of conversations he had with others.
In his April notes, Mr Reynolds wrote down:
Sgt in charge
– Complain against him
– Investigation locally (mistake)
(Wrong) – Supt Clancy
Mr Reynolds said that this note was born out of a conversation he had with a person who was talking to him about the 2006 Ms D allegation.
“The person I was talking to told me that the — in the — the allegation in 2006 was investigated locally and that was a mistake, it shouldn’t have been investigated by the local inspector. It was kept in that division, it should have been — an officer from outside the district or the division should have been appointed to look after that. That was what the person told me.”
When asked by Kathleen Leader what the D allegation had to do with the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation, Mr Reynolds said:
“Well, nothing really, yeah. This is the sort of thing that comes up in conversation, when you are talking about policing in Bailieboro, the problems of the division, you know, and it would have been a conversation like that, you know, that would have been wide-ranging, where I would have heard, first of all, about — the allegation would have come up and somebody would have said, oh, there was a complaint made in 2006 but sure there was nothing in it. And I’d say, oh, what do you mean a complaint? Well, there was a complaint made, it was abuse of a minor, it was investigated, there was a file sent to the DPP and there was no prosecution. Oh, right, okay.”
Asked if he believed this information was being relayed to him by means of explaining Sgt McCabe’s complaints thereafter, Mr Reynolds said:
“No I don’t believe so.”
Asked if that information came from Ms O’Sullivan, Mr Reynolds said: No.
Ms Leader later referred to the second time the Ms D allegation cropped up in his notes -this time in May 2016.
The note said:
“Initial complaint, 2 [guards] working in the same station. Boss down the corridor asked to investigate it.”
Again, Ms Leader asked Mr Reynolds what the Ms D allegation had to do with the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation.
Mr Reynolds said:
“I don’t know where it came from. It could have come from a conversation.“
Mr Reynolds repeated that he never believed that the Ms D allegation was the source of Sgt McCabe’s complaints.
He then had this exchange with Ms Leader:
Leader: “Why did you think you were being told about it?”
Reynolds: “I didn’t think about that.”
Leader: “You’re a journalist; surely, Mr Reynolds, you would put — ask a question, why am I being told about this?”
Reynolds: “No, well, you see, I already knew at that stage that there was no prosecution.”
Leader: “Well, that is exactly the point.”
Leader: “So why are you being told about it? Did you ever ask yourself that?”
Tomorrow we will publish a comprehensive report on Mr Reynolds’s RTE reports of May 9, 2014.
The tribunal resumes on Thursday.
Yesterday: A New Disclosure