Wednesday 16 January 2019

Callinan said garda whistleblower 'fiddles with kids', claims TD

Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. Photo: Tom Burke
Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. Photo: Tom Burke
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan described two Garda whistleblowers as "f***ing headbangers" and said one of them "fiddles with kids", the Disclosures Tribunal has heard.

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness alleged Mr Callinan made the "headbangers" comment about former garda John Wilson and Sgt Maurice McCabe after a meeting of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on January 23, 2014.

He said he believed the second remark was a reference to Sgt McCabe, about whom false allegations had been circulating in Leinster House.

Mr Callinan denies the TD's account of what was said.

Mr McGuinness, then-chairman of the PAC, went to shake hands with Mr Callinan following the meeting, which examined the controversy over the abuse of the penalty points system. During that meeting, Mr Callinan made his now infamous "disgusting" remark in relation to the activities of the two whistleblowers.

The TD said that as he arrived over to Mr Callinan, the then commissioner was in a loose group of people that included his eventual successor Nóirín O'Sullivan and former Garda press officer Supt Dave Taylor. The story related to an incident on Grafton Street, Dublin, involving horses in 1983, which Mr Wilson had responded to when he was a garda. Mr McGuinness alleged Mr Callinan said Mr Wilson pulled a "knacker off the horse".

Maurice McCabe. Photo: Leah Farrell/
Maurice McCabe. Photo: Leah Farrell/

"He confiscated the horse, mounted the horse and rode it back to the barracks where he tied it to the railings. And the other fella fiddles with kids. And that is the type of f***ing headbangers I'm dealing with," Mr Callinan is alleged to have said.

Mr McGuinness agreed with tribunal counsel Pat Marrinan SC that he had felt "outraged" by the remarks.

Michael O'Higgins SC, counsel for Supt Taylor, said his client had heard the "kiddie fiddler" comment.

Mr McGuinness said he was "deeply troubled" by what he heard.

John McGuinness TD at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
John McGuinness TD at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

At the time, the PAC was considering whether to take evidence from Sgt McCabe on penalty points abuses, something it did during a private session, despite opposition from Mr Callinan.

Mr Marrinan said Mr Callinan had a different account of what was said and read a statement from the former commissioner. "I do recall that I inquired from Mr McGuinness as to whether former garda John Wilson would be called to give evidence. Mr McGuinness responded: 'You must be joking. Sure he's a f***ing header'," Mr Callinan's statement said.

Mr McGuinness said Mr Callinan's account was "untrue" and that he had the greatest of respect for Mr Wilson.

The tribunal heard that the day after the PAC hearing Mr McGuinness met Mr Callinan in the car park of a Dublin hotel at the commissioner's request.

"He [Mr Callinan] suggested he [Sgt McCabe] had sexually abused family and an individual, that he was not to be trusted and I had made a grievous error in relation to the Public Accounts Committee hearing because of this and would find myself in serious trouble," said Mr McGuinness.

Despite what Mr Callinan had told him, the TD said he "made a judgment call" that the PAC should not be deterred from hearing from Sgt McCabe.

In his statement, the former commissioner said much of the discussion in the car park related to concerns he had about data protection issues, arising from Garda documents given to the committee. Mr Callinan also alleged that it was Mr McGuinness and not him who had raised the issue of allegations against Sgt McCabe.

"I didn't at any point, as alleged, seek to discredit Sgt McCabe or undermine the workings of the Public Accounts Committee," Mr Callinan said.

But Mr McGuinness rejected Mr Callinan's version of events.

"The account that I have given to the tribunal, Mr Chairman, is absolutely true," the TD said.

Irish Independent

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