Monday 16 September 2019

Disclosures Tribunal: Alan Shatter says Martin Callinan told him of 'sexual allegation' against Maurice McCabe

The former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter pictured at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle, Dublin Photo Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
The former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter pictured at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle, Dublin Photo Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Gerard Cunningham

Former justice minister Alan Shatter was told by garda commissioner Martin Callinan that there had been a "sexual allegation" against whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe the Charleton tribunal was told.

Mr Shatter said that he was being "publicly pilloried" while he wanted to truly and genuinely resolve the issues" over penalty points notices, and the garda commissioner was being "demonised".

The former minister said he was trying to understand the "erratic nature" of Sgt McCabe's engagement, and asked the garda commissioner "Is there something in the background here?"

"His reaction was to say the only issue that occurred to him was there was some years ago an allegation was made of a sexual nature in relation to Sgt McCabe. It had been fully investigated and the DPP had said there was no basis for a prosecution," Mr Shatter said.

Mr Shatter said that the commissioner speculated that Sgt McCabe was upset about the investigation.

Mr Shatter concluded that the experience of being investigated might have influenced how Sgt McCabe was dealing with the garda investigations into his penalty points allegations. Mr Shatter said that he did not ask Mr Callinan about the nature of the sexual allegation, or query it any further.

"Contrary to the way Martin Callinan has been portrayed, he didn't make a big deal of it," Mr Shatter said.

Mr Shatter said that Mr Callinan said nothing about Sgt McCabe having an agenda, or being malicious, or seeking revenge.

The former minister  said he believed the conversation took place during a phone call in June 2013. He said it was an "extraordinarily brief conversation", and he did not discuss it with his staff, special advisors or members of the Oireachtas.

Mr Shatter said that in dealing with Sgt McCabe "there was this feeling when you were dealing with issues he raised that you were sinking in quicksand."

He said the conversation with Mr Callinan "indicated that there was something in the background that he [McCabe] was upset about."

Mr Shatter said he was "genuinely puzzled" at reports of rumours about Sgt McCabe circulating in Leinster House. As a minister, colleagues constantly approached him about issues, but there wasn't a single member “who ever came up to me with any gossip about Sgt McCabe or any allegations of impropriety of any nature."

"Maybe it was taking place behind my back, I don't know, but I certainly was never aware of it, and it was also never raised by any journalists with me," Mr Shatter said.

Mr Shatter said that he had an obligation to respect Sgt McCabe's request for confidentiality and anonymity, even if his identity was known or suspected by some senior garda officers.

Mr Shatter said that a letter from his department to Sgt McCabe encouraging the sergeant to cooperate with a garda inquiry was intended to "nudge" Sgt McCabe to give information to the internal inquiry headed by assistant commissioner John O'Mahoney.

"It would have been valuable had Sgt McCabe chosen to engage in the process, he chose not to," Mr Shatter said.

Mr Shatter said it was "something of a puzzle" how Sgt McCabe expected assistant commissioner O'Mahoney to contact him, when Sgt McCabe was still requesting anonymity.

Mr Shatter said that some penalty points decisions were "lacking logic and common-sense, I think I described them as exotic."

The report prepared by Mr O'Mahoney was "thorough and comprehensive in dealing with all of the process issues", Mr Shatter said. "It didn't necessarily address the substance of some of the rather exotic decisions."

Mr Shatter said that if he had been Mr O'Mahoney, he would have "regarded it as wise" to contact the garda commissioner and formally ask the Minister to see if the anonymous complainant would come forward.

"I totally understand it was equally valid for assistant commissioner O'Mahoney to take a different perspective," Mr Shatter said.

Mr Shatter said he was "not in a good place" after losing his post as justice minister in May 2014, and was "traumatised by the circumstances”.

Mr Shatter was contacted a few weeks later by journalist Paul Williams, who wanted him to meet Miss D, who made an allegation against Sgt McCabe in 2006. He  said that Miss D was "distressed" and believed her allegation had not been fully investigated.

Mr Shatter said that Miss D's stress had an impact on him, and he decided to raise her case in the Dáil.

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