Tuesday 18 December 2018

McDonald hits out over state funding of Callinan legal fees

The Sinn Fein leader said ‘not one red cent’ of state money should be spent defending Martin Callinan in a case being taken by a Garda whistleblower.

Mary Lou McDonald said said ‘not one red cent’ of state money should be spent defending Martin Callinan (Niall Carson/PA)
Mary Lou McDonald said said ‘not one red cent’ of state money should be spent defending Martin Callinan (Niall Carson/PA)

By Michelle Devane, Press Association  

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald has called on the Government to ensure that taxpayers do not end up footing the legal costs of a former Garda commissioner implicated in a damning report on corruption in the force.

Ms McDonald said “not one red cent” of state money should be spent defending Martin Callinan in a case being taken by Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Mr McCabe, a former Garda sergeant who retired from the force last month after being vindicated in an investigation, has initiated a civil case against the state and his former boss.

“It has emerged in recent days that it is in fact the state who will pay Mr Callinan’s legal fees, the state, with taxpayers’ money,” Ms McDonald told the Dail.

“This is outrageous,” she said.

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Martin Callinan (Niall Carson/PA)

“Martin Callinan is a man who went around telling people falsely and without any foundation that Maurice McCabe was a child sex abuser who should not be trusted.”

As a former state employee, Mr Callinan is being represented by the state.

The Disclosures Tribunal, which was published last month, found Mr Callinan was part of a “campaign of calumny” against Mr McCabe, aided by his former press officer, Superintendent David Taylor.

Mr McCabe, who faced unfounded and false allegations of a sexual assault, was praised in the report by Mr Justice Peter Charleton.

In an interview, which aired on RTE on Monday night, Mr McCabe said if he had known at the outset the abuse he would suffer for lifting the lid on corruption in the Garda he “would never have done it”.

He said it had changed his family life “completely”.

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Maurice McCabe (Niall Carson/PA)

Ms McDonald said on Tuesday: “For daring to speak out and for putting his head above the parapet, Maurice was smeared and he was bullied by fellow members of An Garda Siochana.

“He was the subject of the most despicable type of character assassination imaginable.”

Ms McDonald said it was “simply not acceptable” that the state represent Mr Callinan.

“Setting out to destroy Maurice McCabe was his (Mr Callinan’s) doing and he should face the consequences of his action,” she said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the decision to offer state representation to Mr Callinan had been made in July, prior to the publication of the Charleton report.

He said that position was now being reviewed.

Mr Varadkar said the fact that the state was providing legal representation to the former commissioner did not mean the state would pay for the defence or that there would be a defence.

“I would like to see this case settled and I hope it can be settled to the satisfaction of Maurice McCabe and Lorraine sooner rather than later,” he said.

Mr Varadkar added that he had asked the Attorney General to examine whether Mr Callinan or Mr Taylor could be pursued for a contribution to any damages that may be paid.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan also told the Dail that the next step was to move towards the case being settled.

Mr Flanagan said he met Mr McCabe and his wife Lorraine recently to apologise again on behalf of the state.

“I also said to him that I fully accepted the findings of the tribunal so the next step now is to proceed in conjunction with the legal advisers and the attorney general towards a settlement of the actions,” he said.

Labour party leader Brendan Howlin said people were “frustrated at the idea” that taxpayers’ money would be used in such a way.

Press Association

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