Monday 20 May 2019

Claims of campaign to smear McCabe are 'fictional', lawyer says

Stock photo
Stock photo
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A Garda superintendent's claims of an orchestrated smear campaign against penalty points whistleblower Maurice McCabe were "essentially a work of fiction" and "untrue", a lawyer has claimed.

Shane Murphy SC, for An Garda Síochána, made his allegations about the force's former press officer Supt Dave Taylor during his closing legal submissions to Disclosures Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton.

The public inquiry has been examining claims by Supt Taylor that he was directed in 2013 by then commissioner Martin Callinan to negatively brief journalists that Sgt McCabe had been the subject of a sexual assault investigation.

He claims he was instructed to emphasise that although cleared of the allegation, Sgt McCabe was motivated by spite and ill will over having been investigated when he raised his concerns about malpractice in the force.

Supt Taylor further alleges that the briefings took place with the knowledge of then deputy commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan.

The allegations are denied by Mr Callinan and Ms O'Sullivan and have not been corroborated by any of the 12 journalists Supt Taylor claims to have briefed.

Mr Murphy said, based on the evidence, one would be forced to conclude the briefings did not happen. He also said it would be "unsafe" to rely on the superintendent's evidence, which he described and "vague" and "lacking in any detail".

"All of the available evidence contradicts rather than supports his allegation of negatively briefing the media," he said.

The evidence suggested that if there was a smear campaign, it was "extremely unsuccessful", Mr Murphy argued. There had been hundreds of media reports about Sgt McCabe, the majority of which had been positive.

"There is no sign of a chilling effect operating in the media," said Mr Murphy.

The barrister suggested the motive for what he described as "deception" on the part of Supt Taylor was his bitterness towards Ms O'Sullivan at having been moved out of the Garda press office in 2014 and his subsequent arrest as part of an inquiry into the leaking of information to journalists.

Mr Murphy suggested Mr Callinan had been included in the allegation to give it more credibility.

Michael O'Higgins SC, for Supt Taylor, said while there were "shortcomings" in his evidence, it was "capable of being believed".

Mr O'Higgins said that if his client was a fantasist or someone who liked to throw a spanner in the works, then he was a very lucky fantasist and a very lucky spanner thrower.

This, he said, was because the tribunal had heard that Mr Callinan, was "very active" in maligning Sgt McCabe.

This was a reference to evidence from TDs John McGuinness and John Deasy, Comptroller & Auditor General Seamus McCarthy, and RTÉ journalist Philip Boucher Hayes, who all say Mr Callinan made derogatory and untrue remarks about Sgt McCabe in late 2013 and early 2014.

Irish Independent

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