Sunday 21 October 2018

Callinan denies Garda force 'closed ranks' on whistleblower Maurice McCabe

Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan at the Disclosures Tribunal at Dublin Castle
Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan at the Disclosures Tribunal at Dublin Castle
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan has denied that the general reaction of the force was "to close ranks" on penalty points whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

During robust questioning at the Disclosures Tribunal, Mr Callinan insisted he had “no problem” with Sgt McCabe making any complaints.

However, Sgt McCabe’s counsel, Michael McDowell SC, put it to him that the reality was “quite different”.

Mr McDowell pointed to a 2011 letter from Chief Supt Colm Rooney circulated within the Cavan/Monaghan Garda division.

This related to the findings of the Byrne-McGinn inquiry, an internal garda investigation into a variety of concerns raised by Sgt McCabe about policing matters.

The circular claimed the inquiry had vindicated standards and professionalism in the Bailieborough garda district.

Last February, Chief Supt Rooney, now retired, apologised and said that in light of the findings of the O'Higgins commission and a scoping inquiry by Sean Guerin SC, he now believed the views expressed in the circular were inappropriate.

Today, Mr Callinan agreed it was a “foolish” letter.

Mr McDowell said as a result of the notice being circulated Sgt McCabe “was left vilified in this way as a crank” and pointed out that it took seven years and the advent of the tribunal for Sgt McCabe to receive an apology.

The barrister put it to Mr Callinan that he was aware of the circular and, when a complaint was made to his office by Sgt McCabe’s solicitor Sean Costello, that he had deputed then deputy commissioner Nacie Rice to defend it.

Mr Callinan said he could not recall giving any direction to Mr Rice and assumed this may have occurred when he was away from the office.

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton observed that the point Mr McDowell was making was that Sgt McCabe was "bullied" through this circular and that people were laughing at him behind his back.

Mr Callinan said: “The reality is this man was making complaints against his colleagues, so of course there would be tension and bad feeling.”

Mr McDowell said that far from being someone who was supportive of Sgt McCabe, Mr Callinan had never once attempted to speak to him.

Mr Callinan said An Garda Síochána was a structured organisation and there had been a number of people dealing with Sgt McCabe.

He said that if at any stage Sgt McCabe or his solicitors had sought a meeting, he would have agreed.

Mr McDowell put it to him that the general reaction of An Garda Síochána was to close ranks against Sgt McCabe.

“As far as I am concerned that is not the case,” responded Mr Callinan.

Mr McDowell then put to Mr Callinan that he had spoken in seriously disparaging terms about Sgt McCabe on January 23, 2014 to Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness, Fine Gael TD John Deasy and Comptroller & Auditor General Seamus McCarthy.

Mr Callinan is disputing their accounts of the conversations, which took place before and after a meeting of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee.

“I am here to tell the truth. As far as I am concerned I have told the truth. Certain issues have been misinterpreted by those parties,” he said.

The tribunal has previously heard Mr McGuinness alleges Mr Callinan said Sgt McCabe was not to be trusted and had abused his own children and nieces.

Mr McDowell said Mr Callinan was inviting the tribunal to reject Mr McGuinness’s evidence as a completely malicious invention.

Responding, Mr Callinan said Mr McGuinness had made “crazy and very, very serious allegations” against him.

“I absolutely refute them. They did not happen. I did not say those things about Sgt McCabe or anyone else,” he said.

Mr Callinan also said he found it “disconcerting” that Mr McGuinness had discussed matters with Sgt McCabe and former Garda press officer Supt Dave Taylor.

Supt Taylor made a protected disclosure alleging Mr Callinan ordered him to negatively brief journalists about Sgt McCabe.

"It is the case that Mr McGuinness has met some of the key witnesses at this tribunal, and I don't know what influence that has had,” her said.

Asked if he was suggesting Sgt McCabe "put Mr McGuinness up to telling lies about you", Mr Callinan said he was not making that suggestion.

Mr Deasy has previously given evidence that Mr Callinan told him Sgt McCabe “was not to be believed or trusted with anything”.

Mr Callinan said today that Mr Deasy had not backed up his account “with any great facts”.

The tribunal has also previously heard how Mr McCarthy alleged Mr Callinan told him Sgt McCabe was not to be trusted, that he had questions to answer, and that there were allegation of sexual offences against him.

In relation to these claims, Mr Callinan said: “I do think there was a misunderstanding of sorts in the context of what Mr McCarthy alleges I said.”

Mr Callinan said it was “a possibility” Supt Taylor, gave a negative briefing about Sgt McCabe to RTÉ presenter Philip Boucher-Hayes.

The tribunal has previously heard Mr Boucher-Hayes has supplied a statement saying Mr Callinan told him in a corridor off the set of the Crimecall programme in December 2013 that Sgt McCabe had “a lot of psychiatric and psychological problems” and was “motivated by a set of grievances against Garda management”.

The presenter also claims Mr Callinan said he could tell him “horrific things, the worst kind of thing” about Sgt McCabe.

Mr Callinan denied making the remarks and suggested that if he had, Mr Boucher-Hayes, would have quizzed him further.

“I couldn’t see how an experienced journalist would let me off the hook without asking me to qualify it,” he said.

Mr Callinan accepted Mr Boucher-Hayes was a respected journalist and said he was not suggesting the presenter had invented the comments.

Asked by Mr McDowell if he was advancing the possibility that these things were actually said to the presenter by Supt Taylor, Mr Callinan replied: “That is a possibility chairman, yes.”

He later said that it was not a possibility he was advancing to the tribunal.

Mr Callinan said he never issued any instruction to Supt Taylor to brief journalists negatively about Sgt McCabe.

He said he had no knowledge of any such campaign.

Earlier, Mr Callinan said he had not been hostile towards former Road Safety Authority chief executive Noel Brett after he passed on Sgt McCabe’s penalty points dossier to the C&AG and the Garda Ombudsman.

The tribunal has previous heard how in 2012 Mr Brett was contacted by Conor Faughnan of the AA about penalty-points abuses.

Mr Brett subsequently met Sgt McCabe and passed on a dossier to the C&AG and the ombudsman.

The former RSA boss said he felt there was "a certain amount of hostility" towards him after he passed on the dossier and he gave evidence that Mr Callinan engaged in a heated exchange with him about a separate issue at a meeting soon afterwards.

The meeting became so heated that Mr Brett and then RSA chairman Gay Byrne left. Mr Brett told the tribunal Mr Callinan later apologised.

Under questioning from Mr McDowell, Mr Callinan said he certainly did ring Mr Brett afterwards as he had been “hearing all sorts of rumours back of a big dust up”.

Mr Callinan said he didn’t think the conversation was as bad as it had been expressed.

Asked about Mr Brett’s claim that he sensed hostility, Mr Callinan said: “Certainly not from me. I believe he took the correct course of action.”

Mr Callinan described Mr Brett as a having been “a very committed member of the Road Safety Authority” and said they were both “on the same side” in relation to road safety issues.

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