Tuesday 11 December 2018

Disclosures Tribunal: Journalist says no member of the gardai 'past or present' told him McCabe allegations

Tom Brady at the Disclosures Tribunal at Dublin Castle, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Tom Brady at the Disclosures Tribunal at Dublin Castle, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

A FORMER Irish Independent security editor has said no member of the gardai “past or present” told him about sexual assault allegations against whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Journalist Tom Brady said while he checked this out with senior gardai and found out there was no prosecution against Sgt McCabe, the initial rumour did not come from any garda source.

He also denied telling another journalist outside a Dail committee meeting that Sgt McCabe was under investigation.

Mr Brady was giving evidence at the disclosures tribunal, which is investigating an alleged smear campaign by senior gardai against Sgt McCabe.

Former garda press officer Supt Dave Taylor claims he negatively briefed journalists that Sgt McCabe had been investigated over a historic allegation of child sexual assault.

He alleges he was ordered to do so in mid-2013 by then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and with the knowledge of then Deputy Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan. They both deny his allegations.

While Sgt McCabe was investigated over an allegation made by a woman known as Ms D, the DPP decided in 2007 there should be no charges and what was described in the complaint did not amount to a crime.

Prof Colum Kenny had given evidence that he approached two journalists at a committee meeting in the Dail on February 19, 2014 as he was interested in sounding out the views of security correspondents in relation to a Sgt McCabe and an issue involving the disappearance of a computer.

He had said they responded by asking “did I not know” that Sgt McCabe was under investigation for alleged child abuse and he should “talk to the gardai up there.”

He said he was told he should “cop on” and this was not someone who should be taken at face value. Mr Kenny had said the two journalists were Mr Brady and RTE’s Paul Reynolds.

Mr Brady told Kathleen Leader, for the tribunal, he was not at that committee meeting, and on the day in question he had been working on a murder case.

“The conversation never took place,” Mr Brady said, adding that he had never had a conversation with him in Mr Reynolds’ presence.

“I don’t remember having any conversation with him outside any meeting of a Dail committee,” he said.

He did not think he was ever in Mr Kenny’s company with Mr Reynolds.

Mr Brady said he knew Prof Kenny “reasonably well” and he had met him a number of times but the only time he remembered the issue of Sgt McCabe coming up was when they met at pensions protest meeting in November 2016.

Prof Kenny mentioned Sgt McCabe and Mr Brady told him he had checked out the allegation against him and been investigated and rejected by the DPP.

He told Prof Kenny that was all he knew and he had done nothing about it.

Mr Brady said he first heard the rumour about Sgt McCabe from a non-garda source in 2013.

“I can rule out any member of An Garda Siochana past or present,” he said.

The second time he heard it was some months later and he could not recall who mentioned it but it could have been another journalist.

He could not remember who he checked it with but it would have been a senior garda and the information, he agreed with Ms Leader, was that there was “nothing in it.”

Mr Brady told Michael McDowell SC, for Supt Taylor, he had been aware journalist Paul Williams was working on “some story” in 2014 but he had no involvement in that.

He was not surprised that he was not consulted.

Fergus O’Shea, the Irish Sun’s former Deputy Head of News said journalist Eavan Murray had suggested in evidence that he had sent her to Ms D’s house in March 2014.

Mr O’Shea said he did not remember sending her. He recalled her coming to him, telling him there may have been an allegation about Sgt McCabe that was “somewhat unclear” and the alleged victim might be willing to talk.

The allegation was “involving a minor.”

This was contrary to the evidence of Ms Murray, who alleged Mr O’Shea was the first to mention it to her, Patrick Marrinan SC, for the tribunal said.

At the time, Mr O’Shea said he did not think it was something they could print. He said he went to the editor Paul Clarkson and they assumed it was coming from the gardai, Sgt McCabe was a whistleblower, they were wary of that and the defamation issue and decided at the time to leave it alone.

He recalled his advice to Ms Murray was that it “wasn’t a doable story” and to “steer clear.”

He had a vague recollection of her subsequently going to Ms D’s home but did not recall “how it came to be that she went.”

He could not recall but found it hard to believe that he made that decision on his own as he was “number 2 on the desk.”

Ms Murray had said he told her the Irish Independent was planning to run an exclusive. Mr O’Shea said he did not recall that and he would remember if he had heard inside information from the Irish Independent.

He said he had no recollection of speaking to Ms Murray afterward and it was possible he was not working at the time.

Mr O’Shea told John Ferry BL, for Supt Taylor that it was “possible” others in the newsroom knew about the allegation against Sgt McCabe but he knew that Crime Editor Stephen Breen never spoke about it.

He did not remember hearing about it from anybody else.

He agreed with Mr Murray’s lawyer that it was unlikely she went to Cavan without getting a direction from somebody. He did not believe he was “confusing” occasions on which he said he spoke to her.

Robert Cox, Deputy Editor of News at the Irish Mail on Sunday said he had never spoken to Mr Callinan or Ms O’Sullivan and was “pretty confident” he never spoke to Supt Taylor.

He never spoke to any of them about Sgt McCabe, he said.

Mr Cox recalled journalist Debbie McCann coming to him with the story. She came back with the details of the allegation of child abuse and that the DPP had decided not to press charges. He knew now that she got her information from a variety of sources.

He formed a view that it was worth sending her to Ms D’s home and consulted the editor, who made the final decision.

He trusted Ms McCann to be discreet and sensitive on the “doorstep.”

She later told him she had spoken to Ms D’s mother and it was clear the approach had not been successful, he said.

He never knew her sources and trusted her.

Mr Cox had made a statement to the tribunal in which he spoke about journalist Alison O’Reilly’s going to speak to Sgt McCabe.

He had stated that he did not believe she had approval for that but was now happy to accept that she did have approval.

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