Tuesday 22 May 2018

Callinan 'said Garda whistleblowers were headbangers and one fiddles with kids', TD claims

Martin Callinan (Niall Carson/PA)
Martin Callinan (Niall Carson/PA)
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan described two Garda whistleblowers as "f****** headbangers" and said that 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 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.

The tribunal has heard Mr Callinan denies the TD’s account of events.

Mr McGuinness was chairman of the committee and went to shake hands with Mr Callinan following what had been a lengthy meeting where the issue of the abuse of the fixed charge penalty notice system was to the fore.

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 and was in the middle of a story. He recalled Mr Callinan’s successor Noirín O’Sullivan and former Garda press officer Supt Dave Taylor were there, but there could have been others.

The story related to an incident on Grafton Street in Dublin involving horses, which Mr Wilson had responded to when he was a garda.

The tribunal heard how, in a statement, Mr McGuinness alleged Mr Callinan said Mr Wilson “pulled the k*****r off the horse”.

“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****** headbangers I’m dealing with,” Mr Callinan is alleged to have said.

Mr McGuinness agreed with Pat Marrinan, Senior Counsel for the Tribunal, that he had felt “outraged” by the remarks.

He said he didn’t partake in the conversation and “just moved on”.

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

Asked if he believed the remarks were intended for his ears, Mr McGuinness said: “It was obvious to me it was being told to me”.

He added: “I believe the telling of the event and the circumstances around the event was recounted for my benefit.”

The tribunal heard that at the time the committee was considering whether to take evidence from Sgt McCabe on penalty points abuses, something it ultimately did during a private session.

Mr Callinan had been strongly opposed to Sgt McCabe giving evidence.

“I was deeply upset over what I was hearing. And deeply troubled by the fact that so many in high places were trying to stop that hearing from going ahead,” said Mr McGuinness.

The TD said it was “a disgusting remark to make”.

As far as he was concerned, he was going about the work of the committee in an honest way and he did not discuss Mr Callinan’s remarks with other committee members.

Mr Marrinan said Mr Callinan had a different account of what was said after the hearing and read from statement the former commissioner has given to the tribunal.

“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 fucking header’,” Mr Callinan’s statement said.

“This took me by surprise in circumstances where Mr McGuinness had been scathing in his criticism of An Garda Síochána for the manner in which whistleblowers are treated,” the statement said.

Mr McGuinness said Mr Callinan’s account was “untrue”.

“I have the greatest of respect for John Wilson,” Mr McGuinness said.

The tribunal heard that the day after the committee meeting, January 24, 2014, Mr McGuinness received a missed call from the commissioner.

He rang him back and the commissioner said he wanted to meet him.

“This contact was unusual as he had never contacted me in such a fashion before,” said Mr McGuinness.

They arranged to meet at Bewley’s Hotel at Newlands Cross on the outskirts of Dublin.

Asked by Mr Marrinan why he agreed to the meeting, Mr McGuinness said: “When you get a call from the Garda Commissioner, you are not inclined to say ‘no’.”

Mr McGuinness thought they were going to meet in the hotel, but when he arrived in the car park, Mr Callinan got into the front passenger seat of the TD’s car.

He said he suggested to the commissioner that like any employer the best thing to do was to talk directly with Sgt McCabe and deal with issues in that way.

But, he said, Mr Callinan told him that, at that stage, things had “gone beyond that”.

“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.

The TD said Mr Callinan told him there was “a file there and there would be action taken”.

Mr McGuinness said the commissioner led him to believe there was an investigation ongoing into allegations and this was at an advanced stage.

This led the TD to assume Sgt McCabe would “be charged with something or other”.

After the meeting in the car park, Mr McGuinness said he was “troubled”, with lots of questions running though his mind.

He considered whether questions would be raised over his insistence on dealing with the fixed charge penalty notice issue and whether the committee would be brought into disrepute.

He did not discuss what was said with other members of the committee, but did mention it to his party leader Michéal Martin at a later stage.

Mr McGuinness said he resolved that the committee should not be put off from hearing from Sgt McCabe.

“I had to make a judgment call and I am glad that I did,” he said.

“I ignored to some degree the information Commissioner Callinan related to me.”

The tribunal heard Mr Callinan has denied making the remarks attributed to him by the TD.

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.

Asked if he recalled this, Mr McGuinness said: “No.”

The TD said all of the data protection matters had been dealt with in correspondence between the commissioner and the committee prior to the meeting in the car park.

In his statement, Mr Callinan went on to allege that it was Mr McGuinness and not he who had raised the issue of allegations against Sgt McCabe.

The former commissioner claimed Mr McGuinness asked him if a file had been sent to the DPP.

“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 in his statement.

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.

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News